My friend across the pond (Haze Guitars) has just sent his latest blog newsletter where he proclaims that buzzing on electric guitars when not plugged in is perfectly fine and to quit worrying about it.
He goes on to say that this is why acoustic guitars have greater relief (they do not!) and greater string heights (they do).
Oh boy! Do I disagree!
Let’s begin with neck relief. While they can range from next to nothing to 0.015″, the optimal relief for most electric guitars is 0.010″ and is needed because strings swing wider toward the center. Relief lets us have our action a tad lower without hitting those center frets.
Acoustics? Well, have you heard of a “little” acoustic guitar company named “Martin”? Here’s what Martin says to set neck relief for their guitars –
While most would measure relief at the 7th fret on acoustics, Martin’s setting is still not going to translate to greater than 0.010″
Taylor Guitars recommends neck relief “… slightly thinner than a business card is about right.” – which translates to 0.010″ – 0.012″ – i.e.: the same as electric guitars.
Let’s move on to string heights. When we set saddle heights on electric guitars, it’s understood that we must have the thicker strings a bit higher than the thinner ones. I’ll often set electrics between 0.070″ – 0.065″ at low-E and 0.060″ – 0.055″ at high-e, with the intervening strings set at heights relative to those.
An acoustic guitar will generally come with twelve gauge strings, meaning high-e is 0.012″ and low-E is 0.056″ The low-E on our Strats and Teles are usually 0.042″ or 0.046″. The acoustic low-E string is one-third wider than the electric. So, if we set our electric low side to 0.070, it would be reasonable to set the acoustic at around 0.090″, right?
Depending on which Martin Gutiar resource you use, they recommend string height for low-E between 0.100 and 0.090″ – totally in range of what we would expect from our electric guitar settings, right?
But What About The Buzzing?
It’s true that most electric guitar buzz can’t be heard through the amp, BUT its effects CAN be heard! Think about it. If a string is contacting a fret (i.e.: “buzzing”), that means the fret is restricting the movement of the string. In other words, the string can’t vibrate freely. Do you think that won’t hurt tone and sustain?
Your electric guitar SHOULD NOT BUZZ! Period. If it’s buzzing, then it is not properly setup. And setups are what I’m known for.
For most things though, Gerry’s website – HazeGuitars.com is a good resource.