The Dreaded Open “A” String Buzz.
If you’ve ever strung up a Fender P or J bass you probably noticed that you need to snip the strings down before you load them into the tuning peg; that is if you happen to have a wire clipper. If not, you are stuck winding excess string for a good 1/2 hr. For those of you with no wire cutters, that extra labor may have been tedious but you avoided a major problem by winding all that string: open A string Buzz. Those of us who clipped our string learned pretty quick that the A string does not have enough string angle behind the nut with only a few wraps around the post, causing an awful buzz when plucking the A string open. This can be remedied by remembering NOT TO CLIP THE A STRING before loading into the tuner. Usually, by the time it is ready to change the strings, this fact is long forgotten and you end up in the same boat again with the horrible buzz.
Now vintage Fender basses are not so much of a problem because the shaft of the tuning machine has no flange to it and the string can be forced down the shaft with very little winding, and sufficient string angle can be achieved even if you clipped it too short. However, newer Fender basses including Mexican made instrument, have tuning shafts with flanges. Don’t ask me why they changed this. The original design worked fine. All i can think is that they thought it looked nicer. Well, this nice looking flange forces the A string up the shaft unless you wind the entire A string onto it.
I personally got sick of throwing out new A strings and came up with a remedy. I milled the shaft of the A tuner to defeat the bottom part of the flange. I don’t own a milling machine or a lathe so i utilized my drill press. First I removed the shaft from the tuner and removed the back screw that holds the gear to the shaft. Then I found a longer screw that fit the threads of that same hole (about 1/2″ longer). I cut of the head of this new screw so there was about 1/2″ of threading sticking out. I loaded that into my drill press chuck. This allowed me to spin the tuner shaft in my drill press while I held a metal file to the side of the shaft. I held the file steadily in the area that needed to be reduce; basically a half an inch of the area below the flange (see pic 1). It took a long time but the results were worth it. When I installed the shaft back into the tuner and strung up the bass, the A string had just as much angle as the strings with the string tree…and I didn’t have to throw out a perfectly good A string or add another string tree the head stock. Plus after it was strung up, my repair was hidden by the string wrapping (see pic 2)!
Hope you’ve enjoyed my guitar nerd tech tip, there’s more where that came from!