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rjames1973

Issue with Fret Buzz with New Tusq Nut

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Hey Everyone,

 

I just had the stock plastic nut replaced on my Epi Les Paul Standard with a tusq nut. While the guitar now actually stays in tune after I play it, there is significant fret buzz on the low E string. The guitar tech who replaced the nut told me he lowered the action (slightly, in his words) because he felt the action was a little too high. I was immediately disgruntled to hear this, but I figured I'd give it a day to test out at home. He gave me 30 days to return the guitar for additional work if I was not satisfied. I'm sure the lower action is causing the annoying fret buzz, but could it be that the low E string slot that he cut in the tusq nut could have been cut too low? I'm using D'Addario 9s on the guitar, but I think he told me he was going to cut the slots so that they could also accommodate Ernie Ball 10s, as he prefers those on Les Pauls. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

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I don't know how low you like your action, or how low it was before. If you are a harder strummer, the action should be a bit higher, so you don't get the buzz.

 

You say he slotted the nut to accept 10's. Did he set it up with 10's, and you changed the strings to 9's when you got home?

If so, that could be your problem. The 9's do not put as much tension on the neck as 10's, allowing the neck to flatten out, or even have backbow, causing strings to be closer to the neck. Another thing about smaller string guages is that they tend to vibrate in a looser (bigger) pattern when struck hard.

 

If you like the action, and find that the E string buzzes only on the 1st few frets, either soften your attack, or just try playing it through your amp. You might not hear the buzz at all.

 

Maybe he set it up for a lighter player.

Or he cut the nut slot too low, in which case he'll have to replace it. Do not allow him to shim it. This places an aditional layer of material between the neck and the nut, possibly reducing coupling. Coupling is the amount of contact between the pieces, allowing vibration to transmit through the nut, into the neck and body.

Shimming can be done, but it must be done correctly or it robs tone.

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Thanks for the reply! I took the guitar back to the guitar tech today. I think all it needed was the action to be raised a little, which he did. I'm still concerned that he cut the slots so that they would accommodate the 10s, but I might try them down the road. It seems to play better now, but I'll have to see if the issue returns since the 9s are on the guitar now.

 

 

I don't know how low you like your action, or how low it was before. If you are a harder strummer, the action should be a bit higher, so you don't get the buzz.

 

You say he slotted the nut to accept 10's. Did he set it up with 10's, and you changed the strings to 9's when you got home?

If so, that could be your problem. The 9's do not put as much tension on the neck as 10's, allowing the neck to flatten out, or even have backbow, causing strings to be closer to the neck. Another thing about smaller string guages is that they tend to vibrate in a looser (bigger) pattern when struck hard.

 

If you like the action, and find that the E string buzzes only on the 1st few frets, either soften your attack, or just try playing it through your amp. You might not hear the buzz at all.

 

Maybe he set it up for a lighter player.

Or he cut the nut slot too low, in which case he'll have to replace it. Do not allow him to shim it. This places an aditional layer of material between the neck and the nut, possibly reducing coupling. Coupling is the amount of contact between the pieces, allowing vibration to transmit through the nut, into the neck and body.

Shimming can be done, but it must be done correctly or it robs tone.

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Here's how you check the nut height: With the string(s) depressed between the 2nd and 3rd frets, the gap between the string and the first fret should be about .015", or the thickness of a standard business card.

 

Keep in mind that a too-low nut height can only cause buzzing with open strings.

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You didn't ask him to cut the slots for Ernie Ball 10's and you didn't ask him to lower the action either.

 

I would take it back and tell him it that there is a Buzz, and ask him to put the action to its original height. or to the factory recommended height for les paul

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I tested the nut height, placing a business card in the gap between the string and the first fret. It was an extremely tight fit. Is this an indicator that the action is still too low?

 

Here's how you check the nut height: With the string(s) depressed between the 2nd and 3rd frets, the gap between the string and the first fret should be about .015", or the thickness of a standard business card.

 

Keep in mind that a too-low nut height can only cause buzzing with open strings.

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No, I told him that I like using the 9 gauge strings, but he insisted that he cut the slots a bit deeper for the 10 gauge strings if I ever wanted to try them. I'm thinking that the deeper slots in the new nut are what is causing the fret buzz. I have 9 gauge strings on the guitar now.

 

You didn't ask him to cut the slots for Ernie Ball 10's and you didn't ask him to lower the action either.

 

I would take it back and tell him it that there is a Buzz, and ask him to put the action to its original height. or to the factory recommended height for les paul

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Maybe it's just a terminology thing, but the height of the nut slots is not what would be adjusted for different gauge strings - the width would be. If the Tusq nut was one of the pre-slotted ones, they're usually set up for 10s, but will often work just fine for 9s or 11s, too.

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Folks,

 

I have some additional questions and concerns. Please bear with me, as I am not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to guitar tech issues. After taking the guitar to the guitar tech today and having him raise the action a little, the fret buzz seemed to disappear while I played it in the shop. Now that I'm home, however, the fret buzz is still there. Also, something seems off with the intonation, although he told me that he adjusted it after he added the new tusq nut. The strings just don't sound like they are in tune when I play the guitar, even after I tune them with my electronic tuner. The G string seems to go out of tune after doing some bending. Also, when I play the low E string and let it ring and then bend any of the last three strings (G, B, or E), I can hear the low E string getting lower in pitch. Something of note: I was watching the guitar tech today in his shop, and he forcibly pushed the neck of my guitar a few times. I assumed this was done to straighten it, but it is a new guitar and should not have needed to be forcibly pushed like that (at least in my opinion). He told me he was adjusting it to make sure the neck was not bowing too much. And then there is this issue with the nut being cut to accommodate the 10 gauge strings, which I normally don't use. I like using 9 gauge, but he told me that I could use either gauge and there shouldn't be any issues. It seems to me that the slots in the nut may have been cut too deep, which is why I'm hearing the fret buzz on the low E string. Anyway, any thoughts on these issues would be appreciated.

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RJ, if there's a CH of clearance at the 1st fret (with the string depressed between frets 2 and 3), the nut height is fine. There are many variables that can cause fret buzz, and it often takes many fine adjustments over time to get a guitar right where you want it. And even then, a weather change may necessitate an occasional tweak. That's why so many of us learn how to do basic adjustments on our own. Many guitars have minor fret buzz that isn't really an issue for many players, and may be considered normal. I suggest you take some time to learn more about setups via websites and books on the subject.

 

I'm wondering where your action is set. With no strings depressed, what are the 12th fret clearances of the E strings. The Epiphone owner's manual states the nominal clearances as 4/64" and 6/64".

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Thanks for the reply. Yes, I do need to learn more about how setups are done. I've actually seen some good videos on YouTube on this subject, but I have never thought about doing a setup on my own. As for the 12th fret clearances of the E strings, I have to admit that I'm not even sure how I would get those measurements.

 

RJ, if there's a CH of clearance at the 1st fret (with the string depressed between frets 2 and 3), the nut height is fine. There are many variables that can cause fret buzz, and it often takes many fine adjustments over time to get a guitar right where you want it. And even then, a weather change may necessitate an occasional tweak. That's why so many of us learn how to do basic adjustments on our own. Many guitars have minor fret buzz that isn't really an issue for many players, and may be considered normal. I suggest you take some time to learn more about setups via websites and books on the subject.

 

I'm wondering where your action is set. With no strings depressed, what are the 12th fret clearances of the E strings. The Epiphone owner's manual states the nominal clearances as 4/64" and 6/64".

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RJ, Home Depot (and I suppose other hardware stores) has a nice little 6" precision ruler that's perfect for guitar setup. It has scales down to 64ths, and works well as a straight edge to use for checking for high frets. I think it cost me about 3 bucks.

 

Guitars are made of wood, and therefore vary. If you took 10 identical guitars made on the same day in the same factory, and set them up exactly the same, measurement-wise, they'd each play a little differently. Such are guitars.

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Thanks for the help. I'll pick up a 6" precision ruler sometime soon. I'm still not sure what to do about the issues with this guitar, but I think another visit to the guitar tech will be in order.

 

 

RJ, Home Depot (and I suppose other hardware stores) has a nice little 6" precision ruler that's perfect for guitar setup. It has scales down to 64ths, and works well as a straight edge to use for checking for high frets. I think it cost me about 3 bucks.

 

Guitars are made of wood, and therefore vary. If you took 10 identical guitars made on the same day in the same factory, and set them up exactly the same, measurement-wise, they'd each play a little differently. Such are guitars.

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Thanks for the reply. Yes, I do need to learn more about how setups are done. I've actually seen some good videos on YouTube on this subject, but I have never thought about doing a setup on my own. As for the 12th fret clearances of the E strings, I have to admit that I'm not even sure how I would get those measurements.

 

Regarding learning to do your own set-ups, definitely watch the youtube vids.

ALSO, go to the Epiphone Lounge, Click on the "Do-it-Yourself" Thread. Scroll down

to "GUITAR SET UP/TRUSS ROD ADJUSTMENT" section - there are 6 entries there. The top 4

will probably be of the most interest to you.

 

Just several sources of info grouped together for quick reference..... [thumbup]

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Thanks, animalfarm. Good folks on this forum! [smile]

 

Regarding learning to do your own set-ups, definitely watch the youtube vids.

ALSO, go to the Epiphone Lounge, Click on the "Do-it-Yourself" Thread. Scroll down

to "GUITAR SET UP/TRUSS ROD ADJUSTMENT" section - there are 6 entries there. The top 4

will probably be of the most interest to you.

 

Just several sources of info grouped together for quick reference..... [thumbup]

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Just a few added notes:

 

1. The nut slots will not be cut any lower for a set of 10's than for a set of 9's. The clearance is measured from the bottom of the string, to the top of the fret.

 

2. Most techs will cut the nut slots slightly larger than the string guage anyway.

It's perfectly fine to use a .012 file for either a .010, or a .009 string.

It is actually prefered to have a bit of room on the side of the string. If the nut slot is too tight, the string will stick while tuning, and it gets "choked" causing a loss of tone.

 

3. The nut should be cut so that approx. half of the Bass E, the A, and the D string shows above the top of the nut.

The other 3 should be even with the top.

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I replaced my nut with a tusq XL pre-slotted for epiphone and found the slots to have been cut at the wrong angle so that on the wound strings, the string was breaking off the headstock side of the nut instead of the fingerboard side of the nut. That caused me a buzz.

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Since the guitar was already set up by a professional guitar tech in my area, the question of whether or not I need to learn how to do a set up is irrelevant (with all due respect). I do plan to learn more about what goes into doing a set up on a guitar, but I don't plan to actually do set ups of any of my guitars on my own in the near future. That being said, I'm going to replace the 9. gauge D'Addario string on my Epi LP with a set of the Ernie Ball .10s and see if that helps with the fret buzz issue. Thanks again to everyone for responding to my post. I appreciate the advice on set ups.

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Does anyone responding understand anything about set up, there's nothing wrong with your guitar, you just need to understand how to set it up.

 

I do setups part time as part of my small business. I understand a few things about set ups, having built a few guitars now, and having happy customers.

I have never said there is something wrong with his guitar. Our friend needs to understand how different aspects of setup affect his sound, and we are trying to enlighten him.

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I can't believe the tech set up the guitar the way HE wanted it, rather than the way YOU wanted it!

 

If this had happened to me, I would have been very upset and made my feelings very plain.

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I can't believe the tech set up the guitar the way HE wanted it, rather than the way YOU wanted it!

 

If this had happened to me, I would have been very upset and made my feelings very plain.

 

 

As a part time tech, I can tell you that one of the most important parts of a setup is to interview the player. Find out about the music he plays, and whether he has a soft or heavy touch? What does he like about the guitar, and what is he not satisfied with?

This info is what gives me the setup parameters for his guitar. A few thousanths in string height at the nut, or anywhere on the neck, can make a big difference.

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