If there’s an irritating issue that guitar players all around the world like to talk about, it’s definitely the so-called buzzing. Okay, that can easily be understood as an overstatement. However, it doesn’t mean this issue is somehow less important. If you’ve experienced it in the past, there’s a good chance that you’ve asked yourself: can a guitar nut cause buzz?

If you’re a rock-n-roll fan (and you are, aren’t you), we’re sure you’ll understand the following. There’s one song Nirvana covered that will serve as a soundtrack for this article. That’s right we’re talking about Love Buzz. So, yeah, play Love Buzz, turn the repeat button ON, and check out this article on whether a guitar nut can cause buzz!

That’s right, a guitar nut can cause buzz. If there’s some free space inside your guitar nut slot for a string to vibrate, you’re bound to experience the irritating buzzing scenario. Also, your guitar strings will be closer to your frets, which is clearly not good. Your instrument will sound more like a sitar than a guitar. 

Okay, that was only the preview, and Kurt hasn’t even started singing yet. Those are good enough reasons to continue reading!

What is guitar buzz?

Before we delve deeper into the subject matter of this article, it’s better we first consider the so-called buzzing. Since this is one of the most common issues that guitarists worldwide face, it should be fairly easy to define.

Anyway, a guitar buzz is a buzzing sound that’s made once a string vibrates against a fret on your guitar’s neck. Instead, of course, vibrating over it. There are many reasons why this issue might appear. Here we’ll show you some of the so-called “usual suspects” when the following question appears: what’s causing all the buzzing? 

What’s usually causing guitar buzz?

So, shall we begin the countdown?

#1 You’re strumming way too hard

If you’re used to hearing the buzzing sound from your guitar, there’s a fair chance that you’re strumming the strings way too hard. Yup, that could result in your strings vibrating up & down too much and enhance the chance of buzzing.

#2 It might be your strings

The reason why you’re getting a buzzing sound out of your instrument might lie in the fact that you’ve changed your strings to a different size. This will, of course, affect the tension and shape of your guitar neck. The thing is: if your new guitar strings are thinner than the ones you’ve used before, your guitar will have a lower tension. Therefore, it will be more prone to buzzing and it will need some adjusting.

Also, your guitar strings might be in desperate need of a change since your old string set might’ve built up a yucky, grimy film.

#3 What about the frets?

This one’s tied to the way you’re fretting the notes. If you’re doing it in an improper manner, if your trusty fingers are way behind the fret, there’s a good chance that you’ll hear the infamous buzzing sound. That being said, simply make sure that you’re fretting those notes a the correct spot behind the fret.

While on the subject of frets, click here to see if stainless steel frets sound different.

#4 You’re not applying the correct amount of pressure on the strings

This could also affect the way your guitar sounds and cause irritating buzzing. If you’re not pressing down on the strings as hard as you’re supposed to, it’ll result in your strings not having solid contact with your guitar’s frets. This is especially crucial when we consider barre chords. You mightn’t have generated enough stamina and finger strength to guarantee that your guitar strings are making good contact.

#5 Consider the whole setup

If your guitar isn’t correctly set up, you’re gonna have a bad time. The best and quickest way to find out if everything’s alright with your guitar’s setup is to simply take your instrument to a technician for a check-up. A professional will see if the buzzing issue is the result of uneven frets, a bent neck or something else.

We’ve carefully avoided talking about whether your nut’s responsible for the buzzing (and click here to see if a guitar nut should be level). Without further ado, let’s consider the main question this text has proposed: can a guitar nut cause buzz?

A photo of a guitar, with an emphasis on the nut.

Can a guitar nut cause buzz?

You’ll want to know that it absolutely can cause the buzzing sound! A string’s able to buzz inside the nut slot that isn’t cut/filed in the proper manner. Let’s further elaborate on that:

  • If you’ve got a string that’s resting on the back of a guitar nut slot, directed towards the tuners, and there’s still some free space for it to vibrate inside the slot, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll experience the buzzing sound. Also, there’s a good chance that you’ll sound a bit like Ravi Shankar (another pop-culture reference in this text) since the buzzing sound of a faulty nut will make the tone of your instrument sitar-ish (if we’re even allowed to use such a construction). 

Here’s another way to look at the same issue:

  • If your guitar nut’s a bit worn-out and “sports” grooves that are too deep, that will most likely cause your instrument’s strings to be just too close to the fretboard. That will, subsequently, make your strings buzz.

If you recognize this as the cause of your guitar buzzing, your best bet might be to take your favorite instrument to a guitar technician, since repairing this ain’t an easy DIY task. Now that we’ve pointed out that guitar nuts can actually cause the buzz, let’s see if there are some tips on how to eliminate the infamous buzzing sound your guitar potentially makes.

Oh, and we almost forgot to mention this when talking about guitar nuts: here’s an article about why these little things are made of bone.

Eliminate guitar buzz with some of these tips

This section’s mostly concerned with tips for studio technicians/producers dealing with this bothersome issue. There’s nothing so irritating as electric guitar buzz ruining your recording sessions or live stage performances. Let’s see a plethora of tips that will help you handle this issue, whether you’re a studio engineer or a guitarist. These are all quick solutions, and you’ll be able to test them pretty fast.

Guitars with humbucker pickups

That’s right. One of the best ways to eliminate the appearance of buzzing is to use electric guitars that possess humbucker pickups (and here’s how to brighten a muddy one). Or, in case you’re sporting an older guitar, install a modern humbucker on it.

Replace faulty tubes (in amps)

Also, you’ll want to try and replace any defective tubes you might find inside your guitar amplifiers. Find an authorized professional to replace the power-supply filter capacitors if they’re corroded.

Use a quieter amplifier

Try not to use a noisy amp while playing or recording. Also, while you’re recording your instrument, record it directly. Afterward, process its track by using a guitar-amp modeling plug-in or processor. Here’s another thing: you’ll want to power the amp while avoiding using the mixer’s outlet strip.

Please move around

If you’re the one in charge of the recording, simply ask the guitarist to move around the studio a bit, or rotate, just so you’re able to identify the spot where the hum/buzz disappears. Also, if the buzzing noise stops once the guitarist touches the instrument’s strings, ask the person if they could keep their hand on the strings and run a wire right between the guitarist’s legs and a ground point on the instrument itself (strings or the jack ground).

Speaking of guitar strings, here’s a piece on why they are placed in the EADGBE order.

Issues with the pedalboard

This might be the longest addition to this list since pedalboards are quite known as the culprits behind the issue that’s being discussed today. Each time you happily add another new pedal to your boards, you also add new variables that could very well cause issues. In other words: the more things mediate between your guitar and your amp, the better are chances that something will cause the noise.

Here are some questions you need to consider before adding new pedals:

  • What are the voltage requirements?
  • What is the current draw?
  • Are they analog or digital?

All of these things will contribute to the way your pedal should be powered. Since these “attributes” are different from pedal to pedal, all of them sharing a single power supply might turn out to be pretty problematic. Here’s a suggestion: use an isolated power supply that is made with the intention to transfer isolated power to each individual pedal on your trusty pedalboard.

Lastly, keep in mind that daisy chains are your best cheap alternative to bigger power supplies. However, they don’t really supply each of your pedals with isolated power, so they’re prone to being noisy. In order to minimize the noise, you’ll need to make sure that your unused ends are covered in electrical tape. Just so they don’t cause any ground loops.

The bottom line

Alright, folks, that’s all there’s to say about whether a guitar nut can cause buzz. Now you’re well aware that this little piece attached to your instrument can cause some buzzing issues if improperly set up. Hopefully, you’ll be able to utilize some of the tips we’ve also mentioned here and remove the buzzing sound once and for all.

For more tips and guitar-related info, feel free to follow this link to a page on our blog.