Why Are My Bass Strings Buzzing?

You may be wondering, “Why Are My Bass Strings Buzzing?” It can be frustrating trying to figure out what is going on with your bass guitar and how to eliminate string buzz. Let’s take a look at what is causing your bass strings to buzz.

Why Are My Bass Strings Buzzing?

Strings buzzing and rattling on your bass guitar is better known as Fret Buzz. The neck of your bass guitar should have a slight forward bow in it. It should not be perfectly flat. Fret buzz is often caused by a combination of not enough bow in the neck and the bridge string height being set too low. There are other factors that can cause your bass strings to buzz like uneven frets, a worn nut, and a damaged or warped neck. Have a professional luthier or guitar tech do a SETUP on your bass. This usually fixes the problem.

Your Bass Guitar May Need Some Adjustments

If you are experiencing fret buzz your bass guitar probably needs some minor adjustments. In most cases it is not difficult for an experienced guitar tech to eliminate string rattle and fret buzz.

I highly recommend taking your bass guitar to a luthier or guitar tech at your local music store to have a proper “Setup” done on your bass guitar.

The luthier or guitar techs experience will get to the root of the problem quickly and in most cases minor adjustments will eliminate fret buzz and string rattle.

Let’s take a look at some of the common issues that may be causing your bass strings to buzz.

1. Bow In The Neck

You want a slight forward bow (Relief) in the neck of your bass guitar.

Bass Guitar Neck Proper Relief Illustration

Back Bow (Convex)

Back Bow is when the neck of the guitar has a backward bend. Back Bow causes the middle section of the neck to come in contact with the strings and causes fret buzz, intonation problems, and sometimes the inability to play the guitar at all.

Forward Bow (Concave)

Forward Bow is when the guitar neck is bowed forward. You want a slight forward bow but not too much. Forward Bow is caused by the pressure of the strings pulling forward on the head stock putting too much forward curve in the neck.

Forward Bow causes high action, intonation problems, and uncomfortable playing.

Slight Forward Bow (Relief)

A slight Forward Bow is desirable and is known as Relief. The slight forward bow in the neck gives the strings just enough room to vibrate without touching the frets and vibrating or rattling.

You do not want the neck perfectly flat because the strings will not have room to vibrate.

2. Frets Are Not Level

The frets on the neck should be the same height.

If you have one fret that is taller than the other frets, the tall fret will cause the notes below the tall fret to lose sustain, buzz, or completely choke out the sound of the frets below the tall fret.

You can check your frets height with a fret rocker tool. The fret rocker will allow you to compare the height of three frets at a time.

3. String Action Is Too Low

If the strings are set too low this can cause the strings to buzz and rattle because they are slightly touching frets above where you are fretting.

Because the neck is slightly curved (Relief), the strings may only buzz in certain areas of the neck when you are playing.

4. Bridge Needs Adjusted

There are different styles of bridges on different bass guitars so each style of bridge will adjust differently.

If you have just one string buzzing, you may be able to slightly adjust the height of the string with your bridge or bridge saddle.

The saddles on your bridge can move forward and backward. This forward and backward movement will change the height and length of the individual string you are working with.

The saddles may also have height adjustment screws depending on the type of bridge you have.

Some bridges also have height adjustment settings where you can raise or lower the whole bridge.

It takes experience to know the best way to adjust your bridge and saddles to give you the best results.

Bass Guitar Bridge

Moving your saddles forward or backward will also change the intonation so you have to find a delicate balance between string height and proper intonation.

Intonation is what keeps your tunning in check between the open string note and the 12th fret note.

A bass guitar that has the intonation set properly will have an in tune open E and in tune E on the 12th fret.

You can check the tuning of all your strings this way.

5. Worn Frets

Sometimes the frets on your bass guitar will start to wear down or get flat spots and notches cut into the frets.

This usually happens because the neck gets played in one area more than the other areas of the neck.

When a fret starts to wear down below its original height you may start to get string buzz or rattling.

Take a look at the frets on your bass guitar. If you see worn, dirty, or damaged frets then you are due for a little fret work.

Often times an experienced tech can do what’s called a fret dress. This is where the frets are cleaned, filed and reshaped so all the frets work together like they are suppose to.

If your frets are too damaged or have already been fret dressed a time or two, then you may need a fret job.

A fret job is where some or all of the frets are removed from the neck and new frets are installed, shaped, and polished.

6. Worn Nut

A worn nut will affect string height at the tunning end of the neck.

The nut is what the strings pass through on the way to the tuners. As a nut starts to wear down the string or strings may start to sit too low and cause the strings to buzz or rattle.

7. New Player Not Fretting Properly

If you are new to playing the bass guitar you may be hearing buzzing and dead sounding notes.

There is a good chance that you have not yet learned the best way to fret a note.

You are still developing the strength and coordination in your hands and fingers.

Not to worry. Just keep practicing and you will soon find it much easier to fret a note properly.

Video Credit: Extreme Bass Guitar

What Are The Bass Guitar Components?

If you are new to the bass guitar you may be wondering what some of the bass guitar components are that we have been talking about.

Let’s take a look.

Neck

The neck should be pretty obvious to you. It’s the long narrow piece of wood that runs from the body of the bass down to the tuners at the end of the neck.

Truss Rod

The truss rod is a metal or graphite rod that runs down the inner center of the neck.

The truss rod is used to adjust the bow of the neck.

Bridge

The bridge sits on the body of the bass guitar and is what holds your strings in place.

The strings may attach to your bridge, or the strings may pass over the bridge on your bass.

The bridge may have height adjuster to raise and lower the strings action.

Different manufactures use different bridge styles.

Saddles

Saddles are an adjustable part of the bridge that the cradle or hold the string as it passes over the bridge.

Saddles can be adjusted to set the intonation and height of the strings.

Nut

The nut is a small piece of bone or synthetic plastic at the end of the neck by the tuners.

The nut carries the strings off of the fret board and on to the tuners.

The nut provides a little lift to the string at the end of the neck so that the string has height clearance to vibrate from the bridge to the nut.

Tuners

The tuners are what you use to tighten and loosen the strings on your bass guitar.

Use the tuners to adjust the pitch of the string until it is in tune.

Pickups

The pickups sit under the strings where you pick or pluck the strings.

Pickups take the vibration from the strings above them and turn the string vibration into a analog signal that gets sent to your bass amplifier.

Frets

Frets are the wires embedded into your bass guitar neck and run all the way down your neck.

Frets help to easily create different notes on the neck and are also good markers for where you are on the neck.

Relevant Article: How Do I Record Myself Playing Bass Guitar? Learn to record your bass guitar.

How To Properly Fret A Bass Guitar To Eliminate Buzz

If you are hearing buzzing when you play your bass guitar it could be you need to adjust where you are placing your fingers on the neck.

1. Make Sure You Are Fretting In The Right Place

Make sure you are fretting notes properly by placing your finger just behind the fret of the note you are trying to play.

If you are placing your finger too far behind the fret you will most likely hear some buzzing.

If you are hearing some buzzing when you place your finger to play a note, try sliding your finger just a little closer to the leading fret.

Bass Guitar Fretting Position

2. Apply The Right Amount Of Pressure

If you do not press down hard enough on the string when you are trying to play a note the string will not make good contact with the fret.

This can cause buzzing or a dead thud kind of sound.

If you are new to playing the bass guitar it may take a little time to build up some strength in your hands and fingers.

Sometimes you may not press down hard enough if your fingertips are sore. You will eventually build up some calluses on your fingertips and the pain will stop.

3. Avoid Strumming Too Hard

Learn to control how hard you attack the strings.

If you pick or finger pluck the string too hard it can cause the strings to rattle and buzz.

4. Have You Recently Changed Strings?

If you have recently changed your strings to a thicker or thinner gauge this can change the bow of the neck.

Also, thicker strings can change the amount of clearance between your strings and your frets.

If you changed the gauge of your strings you may need to have your neck slightly adjusted to compensate for a thicker or thinner gauge string.

5. Make Sure The Bass Guitar Is Properly Setup

There is nothing more annoying than strings buzzing when you are trying to play.

It kills the joy of practicing and playing your bass guitar.

If you have never had a good setup done on your bass guitar you should.

Take your bass guitar to your local guitar shop and let them know your bass has string buzz or rattling.

Reducing buzzing is easy, you just have to pay attention to your technique and make sure your guitar is set up properly. Keep these tips in mind to enjoy a clean and buzz-free sound.

Why Do My New Bass Strings Rattle?

If you recently changed your strings on your bass guitar, you may be wondering, “Why Do My New Bass Strings Rattle?” There are a couple of things that happen when you put new strings on your bass that can cause the strings to rattle. Let’s take a look and see if we can get this cleared up.

When you put new strings on your bass guitar did you change the gauge of the strings? If you did, then you also changed the amount of force or tension pulling on the neck from the tuners to the bridge. You may have more tension or less tension depending on the gauge of strings. This can change the amount of clearance you have between your strings and the frets or the strings and pickups. Check to see if you can pinpoint where the rattle is coming from, and this will help indicate what type of adjustment your bass guitar needs. A good setup on your bass guitar should fix the problem. Let’s take a look at some common issues.

1. New Bass Strings Rattling Above the 12th Fret

If your new bass strings are rattling at or above the 12th fret, then you may need to raise your action a little.

Usually, a small adjustment of the bridge or truss rod will do the trick.

2. New Bass Strings Rattling In The Middle Of The Neck

If your new bass strings are rattling in the middle of the neck (frets 5-12) then you probably need to adjust the truss rod to increase neck relief.

By adjusting the truss rod properly, you will add a little extra relief (Slight Forward Bow) in the neck of the bass guitar.

The new strings may have a different tension than your old strings and the neck may need a small adjustment.

3. New Bass Strings Rattling On The First Five Frets

If your new bass strings are rattling on frets 1 through 5 then the action might be too low, or your nut slots might be cut too deep for the size strings on the bass now.

You can change the action at the bridge, with a nut adjustment, and with the truss rod.

This is where the experienced luthier or guitar tech comes in.

All of the adjustments are pretty easy to do if you know what you are doing.

I recommend you take your bass guitar and have an experienced tech do a setup on your bass.

A setup is not very expensive, your bass guitar will play better, sound better, and you will get much more enjoyment playing your bass guitar.

Other Reasons Why Your Bass Strings Are Buzzing

Sometimes there are other things that can cause your bass strings to make a buzzing sound, or it may not be your strings at all.

There are times when you may hear a buzzing sound but are having a hard time locating the source of the sound.

Strings Occasionally Vibrate On Top Of The Pickup

There are times when the action of the strings is pretty low, and everything is fretting and sounding fine, but you get an intermittent rattle or buzzing sound.

Try to take notice of which fret you are on when this happens. If you can determine the note and fret where the buzzing occurs, try looking to see if the string is rattling against the top of your pickup.

You may need to adjust the action of one string or the height of the pickup a little.

Loose Hardware On The Bridge

Occasionally, a piece of hardware on the bridge will become worn, damaged, or loose.

Take a look at your bridge to see if a saddle is loose, or maybe a screw is loose.

Touch the different components and parts on the bridge to make sure everything is tight.

Loose Tuner

If a tuners mounting hardware becomes loose sometimes a tuner or tuner post will rattle.

Inspect your tuners and hardware to make sure everything is tight.

Loose Pick Guard

Make sure all the screws are tight on your pick guard.

It doesn’t happen very often, but I’ve seen a loose pick guard rattle.

Tap on your pick guard to see if you can hear a rattle sound.

Make sure everything is tight.

Faulty String

Once in a great while you will get a bad string.

You may have just put on new strings and got a bad string with your new set of strings.

It could be that your bass strings are very old and one of the strings is failing and needs replaced.

This can be tricky to detect but it does happen.

Get A Proper Set Up Done On Your Bass Guitar

Bass Guitar Setup

If you have never done a setup on your bass guitar, then you should.

Talk with the guitar tech who is going to do your setup and let them know what kind of problems you are having. Tell them how you prefer your action, what gauge of strings you want to use, and if you play with a pick or your fingers.

I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how much better your bass plays and sounds after a proper setup has been done.

If you are interested in learning how to do your own setups, you may ask the tech if they mind if you watch and learn.

Some will let you and some wont.

If you have never done a setup on your own, you probably should get a little training before you start working on your own guitar.

There are plenty of online videos and books you can check out to get yourself headed in the right direction.

What Others Are Saying

Direct QuoteSource
“The neck of your guitar or bass should have some ‘bow’ in it. In other words it really shouldn’t be perfectly straight. Fret buzz is generally caused by some combination of not enough bow in the neck, the bridge string height being set too low, and possibly a warped or irregular neck. Other important concerns are consistent fret height over the length of the neck and the type and thickness of strings used.”https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/one-solution-for-fretbuzz-adjust-truss-rod/
“Have your strings accumulated grunge? Check the underside of the strings too to see how much crud has accumulated there. There are a number of string cleaning products and tools that will clean up your strings effectively. If none of these are handy, simply wiping down the strings with a slightly damp cloth is better than nothing. But if you can’t remember the last time you changed your strings, and the tone of your instrument has grown dull, it’s probably time to break down and invest in a new set.”https://www.musiciansfriend.com/thehub/how-to-get-rid-of-annoying-fret-buzz-on-your-guitar-or-bass
“When the frets are not level with each other, that means some of the frets are shorter and some of the frets are taller. It’s the tall frets that are the problem because the string comes in to contact with them and it results in fret buzz. The string does not buzz against the low frets.”https://www.haloguitars.com/store/blog/what-causes-fret-buzz-and-how-to-fix-it/
“Another thing that can cause fret buzz is worn frets. Over time – the strings will wear grooves in the frets and wear them down until so the strings are not as high as they need to be when fretted. Closely examine your frets (particular under the strings) to see if there are any deep grooves or if they appear to be excessively worn. Eventually, if played often enough, almost every guitar or bass that uses metal strings will require a “fret job” or re-fret.”https://music.stackexchange.com/questions/30333/bass-guitar-fret-buzz-should-i-care
“Most buzzing on your bass can be fixed with a truss rod adjustment or raising the action. If neither of these fixes work, your frets might need to be dressed especially if they’ve been worn down in some places more than others.”https://sharpenmyaxe.com/6-ways-to-stop-bass-strings-from-buzzing-that-actually-work/
“The real order, is to set the neck relief (with the truss rod), then set the string heights at the bridge. For now, just raising that string at the bridge should help. Do that now, then either get it set up or google / YouTube to learn how to do it all yourself.”https://www.reddit.com/r/Bass/comments/al7nhm/e_string_fret_buzz/
“It sounds to me like it’s just a resonance causing a noise somewhere where there’s something not down tight. I’ve chased these things down ever since I’ve had basses (35+ years). A lot of the time it was in the bridge springs, but they’ve turned up everywhere. Old loose CTS pots will do it sometimes.”https://www.talkbass.com/threads/string-buzzing-not-fretbuzz-but-misterybuzz.185553/
“Nut height – have you recently changed to a lighter gauge set of strings? Or maybe your nut has just worn out. Either way, the strings could be vibrating on the first fret. To allow the strings to clear the top of the first fret, the bottoms of the nut slots should be .030″ higher than the frets.”https://www.quora.com/A-string-buzzes-when-finger-plucking-an-open-note-on-a-bass-How-do-I-fix-this
“If you’ve recently changed strings to a different size, this might have changed the tension and shape of the neck. If the new strings are thinner than before, the guitar will have a lower tension and is more likely to buzz and need some adjusting.”https://www.fender.com/articles/play/5-ways-to-stop-fret-buzz

Final Thoughts

Why Are My Bass Strings Buzzing? Today we learned the most common issues that will cause your bass strings to buzz and rattle.

These are all pretty basic problems that can happen to a bass guitar and common fixes to eliminate fret buzz.

If you like to write, play, record, and produce music then you are in the right place.

I have many great articles that you will find helpful as a musician, writer, and producer.

Take a little time to look around my website. I’m sure you will find different topics of interest.

Feel free to leave your question and helpful comments below.

6 thoughts on “Why Are My Bass Strings Buzzing?”

  1. Mechanics are experts to repairing cars as do guitars have their experts. If you are having a guitar that has fret buzz your guitar needs some adjustments and they are highlighted in a specific order in this article. I have a friend who has a guitar and it will be such great news to share this article with him, I mean what are friends for?

    Reply
    • I think the expert guitar tech will be your best bet to get a setup done on your bass guitar.

      This will make your bass play better, feel better, and you will enjoy playing your bass guitar much more.

      Reply
  2. Wow, that’s what I call an extremely well-structured article! You can clearly see that it’s written by an expert, for the use of not-so-experienced bass players.

    I have never played the guitar before, but I am an old rocker, so I appreciate musicians very much. Actually, I was searching for some info about Cliff Burton, the magician of bass guitar from Metallica, when Google showed me this post.

    It’s amazing how powerful this instrument becomes in the right hands, don’t you think?

    Reply
  3. I have had experience with violins but not much with bass guitars. Some people say it’s the same but I disagree. I noticed that the arch or bend in the neck can change the quality of sound in your guitar, as you explained. How does that occur? When I tune my violin I have not seen the stress from the strings bend the neck. However, with a guitar, I imagine the strings are stronger and apply more resistance to the long neck. Could the bend in the neck be caused by how you play the guitar? For example, pulling back on the neck as you rock out, is that possible?

    Reply
    • Hi Alex, The bend in the guitar neck for a bass guitar and regular guitar is caused by a combination of three things. The force of the strings pulling on the neck, The temperature, and The amount of humidity.  

      The truss rod inside the neck is used to help correct the amount of bend in the neck.  The way a guitar is played could have an effect on the bend in the neck but that would have to be some serious abuse I would think.  

      Pro players probably get a full setup done often when on tour because of the amount temperature and humidity change when traveling and to make sure everything is in top working order for performances. 

      Reply

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