As fiddlers, nothing makes our hearts plummet more quickly than a buzzing fiddle. The worst-case scenarios flood in: “Is there a crack? Is something loose? Do I have to take it to the luthier and fork over a lot of cash to figure this out?”
Thankfully, these aren’t usually the case and it’s often something innocuous and easy to fix. To help ease your mind and put you in control when you hear the dreaded buzz, we’ve put together a buzz checklist. When you hear a buzz, run down this checklist and the odds are that you’ll be able to fix the problem in no time. If it turns out you do need to see a luthier, at least you’ll have peace of mind that you’ve covered all your bases before resorting to professional help.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when your fiddle is buzzing:
- Are my fine tuners securely wound into my tailpiece? Make sure they’re not too loose. If they are, loosen your pegs and then tighten your fine tuners.
- Is a fine tuner wound in too far and touching the fiddle? Alternatively, make sure they’re not too tight. If they are, loosen your fine tuners and then tighten your pegs.
- Is my chin rest securely tightened? If it’s too loose, use the end of a paper clip to tighten it just enough to hold it in place and prevent rattling. Don’t tighten it too much or you could put undue pressure on your fiddle.
- Is there a loose piece on your shoulder rest? Make sure that all screws are tightened and that nothing is touching your fiddle other than the rubber-lined feet. You should also check the lining on the feet to make sure it’s in good condition.
- Do you have a pickup? If so, make sure the wire isn’t resting on the wood of the fiddle.
- Do you have an open seam? You can check this by tapping around the edge of your fiddle’s front and back along the seams and noticing any difference in sound or pitch. Does it sound rattly or hollow anywhere?
- Is there rosin impacted between the wood of your f holes? Be sure to clean excess rosin off your fiddle regularly with a dry cloth.
- Is the plastic protective band on one of your strings rolling around between the fine tuners and the bridge or extending too far past the bridge? These bands can be removed if your bridge has added string protection patches on it. Otherwise, the bands should be flush with the front of the bridge. This way, they don’t buzz around behind the bridge and they don’t interfere with the playing area from the bridge to the nut.
- Is your chin rest rattling against your tailpiece? If so, you may need to adjust the location of your chin rest or have it filed so that it doesn’t touch the tail piece.
- Is there a button or piece of jewelry touching your fiddle? Check for long earrings, necklaces, and shirts with hard pieces sewn on.
- Is there something in your fiddle? You can gently shake your instrument to make sure no debris is causing the sound.
We hope this helps you feel prepared next time your fiddle has a buzz. There’s no need to worry; if you use this checklist methodically, odds are you’ll find the problem and be able to fix it.