Having this annoying buzzing sound while playing your ukulele, is something that every uke player faced at one point or another.
There are a number of reasons why your ukulele is rattling, the most common being, having a faulty technique.
Lucky for you, if this is the case, it’s quite easy to get rid of it, however, sometimes the reason your ukulele is buzzing is something as serious as a flawed uke which might need modifying and there’s a big chance you will need to visit a musical instrument dealer.
Without assuming the worst, let’s first go through some of the more common - easy to fix – reasons why you uke is buzzing.
First things first; is it your technique?
No one can deny that this is one of, if not the most important factor affecting how your ukulele sounds.
If you are a beginner, make sure you are pressing the strings against the neck hard enough.
Yes, you don’t want to go really hard because this will only kill your fingers yet you don’t want your fingers to be too loose either.
Another thing that you could be doing is not putting your fingers in the middle of the fret, doesn’t have to be the exact middle but you need to make sure you are not fingering on the metal part of the fret because this might mute it and make a buzzing sound.
One more mistake that every beginner makes is, letting your fingers touch other strings when they shouldn’t, it is something that I struggled with when I was a beginner and truth be told, it took some practice for me to get my fingers to be right where I want them without thinking about it much.
Furthermore, playing clean will make you sound more professional even if you are a beginner. The only way to do this is to practice the basics. I am a big believer in “practice makes perfect” and if you are practicing any instrument, you should believe in this too.
Tip: it’s always smart to slow things down whenever you feel like you’re getting sloppy. There’s no need to speed things up especially if you are a beginner, take your time and master your chords at a slower tempo then speed it up a little by a little.
And last but not least, when it comes to your technique, keep the coordination between your right and left hands. It’s another tricky part of playing a stringed instrument, but your hands should be in sync and move together in harmony. If you release your hand from the fretboard before you are done with the pick, your note is going to be muted and you won’t sound good.
If you got all this covered, and your ukulele is still buzzing, try muting the strings and start shaking your instrument.
Locate where your buzz is coming from!
it only makes sense that you identify the issue in order to be able to fix it.
Try picking the strings and listen carefully, is it the tuners? Maybe it is the saddle or the bridge that’s buzzing. Once you put your finger on what’s buzzing, it’s easy to fix it.
Do you hear a rattling sound coming from the headstock?
If the answer is yes, then you need to check the tuners, usually, you just need to tighten the screws.
It is best if you have your strings trimmed, this is something that a lot of players overlook but, string coils at the headstock can cause your ukulele to buzz.
Rarely, if you take a closer look, you can see that the gears are worn out and need to be replaced.
More often than not, you can only hear a buzz when you play an open string but if you bar the first fret, there’s no buzzing whatsoever, if that’s the case, and you already checked that nothing wrong with the headstock, then the fix is pretty simple, replace your strings because they are worn out
It could be the saddle!
If your strings are buzzing all along the fretboard, check if the saddle is too low. Low action at the saddle causes your strings to vibrate against the frets, which consequently causes a buzz.
There are two ways that you can work around this; option number 1: use a thin shim of wood at the base of the saddle that will make your strings higher, or, you can simply just get a new saddle and you are good to go.
The action of the nut!
Another reason why you hear that buzz is that your strings are vibrating in flat grooves.
You won’t hear a buzz if you bar the first fret, however, applying pressure to the strings in the small space between the nut and the tuners will allow you to hear the buzz.
To fix this, you need to have your grooves at an angle, in my humble opinion, it’s best to replace the nut if that’s the case.
On the other hand, sometimes the nut slots are too deep; you will find yourself getting buzzes at the lower frets.
You can still replace the nut if you want to, but if I were in your shoes, I’d try taking off the strings, carefully sanding the nuts and adding a few drops of super glue and leave it overnight then I’d restring my uke.
If you hear buzzes only when you play certain notes, there’s a big chance you have a high fret.
If this is something that you have encountered lately, maybe one of your frets was never properly leveled. You will need to take your uke to someone professional to file down the frets that are causing the buzzes.
The list of reasons why your ukulele is buzzing isn’t yet over, from a bent neck to having a loose bridge and others, but if it’s not one of the issues mentioned above, then whatever the issue is, you will need to pay your luthier a visit and hopefully they will be able to help. Hopefully, there’s no need to go down this road and you already know how to fix your uke!