Any guitar technicians care to diagnose this?

Kayla has a classical guitar which she can play with a moderate amount of competence. She just now approached me with a strange situation after spending half an hour tuning it.

On all strings (except the “G”), the first fret is dead. When she fingers the first fret on an individual string, it plays the same pitch as when she plays the second fret. In addition, the first fret yields a rattling/buzzing tone when she picks the string.

It’s worth noting that she has been in the habit during the past eight weeks, of leaving her guitar in its case in the back of her car. And we have been experiencing a heat wave for about as long.

Is this something that any of our guitar experts have encountered before? Is there any fix for this problem? About how much should it cost to fix?

I spent $200 on this instrument and ten lessons for her birthday in 2017, if that is useful information about the likely quality of the guitar and its being worth repairing.


  1. The neck is warped, or
  2. The slot is too deep, or
  3. The fret wire has a gouge in it.

Most probably #1. A guitar tech should be able to fix it in no time (you can do it yourself, but I’ve always been too chicken.). No idea of the cost–it’s been years since I’ve played.

Don’t leave your git-fiddle in a hot car.

ETA: just now saw it was a classical; strings might need replacing.

My first guess would have been that the neck has warped as well; let a guitar tech/luthier check it out.

^! Vehicles are for transporting, not storage.

…or a cold car.

Thanks for the responses. My uninformed feeling was also that it would involve warpage implicating storage in her car. Anybody know how long a fix generally takes?

Also, it’s pretty damn hot in the apartment, too (the AC doesn’t work all that well here), although probably not enclosed car hot. If heat were a factor, would it avoid or mitigate the warping to leave the strings slack while in storage?

A few years back, we experienced a pretty good heat wave in Seattle and the temps in my upstairs, west facing guitar room got well over 100 degrees. My acoustic exhibited similar problems after that. Turned out thatit was not a neck warming problem, but that a couple frets worked up in the heat cycling, partly due to the abrupt changes from cool nights to warm days, and partly because in the extreme heat the glue under the frets failed.

I doubt it’s a neck issue given that the problem is at the first fret. I think the second fret has popped up such that fretting a note at fret one effectively is also bottoming the string on the too high second fret.

I don’t know for sure but it sounds very expensive to fix a warped neck if it can be done. Adjusting the neck is another thing.

There is really no sense in speculating too much because it could be just that something needs to be filed down.

Since she gets the same note playing at the first and second frets on almost all the strings, that says to me that the second fret is high enough to stop the string when it is fretted at the first fret.

This could be due to a warped neck, or it could be that the second fret has risen in its’ slot. Either of these could be due to high temperatures. A warped neck will be too expensive to be worth fixing on that guitar. A loose fret can simply be pushed back down and hopefully it will stay if the guitar is treated properly going forward. If it doesn’t stay down, a competent guitar tech should be able to put a bit of glue to keep it in place. That would be pretty reasonable in price.

$200 should get a decent level guitar for a beginner, but it’s not worth putting major money into repairs. Classical guitars in particular are not usually designed with neck repairs in mind, as steel string instruments may be.

If she enjoys playing and wants to continue, I’d get her a new guitar at the same price level, assuming the problem is not just a loose fret. Maybe have her contribute towards the cost as a reminder to treat the instrument with care.

Thanks. I think that’s what I’m going to do. She showed it to the guitar tech at Sam Ash today, and the verdict was a warped neck, which would need heat treatment as part of the fix.
A replacement guitar of similar quality to hers would cost about $60.

A replacement guitar costing $60 is not going to be very good quality (unless you are talking about a used guitar being sold by someone who just wants to get rid of it, not caring about getting the best price).

If you can afford it, I’d stick with your original price point of $200. You can get a better quality instrument there than you can for $60.

Rereading your OP, I see the $200 was for the guitar plus some lessons. Still, I’d recommend a slightly better replacement guitar if you can afford it. Looking at Sam Ash’s website, I see that they have an assortment of Yamaha and Cordoba instruments. Those should be decent quality.

Cheaper guitars often cost more in the long run. Because they have to be replaced for a more playabe model.

I suggest a guitar between $300 to $400 that a student can use beyond beginners level.

Never, never, never leave your guitar in a hot car!!!Temps can exceed 130 degrees F in a very short time and ruin it. I’ve seen a nice Washburn steel string reduced to fire starter because the glue loosened and it basically fell/pulled itself apart. If it’s just a few frets it may be about $100 to get it all working or you can look around for a used classical for $200 that will be a much better instrument.
FWIW. classicals are meant to be worked on every bit as much as a steel string. They just don’t generally need as much maintenance due to the lower string tension and playing style, Gabriela Quintero notwithstanding.