Lets review what goes on when your guitar strings fret-out. Fretting-out is when you are pressing the guitar strings in the process of playing a note or chord with your fretting hand, and one of the strings actually touches a higher fret during playing the guitar, thus causing a string a buzz or completely mute of the sound, where it touches the fret which is causing the problem.

Many elements can factor into the problem. It may be several elements causing the problem or just one detail only. Essentially the problem may be just one fret that is to tall or short, or the neck itself may need an adjustment. But as any good scientist would do, we need to have a strategy that allows us to accurately diagnose the problem. A good luthier always has a plan of action which starts with the simple stuff.

Guitar Setup-Step 1: Neck Evaluation and Truss Rod Adjustment. Which is how we will determine the problem. It is imperative to fully evaluate the neck in order to make a qualified diagnosis that will be effective. By having a plan you will out perform the person with no plan and therefore do a better job in a shorter amount of time. It costs extra at my shop if you mess with it first!

Guitar setup-step 2: How to check guitar neck relief will be the next logical step in your diagnosis and repair procedure. As the article states, this is a natural step to take next, which is to make sure the relief is set properly. In many cases the relief of your neck is why it ‘frets-out’. And this is the first thing to check and adjust.

Once you check, adjust and eliminate the relief as an issue, if the problem still exists than it is most likely a high fret or low fret. Most guitar players with some experience under their belt can adjust the relief. It is a basic adjustment, one can come darn close just by eying it or using a straight edge ruler.
You don’t need to buy the expensive tools I use to adjust relief. The tools are more accurate and that is an essential ingredient for folks who do lots of guitar repairs for a living.

Leveling the frets is a different matter. I recommend a guitar maker for this job. It is not really the cost of the various diamond coated files necessary for the job, it is the experience factor that makes this a job for a professional. Simply put, this is a procedure we continue to improve upon with time. It takes a lot of ‘practice and feel’ to do a fret leveling properly. The main detractor is that if you mess up the frets, you just cost yourself a fret job which costs at least a few hundred bucks and probably more in most areas. Like I said, it costs more if you try to fix it first!

There may be other reasons for fret-out or string buzz that are more complicated and hard to find and fix. The best thing to do is take your guitar to an expert luthier and ask for an evaluation. In most cases a good old ‘set-up’ will do the trick and that usually costs about 50 dollars to 100 dollars depending on the shop. Obviously if the guitar is at a luthier and needs fret work, you are in the right place.

No matter what, a guitar plays better with a set-up. Most folks have no idea how well their guitar can play when it is adjusted to the correct specifications, in fact, in most cases you become a better player from the fact that your guitar plays better than ever. Guitar Players Center operates a small guitar repair shop locally in Fort Pierce, Florida. We charge 55 bucks plus parts (usually strings only) for a full setup and intonation. Fret work is extra. Feel free to use the comment area for questions, answers are free. Or call 772-979-2887 for more information. If you are a member of Stumble, than please Stumble it. Thanks and Enjoy.

More Tech Info:

Want to Get a Perfect Set-Up? Find a Luthier.

Guitar Truss Rod Replacement

8 Responses to Solutions for Stopping Guitar String Fret-Out and Buzz

  1. Something else I didn’t know about. Thanks, Danny!

  2. Wow, and here I thought all you needed was a big hammer and a disc grinder!!!???


  3. i use a hammer drill and super glue for setups ….works everytime!

  4. hey! im from pennsylvania, and like othes im nota rockstar. but do like to play on well sounded guitars. i have an ibanez PF series acoustic/electric that ive been trying to adjust to sound and feel greeat. ive found that the neck was around .030 away from the strings when pressig on the 1st and 12th frest for a straight edge. ive adjusted it to be around .015-.013 but my 3rd on b string frets out and the 2nd fret on the e buzz as well. how does the truss rod effect the individueal frets in that course thanks, Kris Davies

  5. what do you mean by relief? can you define it?
    there’s a buncha rhetorics but nothing as to how to adjust that relief?


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