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Heimrich

Fret buzz at lower AND upper frets simultaneously

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Hi guys, as the title says looks like I'm having a fret buzz problem I can't solve... 

The bass is a second hand '98 German made Warwick Thumb bolt on 5 strings and so far I couldn' t reach a good set up. I followed the setup guide by Warwick on YouTube but the problem seems to be the neck buzzing on different areas at the same time, specifically the 4th fret (all the strings but the D in particular) and from the 17th to the 21st on the B, E and A (absolutely un-playable, can hardly hear the notes). There's a little buzz at the 3rd fret but nothing even remotely comparable to the "hive" produced at 4th.The frets from 6th to 16th are perfect and easy to play on all the strings, same as the 1st fret (no buzz at all on all the strings) Neck relief is at 0,20 mm, the action is 2 mm at the 12th fret (and I'd like to keep it that way) 

As far as I know, the frets next to the body should buzz when there's too much relief and viceversa, what puzzles me is that given the simultaneous buzz upper and lower I can't find out where to intervene... Considering that the bass is 22 years old and I've bought it less than two years ago, I was thinking if it could be a problem of worn out frets on some areas of the neck... Before I take it to a tech, could it be the cause of the problem? If not, what could I do myself before asking for the help of a professional? 

Thanks a lot! 

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Assuming the neck/fretboard has no defects, and the frets are properly seated, I'd try adjusting the action in minimal increments on each individual string through moving both the saddles (one by one) and the nut up or down. I assume you've got a Just-A-Nut which allows you to lift one side of the nut higher than the other, if necessary.

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I know it's a bit of a palaver, but can you slacken the strings and check that the just-a-nut is not jammed? That's probably unrelated to your fret buzz problem, but worth having a look at while you're at it. The nut should come off if you unscrew the hex grubs.

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Posted (edited)

I haven't tried it yet, but as far as it seems the nut works, If I screw/unscrew the hex grubs it moves up and down as it should, on both sides...height is about 0.30 mm as specified in the warwick vid...

Edited by Heimrich
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Is the neck bowed or distorted? If you have buzz at more than one spot, I'd check that.

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I've tried by raising the action up to 2,5 mm (my goal would be to keep it at 2 mm max, even less if possible and I think instruments like Warwicks should allow that...) but the problem remains, maybe it attenuates a little bit but it's still there... I also noticed that it's impossible to lower the strings less than 1,5mm even lowering everything at max (saddles, bridge, just-a-nut...). I can bring the E down to 1mm but the G remains at 2mm even detuning it! (as I said in the first post neck relief should be OK, it's 0,20mm)

At this point I think I'll take it to a tech, but I'd like to know what do you think the problem is... 

Thank you 

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Without being able to examine the neck I really can't tell, but I'm sure the tech will notice immediately if the neck (or indeed the fretboard) is misshapen, warped or in any way substandard. Even if the problem isn't easy to spot, the tech will have the appropriate tools to take exact measurements.

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Posted (edited)

If I’ve read this right (skip read), then if the nut and saddle won’t go low enough, then the truss is hopefully just too loose. I’ve never found measuring the truss with a tool helpful, as the ‘shape’ of the curve can be different on some necks - e.g. it can look ok near the body and be way loose on the frets nearer the nut.  

Hopefully it’s just the rod, and/or in need of a good fret level. 

Edited by Chiliwailer

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@Chiliwailer knows far more about this kind of thing than I do, but I’ll weigh in.

I know nothing about the Just-A-Nut, but that’s got to be bang on before you start looking anywhere else. Assuming that it is as it should be and the problem persists, it may be that there are two issues at play. My guess, and it is a guess, is that adjusting the nut correctly may eliminate the issue you have near the 4th. Could be something as simple as a slightly high fret further up the neck causing issues at the dusty end. Get the nut height sorted, then get the frets levelled. You’ll know where you are after that. If you still have issues you should be able to sort them with truss rod adjustment. The good news is it’s a bolt on, so shimtastic.

Never really saw the point of the Just-A-Nut. Seems a bit gimmicky to me.

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Posted (edited)
38 minutes ago, hiram.k.hackenbacker said:

 

Never really saw the point of the Just-A-Nut. Seems a bit gimmicky to me.

You might regret saying that if you file too far down on a bone nut 🤣

Edited by Chiliwailer
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48 minutes ago, hiram.k.hackenbacker said:

Never really saw the point of the Just-A-Nut. Seems a bit gimmicky to me.

Fie! Fie! Fie! 👿

Just-A-Nut is brilliant. It's the non-adjustable nut that's the stupidest thing I've ever seen in my bass-setting-up life. It's the only aspect I absolutely loathe in my new Ibby. You can make absolutely everything individually higher or lower, but not the nut. Complete idiocy.

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53 minutes ago, Chiliwailer said:

You might regret saying that if you file too far down on a bone nut 🤣

True. The only issue I’ve had with a nut is one that had split and needed replacing. Knocked the old bits out, stuck a new one in (pre-filed) and was good to go. It’s owner was very happy with it.

 

47129497-03B1-43B7-9485-CDA907A7F5CC.jpeg

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It's also annoying that non-adjustable nuts are glued to the neck, as opposed to being screwed into it. If done in an aesthetically pleasing way, having screws or grubs would make it far easier to replace the nut if it breaks, or if we make a mistake while filing, or if - God forbid - we change strings to a different gauge. :)

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, Silvia Bluejay said:

It's also annoying that non-adjustable nuts are glued to the neck, as opposed to being screwed into it. If done in an aesthetically pleasing way, having screws or grubs would make it far easier to replace the nut if it breaks, or if we make a mistake while filing, or if - God forbid - we change strings to a different gauge. :)

The Earvana guys do a nut with screws (for intonation though), and it does look a bit weird. 

But really - why glue then anyway? There’s enough pressure from string tension 🙄

Anyway, at least we all don’t have Floyd Rose nuts....

Edited by Chiliwailer
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On 22/08/2020 at 10:05, Heimrich said:

Yes, just-a-nut.. One thing I noticed following the Warwick setup video is that I cannot lower the G string enough to make it "barely touch the frets" as the tech in the video says...

https://youtu.be/-NEXH61OCJY

Hi Heimrich,
I'd love to see the bass. It sounds interesting. It's obviously seen some action over the years. The issue of not being able to lower the G string to touch the frets is probably a key to this.
I've not watched this video, but I've seen and set up a few Warwicks. Have you dropped the bridge right to the bottom, and dropped the saddle? If this won't let the string touch the frets, then, maybe your frets are seriously worn.

Please take a credit card/Drivers license/ID card etc and take the edge of this and lay the edge along the neck across 3 frets. 11, 12 & 13 will do nicely, and see if the card rocks. Try this under each of the strings. or longside them. I suspect the card will rock. This indcates there's some fret wear. This happens with bell-brass frets.

If I'm right, then the frets will need to be replaced. For this take it to a good tech who won't spoil the neck by cutting the frets through the sides of the neck. One of the nice features of a Warwick is the hidden fret-ends. I have seen some people cut through the sides - this makes the re-fret job easier, but spoils the bass IMHO.

I hope this is helpful.

Richard

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Posted (edited)

When I read the OP, first thing I would confirm is that the neck is straightish and the truss rod(s) tensioned. Adjust if necessary.

Moving along, with the strings off, check for high/low frets; take a straight edge and check for high frets.  You can do this (quickly) with a debit card; despite frets being seated OK, you can still have high frets.  If you do find one, just tap it in lightly with a plastic headed hammer.

Restring and check the neck again...you haven't said whether it's a bolt on or neck through, but it is feasible fo set necks to have stable wood up to the edge of the cutaways and for it to dip away with the headstock pulling towards you when the strings are at tension.  If you look at the image below, the Thumb's dusty end is embedded in body wood.

YWARWICK89868.jpg

I'm glad Rich just chipped in while I was typeing this out @Grangur he does know his stuff.

[EDIT] I had a Just a Nut on an old Streamer.  Liked it a lot.  In truth, that isn't going to affect what happens to the string further up the neck, only what happens if you play an open note. 

 

Edited by NancyJohnson
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Posted (edited)

Hi @NancyJohnson, Great minds...  :D

The bolt-on or neck through thing is a good point. Yet something worth also adding here, is don't be tempeted to shim the neck on a Warwick. The neck pocket of a Warwick is such a good fit, you can't shim the neck at 1 end only without causing certain damage to the pocket. Please don't do this.

Warwicks have a great clarity of the note. It rings clear in a way that simply doesn't happen on many other basses. This is due to the tight fit of the pocket. If there's space to tilt the neck in the pocket, without denting the shape of the wood holding the neck, then the neck/pocket was never a good fit and the sound won't have the clarity.

Edited by Grangur

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Many thanks to all of you for your suggestions, this evening I will try to deep in a little further with the "neck -checking" and definitely try to spot uneven frets...

@Silvia Bluejay@Grangur You're right, without seeing the bass it's hard to tell, I'll see if I can take some good (or at least decent enough) photos of the fretboard....

@Chiliwailer about the truss rod being too loose, I'd like that would be the case, but I kept the relief between 0,30 and 0,25....Should I go lower than this? Isn't it low enough or at list in the "normal" range?

@NancyJohnson the bass is a bolt on

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17 minutes ago, Heimrich said:

@Chiliwailer about the truss rod being too loose, I'd like that would be the case, but I kept the relief between 0,30 and 0,25....Should I go lower than this? Isn't it low enough or at list in the "normal" range?

With risk of sounding really arrogant - I trained in an excellent guitar workshop at the age of 15, and they taught me a method which uses the string to define the relief and that’s all I’ve ever used since. It’s simple, but experience sure helps do it right, and with necks that have a unique bend shape. Therefore, I’m clueless when it comes to measuring as I’ve never bothered to do it - or needEd it. 

But many pros over the years have asked for either looser than usual or tighter than usual - there’s no real risk in sensibly tightening it, of course only if you feel confident. And you may need some knowledge if the shape of the bend is unusual I.e. at the point it starts to bend at either or one end)  

But a Warwick bass that old is likely to need attention to the frets too. 

Best of luck - if the neck isn’t warped/twisted then it’s hopefully ‘easily‘ fixed. 

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I'd wager you have a bit of a concave bow going on, which would account for rattling near the nut and the dusty end of the neck (like the top of the image below).  If the neck has a concave bow, you need to tighten the truss rod (clockwise/righty-tighty); just do this in quarter/half turns to straighten things up, adjust, leave it to settle, check with a straight edge, adjust.  Do not go crazy.  Little adjustments.  (Also worth remembering that the neck may pull forward once the strings are at tension, so a slight convex box may be in order.)

I think it's essential that you take the strings off and determine whether the neck is straight/level first.  Have you got a long rule/straight edge?  Make the adjustments.  Once the neck is straight, check for high/low frets (as Rich and I mentioned above.). 

As @Chiliwailer said, these are Warwicks and it's feasible that (as they're akin to being funk machines) you may have some fretwear.  @Grangur dressed the frets on a 40 year old bass of mine a while back...I was thinking I may need a refret, but it's still going strong.  He knows his shirt.

 

DhIrHXLWkAA2My2.jpg

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Posted (edited)

 @Chiliwailer No no, you're not sounding arrogant at all, I really love to learn from people way more experienced than me....

@NancyJohnson If i take the strings off, is it better to let the neck settle for a while before checking it or can I do it right after removing the strings? Another question (I know I'm probably sounding dumb...) isn't a too straight neck at risk of generating the same problem of buzzing at the end and near the nut (judging by the second picture)? I understand there's probably no "rule of thumb" (pun not intended 😁), but what would be a reasonable relief for an action around 2mm or less (say, 1,7...)

Edited by Heimrich

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@Heimrich

I'd do a straight edge check while the strings are on (this will determine whether the neck is bowed when it's under string tension).  If the neck has a concave bow when the strings are on, I would say that the truss rod would need tightening to straighten it out; ALWAYS do this with the strings off (or very loose).  If the neck is too straight, this will at least allow you to identify high frets.  In between each little adjustment, I'd just give things 15-30 minutes for the wood to settle, you don't want to cause any undo damage (it's highly unlikely that the neck will split, but go easy), then string up and play.

Just one other thing, I used to have a white Gibson Thunderbird; these are known for their very skinny necks.  With the strings off, the neck had a quite pronounced convex bow that came back to normal once the strings were on it.  I had no issue getting the action down to 2-3mm at the 12th fret.

Thing is, there's a multitude of tweaks you can do to achieve your ideal playability.  Neck adjustments, nut adjustments, bridge saddles etc.; beyond this, it's possbily fret dressing and/or refrets if there's not much meat on them.  It's all about doing little changes.

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