There is a point in every guitarists life where you experience guitar string buzzing for the first time. The opposite experience may be your guitar becomes hard to play. At first there is panic, wondering if something is wrong with the guitar. My first response was the guitar is broken. Oh No!! Rest assured your guitar isn’t broken and it’s completely repairable. Guitars are made of wood and wood moves depending on how much humidity is in the air. Have you ever noticed your skin getting dry in the winter? Well this happens to guitars too.
Guitar necks move from seasonal changes. This is why there are truss rods in the guitar neck. A truss rod is a long screw device that runs inside your guitar neck. This is adjustable and effects guitar string buzzing or the “relief” of your neck. Proper adjustments can counter movement from humidity changes. The truss rod should only be adjusted by a professional. Small adjustments create big changes and aren’t always noticeable right away!!
If your guitar suddenly starts buzzing it’s a sign your neck needs to be adjusted. If your action seems really high all of a sudden it’s a sign your neck needs to be adjusted. The best action for this issue is to take your guitar to a guitar store (preferably the one you purchased it from as they are more likely to give you great service). However most guitar shops will do a fine job fixing guitar strings buzzing from seasonal depression (haha).
You will drop off the guitar, they will adjust the neck and put a new pack of strings on. This is called a guitar setup and will last for the season unless you subject the guitar to extreme temperature changes or humidity changes.
It’s always a good idea to keep the environment around your guitar consistent!! Quick, drastic changes aren’t good for preventing guitar string buzzing phenomenon. If you must take your guitar out into the cold, let it sit in the case and warm up slowly when you bring it back inside. You Don’t want to shock the guitar. Think of what happens when you pour boiling water into a chilled glass. Although with a guitar it may not be as dramatic, there are stresses on the instrument.
Humidity is a huge issue. Guitars should be kept in 45-55% humidity. Most peeped Don’t know what the humidity level is in their house. If you live in cold climates it can get into the 20% range in the winter which is major guitar string buzzing territory. That is too low and will mess with your guitar. You can purchase a hydrometer to monitor the humidity level at radio shack or your local hardware store. This will monitor the levels in your room. If you see low levels then you should consider getting a small guitar humidifier such as the one made by Dampit.
Guitars that are stored in environment that is too dry will acquire guitar string buzzing as well as run the risk of cracking. It should also be noted that too much humidity is also a bad thing. You don’t want to exceed 55% for a pro longed period. The sweet spot is 45-55% at all times. Guitars that are stored in an environment that is too humid run the risk of the glue joins coming apart.
No matter how well your care you are more then likely to need a guitar set up with seasonal changes. Guitar string buzzing is part of playing the instrument. So you can relax, your guitar is not broken!! It just needs some care and maintenance. You know a little love. Some flowers from time to time. A love note. Ummm… Creepy!!
It may be in your best interest to find a shop you like and use them exclusively. Over time the tech will start to learn what you like in a guitar set-up (action). Not everyone likes the same action. Some people want the lowest action possible and others like a higher feel. If possible have a talk with the guitar tech before you leave. Talk about your preferences.
Changing string gauge can also create guitar strings buzzing as this causes your neck to move. It’s not a good idea to keep switching gauges on your guitar. Think of it as tug of war. Light gauge strings are like a bunch of 5 year olds playing tug of war with a string of rope. There is considerably less tension then is 5 pro football players are pulling on the same string of rope. The heavier the gauge the more tension on the neck (which usually results in higher action). The lighter the gauge the less tension on the neck (which usually results in guitar string buzzing ). A change in either direction causes a shift in the neck.
There is nothing wrong with deciding to change to a different gauge of string. It should however be accompanied by a setup to ensure your guitar is playing properly. When and if you do change gauge of strings on your guitar be prepared for it to take a couple of days before the neck adjusts to the new tension. When you first put the strings on you may not notice much of a difference except the feel of the strings. A few days later you may be surprised the guitar feels completely different.
I hope this helps clear up the mystery of the guitar string buzzing syndrome. You can take a deep breath and relax now that no major damage has happened.