I have a Jackson Ke5Fr Kelly, I mainly used it on .09 string gauge with standadd tuning but last couple of months it was .10's in Whole-Step Down tuning. Now, I turned back to .09's and standard tuning but there are buzzes different places like, 12th,13th and 14th frets at high E and 9th at A and like 17th at B etc. small areas covering 1-3 frets.

I used "string as a straight edge" method and checked for bows at neck and it seems straight, string doesn't touch anywhere, neither they are too high. Tried to work out with bridge action, it didn't do much either, except maybe in extreme action it helped but almost at a unplayable height. What is causing this? Would it change after I use the strings a little bit more? I am really worried about it.

PS it happens with medium to high pick dynamics and a little bit on lower dynamics.

  • Since the string gauge is thicker I think you're just not fretting them hard enough. It's harder to do further up the neck. You have yet to perfect the pressure that needs to be applied on different parts of the fretboard so work on that :)
    – Daniel
    Nov 9, 2015 at 12:58
  • You get it wrong, it buzzes on thinner set. I was using 10s for last couple of months, now using 9s. I have been playing for almost 10 years I do not think strength or pick dynamics are the issue here.
    – River
    Nov 9, 2015 at 16:42

3 Answers 3


Most fret buzzing is a result of the vibrating string contacting another fret as it vibrates in an oscillating arc. There are several things that commonly cause this to happen.

Neck does not have enough relief or has a back bow. The vibrating/oscillating string must clear all the frets between where it is fretted and the bridge. If the neck is perfectly straight or back bowed, the string is likely to contact one of the frets between the fret you are pressing it against and the bridge. To correct this, tighten the truss rod until there is a slight relief in the neck to provide more clearance on the downstream frets when you fret a note.

To check the amount of relief, you can use one finger to press the string down against the first fret and another to press against one of the frets near where the neck joins the body and see how much clearance you have above the frets in between these two points. If the string is touching any of the frets between the two you are holding it down on, you do not have sufficient relief. Pressing the string against frets on opposing ends of the fretboard, takes your bridge height adjustment out of the equation for this test.

Even if the strings are not touching any frets in this test, you still may not have enough relief if they are too close to one or more frets. The string oscillates in an arc when you play it. The harder you pick the string, the wider the arc. Also, different gauge strings will have different oscillation patterns due to the tension required to bring them in tune. Less tension generally means a wider oscillation arc and therefore more relief is needed.

Check the relief on both the bass and treble side of the neck. if there is relief on one side and a back bow on the other, that is a sign of a twisted neck and a serious problem.

If the relief is sufficient, try adjusting the bridge height. Your guitar is likely to have a bridge height adjustment for each string. You mentioned in your question that you have made this adjustment. Try it again after you are sure you have enough relief after truss rod adjustment.

Another less common but potential area where strings can end up too close to the frets is in the nut. Smaller diameter strings may sit farther down in the slot and the slot can deepen with wear and cause the strings to sit closer to the fret. Nuts are not generally adjustably (temporary fixes with super glue notwithstanding) so if your nut slots become worn too deep, you will need to replace the nut.

Another common cause of fret buzz - is groves in some frets. Steel strings against nickle frets will eventually cut grooves in the frets where the strings contact the frets. This happens primarily on the unwound plain steel strings. Also, bending strings when playing solos can act like a file and file the frets down so they lose height relative to the other frets. If you get a buzz when playing notes on certain frets, check to see if that fret is worn or grooved under the offending string. You can see the condition of the frets more easily if you use a magnifying glass.

One other thing than can cause fret buzz - is one or more frets may be too high, relative to the other frets. This can happen if the fret works itself loose in the fret slot or was not seated correctly when installed.

You can check for high or uneven frets with a straightedge such as a ruler. You need a straightedge long enough to cover at least 5 or more frets at a time - but not too long. Place the straightedge against the frets at various places on the fretboard and on various frets. The straightedge should evenly contact at least 5 frets at a time without rocking or see sawing. As you slide the straightedge from the nut towards the body, if you encounter a fret that acts like a fulcrum and allows you to rock the straightedge from lower frets to higher frets like a see saw, then you have found a high fret which may need to be repaired.

Repairing a high fret may mean properly seating it in the groove on the fretboard by tapping it in (with the neck properly braced and possibly heating just the fret to soften any glue), and/or filing it with the correct size fret file and crowning it with the proper tool. This type repair should be made by a professional.

If some of the frets are grooved or worn more than others, or if several frets are too high, it might be time for a fret job. If uneven height frets are the main problem - a qualified luthier or guitar repair technician, using the proper fret files and fret levels, can file all the frets down and crown and level them so that all buzzing is eliminated. Many well played guitars will need a fret job at some point in time and perhaps regularly (if played often enough).

Hopefully you will be able to determine the cause of your fret buzzing, and if it's any of the things mentioned above (besides an unlikely twisted neck) you should be able to solve the problem.

Good luck!

  • Thanks Cowboy :D, I'll check for grooves, action and relief again. And do you know how fast heat affects neck. Like being 5-10 minutes touching a radiatior could have made this. Because, it seems to me happened overnight and my genius dad leaned my axe on a heat radiator, very clever of him, luckily I found it right away but, still it was there like 5-10 mins.
    – River
    Nov 9, 2015 at 14:15
  • @River Hmmmm. Leaning a guitar neck on a heat radiator is NOT a good idea. But I'm sure your Dad did not know any better so cut him some slack - we all have those moments when we learn from our mistakes. It's hard to say that damage occurred. But heat can do several things. It can dry out the neck and cause it to warp or move, It can shrink the wood in the fingerboard and cause the frets to come loose. Check to see if the fingerboard is cupped. Re-hydrating with humidifier might help but I recommend that you take your instrument to a professional for evaluation. Nov 9, 2015 at 19:19

If you're getting buzz only at certain frets and on certain strings then the problem is probably that your frets aren't level. This can happen because of fret wear, because the frets weren't properly leveled when the guitar was made, or because the neck has changed shape slightly over time.

You can diagnose the problem by using a short straightedge that covers the length of three frets. You center it over one fret and see if the straightedge "rocks" a little, indicating a high fret. You do this test with the strings on and at normal tension. Stewart MacDonald and others make special straightedges for this purpose.

To fix the problem you can attempt to lightly file and recrown individual frets, but this takes skill and I don't advise you do it yourself. You can easily end up over-filing frets and wrecking your neck.

Adjusting the truss rod is not usually the solution for your problem. However, you can check to see if your neck relief is about right this way: hold your high E string lightly to the fret at the first fret and the fret where the neck meets the body. Look at the vertical distance between the string and the 12th fret. Normally you expect it to be "almost touching" -- so that the distance is about as much as the width of your high E string.


Certain frets may be sticking out and they may need to be leveled off a little bit. I had the same problem in one or two spots on my bass and I took it to a shop where the guy leveled off those frets and no more problems.

  • Can it be detected by eyes? They look normal to me, but I don't know nothing about setting up guitars.
    – River
    Nov 8, 2015 at 16:20
  • A rather vague answer, but, there's a way of detecting it. I can't specifically remember, but if you're like me and you're not familiar with how to do it, then definitely take it to a setup and repair person.
    – tapir435
    Nov 8, 2015 at 16:22
  • The worst thing is there is none around in my region.
    – River
    Nov 8, 2015 at 16:43
  • There are videos on YouTube. One channel that I like is called Dave's world of guitar repairs and fun stuff. He shows you how to do it but, myself I would hesitate. If you have no other choice, then I suppose you might have to do it yourself. Its up to you, of course.
    – tapir435
    Nov 8, 2015 at 16:53
  • Thx, I'll check it out but still not sure what is the cause.
    – River
    Nov 8, 2015 at 17:15

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