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I inherited this very used Vega VIP banjo. I don't have an age on it, and because it was "built" by combining pieces from a few different banjos it lacks a serial number. It plays well enough although it has a good share of scratches and nicks. (It was a travel instrument for a professional musician from the 1950's through the 90's).

Whenever I play a chord on the fifth fret, it buzzes. I hear the lowest-sounding string buzzing the most, and it's somewhat lessened if I bend the string towards the next string. I've attached pictures of the fret itself and the places where the bottom string terminates.

Because it's a family instrument with a great deal of sentimental value I'd rather not trust it to just "any" shop to repair without having some idea what I'd be asking them to do.

I marked the fret in question in the picture. It's the lowest string, far left in all pictures.

Any guesses about what to check first?

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  • Maybe a picture of the fretboard, taken from above at a very small angle - in order to see if it's bended - might also lead to interesting and accurate answers!
    – Tom
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 20:20
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    I agree, you don't want to take it just "anywhere," but you might have to find someone you trust to take a look. I imagine there could be a lot of potential causes—bridge, nut, a severely worn fret, maybe the one above standing a bit high, even maybe the neck being twisted a bit. Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 21:02

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You most likely either have a low fret on one side, or a high fret on the other. Sometimes a fret will pop out of the fret slot a little. If you look at the edge of the frets where it meets the wood, a popped fret will have a little gap and not be flush to the fingerboard. Low frets can happen if the fret is driven in by a hit or pressure. If you have a small straight edge, such as a metal ruler, you can place it across the frets and see if one is higher or lower than the others.

Fret buzzing and fret level issues are a common adjustment for technicians and Luthiers. A shop that offers repairs and setups, or a local Luthier should be able to take care of the problem easily.

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