Guitar repair – That buzz may not be from the fretwires!!

This is a return customer. Then, I had swapped the plastic nut and saddle for a bone one, I think.

The guitar came back to me recently with the complaint of a buzz on the 1st/2nd frets of the high ‘e’ and low ‘E’ strings.

But what caught my eye was the condition the guitar was in. It seemed it hadn’t been loved in a long time.

What also caught my eye were the string slots. It seemed somebody had tried to lower the 1st fret action by deepening the slots. I am all for experimentation but with a couple of fail-safes: proper knowledge and right tools. If those too fail – somehow – then one should be ready with an alternative, whatever it is that one is experimenting with (nut/saddle/strings).

When strings sit on the fretwires, a buzz is bound to appear. Also, with slots so low, who is to say that the string is not rattling inside the slot but on the fretwires? When string slots need to be lowered, the nut too needs to be brought down proportionately.

Anyway, now that the problem had presented itself, there were two ways out: either fill the slots and re-cut them, or, replace the old nut with a new nut. The cost difference was negligible and taking the latter route meant lesser work for me. Thankfully, the owner agreed to replace the nut.

Work commenced with taking the crusty old strings off the guitar, and as I was taking them off, I saw this:

the perfect example of how NOT to wind the string around the peg. See, just because the manufacturer was kind enough to provide you with a certain length of string, it does not mean that you HAVE to use all of it!!

Just two or three winds of the thicker strings and five or six of the thinner strings (B and e) will do just fine.

Next, even though cleaning and polishing the instrument is usually the last step in the list of jobs, I had to clean the guitar first to begin work on it. Then began the deep clean, burnishing of the fretwires and a drink of the fretboard elixir.

Before I had taken off the strings, I had checked that the action of the guitar was on the higher side, Shaving the saddle was out of the question for it was already lower than what I would have liked to see. The way out? Cut string slots/string ramps.

These help create an an acute angle as the strings come out of their holes and travel to the top of the saddle.

Checking the fretwires for high spots, I was surprised to find many but none that would cause a buzz around the 1st/2nd fret area. Wonder if you can make out the marked areas on the fretwires (damn the watermark!).

Those were dealt with before treating the fretboard to a delicious drink of the magic potion.

The old nut was knocked out, measured and its dimensions transferred to a new one. As the nut sat snug in its slot, it was time to string up the instrument.

The choice of strings of the owner was

And before I let you go, I’ll leave you with some shots of the finished job.

All cleaned up, I could even read the name on the headstock: ‘gb&a’!!!

Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me:

4 thoughts to “Guitar repair – That buzz may not be from the fretwires!!”

  1. Excellent work sir.. couldn’t imagine anything better than what you do and the way you explain

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