Sunday, November 09, 2008

Fixing Jazzmaster bridge buzz

The Fender Jazzmaster has one really common, really nagging problem: bridge buzz. Ironically, there is (usually) a really simple solution.

This is all you need:

No beeswax, no lard, no axle grease, nothing exotic or messy. Just Loctite Blue thread locker. Available at any hardware store.

This is where you use it:


Do all of your saddle screws. I only drew lines to the first few so beginners know what I'm talking about; you want to do all of them. My bridge there is post-Loctite, so you see that it's not messy at all. The buzz is just caused by these little screws rattling. Over time, they actually move and will lower your saddles by themselves, which can cause other problems. So it's good to Loctite them whether the buzz bothers you or not.

I didn't take any photos of myself actually doing it, but next time you change your strings, just unscrew your saddle screws and put one drop of Loctite on each screw before screwing them back in. Do them one at a time, making a mental note as you go along of the correct height of each saddle in relation to the ones around it, so you can set the height back where it should be when you're done. That's it! Bridge buzz cured. This is a permanent solution, unless you decide to unscrew them again.

Some people throw the baby out with the bathwater and go with non-adjustable Mustang saddles instead, and that's your choice, but I don't think it's necessary. This is a ridiculously simple fix that takes 5 minutes and costs about $2. And the reason you want Loctite Blue (as opposed to Red, or something even stronger) is that you can still just break the thread lock with your little allen wrench and adjust your saddles if you want. But no more rattle, and no more screws unscrewing themselves.

UPDATE: Since writing this post, I've acquired an AVRI Jazzmaster that had a bridge that just would not be quieted, even after Loc-titing every single screw on it. (Sometimes the springs or even the bridge stalks rattle too.) It does happen - some Jazzmaster bridges are just garbage. If all else fails, you have one option: replace the bridge. There are several good drop-in alternatives - my favorite (and the one I use on my AVRI) is the Staytrem bridge. It definitively solves the buzz, it has offset, Allen-keyed intonation screws for easy changes without removing the strings, and it has a look that fits right in with the Jazzmaster's vintage vibe.

6 comments:

  1. Anonymous6:55 PM

    I just got my New Jazzmaster Reissue (USA) It has the Mustang Bridge with Grub Screws and I can only wish folks would have left the doggone OEM Stock Bridge on the Guitar. I have read where Round Wound Strings are what get you in trouble and Flat wounds are supposed to be used instead...The Guitar's Bridge is designed for Flat wound strings...What I would do is "stake" the threads of each grub screw at the center of each screw's length with some Dike pliers and once the Grub Screws are screwed back in the saddles that will stiffen the Grub Screws in the threads of the saddles and the screws will stay stiff even after many, many, turns to adjust the saddle Height adjustment...We do these types of things when working on automobiles to tighten up loose Thread/Bolt Combinations... Doc

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  2. Anonymous3:37 AM

    Good fix idea and you saved another Jazzmaster from turning into a Tune-0-matic monster...I can't believe Fender is even making guitars with these bridges. It doesnt't even rock nor is it compatible with the original tremolo.

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  3. Anonymous11:20 AM

    Yes I agree, Fender is at the mercy of errant trends...Tune-o-matics belong on guitars without trems...

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  4. Jeff, coming across all your jazzmaster posts finally convinced me to buy one. I've wanted one since I was in high school for more or less the same reasons you wanted one. So all these years later I ordered a CIJ in vintage white with the matching headstock. Should be here tomorrow and I'll definitely be taking advantage of some of the tips you've posted :)

    Thanks for the great posts!
    -dan

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  5. Jeff, while doing some other research I came across a lot of stuff stating that most of the buzz is because the jazzmaster was original spec'd to use flatwound strings, with a minimum gauge of .011

    Curious what strings you run on yours? Obviously I'll stick with whatever mine comes with for a while, but at some point I'll swap pickups and re-string. Might try out some flat-wounds and see what it's like.

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  6. My experience is actually that the string gauge doesn't matter with regard to buzz. Again, that's my experience, not necessarily everyone's. If you consider where the buzz is actually coming from, though, then you can see how very small changes in either bridge angle (as often happens when you change strings) or intonation (as you always want to do when changing gauge) could affect the buzz. So it might not actually be the difference in gauge that some people are seeing as affecting buzz, but the simple act of changing the strings.

    I say that because on my first three string changes, my buzz went from non-existent to really bad to much quieter but still present. That was actually going from the stock .010's to flatwound .011's to roundwound .011's. I finally decided that at least in my case, the buzz had nothing to do with the strings. It was just the screws. And dealing with the screws fixed it.

    I think changing strings can cover up the buzz, but probably not really fix it, and I don't think it matters if you put heavier or lighter strings on. It's just the stuff you do when you change strings that changes the buzz. But it could get worse just as easily as better.

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This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.

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I'm married. I like to travel. I have no kids. I have a house... that I'm bad at maintaining. I used to collect classic video games. I own a lot of musical equipment that far outstrips my ability to use it. When I was younger, I was in a band. I like gadgets, and I'm an Android guy. Someday, I would like to live on a different planet.

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