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Trying to get low action no fret buzz

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by MatBruyere7, Mar 17, 2013.

  1. Hey I've been trying to get really low action on my bass but I'm getting a lot of buzz on frets higher than 19. Other than my truss rod what can i do to avoid this buzz?
  2. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Have a experienced repair person give it a fret level. Most basses can benefit a lot form this for low action.
  3. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru.......... Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2006
    Play with a lighter touch. Years ago, when Ibanez first came out with the Gary Willis signature bass, I played Gary's bass at a Tribal Tech gig. His sound was amazing but all I could get was a lot of fingerboard buzz as his action was like John Entwistle's, with the strings coming out of the back of the neck! It's all down to how hard you pluck the strings.
  4. willsellout

    willsellout Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2002
    Fort Wayne, IN
    Sweetwater Sales Engineer
    It's possible you have too much relief in the neck if it's above the 19th fret. I like very low action on all my basses. The only way I can get it where I want is to level and crown the frets and dial in the nut slots. The nut slots don't necessarily help with the overall action, but they do help with ease of play in the lower registers. I'd also agree with a light touch. Let your amplifier do it's job and use your fingers to control the dynamics of your playing.
  5. brotondo

    brotondo Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2012
    Kimball MI
    professional set-up can't be beat.
    other things to consider if in a pinch
    shimming neck pocket to get neck angled more off body in conjuction with bridge height adjustment
  6. Exploiter8

    Exploiter8 Demons run when a good man goes to war

    Jan 18, 2010
    Commercial FREE!
    I have pretty low action and play with a light touch. I get fret buzz/weird harmonics that are noticeable unplugged. When amplified the tone is clean and true. Have you tried both ways?

    Just wondering,
  7. I have a hard time playing with that light touch i get really excited to be on stage and with all the moving and head banging its just really tough. My fingers bleed sometimes after my set from ripping apart my calluses haha
  8. j.kernodle

    j.kernodle Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2008
    South Carolina
    if its buzzing up there try to get the neck relief as straight as possible. if that doesn't work and it's a bolt on you may try shimming the neck pocket at the headstock end to decrease the back angle of the neck. if that doesn't work you may need a fret level.
  9. Vinnie Boombatz

    Vinnie Boombatz

    May 26, 2010
    You can't be a heavy handed player AND have super low action without buzzing. It's just not possible. The lighter your touch, the lower your action can be. I tend to get excited as well like you and dig in, so I have higher tension strings and raised up my action a bit. Problem solved, AND my tone improved.
  10. superheavyfunk


    Mar 11, 2013
    ^ this is good advice. I'd like to add that in my experience, high tension strings allow one to get their action lower with less buzz. Floppies flop around too much.
  11. GG7


    Mar 14, 2013

    I use DR LO-Riders on my Jazz Bass and though my action is about at the Fender spec, I get a lot less buzz with these higher tension strings when I play it hard than I was getting with the stock strings or other round core strings.

    If I play light on mine, I get no buzz at all.
  12. P Town

    P Town

    Dec 7, 2011
    If your playing style involves bloody fingers, fret buzz may not be out of place.
  13. Barkless Dog

    Barkless Dog Barkless to a point

    Jan 19, 2007
    I read a Tom Peterson interview and he said he gets the best tone from the heaviest gauge strings and the highest action that you can stand. I bought an extra heavy gauge set of string for my RD Bass and drop tuned it to low C and the bass sounds amazing,the tone is huge. I understood what he was talking about. Normally I use light gauge strings, so the difference was great.

    i also own a John Entwistle replica Fender Bird and had it set up by a pro to have super low action and a flat neck. You need to play very lightly and can't dig in or you get buzz. It's a playing style, definitely for fast effortless playing styles.
  14. Vinnie Boombatz

    Vinnie Boombatz

    May 26, 2010
    Banjo players do this all the time. They play with super high action because it really makes a big, noticeable difference in tone. When I started playing banjo I thought all of the banjos I was trying out were just horribly set up, but turns out this is how they are played. I tried setting it up with lower action and it sounded horrible. Raised up the action again and the thing came to life. Same thing with acoustic and electric guitars. Lower action equals somewhat easier to play, but at the sacrifice of tone!
  15. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson SUSPENDED Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Big +1. Can make a huge difference. How hard and in what direction. If you pluck towards the body you can get more noise than plucking across it. Plus plucking across IME gives me more even output and control of my dynamcis.

    For me the proper setup for low action is a straight neck just shy of backbowing, saddles adjusted properly and a neck with the correct angle. I've never seen a professional set up a bass as low as I've set mine which is why I learned to do my own.
  16. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson SUSPENDED Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Didn't Entwistle get buzz when he wanted it? It can be a good thing.

    IME you don't have to play very light with low action, you can also play hard in a more controlled fashion. It's like learning how to throw a punch... work on throwing a 6 inch punch that delivers the power of a haymaker. Either way someone's going to get hurt. One just won't see it coming.

    Some folks confuse economy of motion with tickling the strings. Playing hard with low action requires a symmetry between both hands.

    My basses are set up where there's a fine line between getting buzz when I want to and not getting it when I don't. I've learned to be able to pluck relatively hard but controlled and can get either when I want them. Glad I spent the time working on it.
  17. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    ^^ THIS!
  18. Lackey


    May 10, 2002
    Los Angeles
    If straightening out the neck and getting a basic setup doesnt solve all the problems, maybe get your frets Plek'd? its a computerized fret leveling machine, seems to get rave reviews from many. Of course if you know an absolutely stellar tech then the effect may be similar.

    But yes, as many others have alluded to, if you have fret buzz specifically higher up the neck, probably too much relief in the neck and it needs to be straightened out for starters.
  19. Thanks everyone good info
  20. lowendblues

    lowendblues Supporting Member

    Oct 8, 2004
    All good advice. But dont forget the nut. A correctly cut nut can be a huge game changer in how low you action can be.

    This is a pretty good video on how to cut one properly:

    John rushes things a bit for the video. Take your time, file just a bit and keep checking tolorances, also I tape off the end of the fingerboard just in case I slip with the file.

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