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Thread: Buzz on Open D Strings

  1. #1
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Buzz on Open D Strings

    I know this subject comes up periodically. I have a 1930-something Stahl banjolin with a square dowel neck. No truss rod in the neck.

    Never had a string buzz on this instrument before. I just changed out the old worn original tuners with Stew-Mac Golden Age A style tuners. The tuner buttons have no screws - they are pressed/glued on and not loose.

    I used the the Stew-Mac bushing reamer to counter bore for the bushings. Roller holes were already the correct 1/4" diameter and spaced correctly. I did have to drill new pilot holes for the new tuner plate mounting screws.

    I changed out the tuners with the new bushings that came with them. I've done this several times before, most recently with the same brand of tuners on my '30's Regal resonator.

    After stringing up with new Ernie Ball light gauge (E's are .009; A's are .013, D's are .022; G' s are .034) strings and tuning up all courses evenly (tune them all to 2 steps flat, then 1, then 1/2, then full pitch). Both D strings buzzed, only when open. 7th fret on G strings gave no buzz. Definitely coming from the headstock. No other strings cause a buzz at any fret position. These strings are very long, but I always wrap a few times around the post, wild end through the hole, then bring up to tension before trimming the wild end.

    I noted the G/D plate was not sitting completely flush with the headstock under the D course, so I pulled it off, ensured it was flat and remounted it. Tuned back up - it's sitting flush and flat but I still have the same buzz.

    The actual note doesn't seem to matter - when tuned to C, C# or D both open D strings when played separately or together cause a buzz. No buzz when fretted. Pressing down on the "forelength" (string between nut and tuner roller) it still buzzes, so I don't think its a nut slot problem. When pulling one of the D's out of the nut slot and spacing it away from its partner the remaining string still buzzes.

    Nothing on any of the tuners seems loose or rattling. However, my previous strings were Labella lights (E's were .009; A's were .012, D's were .021; G' s were .036). Could that extra .001" diameter in the Ernie Ball set do this? D's look like they're seated correctly in the nut slots. The A's are now also .001 bigger and the G' s are now .002 smaller, but they're not buzzing.

    Who knows what string the previous owners used on this instrument? I've used Newtone .008's and various other string brands and gauges on this instrument in the 4 years I've had it, never buzzed before.

    Yes I was sure I did NOT have my clip on tuner (or anything else) clipped on the headstock. Still buzzes.

    I'll try the following in the morning:

    1. Maybe fill in both nut slots with baking soda and superglue and re-file them.

    2. Put the old tuners back in with the new bushings in place (again, old and new rollers are equal diameter, OR

    3. Carefully press out the new bushings from the D tuners and see what happens.

    Other ideas? Anyone just run across buzzy/rattly replacement tuners before? Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    How much space do you have between the D strings and the first fret? Sounds like it is buzzing on the first fret.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  3. #3

    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    Are the strings you put on the same ones you were using before? You wouldn't think that changing tuners would cause a buzz. Since it's only on the open strings, the nut slots are too low for that string gauge. They may need to come up only a few thousandths.

  4. #4
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Roy View Post
    Are the strings you put on the same ones you were using before? You wouldn't think that changing tuners would cause a buzz. Since it's only on the open strings, the nut slots are too low for that string gauge. They may need to come up only a few thousandths.
    Strung up with new Ernie Ball light gauge (E's are .009; A's are .013, D's are .022; G' s are .034). These strings are very long, but I always wrap a few times around the post, wild end through the hole, then bring up to tension before trimming the wild end.

    My previous strings were Labella lights (E's were .009; A's were .012, D's were .021; G' s were .036). Could that extra .001" diameter in the Ernie Ball set make them sit lower in the same nut slots? The A's are now also .001 bigger and the G' s are now .002 smaller, but they're not buzzing.

  5. #5
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    Yup, it sounds like a nut issue to me, since you have already been so good about tracking down and eliminating other candidate sources of sympathetic vibration. I tend to doubt that it's a new bushing, since the tuner post presses hard against it and discourages any rattling. The open D string is probably buzzing at the first fret, just as pops1 suggested. Your plan to fill and refile the nut slots for the D strings seems like a good one to me!

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    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    Even tho the Ernie Ball string for the D is heavier, the core may not be and it may be more wobbly so needing more height at the nut. Slip a piece of paper under the D strings at the nut and see if the buzz goes away.
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  7. #7
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    I just shimmed the D's in their nut slots with a shim cut from an index card. Still buzzing. I'm able to sometimes stop the buzz by applying hand pressure to the D tuner shaft buttons axially, toward the headstock centerline. Sometimes I can also get it to stop by gently squeezing the two D shafts toward each other.

    I'm pretty sure its something loose in the tuners, but then you'd think they would react to other vibrations as well. One thing to note - the original tuners had 5 mounting screws, one at each end and one between each roller shaft. So each roller is screwed on each side of the plate. My Rubner, Gotoh, Grover and Schaller tuner equipped instruments are mounted the same way.

    These Golden Age tuners use only 3 mounting screws per plate, so it's not clamped as firmly to the wood. The ones on my Regal resonator, and the treble (A and E) plate on this banjolin work just fine with no buzzing or rattling. I'll contact Stew-Mac before drilling any new holes in the plate....

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    Good job Bart, chasing a buzz can be a real PITA.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  9. #9

    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    Donít forget that weíre not talking about a mandolin here. Having recently acquired a mutant banjo myself, Iíve found that itís a weighty collection of unconnected metallic hardware, some seemingly tuned to local radio stations. Buzz? Rattle? Creak? Isnít that all normal?

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  11. #10

    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    Bummer about the tuners, certainly not what you would expect from new machines. If it were me, I'd return them. I've use Grover 309s on several mandolins and they work beautifully.

  12. #11

    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    I just shimmed the D's in their nut slots with a shim cut from an index card. Still buzzing. I'm able to sometimes stop the buzz by applying hand pressure to the D tuner shaft buttons axially, toward the headstock centerline. Sometimes I can also get it to stop by gently squeezing the two D shafts toward each other.

    I'm pretty sure its something loose in the tuners, but then you'd think they would react to other vibrations as well. One thing to note - the original tuners had 5 mounting screws, one at each end and one between each roller shaft. So each roller is screwed on each side of the plate. My Rubner, Gotoh, Grover and Schaller tuner equipped instruments are mounted the same way.

    These Golden Age tuners use only 3 mounting screws per plate, so it's not clamped as firmly to the wood. The ones on my Regal resonator, and the treble (A and E) plate on this banjolin work just fine with no buzzing or rattling. I'll contact Stew-Mac before drilling any new holes in the plate....
    I've come across this on a guitar - nothing obviously loose or rattling on the tuner, but clearly just enough clearance at some critical spot to resonate at particular frequencies. Other than using a hammer to tighten up any parts which are loose (not recommended!) it's just a case of accepting it as defective and replacing it.

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  14. #12
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by ProfChris View Post
    I've come across this on a guitar - nothing obviously loose or rattling on the tuner, but clearly just enough clearance at some critical spot to resonate at particular frequencies. Other than using a hammer to tighten up any parts which are loose (not recommended!) it's just a case of accepting it as defective and replacing it.
    I've solved my share of buzz mysteries and setups and never seen rattling tuner that wasn't obviously flawed or mistreated in one way or another. Such thing would respond to wider spectrum of frequencies and not just one, especially open string. It's impossible to solve this over net so best advice would be bring it to good luthier for personal check. Or you could ask S-M to swap the set and see if the new set does the same. But during the swap many things can change and the buzz be gone anyway.
    Very often the buzz originates in completely different spot than where your ear points. It could be that your headstock just amplifies some tiny rattle from elsewhere and holdng the tubers just mutes the amplifier but not the source.... Could be loose trussrod nut, nut not sitting well on surface, separated headstock veneer, anything.
    Adrian

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    ... Could be loose trussrod nut, nut not sitting well on surface, separated headstock veneer, anything.
    Thanks for chiming in. As I originally posted, there is no truss rod. I've owned this banjolin over 4 years. Never had this buzz before, so I consider it unlikely that after being buzz-free for years a sudden new issue unrelated to the tuner replacement (nut not sitting well on surface, separated headstock veneer, etc.) coincidentally occurred simultaneously with new tuners. I've replaced tuners before on many instruments, and this is a first for me. Hence this thread.

    I've contacted Stew-Mac and they have been very helpful. They're sending a replacement set. When they arrive and I swap them out I'll post the results here.

  16. #14
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    Well, after eliminating the nut as a source, you're probably right that the source of the buzz is the new tuners, since it developed after you replaced them and you had no buzzes previously. But don't be too certain, because the chances are not 100%! I once had an annoying buzz develop in a 5-string banjo after I replaced the tailpiece and bridge. Much like you, I was pretty confident that the problem had to be the new tailpiece. After a lot of frustration and experimentation, I discovered that the sympathetic buzz was coming from the (metal) armrest, instead. The act of taking apart and replacing components can sometimes jar something else loose, far from the site of the repair. Just saying...

  17. #15
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    Well, after eliminating the nut as a source, you're probably right that the source of the buzz is the new tuners, since it developed after you replaced them and you had no buzzes previously. But don't be too certain, because the chances are not 100%! I once had an annoying buzz develop in a 5-string banjo after I replaced the tailpiece and bridge. Much like you, I was pretty confident that the problem had to be the new tailpiece. After a lot of frustration and experimentation, I discovered that the sympathetic buzz was coming from the (metal) armrest, instead. The act of taking apart and replacing components can sometimes jar something else loose, far from the site of the repair. Just saying...
    When tuners are well installed the tension of strings keeps all parts tight one against each other and very unlikely to buzz. But if the installation is not 100% OK there may be parts that don't get tight upon tuning and remain free for buzz. In such case it is not tuners but their installation causing problems.
    Adrian

  18. #16

    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    When tuners are well installed the tension of strings keeps all parts tight one against each other and very unlikely to buzz. But if the installation is not 100% OK there may be parts that don't get tight upon tuning and remain free for buzz. In such case it is not tuners but their installation causing problems.
    My tuner was the low E on a 40-50 year old guitar, and a cheap one at that. So I think it was caused by wear, but it was completely invisible to the eye. It only buzzed on playing the E string too. Buzzes are finicky creatures, rarely consistent and always hard to track down!

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    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    Since this is a banjo-bodied instrument, I'd also be looking at every hook and nut set, every shoe bracket and screw, everything on the body that could be loose and need to be tightened, plus any tailpiece, armrest and resonator parts that might be vibrating. Plus there's the odd chance that the head is subtly cracked somewhere and vibrating. There is a huge collection of vibration possibilities on any banjo pot.
    -- Don

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  21. #18
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    I finally got a chance to swap out the tuners with replacement Golden Age items from Stew-Mac. They have been great - sent me a new set no questions asked.

    While I had the tuners off I double checked that the bushings were fully seated. Removed the resonator and checked all fasteners for looseness. Made sure the underside of the headstock where the plates mount was smooth with no burrs or splinters.

    At first I just replaced the G/D plate. Restrung and retuned. Still buzzed. So I decided to go after the A/E plate. Still had a buzz.

    While tuning up I detected a slight looseness of the tuner button on the shaft of one of my D's. The button could move axially back and forth about 1/16". Remember these are glued-on ( not retained with screws). So I put the original Golden Age G/D tuner plate back on. The buzzing is much less noticeable, but still there. I vigorously plucked a D string while holding the tuner buttons, one at a time and determined one of the new A buttons is also loose. I can pick as hard as I want while clamping this button with hand pressure and get no buzz at all.

    So it seems that for whatever reason the tuner buttons are not tightly glued to the shafts on these tuners. I don't really want to swap back to the original 1930's tuners - these had much shorter rollers with no bushings, so they won't work with the bushings I just counterbored for and pressed in. If I took the bushings out I'd have these larger 21/64" counterbored. Other than the loose button the Golden Age work fine.

    So I can tell you that EVERY TIME I've had a headstock buzz its been from a loose button. Every time besides this one the buttons were held on with screws so it was easy to fix.

    Do you all think I can just wick in some thin superglue to fix the loose button? I don't really want to keep returning these and hoping I get a set with no loose buttons.

  22. #19
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    Do you all think I can just wick in some thin superglue to fix the loose button? I don't really want to keep returning these and hoping I get a set with no loose buttons.
    Yes. Use just tiny drop and move the button on the shaft a bit so the glue penetrates the gap and press it in and leave to dry for few minutes.
    Adrian

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  24. #20
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buzz on Open D Strings

    Final update - I used my Stew-Mac thin superglue with curved applicator and put a few drops down the shaft of the loose A button. I went ahead and did the other A and E's as well. Left the banjolin on its side overnight to keep the glue from dripping out.

    Buzz is gone this morning.

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