There are 2 guitar components that effect string height. The Saddle and the Nut.
The Saddle The Nut
The saddle always affects the height of the strings whether your fingers are pushing the strings onto the frets or not. But ............When you play the open strings (not pushing strings onto frets) the string height is set by a combination of the nut and saddle height.
If your strings are too high.................
your guitar will be harder to play so you’ll want to lower them.
If your strings are too low..................
your guitar will make buzzing noises because the strings are vibrating against the frets
How to work out if the buzzing is due to the Saddle or the Nut
If the strings are only buzzing against the frets when you are pushing strings down onto the fingerboard then your saddle is too low and needs replacing with a higher one.
If the strings are only buzzing when you are not pushing strings down onto the fingerboard then the nut is too low and needs replacing
Other factors that can cause buzzing.
There are 4 of these
- The condition of the strings
- The height of each fret
- Parts of the guitar that can rattle
- The neck relief (basically how straight or bent the neck of the guitar is).
The condition of the strings
The outer winding on the bass strings often wears and breaks before the core of the string breaks. This can result in the windings vibrating on the frets
The height of each fret
A frets can rise above the level of the other frets. This can be identified with a straight edge such as a steel ruler.
Parts of the guitar that can rattle
Tuning keys and strap buttons are common ones.
The neck relief (basically how straight or bent the neck of the guitar is).
This is usually only adjustable on guitars with steel strings. The neck of a guitar should be slightly bowed across its length to prevent the strings vibrating against the frets when they are pushed down. This bending of the neck naturally occurs as a result of the tension of the strings pulling on it.
The truss rod is a metal rod hidden inside the neck of most steel string guitars which can be tightened or loosened with an Allen key. When the truss rod is tightened the neck will straighten. If the truss rod wasn’t there it is likely that the neck would bend too much making the strings far too high from the fingerboard. This often happens to really old cheap classical guitars, you’ll see a big gap between the string and the fingerboard around fret 12.
Steel string guitars can start buzzing after they have been fitted with lower gauge strings. This is because there is less tension in the ‘thinner’ strings and the neck straightens and so the strings start to buzz against the frets which are now relatively nearer to the strings. The buzzing often occurs at the mid-point of the string where it vibrates back and forth the most. This can easily be solved with slight loosening of the truss rod, probably less than ¼ turn.
How to remove the old Saddle
Saddles should not be glued into the bridge. The tension of the strings should keep it in place. Saddles that have been in place for a long time are sometimes harder to get out due to the wood of the bridge expanding over time. If you can’t pull it out with your fingers you can use a tool to grip it. Always hold down the bridge when pulling. It’s unusual for a bridge to lift but if you are pulling against the guitar top there a chance it could. Avoid levering or cutting out as this is more likely to cause damage to the bridge
How to fit a new Saddle
Most new saddles will require a small amount of sanding on the sides for a correct fit. You need to get a balance between a saddle that wobbles and one that gets stuck. Placing the saddle on a non slip surface and sanding with a block from above is a good way to maintain a flat surface. If the strings are not buzzing once the saddle has been fitted it may be possible to lower the strings further to make the guitar easier to play by purchasing a saddle 0.5mm lower, this is preferable to filing the base of the saddle to lower it. If you file the base of the saddle too much you will be stuck with the buzz again. Contact guitarbuzzsolutions and we will get the required size onto this site ready for your order. Some guitarists like to have a spare higher and lower saddle and spare nut at the ready particularly if they are regularly performing so that they have an immediate solution to hand.
How to remove the Nut
Nuts are usually glued in place with white glue (PVA). The glue should only be on the flat side of the nut where it meets the end of the fingerboard. If glue gets into the base of the nut slot they can be harder to get out. The best way to loosen the nut is to remove the strings and tap the flat side of the nut at the end of the fingerboard using a hammer and wooden block. If this doesn’t work you may have to saw down the middle of the nut and try the hammer and block again.
How to fit a new Nut
You don’t have to glue a nut into place as the tension of the strings will hold it. However, if you don’t glue it in there is a chance it could move sideways which will mean loosening the strings again to relocate it. If you decide to glue it in place make sure you only apply glue to the top of the end of the fingerboard so that it can be easily tapped off when required.
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