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Fret Buzz

I recently finished an electric guitar, and it looked and felt great! The lines were smooth, the finish was nice, and the weight distribution was spot on. To the casual observer, this axe appeared ready for the big time. wasn't.

When I plugged the guitar in and turned it on, everything seemed fine at hums, no popping and cracking, etc. Then I picked up a G chord and strummed the strings. What I heard next was a sound that combined the whining of a mule with the hissing of a skunk. If you cannot imagine what that sounds like, then it would have surprised you just as much as it did me. I thought my amp was going to recreate the splitting of the temple veil. Naturally, my first hypothesis was that I had hooked the electronics up incorrectly, but after a bit of experimentation, I found that when I played beyond the 10th fret, the sound was fine. It was only when I played frets 1-10 that things went haywire. For a few minutes, I was perplexed. What could cause such a dramatic change in sound? Then I found the culprit.

When I held the neck of the guitar parallel with the ground and level with my eyes, I was able to examine the frets in cross section, and it didn't take long to see that the 11th fret was not seated well. In fact, there was a rather substantial gap between the fret and fretboard along both ends. This, of course, was causing the strings to "buzz" against the displaced fret when I played lower on the scale. Because at least four of the six strings were buzzing when I played a chord, it made the horrendous sound described above. Fortunately, the fix was easy. I simply had to replace the 11th fret.

As I've reflected on this experience, it reminds me of an aspect of life. So often we look good on the outside. Everything appears to be in order, and if we were to ask those around us, they might say our lives, our jobs, and our families are perfect. Yet, more often than not, this is far from the case. There are secrets, burdens, and sins that all of us carry--things that make our lives buzz. And sometimes the noise on the inside is dissonant, loud, and obnoxious. However, we don't have to live with these spiritual/emotional "fret buzzes." We can replace the failed frets. But it requires examination and work, and, yes, we must go to a good and reputable Luthier. In effect, Jesus said, "Come to me all you who are burdened, and I will give you a quiet and melodious sound." Does your guitar need a little work today?

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