Friday, July 1, 2011

BUZZ! What To Do When Your Instrument Is Buzzing

 Written by: Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins

Most string players have experienced this -- One day you pick up your instrument and instead of the beautiful tone you usually get, you get "BUZZ." Either all over the instrument or on just one particular note. It can drive you crazy.
Or crazier. You are a musician, right?

I'll walk you through the steps I take when someone brings a buzzing instrument into the shop.

1) Look at the strings. If there is a spot on one or more of the strings where the winding is worn, that will make a buzz. Change that string(s). That usually takes care of string buzz.

2) Look at the E string tuner. It should be secured to the tailpiece. If it is loose, tighten it. Also, look at the arm under the tailpiece if you have that style of tuner. If it is touching the top, that will cause a buzz. Back it up all the way and use your peg to re-tune your E string.

3) Look where the tailpiece goes under or near the chinrest. Is the tailpiece touching the chinrest? That will cause a buzz. Move the chinrest.

4) Is there dust, polish or schmutz in the narrow spaces of the f holes? Try blowing those areas clean with a quick puff of breath. Or use a compressed gas duster such as ones that are used for cleaning electronics. If that doesn't work, your violin repairer should be able to very carefully clean that out for you.

5) Have fingerboard tapes? If the buzz is on a note between the tapes, your tapes are too thick or your bridge is not high enough. Get a new bridge made or put pencil lines on the fingerboard instead of tapes. The pencil lines are definitely cheaper.

6) Is the buzz on an open string? The groove(s) in the nut might be worn down too much. See your friendly violin repairer to get a new nut or remedy the situation.

7) Look at the strings in the peg box. If the ends are extending too far away from the pegs, they might buzz. Take the string off and rewind it.

8) Buzzing on just one note or a few notes, not the whole string? You might have a bump in your fingerboard. Your fingerboard needs to have a slight hollow throughout its length. The stronger and louder a player you are, the more scoop you will need. See your friendly violin repairer.

9) Is your bridge warped? That might make the string heights too low (and lots of other problems too!). You need a new bridge.

10) Have your violin repairer check your instrument for open seams, especially at the corners. Open seams, even a small opening at a corner, will cause buzzing.

11) Check for cracks. Either new ones or old cracks that have become unglued. Those will definitely buzz!

If you've checked over all those things and your instrument is still buzzing, have your violin repairer do a thorough check of your instrument. Sometimes, although rarely, it's something internal to the instrument.

I hope this helps and saves you time, money, and aggravation. Sometimes, the smallest things can cause large problems. Above all, ABC- Always Be Calm. Walk through the checklist. It's probably not that big of a problem.

Are you a string musician or interested in becoming one? Take a look at our Fine Violins, Violas, and Cellos!

1 comment:

  1. Hi, a very helpful checklist.
    One further cause that I have commonly come across is the trimmings on pegs (which can be plastic or wood) can work loose or crack. If this happens it can cause a buzz. The remedy again is simple. Push them back in place tightly or glue them secure again.
    The violin is something where tiny details can make a huge difference and this is one example. A buzz can sound so terrible that you can be convinced that there must be an open seam and it turns out that a tiny piece of decorative trimming on a peg is loose!