Mystery Rattle

I've been trying to track down an obnoxious rattle/buzz on a new guitar of mine and I'm running out of ideas. It is more more akin to rattle than say a "sitar" type sound. Standard Selmer-style bridge and tailpiece, by the way.

For background, I've done plenty of my own setups and can usually troubleshoot problems like these, but this one has me stumped. Even took it to a local luthier for another opinion a few days ago and left no closer to having a solution. I'm at my wit's end and am hoping someone out there has had a similar issue and has some insight.

So the issue is this. When the B string is plucked, even with minimal force, I get a distinct rattle that seems to emanate from the bridge/tailpiece area. It is most apparent when fretted around the 8-11th frets although it can be heard when fretted anywhere from roughly the 3rd to 15th.

It is not fret buzz. I've tried adjusting both neck relief and bridge height over the last several weeks and it doesn't significantly change anything. Luthier also verified my assertion that it was not a fret buzz issue.

It does not appear to be loose hardware. I even tried replacing the tailpiece and removing the insert just in case. No change. Fairly certain it isn't loose tuners either.

Tried testing if it was the mustache pieces rattling. Doesn't seem to be that.

The luthier tried weaving some leather around the strings behind to bridge to see if it would dampen it. No dice.

We also thought that perhaps it was an issue with the string slot on the bridge. Between the original slot, the luthier's adjustment, and simply setting the string on an unslotted portion of the bridge there was no perceptible change.

As of now, an issue with the bridge and string slots is my best guess, but I'm not completely convinced that is actually the problem but I'm running out of options.

Nothing I've been able to do has made it any worse or any better so I feel like I'm chasing my tail.

Anyone out there had anything similar happen? Any advice or suggestions for troubleshooting!?

Thanks in advance!


  • stuologystuology New
    edited November 2020 Posts: 196

    I hate the mystery buzz! I think about half the new guitars I’ve ever had have had one of those. You try everything, exhaust yourself googling buzz, it even starts creeping into your dreams.

    If your luthier knows what he’s doing and has checked everything there is to check then the only thing to do is leave it, live with it, adapt your playing to it, maybe even learn to love it.

    None of my guitars rattle now. Except occasionally, just to annoy me and remind who’s boss.

  • TwangTwang New
    Posts: 415

    Might be worth thinking outside the box (excuse the pun). Ramirez, in his book about guitars, recalls one incident where, try as he might, he couldn't find an annoying buzz. In the end he discovered it was the leg of the bench the guitar was lying on.

  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,320

    Might be a bad string. Have you changed them? Believe it or not I've seen this.

  • bbwood_98bbwood_98 Brooklyn, NyProdigy Vladimir music! Les Effes. . Its the best!
    Posts: 673

    @Bones good advice!

    A few other causes to suggest (these are often. . . sadly harder to fix):

    1. tailpiece issue - unlikely since you suggest you've messed with this, but if there is nothing under the tailpiece at the back (heal block area) end of the, perhaps a small piece of dampening material here?
    2. Loose brace (ugh . . that's a huge drag, but)
    3. improper/worn out weld on the tailpiece (the posts that hold the strings are not always perfect) - which reminds me - loop ends or ball ends - often ball ends can rattle if the string is seated not perfect, or the hole in the post too big .
    4. These are unlikely, but possible - nut is not attached or seated correctly, tuners have a rattle - but you would most likely hear this in a different place
    5. finally (see above about the brace), heal block, or kerfing/lining/top/back/fingerboad/neck join could be loose. (pretty much also a huge drag)

    good luck.

  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Genovesi, Burns, Kremona Zornitsa & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    Posts: 959

    Dodgy windings at the bottom of the string my guess, replace and try again.

  • ChiefbigeasyChiefbigeasy New Orleans, LA✭✭✭ Dupont MDC 50; The Loar LH6, AJL Silent Guitar
    Posts: 341

    For me, it’s always been the truss rod. I’d start with some quarter cranks in either direction, then really crank back and forth to test.

    At one point, when it was loose, mine would buzz on a note and its octaves on 3 places on the neck. I could even wack the neck with my palm and hear it rattle in the channel. Tightening in either direction fixed the problem.

    Good luck.

  • Neil AnderssonNeil Andersson Tacoma, WA USANew
    Posts: 4

    I had a guitar with a rattle/buzz that puzzled me for years. It turned out to be the bridge that wasn't seated properly. It might be worth sanding the bottom of the bridge: cut a piece of sandpaper to fit between the mustaches, tape it down with drafting tape and gently move the bridge in line with the strings to seat it perfectly with the top.

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