My Ukulele Is Buzzing... One of the most common questions I get at Got A Ukulele is 'how to fix ukulele buzzing'? In the best case it will be something simple like technique, but in the worst case can signal something serious like a flawed uke.
1. Is it your technique? Getting a clean sound from a ukulele depends on good technique with your fretting fingers. Ensure you are pressing the strings perpendicularly to the neck and squarely between the frets. Ensure your fingers are not touching other strings. This will be difficult at first but practice! Sometimes buzzes can also occur due to over strumming or the position of the strum. Calm it down a little, strum at the end of the fingerboard.
2. Is it actually the strings? Buzzes don't need to come from the strings so check the rest of the ukulele. Are the tuner fittings tight? Are there any other fittings that are coming loose? The collars on the front of tuners are a common culprit. Another often overlooked culprit is string coils at the headstock, or the bits left over where you tie them on the bridge - trim them! I've even seen people think they have a buzz when it was the battery compartment rattling (or the clip on tuner clip!). Basically all sorts of things can buzz from the vibration that playing the ukulele causes. Check everything.
3. Is it a case of bad strings? Due to the nature of ukulele strings, it is possible to get a bad string in a pack. Can you isolate the string that is buzzing? May be worth swapping it, or another odd tip that often works, take it off and string it the other way around. This can solve problems where manufacturing has left a thin or thick spot on the string. But Barry - I dont want to waste a set of strings!! Seriously? If it isn't the strings - it means the strings you took off may still have life in them. Put them in the sleeves of the new pack and keep them in your uke case as spares! You WILL be changing strings at some point anyway!
4. Action at the saddle - we are now getting into more difficult territory, but easily fixed. If the saddle at the bridge is too low the strings are likely to vibrate against frets when strummed. Take off or loosen strings and pull out saddle carefully with long nosed pliers. To raise it you have two options. Either put a thin shim (or two) of wood veneer in the base of the saddle slot, replace saddle and strum. The alternative is a new saddle cut and shaped very slightly higher than old one. Your aim here is to raise it just enough to stop buzzing and we are talking thousandths of a millimetre. Raise it too much and you will cause intonation issues.
5. Action at the nut. Now we are in difficult territory. If the slots in the nut that the strings are on are too deep you are likely to get buzzes particularly on the lower frets. The fix is more difficult and you may now want to seriously consider going to a luthier. To try yourself you either need to fit a new nut (carefully tap out old nut and replace, filing down slots to suit action without buzzing) or try something cleverer!
I have successfully raised nut slots individually by taking a spare saddle and sanding it making sure to collect the dust. Apply a drop of super glue to the dust and quickly mix with a cocktail stick then fill In the offending nut slot (carefully). Breathe on it to start curing and leave overnight. What you have done is create a hard invisible fill to the nut slot you can re file down to the right height.
6. Others - if the above don't work then I am afraid you may have serious problems. You may have an offending fret that is too high and needs to be filed down. I would recommend a guitar tech doing this. Persistent buzzes may also signify a badly made uke, a neck out of alignment, or a bowed neck. If this is the case, and the instrument is new i would return it. If it's an old or used instrument the decision whether to get it professionally fixed will depend entirely on the value of the instrument. I'd consider getting a vintage Martin fixed, but not a makala dolphin!
I hope this is of use and helps remove any panic you may have. Buzzes are common and in the vast majority of cases are simple to solve. Just work down the list and good luck!
And if that isn't helpful enough - a video for you!