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I had my new electric guitar set up at a shop because it was a mess when I got it: action too high, minor fret buzzes and such. After it was returned, it was okay but I heard a rattling near the headstock (I suspect the truss rod was broken!)

But that aside, I didn't take it back and played with it intensively anyway and around 2 months later, the high E string buzzes when played in open, 1st, until 5th frets. It is very audible on clean or distorted but when distorted it sounds so horrible!

Note: There are also fret buzzes on most strings but it only buzzes when playing an open string in the high E.

What could be wrong and how do I fix this?

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  • Maybe lift the strings a bit? Nov 25 '16 at 16:56
  • If your truss rod is broken then your guitar has no future - I'd suggest it can't be that. Please have a read of the wide range of posts on buzzing strings over in the Related sidebar to the right.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Nov 25 '16 at 17:31
  • thanks for the comments! im just confused cause I dont see other cases where the buzz happens on an open string :( Nov 25 '16 at 20:24
  • Difficult, without seeing it but try turning the nut on the truss rod - if it's loose, maybe it's broken. It needs the strings to be higher over the board, basically achieved by raising the saddles, taking the guitar to possible the action it had when new! That, and try packing the nut slots to raise the height of the offending open strings. Tiny slivers of wood will do for now, or even strips of paper. Possibly, this may not be in your remit, if so, back to the shop!
    – Tim
    Nov 26 '16 at 9:46
  • This is exactly the kind of thing you take it back for. Jan 10 at 6:22
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Check to make sure the frets arent popping up. If that isn't the issue, the groove that your high e rests in is to deep and you need to get the nut replaced (or shimmed and filed). I would take it to a different luthier this time.

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This is going to sound crazy but be sure no hardware is loose anywhere on the guitar. My open B string was causing a buzz but I could see it wasn't hitting any frets. It wasn't loose at the nut, tree, tuning post or saddle. The relief/truss rod was fine. The action at the first fret was reasonable. Pickups were set at a good distance. Finally I realized that my low E tuning machine key was a little loose and apparently the open B note was the perfect frequency to make it rattle. Not just the open B but also the B on the 5th fret of the G string. Apparently it resonated through the neck and would rattle the loose E tuning key. What I thought was string buzz/rattle was actually the tuning key rattling. Weird. Now I have to replace it or figure out how to fix it. Anyway, just another possibility.

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"Action height, fret buzz, truss rod, tuning, intonation, adjustments and guitar set up:

This video was done to answer a bunch of questions I get on how to fix fret buzz, intonation, action height, pickup height, truss rods etc. It is a little long winded, but if you can sit through it, it will save you money and frustration."

Also with the open-string buzz, ensure none of the frets are starting to pull or pop up out of the board on that string, if adjusting the action produces no results. Improper adjustment of or damage to the truss rod can do all sorts of funky things to the neck, if that is your issue. Honestly, sounds like it may just be time for a new axe...

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  • Lots of other great vids on youtube and other posts in this Q&A, on this subject... Nov 26 '16 at 18:17
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Aside from the fret buzz, if your truss rod is broken it CAN be fixed. This involves heating up the frets with an iron and levering the fretboard off. It's a big job, but not difficult if one is careful. It may only be worth it if the guitar is worth spending money on, because it would be a fairly expensive job for a luthier to carry out. But shop around and you may find a charitable type who could do it for you. I have done this on a custom guitar and thankfully it turned out just fine, so it can be done.

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We'll start here:

Note: There are also fret buzzes on most strings but it only buzzes when playing an open string in the high E.

Generally, it sounds like your instrument has backbow. Your truss rod could be too tight, so that the strings rattle on the frets. The test is: capo the first fret, fret the last fret, and there should be some but not much space between the string and the 10th fret. The solution would be to loosen the truss rod, which is safer than tightening, but still, small changes and let it settle.

After it was returned, it was okay but I heard a rattling near the headstock (I suspect the truss rod was broken!)

If it was, then the instrument has serious, above-replacement-cost-for-most-instruments problems. If you loosen the truss rod and nothing happens, this is a sign of problems.

This is exactly the kind of thing you look for before accepting the repair.

But that aside, I didn't take it back and played with it intensively anyway and around 2 months later, the high E string buzzes when played in open, 1st, until 5th frets. It is very audible on clean or distorted but when distorted it sounds so horrible!

There's a lot there that would be easier to understand if I could hold it. Here I'm thinking either a high sixth fret or rather worn first-through-fifth frets and bad first-string but slot. There's a thing called a Fret Rocker, which is a piece of metal with four straight edges, which you can use to find if one fret is higher than the neighbors. I don't own one; it's more a luthier tool and less a player thing. If you can find something flat and stiff, that should work in a pinch.

But the solution — seating the fret, then leveling, crowning and polishing — is a thing few players I have met would take on themselves.

If your instrument has a bolt-on neck, you can get a replacement, but the new neck is not guaranteed to be without issues. That's at the far end of the solutions, though. Between truss rod, nut and fret job, most of your problems should be solvable.

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