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A couple of questions regarding changing strings / getting rid of fret buzz.

I changed my strings a few days ago for the first time after getting my guitar earlier this year. I swapped from 9s to 10s and it didn't sound very good (some buzz noise) so I tightened the truss rod a little bit (quarter turn right). I realised the strings were too high so I wanted to lower the bridge. Sadly when detuning the high E string, it snapped.

  1. I put on a new set (I only had 11s left) - I followed a couple of videos and tutorials but I made a horrible job of winding the strings around the nuts - just look at this abomination. D is not even wound properly and G is kind of bent. Should I leave it like at, or is there a way to adjust that, or will it eventually snap or keep going out of tune so should I put on a new set? Oh and don't worry, I'll clip the strings once I'm done with the setup.

  2. The more serious issue. I lowered the bridge and I feel like the action is on a decent level now, but I still keep getting a lot of buzz (not sure if that's the best way to describe it - it's sort of a very ugly crackling/grainy noise when I play power chords), both with distortion and on clean (though especially noticeable with distortion). How can I get rid of it? It was fine before I changed the strings. Should I undo the truss rod adjustment (i.e. should I do a 1/4 turn to the left)?

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Based on my 23 years as a professional live and studio guitarist (in order of appearance):

I swapped from 9s to 10s and it didn't sound very good (some buzz noise)

This is most likely because the action (string height) was set as low as possible for the 9's, and when you put on 10's the strings were too low to clear some frets. Highly unlikely the added tension from those 10's was strong enough to immediately pull your neck out of alignment. Instead of adjusting the truss rod, I would have raised the bridge saddles.

so I tightened the truss rod ... I realised the strings were too high

Upon realizing this, I would have "loosened" the truss rod slightly back in the opposite direction (undo what you did to raise them up).

when detuning the high E string, it snapped

Since detuning loosens tension, I predict your string broke due to rubbing across a sharp edge on your bridge saddle or string tree. Where did it snap? Take a file and smooth the metal surface(s) to prevent future strings from breaking.

I put on a new set (I only had 11s left)

You don't have to replace all of the strings when one breaks. You can buy individual [E] strings, and it's also totally OK to mix and match if you're in a bind (like at a gig). In fact, Ernie Ball even sells "custom" mixed gauge sets.

Should I leave it like at, or is there a way to adjust that, or will it eventually snap or keep going out of tune so should I put on a new set?

The main reason for wrapping them a certain way is to keep alignment with the nut/neck path. Generally you want the strings to continue a straight (or straight-ish) line of sight instead of pulling to the side. But it doesn't matter a huge deal how you wrap strings around your tuners. Yes some wrap methods will hold better than others but eventually if they wrap around the pegs enough times they'll hold. A bigger factor for intonation is whether they can pass/slide through the nut easily. If your nut was carved for 9's and you now play 11's then it's possible the nut grooves need to be widened (very slightly) to allow for the strings to glide easily. Otherwise, when you bend (either with fingers or "whammy" tremolo bar) you may experience intonation issues.

I'll clip the strings once I'm done with the setup

Purely cosmetic. Clip them, wrap them in a cool way, just don't cut yourself on the sharp edges.

I lowered the bridge and I feel like the action is on a decent level now, but I still keep getting a lot of buzz ... How can I get rid of it? ... Should I undo the truss rod adjustment?

When in doubt, it's always a safe bet to undo whatever you've done and start over on a new path. Truss rods are by definition curved in order to increase or decrease the "bow" warping of necks over time. When you turned your truss rod, you increased the forward bow of your neck (which is why the fret buzz decreased). However, when you lowered your bridge saddles, you lowered the string action thereby increasing the fret buzz. I highly recommend you return your truss rod to its original position and raise the bridge saddles to remove fret noise. As I mentioned above, you may also need to consider tweaking or raising your nut if you intend to stick with 11's.

A little note about string gauges. Thicker / heavier string gauges will yield better tone. It's also better for low tunings like Drop D (or Drop C). It's also a safe workout for your fingers. If you're up for the challenge, consider playing 11's. I know that some players like Steve Vai are famous for super-thin strings (because they do a lot of hammer-ons and pull-offs) but I've also known many metal players with super heavy strings. Totally up to you. Don't let anyone tell you one is better than the other (except tone-wise, this is objectively a fact).

  • Thank you so much for the detailed advice. I readjusted the truss rod back to where it was and raised the bridge saddles a bit, now they're at around 2mm. Sadly the issue is still here. I recorded a short video to demonstrate it more easily (ignore the missed notes :P). It's not good quality but I hope you can hear it, it's an ugly noise that I can hear when playing especially powerchords. It sounds ok when palm muting. It's not an amp issue because I tried it on a little headphone amp that I have and I can still hear it. – Pawel Nov 22 '19 at 20:23
  • Also, at this point I would happily take it to a luthier but I have no way to transport my guitar so I pretty much have to try and do it myself. – Pawel Nov 22 '19 at 20:29
  • Solved. I think adjusting the truss rod and the bridge saddles helped it - in my video I was just out of tune! – Pawel Nov 23 '19 at 12:44
  • @Pawel Glad it has been resolved. I'm curious which string gauge did you end up using? There are many great videos on YouTube about "how to set up a guitar." If memory is correct, you can use a playing card to test minimum string height. Press down your string at the 12th fret and a playing card should slide easily between frets 13-15 and the string. This can be a simply way to adjust bridge saddle height. This assumes the neck is not bowed. – NickGrooves Nov 24 '19 at 4:00
  • thank you. I ended up using the 11s. So far so good! – Pawel Nov 24 '19 at 20:31
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I had a similar thing happen with my guitar, and I almost threw it out convinced that something was wrong with it. Turns out the nut on the string-facing side of my G peg was loose, causing a rattling sound as it would rattle around with the vibration of the guitar body.

So, I would recommend checking over every nut/screw on the guitar and making sure they are all secured. There's the nuts on the tuning pegs, screws on the backs of the tuning pegs, screws on the faceplate (if a strat) and bridge tuners. Make sure everything is tightened to eliminate the possibility of vibratory buzz.

If, however, the buzz you're describing is actually being sent to your amp as signal, this would indicate a couple of potential issues:

  • Your pickups may be wearing out, or may have attracted some loose metal. If you used steel wool to scrub your fretboard, you may have forgotten to put tape over your pickups and they may have collected some metal "dust" -- this would cause some crackling signal being picked up as the small pieces of metal move with vibration from the body
  • Your volume/tone pots may have dirt or dust built up on them. You can pretty easily clean this by taking the knobs off and using some compressed air to blow out the cracks in the pots, turning them back and forth as you blow to jar the dirt loose
  • Your pickup switch or volume/tone pots may have loose/bad wiring

I hesitate to suggest these remedies, because none of these would have been caused by a string change in isolation, so if you're convinced the issue only started from changing the strings and no other maintenance was done, you may be able to discount the above. In that case, however, I would bring the guitar in to have it looked over by a professional luthier.

Thanks for posting this, great question!

  • Glad you didn't throw it out. Guitars - especially electrics - are easy to adjust, fix, and mod. – NickGrooves Nov 22 '19 at 2:52

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