I have been fretting (sorry! troubling) over a particularly annoying back buzz on a Guild dread I picked up off eBay about a year ago, and thought I would run it by folks here for some additional insight...

Upon it’s arrival, I noticed a 2-3" separation of the fretboard from the neck near the nut, which I had repaired. The frets were also leveled and crowned at the time of the repair. The buzz was present before the repair... I was hoping the repair and fret work would eliminate it,  but it is still there still there.

The back buzz occurs ONLY when I capo on the second fret, and strum (with some power) any chord which frets the 1st AND 6th strings at the 5th fret [for example, an open or barred G, or any barred C form (C, Cm, etc)]. You can also generate the buzz by putting capos on both 2nd and 5th frets, and playing the 1st string (high e). With a little experimentation, I discovered that the buzz is a sympathetic back buzz of the 6th string between the capo on the 2nd fret and my finger fretting on the 5th (or between the two capos), which is induced by vibration of the 1st string fretted on 5 (A). I am know this is the root of the buzz, since when it occurs with the open G form, I can wrap my thumb around and mute the buzz by touching the 6th string between the capo (on 2) and my fretting finger (on 5), or if using the two capos, I can mute it by touching the string between the capos.

It appears the short length of 6th string between the capo on 2 and fretting finger on 5 (the string between 2nd and 4th frets?) vibrates at an octave of the A (at least it sounds pretty close to my ear), and thus is induced to sympathetically vibrate when the 1st string A is strummed or plucked hard ... but it makes light contact with the 3rd fret, and buzzes.

The buzz occurs only when capoed at 2 and then fretted at 5, ruling out the nut slot depth as the problem. Likewise, since the back buzz is between the capo at the 2nd fret and finger or capo at 5th fret, action and saddle height are not the issue. I have used a straight edge to check/rock the frets, and the none of frets 1-5 seem to be high or low (in all other respects, the frets are in great condition after the level and crown).

I am able to minimize (but not completely eliminate) the buzz by loosening the truss, increasing the neck relief to ~0.009" or more (fretted at 1 and 14 and measured at 8)... higher than I would like it to be. I have tried two different strings (I play John Pearse PB lights, but have also tried JP 80/20s lights)... but have wondered if the extra mass of a medium gauge 6th string (maybe a bluegrass set) might help reduce the sympathetic vibration, but haven’t tried that expt yet.

This guitar has become my favorite player since I got it, but I play a large part of my repertoire capoed at 2 to match my voice... making the buzz particularly annoying. If anyone has other ideas of what might be happening, and how the buzz might be eliminated, I would really appreciate hearing them.

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"(with some power)"

Might be your playing style. I would try more relief?  

That's true... it is dependent on how hard I am attacking. It rarely happens when fingerpicking or strumming softly, but happens with a fairly moderate attack. I use an 0.060 pick, and I am just playing in the basement for enjoyment, so never really wailing on the guitar. Thanks for the reply...

(Sorry, posted in response to the following post... hit the wrong reply button)

Rather than attempting to solve the problem, you could just lightly place a second capo at the first fret, deadening the buzz. Or a hair scrunchie. Or medium strings tuned a half step down and capo at the third fret.

Altho' I have used that solution for back buzzes in other situations (I use a small piece of felt I keep around), it won't work here... the 6th string back buzz is between the capo on 2 and my finger on 5.


My work around right now is, when possible, I wrap my thumb to dampen the string between 2 and 5. Doesn't work for barre chords, tho...

Whoops - misread that! I still wonder what happens if you capo at the 3 tuned a half step down.

Frank's web site ( has a buzz analysis page that might help.  There's all kinds of stuff that can sympathetically vibrate and cause buzzes and other phenomena. A popped fret can be pressed down and then flex back up when the fretboard is leveled or checked with a rocker, so it may not have been noticed when the tech did the job.  If you've loosened the truss rod, the loose nut or washer could be buzzing if it happens to have the right period of vibration.  Same with loose grommets around the tuner posts.

The weirdest one I've encountered is on my mandolin, almost not a buzz.  I couldn't get the pairs in tune with each other with an electronic tuner nor with tuning by ear.  It turned out to be sympathetic harmonics in the D and A strings between the back of the nut and the tuning posts--just enough out of tune to confuse the tuner.  A couple of grommets back there between the pairs fixed it.  So on the guitar try a piece of leather strung between the strings behind the nut to dampen any harmonics that might be happening there.

Good luck!


Thanks! I have been all thru Franks pages... a great resource.

I was initially hoping it was something simple, like a loose washer/tuner, or the tag end of a string vibrating on another. But, it really seems to be the string between the capo on 2 and my finger on 5 buzzing against the 3rd fret. The frets in question don't appear loose or high...

The only solution now appears to be adjusting the relief. It takes a lot of adjustment (forward bow) to affect a change in that small a length of string... more than I really like. As I mentioned, I am considering trying a heavier 6th string... reasoning the slightly greater mass might make it less susceptible to sympathetic vibration. Does that make any sense to anyone? 

Are the frets milled pretty low?  It's easy to bottom out on the fingerboard with low frets and have a buzz either on the one you're trying to fret or the one behind because the string doesn't stop cleanly on the frets but rides on the fingerboard, instead.  This can be exaggerated on a guitar because of the longer space between frets.  It happened to me on standard (low) mandolin frets until I learned to play close to the fret.

 Could the third fret be ever so slightly low?  It might leave just enough space to allow the string to sympathetically vibrate/buzz there when capo'd on the second fret and fretted or capoed at the fifth.  Sort of the reverse of a high fret barely interfering with the string when fretting the next lower fret--a miserable thing to find (BTDT).  I'm assuming that the 4th fret isn't involved because it's stopped by your finger/capo when you capo below the 5th fret, but check that, also.  

Another thought: is it possible that the fretboard repair didn't completely glue the board back down?  Was the board completely removed and then reglued?  It's awfully hard to guarantee getting glue into the whole surface of a narrow space like that unless the board is completely removed and if there's a void, there could be a sympathetic vibration.

Still another: maybe the truss rod anchor near the nut was loosened when the board separated from the neck and wasn't firmly stabilized when the board was repaired.  I'm not familiar with Guild's methods here but it could be the source depending on how it is set up.  

As Ned suggests, try dropped D tuning.  Maybe it's really the first string that's causing the problem and changing the 6th string tuning might eliminate a sympathetic vibration.  If the second fret is low or worn under the first string (unlikely after a leveling, but still...) it might be the source.

Shooting in the dark... .


What happens if you retune the E to a D? 

Hi Dave.

If this was my personal instrument, I'd quit chasing' ghosts & refret the instrument with special attention given to FB truing.

If nothing else, it'll level your playing field.

You mentioned that you had to re-glue part of the FB in that area. Did you do the glue job before or after the fret level? Also, did you perform the fret level?

You said."I noticed a 2-3" separation of the fretboard from the neck near the nut, which I had repaired. The frets were also leveled and crowned at the time of the repair.". I'm inferring that you had someone else do the work?

Historically, these 'buzz issue'  questions are nearly impossible to diagnose without seeing the guitar & noting your technique.

Best of luck with getting your #1 back in shape :)

Thanks folks...

The fret board separation at the nut was repaired before the frets were dressed... Before the fretwork, I measured the frets at 0.046".. the highest of all my Guilds. That's why we decided not to refret (and level the board) at this point. Although I haven't remeasured them since the guitar came back last spring, they don't seem noticeably lower... I'd guess they're still high.


I just did a little more experimentation...


1. With capos on the 2nd and 5th frets, I picked the high e (= A), and I get back buzz that can be damped by a finger on the 6th string, 3rd fret (between the capos). I can actually feel the vibration of the string against the 3rd fret as I damp it.


2. Drop the 6th to D, capo 2 and 5, play the high e (=A) and there is no noticeable buzz.


3. Tune the 6th up to F, capo 2 and 5, play the high E (=A), again no buzz. But, if I then fret the 1st at the 6th fret (= A#), the 6th string buzzes on the 3rd fret...


This all seems consistent with a frequency-dependent sympathetic vibration, coupling the 1st string and the short length of 6th strings between the 2nd and 5th frets (probably 2nd and 4th, since the string probably frets out on the 4th fret when I am fretting the 5th).


I can't detect height discrepancies in the first 4 frets by rocking... the 3rd doesn't seem high. I wondered if a low 3rd fret might also be the cause... but it doesn't seem low either (with the caveat that I am not very experienced in these matters).


Paul, I agree that the best solution might be a complete refret and board leveling... but that is quite an costly undertaking, with no one local to do the job. I'll probably couple it with a neck reset at some time in the future, but was hoping to put that off for a while.



You might consider having a different luthier/tech look at the problem if one is available.  Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can figure out what's going on.  

Could the third or fourth fret just be loose in the slot--neither high nor low, but just buzzing around in there?  Try gently lifting the fret under the edge with a palette or X-acto knife.  Or just glue it down with some ACC (see Frank's site for technique) and see if that changes anything.

More shooting in the dark... .



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