Troubleshooting: The buzz about the buzz…

originally appeared on the Fenderforum, posted by Scopo, Australia (Notes by Tom Arnold).

Problem: you have a brand new CIJ Jaguar? it has string buzz and rattles?

Potential solution/s (in approximate order of simplicity and cheapness):

  1. Chuck out the 9 or 10 gauge strings it came with. Change strings to at least 11-49 if not 12-52 gauge (try flatwounds if you’re at all into surf sounds)
  2. Is everything on the guitar tight? There are lots of moving parts on a Jaguar that can rattle – check all the screws in the bridge and Locktite if necessary (once you’ve set the action etc – see below); a little tape on the trem arm can stop it rattling; a little tape on the bridge posts (but not enough to stop the bridge pivoting) can also help
  3. Check the neck relief – the neck should be nearly flat, with a slight concave bow. Hold down the low E string at the first fret and the body fret (about the 17th). Between the 5th and 7th fret there should be a small gap between the string and the fret (Note: a good rule of thumb is the diameter of the high e-string). If there is no gap at all, the neck is too straight, so the truss rod should be loosened slightly (about 1/8 of a turn); if there is a big gap, the neck is too bowed and should be tightened (again, start with about 1/8 of a turn).
  4. Check the action (the height of the strings from the fingerboard). If any string rattles when fretted, it is likely to be too low and its individual height can be adjusted at the bridge. Action is a matter of your playing style and individual preference – if you’re a heavy strummer or big-bending blues-bender, you’ll probably want a higher action. Action is also dependent on neck relief and string gauge (see, it starts to get a bit complicated).
  5. How’s the intonation? Do notes sound in tune all the way up the neck? If open chords are in tune but barre chords above the 7th fret or so sound out of tune, then you will have to set the intonation of each string by moving the saddles back (if fretted note is sharp) or forward (if flat) (note: this will affect the action a bit, if you move the saddle back (i.e. away from the pickups) you will slightly increase the action and vice versa).
  6. Are there any electrical/grounding problems causing hum? Is there a hum when you’re *not* touching the strings? If so, there may a broken ground wire somewhere. As single coil pickups, the Jaguar is likely to pick up *some* hum at high gain or when near transformers, computer monitors etc. But if it’s excessive, then there could be a wiring/grounding problem.

AFTER you’ve checked all these things (or had them checked by an expert), THEN think about shimming, replacing the bridge etc.

If you haven’t already, look at Fender’s basic guitar set-up tips.

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