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Author Topic: Fret buzz = need taller saddle?  (Read 2037 times)
AZLiberty
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« on: April 18, 2011, 07:30:49 AM »

I have a Martin D-35 that has always given me a bit of fret buzz.  I assume this means I need a taller saddle.  I've tried loosening the truss rod but no real help there.  It's "ok" with Medium strings if I don't dig in too hard, but lights simply won't ring clearly no matter what I do.

I figure I can order a bone one from Bob Colosi, but how much taller should I cut it?  I'm guessing at least 50-60 thousandths taller?

Any insight?
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GA-ME
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« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2011, 10:07:58 AM »

 Are you sure the frets are properly leveled? You can make some little metal fret rockers to see if they are level fret to fret and find any slightly high ones...
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Barefoot Rob
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« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2011, 01:43:21 PM »

 +1 for what GA said.I have found it best to start with a temporary shim,then you can measure it before cutting a new saddle.
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« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2011, 06:34:44 PM »

I had a fret buzz diagnosed and solved the other day, it was very minor, and the problem - the frets had been milled flat, but not properly crowned, causing a tiny bit of buzz on the fret tops (think sitar), and the nut was just a hair too low on my B string. Now why a slightly low nut causes that, I still don't fully understand - but they filled the slot with bone dust and CA, and crowned/polished the frets, and there was an amazing difference -  They did recommend a new nut at some point, but I can put that off a little while until I feel like doing it myself - which is to say, I really need to order those nut files - 
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AZLiberty
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« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2011, 01:32:38 AM »

Well honestly it wouldn't hurt to get the frets dressed, leveled and possibly the first 3 replaced.  The saddle is still really low though.
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jeremy3220
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« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2011, 04:45:36 AM »

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I have a Martin D-35 that has always given me a bit of fret buzz.  I assume this means I need a taller saddle.

If you don't know, you should take it to a tech or learn more about setups in general before taking action. I really don't intend for this to sound rude but many of these buzz threads are like someone asking 'my car won't go so it's probably the engine right? Should I replace the spark plugs?'. What I mean is, fret buzz comes in many forms and your question is so broad that the appropriate answer would be to give an entire course on guitar setups; if you intend to do it yourself then gaining a good understanding of the entire setup process is exactly what you should do. I think this would be more beneficial than gaining the info in random incomplete chunks by asking a broad question then people propose random possibilities. Plainly put... being able to tell if string height is too low or high is a skill that you should possess before setting up a guitar.

If you have determined that the string height is too low then follow unclrob's suggestion of shimming the current saddle to gauge the new saddle's height. You could make it taller than needed then lower it in increments until you find the height that works best. For string height at the 12th fret I try to measure in .005" increments(others work in 64ths). <Note - The other point(nut) is at a stationary height so the effect of lowering the string height at the 12th fret is half that of the saddle; meaning to lower the 12th fret string height 1/64" you need to lower the saddle 1/32">

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billfinch01
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« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2011, 04:55:52 AM »

Hello, On my D-02 I had a fret buzz when I first got it (used). I eyeballed everything to the best of my abilities and it all looked good. I called Colosi and he didnt even ask for any dimensions, he just sent me what it was supposed to be and it cleared up the buzz. I think that someone just went a little overboard on the sanding last time.  Good luck
Bill
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AZLiberty
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« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2011, 05:40:48 AM »


If you have determined that the string height is too low then follow unclrob's suggestion of shimming the current saddle to gauge the new saddle's height. You could make it taller than needed then lower it in increments until you find the height that works best. For string height at the 12th fret I try to measure in .005" increments(others work in 64ths). <Note - The other point(nut) is at a stationary height so the effect of lowering the string height at the 12th fret is half that of the saddle; meaning to lower the 12th fret string height 1/64" you need to lower the saddle 1/32">



Ah but that's the question, how low is too low?  At the 12th fret with the strings unfretted the clearance is .063", give or take a thou. (measured w dial caliper)

With the strings fretted at the 1st fret, there is about .012" clearance between the high e and the 2nd fret.  Fretted at the 2nd fret there is about 9-thousandths clearance at the 3rd fret.  (measured w/ feeler gages)

This is with mediums.

It's only an issue on the trebles.  This saddle is a lot more radiused than any of my Larrivee saddles, and I think it has too much fall off on the treble side.  I was thinking of raising the saddle 20 thou or so across the board and 40-50 thou at the b and high e.

I might just take it into a tech anyway as I don't have any fret files and I suspect it could use a fret leveling.

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« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2011, 03:14:49 PM »

 +1 for what Jeremy said.

I have never understood why saddle's are always cut lower on the high E side.I always cut saddle's to conform to the radious of the fingerboard and equil hieght on both ends.

As for action hieght thats personnal taste.Though I never measure the hieght at the 12 fret I set up guitars based on the players technic.My own guitars are setup VERY low,some say lower then most electric guitars they own.Go to your favorite tech,play for them so they can see the amount of preasure you use to form chords,the tighter the grip the more you pull it sharp and the more it buzz's.As all know I use a rather heavy guage of strings,I also have a really light touch so I only get the wanted rattle when needed.So talk to your tech/luthier,deside what guage strings you want to use and go from there.If the frets need dressing and if you've never done it leave it for someone that does.As I have seen what should have been a simple light dressing turn into a refret due to not knowing what your doing.
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« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2011, 04:48:11 PM »

I TOTALLY agree with everything unclrob says! He knows what he's doing and saying. Take it to a GOOD tech and you'll be very pleased with the results. Let's just hope the tech you take it to is as good as unclrob!

f
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« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2011, 05:26:11 PM »

My 2 cents (one cent for each end of the fretboard):
I got one of those String Action Guages from StewMac to aid in set ups.  It comes with a folded piece of paper with basic instructions and recommended settings for various guitars.
For steel-string acoustics, it recommends .090" between the bottom of the 6th string and the top of the 12th fret (with strings tuned to standard pitch and not fretted).  On the treble E, it recommends .070" at the 12th fret.  For the nut end, it suggests .023" between the bottom of the bass E and the top of the first fret, and .013" for the treble E.  I have set up about a dozen acoustics with these settings and they have all turned out just right in terms of action with no buzzes.  I try and get the in-between strings graduated evenly between the two E strings (i.e. 6th = .090, 5th = .085, 4th = .080, 3rd = .080, 2nd = .075, 1st = .070)  I do the same graduation at the nut (increments from .023-bass down to .013-treble).  Of course, I can't get these exact.  By doing this, the strings more or less follow the radius of the fingerboard but get closer to it as you go from the bass to the treble side.  Re: why the treble strings are often set closer, I think it's simply to maximize the action since treble strings vibrate in a smaller circle and so can be closer.  I also think if you don't have to stretch the skinny strings as far to fret them, then the intonation at the lower frets is less affected (reduces tendancy to sharpness).

IMPORTANT NOTES: BEFORE I SET THESE STRING HEIGHTS, I set the relief at the 7th or 8th fret to anywhere between .004 to .012.  (the instructions recommend starting at .002" but I find this is a bit too low to ensure there are no buzzes once I set the string heights, afterwards.  I measure this relief with feeler guages between the bottom of the string and the top of the 7th or 8th fret with a capo installed at the first fret while pressing down the string at the highest fret and holding the guitar in the player position.

And, I never lower the saddle or nut to these settings all at once.  I lower them in a couple of stages, and test everything at each stage to make sure I don't get any buzzes before I reach the final heights.
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jeremy3220
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« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2011, 03:37:14 AM »

Ah but that's the question, how low is too low?  At the 12th fret with the strings unfretted the clearance is .063", give or take a thou. (measured w dial caliper)

That's pretty low. Basically, if the strings buzz because it's too low then it's too low.

I have never understood why saddle's are always cut lower on the high E side.

Because we can. People tend to like the action as low as possible without buzzing and you can simply set the treble side lower. It feels more natural to me. If it doesn't to you then that's cool; set it however you like. When it comes to setups I'm a consequentialist, the end result is more important than following rules.
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« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2011, 08:51:53 PM »

I dropped the guitar off at the local Martin authorized service center.  Finding a setup guy in Phoenix is easy, finding one nearby on the other hand is a lot harder. 

I'm having the frets leveled and dressed, and the guitar set up for lights.  This may or may not involve a new bone saddle. We'll see if a professional can do any better job than I can.  I'd lay good odds the saddle is to low on the treble side to get a clean sound though.

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