Buzz off, Fret Buzz! (Buzz-free Bass tone)

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Got a fret buzz that is just not going away?

A fret buzz can really be putting a damper on the joy of playing. Here is help:

First – check your set up! Maybe your truss rod is not adjusted correctly, or you have a fret sticking out that is causing the buzz. Take your instrument to a trusted luthier and ask for the action to be checked. Or try it yourself, it is not very hard. Google bass set up and various videos will pop up to help square you away.*

Second – check your playing technique. If you overgrip the neck and squeeze the wood (unnecessarily), the tone will suffer.  Most buzzes, however, are due to improper placement of the fingers on the fretboard.

If you are doing this:

 

fret buzz music theory for the bass player

a buzzing tone response is likely.

Instead, do this:

fret buzz

Move your finger on top of the fret or slightly before it. It will instantly clean up your tone.

 

I say “on top of or slightly before the fret” – experiment with the best spot a little because if you are super on top – almost past it – you can get the super funky choked Rocco Prestia tone. To get that spot right (for your Tower-of-Power-inspired songs or covers) is a bit tricky, but so cool to explore. For the most common applications, on top or slightly before is best!

And make sure to not overgrip.

If you find yourself over-gripping…

No worries, you are not alone. It is easy to fall into the habit of wanting to fix a buzz by pressing harder. It does not really fix the issue, though, and makes for a bad habit.

My favorite remedy against that, is: if you notice you are over gripping, let your fretting hand drop for two or four beats every so often. Remind your body what relaxed feels like. Let it drop like a wet sock – do not move it down slowly or hold on to it somehow. Instead, really let loose and let gravity grab it. Please make sure your hand is not crashing into a table or chair, so clear the path. Other than that, this is a great way to remind your muscles what relaxed means like.

Changing the gripping habit

As always, a great way to tackle this is with a structured practice session such as the PORA technique. You can watch the video at that link or simply grab the infographic which details the 4 step procedure. Spend just 3 minutes each time you practice and you will see big rewards.

Happy playing!

Footnote to set up:

*One caveat: make sure to have the right sized Allen wrenches (there are metric and inch-sized sets). If you wear out a truss rod it could ruin your bass. Also: I like this tool to help me gauge (ha!) my action.


Our 20 Unit course tackles technique in each unit. We do left hand, right hand, and coordination exercises and build great technique from the ground up. It is a comprehensive program that you will get a lot out of.

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Honestly, (in addition to owning a library’s worth of bass books) I’ve subscribed to just about every web site offering bass lessons / structured programs. Seriously, EVERY ONE! This is the FIRST course I’ve completed start to finish. It’s that comprehensive and is presented in a professional / non-intimidating way.  

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