If I have a ton of fret buzz on my Mexican Fender when I make the action low, do I need fret work?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Sean775, May 22, 2018.

  1. Sean775


    Mar 19, 2015
    New Jersey, USA
    I've always had action issues with my Jazz Bass. The action always seemed higher than other basses, even though it measured as low action with a ruler. I had my nut replaced and filed a little lower, a good quality bridge put on, but it feels the same. It doesn't need a shim because it's even across the fretboard. Should I get my frets filed down, or is there another issue?
  2. TuneSalad666

    TuneSalad666 Inactive

    Mar 1, 2018
    Sure you got the relief of the neck right?

    You might need a trussrod adjustment.

    If not getting a fret dressing will likely solve the problem, if you insist on keeping and playing it.

    Budget instruments are always a bit of a gamble, some are of amazingly high build quality that matches what you find on higher end basses and some of them are crap, within the same brand and model, probably because of lacking quality control.
    Last edited: May 22, 2018
    7dollarbologna likes this.
  3. Sean775


    Mar 19, 2015
    New Jersey, USA
    Believe me, the truss rod has been adjusted. I can only adjust it to a certain extent though because then the frets buzz
  4. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Needing a fret job has nothing to do with the quality of the instrument. You are not going to get factory fretwork on an inexpensive instrument. It's just not in the budget. The fret board is leveled and frets are pressed in.
    TimB 619 likes this.
  5. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    This is a tricky one to diagnose without the bass in hand. That said, fret work evaluation is fairly straight forward.
    First look at the frets. Are they all well rounded or do they have flat spots or grooves? If they aren't well rounded a fret dressing is probably called for.
    Run your fingers along the frets. Are they smooth or rough? If they are rough, a simple polishing may help.
    Next check for fret level. Using a straight edge(s), bridge three frets at a time parallel to the string path at each string for all the frets. With a low fret you will see space between the straight edge and the fret. A high fret will let you rock the straight edge. Everything is ok if there is no gap and no rocking. If you have a high or low fret you need that addressed.
  6. TuneSalad666

    TuneSalad666 Inactive

    Mar 1, 2018
    While it is true that the frets as such are not leveled from factory on inexpensive basses, which was more or less part of my point as well, I would very much say that the outcome of the method used differs and that it indeed does effect the quality of the instrument.

    I had budget basses with perfect frets and I had budget basses with fret buzz all over.

    Frets are part of what makes the instrument, and part of what determine it's playability, therefor also overall quality.

    Fret buzz can make an instrument unplayable, something that shouldn't be let through quality control, and I don't think the lower production cost and selling price justifies that or make it not a quality issue.

    If you need to spend as much money on an instrument as it cost you to begin with in order to make it playable, not much point in buying a budget instrument, call it what you want, but ultimately it's still a quality issue.
    Last edited: May 22, 2018
  7. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    I'm pretty sure the frets are dressed on a Mexican Fender at the factory. If they weren't, there would be odd buzzes all over the place when you purchase one new. I just got a MIM replacement Fender Jazz neck, and the frets are perfect. I just had to file the slots all the way in the nut as they come with the slots only slightly filed as a guide. When I put that neck on my Fender Jazz, the action gets super low.

    I'm not saying that things don't slip with Fender's quality control, but in my experience with them, things are usually fine with the frets when they're new.
  8. I'm going to disagree with you and say that the fretboard is leveled and then frets pressed in and that's it as far as leveling goes. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It depends on the wood.
    Edit hopkins had it earlier.
    /\/\3phist0 likes this.
  9. Lots of things can cause fret noise.
    1. Nut slots too low
    2. Not enough neck relief (too straight)
    3. Uneven frets
    4. Bridge saddles too low
    5. Striking strings in such a way that they vibrate perpendicular to body, rather than parallel
    You’ve got to look at the whole picture. If you pay for a professional setup, the tech should work with you to determine the best setup for your playing style.
    RSBBass likes this.
  10. Axstar

    Axstar Inactive

    Jul 8, 2016
    They are 'factory dressed'. I own two Mexican PJ Mustang basses, and I've re-worked the frets on both. It seems that Fender crown the frets, then do a final corrective level. They then polish them out (ish) and leave it at that. as a result the tops of the frets can be quite flat and shaped like a Kitkat finger. They don't simply bash in the frets and call it a day, as they did in the '50s and '60s. However the process is still clearly done paint-by-numbers without somebody checking out each fret.


    On both basses I simply check the frets are actually level (and this isn't a given) and then crown the frets correctly, and polish out the frets. I go over them with a dremel with a felt pad and polishing compound. This gives them an extra level of shine you don't get from a factory fret job.

    Oddly enough the fretwork was worse on my newer Mustang bass with a Pau Ferro 'board. The quality of the fret ends just wasn't there, and the fret heights were a bit all over the place under the path of the G string. I get the feeling that Fender are maybe still finding their way a wee bit with this new wood choice?

    It doesn't make any sort of financial sense for Fender to pay a dude to go through my workflow (around 2 - 4 hours work) per instrument. Ergo, they don't!
    Lownote38 likes this.
  11. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    Maybe it's just luck but I've got quite a few MIM jazz basses and not a single one has any neck problems at all. They all set up great and hold a set up well and never any buzz clank or dead spots. I've got one old beater that goes to open jams and everyone who plays it wants it. I've sold several and the people who got them love them. Granted, the level of finish compared to an MIA jazz is not as high, but it is plenty serviceable and usable. I've got MIA jazz basses as well and I like the rolled neck edges, but not enough to pay the difference between the MIM and MIA when I can buy a used MIM and hot rod it and still have less in it than what an MIA would cost, including getting the neck edges rolled, but that's just me.
    Lownote38 and Picton like this.
  12. Sean775


    Mar 19, 2015
    New Jersey, USA
    So are the frets supposed to be lower and more rounded than how they are out of the factory?That might be my problem, then. Mine seem to be a little too square on top
  13. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    They are not supposed to be lower, they are supposed to be even. And properly crowned (rounded).
  14. I’d have someone look at those frets.
  15. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Which they always have been on every Mexican made Fender I've owned. Straight from the factory.

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