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So, I'm playing an Agile 200 Les Paul copy (tune o matic bridge). I've had 10's on it and sadly it has some fret buzz. I recently got it set up to eliminate the buzz and the tech got it pretty close. "As close as you're gonna get... all electric guitars have some buzz when not plugged in," was his reply.

It plays pretty well now, but I'm considering switching to 9's to make things easier on my fingers, but I'm hesitant knowing that I'm most likely in for a greater amount of fret buzz.

Can I switch to lighter strings without making a trip to the local guitar tech and spending more money? I'm figuring there's going to be some truss rod and bridge adjustment, but I really don't want to mess things up too much.

Anyone have any experience?

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"all electric guitars have some buzz when not plugged in". Hardly. Buzz occurs whether a guitar is plugged in or not, and, in either case, it robs you of sustain by stopping string vibration prematurely. The guy I use gets my guitars so the action is awesome but doesn't buzz. I'd suggest looking around for a different technician. –  Anonymous Apr 14 '11 at 4:09
    
Right, my guitar doesn't buzz. –  horatio Apr 14 '11 at 14:13
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3 Answers

It's a balancing act between playability and buzz, given that the guitar is set up properly to begin with. Yes, if you are getting buzz with 10s going to a lighter gauge will likely make it worse. If you have an adjustable bridge, raising the action slightly at the bridge should improve things. Are the open strings buzzing? If not, then the action at the nut is likely not the culprit. Either the neck relief is set improperly, or the overall action is too low.

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"As close as you're gonna get... all electric guitars have some buzz when not plugged in"

This is actually pretty true. Removing all traces from buzz requires a machine precision fret job, a perfect setup, and a ton of preventative maintainence (your frets wear, thus throwing the alignment off etc.). It also depends on how heavy handed you are. People who play harder will notice more buzz, and should consequently move to higher action or adjust their technique.

@Alex is right on with everything else :).

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Short answer: Yes, you're in for more fret buzz, and the solution will require a truss rod adjustment.

Long answer: The 10's have more string tension than 9's will have. This means the 10's will exert a stronger tendency to bow the neck than the 9's, and therefore your guitar tech had to tighten the truss rod to compensate. When you put the 9's on, the truss rod will over-compensate for the reduced string tension of the 9's, and this will mean that the neck will be too straight, or even back-bowed. Hence, the 9's will be too close to the frets and will buzz.

So you'll have to adjust the truss rod. Fortunately, you can do this yourself. After putting the 9's on, tune them to pitch and then loosen the truss rod, one quarter-turn at a time. Holding the high-E string down at the first and, say, 15th fret or so, you can use the string as a straight-edge to get a sense of how bowed the neck is. Continue to loosen the truss rod until you have the neck relief how you like it.

Only after having adjusted the truss rod should you then turn your attention to the bridge.

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After adjusting the truss rod so it looks good, I think it's good to play for a bit and see if the tension has settled down. Once I'm sure it's gonna stay where I want it I'll put the wrench away. –  Anonymous Apr 14 '11 at 4:13
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