Fret Buzz Goes Away When I Press Harder?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by MarMar, Dec 17, 2021.

  1. MarMar

    MarMar Inactive

    Sep 9, 2020
    The neck doesn't appear to be twisted. The bass stays in tune. There doesn't seem to be anything alarming as far as bowing. The bass is mostly playable except I get some fret buzz. However, I don't get any fret buzz when I press harder/hold the strings more firmly.

    The strings are a little old. The fretboard could maybe use an oiling or a cleaning. Is my action too high? My most comfortable basses seem to have pretty low action. Would new strings, a clean/oiled fretboard, and a slight truss rod adjustment help me enjoy this bass more?

    WhatsTheDeal likes this.
  2. WarwickE36


    Oct 28, 2010
    Is this a new problem on a regularly used bass? Or is this a new/new to you bass? How long have you been playing?

    It could be technique or it could be a setup issue. Or a little of both.

    Where do you press with your fretting fingers? is right behind the fret? Is it somewhere in the middle of the two frets? Ideally you should be just behind the fret. I suspect this may be your issue. If pressing gently in the middle of the the frets you can have fret buzz, which would be why it goes away if you press harder. Same can be true for right behind the fret, but less likely unless you press very gently or the setup is very bad.
  3. MarMar

    MarMar Inactive

    Sep 9, 2020
    New (to me) cheap old bass. So I know there's potential for issues with old and cheap. But like I said, it mostly plays well and comfortably except for the fret buzz.

    I only get fret buzz on one of my other basses and that's only around the 12th fret or higher, but that bass has a wonky neck and broken truss rod. :laugh:
  4. The most common things that would cause it are the action being a little low for the neck relief or there being improper neck relief period. Sometimes the strings play a role. Certain string tensions seem to effect the play more than others. Unless your strings are super high tension I'd look more at your set up first. That's going to be step 1. Step 2 is I'm assuming you know about how you finger notes in the sweet spot so I'm not going to question that aspect however it could choke notes and not give a clear sound if you are hitting the wrong side of your frets.
    MarMar likes this.
  5. MarMar

    MarMar Inactive

    Sep 9, 2020
    How can I tell if the strings are super high tension? They seem maybe more "firm" than my other basses. They are probably old too. They felt a little funky when I first played. The fretboard and frets could maybe use a cleaning.

    I will have to get a better look at the neck and see if it's being bowed too far one way or the other but I don't think it's that.

    And yeah it's not my technique. I'm no bass expert (see my threads), but I'm not an idiot either. ;)
  6. If you know what brand strings you have on there it'll help. Pics of the bass and the strings would help us too. But anyway as a general rule I've found that stiffer strings tend to be easier to play when you have a straight neck with very little bow and low action. It can generally sound more clanky and you're going to get lots of extra growl especially when you're playing heavy handed and plucking heavy. As you move to strings with more flex like Dr high beams or Fodera strings that have a round core instead of the standard hexagon core they have a unique bounce and the way they bend and vibrate and I know from experience having to move my bridge up and adjust the neck slightly to get them playing better. Which leads me to my next point which is setting your neck relief. If you set it for more bow you can set the action higher and it will make your notes more clean and rounded and less gritty. The trick is getting the Happy medium for some grit and easy playing but also a little clarity. That's where set up and strings will come in when you want to fine tune that. Also if you have pickups really close to the strings it could cause some things like muddy tone and even possibly buzz if your action is already pretty low. what causes this is the magnetic pull of pickups and closer they are the more they will affect the strings. want it to sound like. It all factors in so you're going to have to tinker with everything and see what you come up with. It's amazing how customizable our instrument is.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2021
    DavidEdenAria and MarMar like this.
  7. MarMar

    MarMar Inactive

    Sep 9, 2020
    This is a thoughtful response. Thank you for this. I'll get some better pictures tomorrow. I'm not sure which brand the strings are - brass colored beads with no cloth at the top of them. The E string seems to have much more length than the other 3 strings.

    There might be a slight forward bow, but maybe not and I've seen worse if so. I feel like the bass is very close to being very playable!
    GTHintz likes this.
  8. kinopah


    Oct 19, 2014
    Sounds to me like slightly too straight a neck. When you push the string down hard, you change the witness point (similar to at the bridge or nut) and create more tension which causes the vibration of the string to take a bit less space vertically, reducing buzz. I can’t diagnose a setup without seeing it, but when I experience that a little more neck relief takes care of it (and sometimes even allows for lower action at the bridge).
    M.R. Ogle, MarMar and GTHintz like this.
  9. Topkat13

    Topkat13 Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Take it to a set up tech.
    mb94952 and MarMar like this.
  10. One thing is that if it does this all over the neck and all strings then you'll be best to look to your set up. If it's a slight buzz on certain strings then maybe getting a fresh set of strings would be a good start. I would probably advise that either way so you've got a fresh start and then you can do some minor adjustments after the strings and neck settle in. With no silk and brass you're probably narrowed down to DR, Dunlop, or Ernie Ball. Definitely will be looking forward to seeing pics of the strings, the action, and the pickups and bridge area. That'll tell us a lot.
    MarMar likes this.
  11. MarMar

    MarMar Inactive

    Sep 9, 2020
    I would be happy if this bass had slightly lower action and no fret buzz. It would be "perfect" for me then. The strings don't seem "too close" to the pickups and I don't think they would get "too close" if they were slightly lowered. I'll get some pictures tomorrow. Thanks for reading and offering a thoughtful opinion.

    I notice it more on the E string but I am pretty sure it was happening on all of the strings. I'll mess around with the bass more and get some pictures soon. Thanks again.
    GTHintz likes this.
  12. If the notes are going sharp when you push harder, I'd just push harder.
  13. I mean "are not."
  14. MarMar

    MarMar Inactive

    Sep 9, 2020
    I'm pushing noticeably harder to keep it from buzzing. My other very playable basses don't do this and their action is pretty low.
  15. This is just basic physics, OP.

    you have a spec of fret buzz (must have a nice low action... or really bad fret work, probably just low action though).

    So when you play lightly, you are just stopping the string at the fret, making a line from string raise at the nut down to the fret lower than your finger (in pitch), straight across under your finger (you're not pressing hard so not bending the string down toward the fingerboard between the frets), and then the string gradually rises from the upper fret (the pitch fret) to the bridge saddle.

    Now, what happens to any bass string when you press it harder? You BEND the string, between the lower and upper frets (so only like an inch or so of string length is being bent between those two firm points).

    And what happens to the string on either side of the frets? The string, VERY SLIGHTLY, follows the path of the bend that you created. So you push the string down, bending it into the instrument, and on the other side of the fret, very very slightly (only very slightly because of string tension that is trying to straighten the string constantly).... very very slightly bends UPWARDS, away from the instrument. Just a few microns or whatever, but enough that the string is now very slightly higher over the first non-pressed fret.... thereby reducing string buzz.

    I am making some educated guesses here about the tension of the string versus the string's desire to not be bent... but I'm fairly sure that this is what's going on. I've experienced it my whole life, also on guitar, and I use that knowledge to my benefit for different types of playing (very very cleanly, for example, when recording)... although on guitar if you're a serious guitarist you also press certain notes harder than others to fine tune chords for the best interval tuning... and you learn early on that it also reduces string buzz on the string you press harder (only).
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2021
  16. MarMar

    MarMar Inactive

    Sep 9, 2020
    The action is a little high for my preference though. So are you suggesting this is a string tension issue (without seeing it of course)?

    Or are you suggesting I'm putting my fingers in the wrong places?

    I'm not sure what you're getting at here, but to have 2 people question my technique after 15+ years of playing seems kind of asinine at this point. It's not "my technique." I have a handful of basses that play just fine. :thumbsup:
    Loring and dkelley like this.
  17. Jeff Hughes

    Jeff Hughes

    May 3, 2020
    I have had many conversations with a tech about action and adjusting the neck versus the saddles to lower the action in certain spots.

    I am assuming this buzz is audible when the bass is amplified?

    I prefer newer strings, so I change mine as soon as they begin to be even a little dull. I have found that when they are new you get that initial sparkly buzz on all of the strings, but then when they are dead, I tend to overplay some strings to get more sound out of them which can cause buzz if the action is already in the sweet spot for your playing.

    You probably checked already, but do you have any fret divots that are making a certain string and fret lower to cause buzz?
    dkelley and MarMar like this.
  18. I'm not questioning your technique. I'm saying it is normal behavior for most basses that get some string buzz, that it gets less when you press harder for the reason I described.

    Not sure why that was unclear, sorry though if it was.

    Why it has string buzz I couldn't tell ya - I mean string buzz on frets means the frets are hitting the vibrating string, which typically goes with low action. Could be fret sprout or something like that though (one or more frets raising in winter after a few years... i can happen in some humidity changes such as this).
  19. burgerdj


    Dec 4, 2006
    Sounds like you might just need to get your frets dressed. A pro setup is totally worth the expense.
    MarMar and legalbass like this.
  20. legalbass


    Jul 2, 2020
    I was going to ask, are the frets properly leveled AND crowned? If not, all other aspects of setup will suffer.