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Electric guitar buzzing when not touching the metal
Old 20th January 2013
  #1
Gear Head
 
flipoff1's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Electric guitar buzzing when not touching the metal

Every time I take my fingers off the strings I get crazy buzzing and noise. I was recording the other day and thought I had a good take until I listened back carefully and could hear the friggin parts that I had to move off the strings.

Anyway, I've done some research and some say its a problem with my guitar and others say it's a problem with grounding??

So I searched for grounding solution and got scared... I'm not gonna take my guitar apart. Then I found a cable that says it will fix this. Anyone ever try something like that?
Old 21st January 2013
  #2
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Silent Sound's Avatar
 
5 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
A cable won't fix it. The problem's not with the cable.

What kind of guitar is it? Does it have single coil pickups? Since it goes away when you mute the strings, it's a problem with the guitar. Some guitars will do that.
Old 21st January 2013
  #3
GS Community Manager
 
Whitecat's Avatar
Do you have dimmer switches on the lights in your house/apartment/room/studio/whatever?
Old 21st January 2013
  #4
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Larry Mal's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Don't be scared of fixing a grounding issue, which is almost certainly what you have. The classic sign of this problem is it showing up when you aren't in contact with the strings, because when you are in contact with the strings you become the ground. The noise appears when you are not the ground, because there is no ground.

It's a simple fix, if you aren't up to the soldering job then it won't be hard or expensive should you need to find a repair person.

Provided that this isn't the problem, then you would probably want to consider upgrading the shielding on your guitar. You don't say what kind of guitar it is, though, so I'm assuming a single coil. Shielding isn't much of an issue on humbucker equipped guitars.

So, this is where you would want to start. But whoever told you about some magic cable is off base. If the problem was the cable, then it would be a continuos problem, or it would manifest itself when the cable was jostled, or something. It wouldn't have the symptoms you are describing, I don't think.

Good luck!
Old 21st January 2013
  #5
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Sounds like you have 60 cycle hum. That basically means there is something else in your house that runs off electricity too and guitars/amps don't like that. But seriously it sounds like you have 60 cycle hum. Try turning lights/fans/electrical devices off in your room and see if that fixes it.
Old 21st January 2013
  #6
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
If it's a buzzing and not a hum, and it goes away when you touch the strings, this is absolutely normal for guitars with passive pickups and is caused by electrical "noise" in the room (lights on dimmers, computers, etc). It's NOT something wrong with the guitar, and it's NOT something that you need to take to a tech or start chasing around with a soldering iron. It's the way most electric guitars are designed, and it's absolutely normal. When you touch the strings, your body becomes part of the ground.

You can reduce the noise by better shielding the cavities, but in reality the guitar is functioning exactly as it's supposed to.
Old 22nd January 2013
  #7
Gear Head
 
flipoff1's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Thanks for all the responses. Seems to be some conflicting advice, but I think it is in fact a normal issue with my guitar... Fender telecaster (single coils).

I might try the cable I found on line to see that works. It's only $20, so worth a shot, I guess. If anyone's ever tried this thing let me know if it's any good.
www.guitargrounder.com

Thanks again!!
Old 22nd January 2013
  #8
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
That grounding cable is interesting, but all you have to do is keep one hand in contact with the strings or hardware, or just take a two-foot length of thin wire, strip the ends, and wrap one end around one of the saddle springs on your guitar and tuck the other end inside the waistband of your underwear where it is in contact with your skin. That's a lot cheaper than $20.

I've got three Telecasters, and they all buzz a little bit. My humbucker guitars do the same.
Old 22nd January 2013
  #9
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Larry Mal's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I don't know, guys. Sure, there's always going to be 60 cycle hum, but if the guitar is properly grounded, it should be relatively constant. The fact that it goes away when he touches the strings (thus completing the ground) is a huge sign that there is a grounding issue.

No reason not to have a guitar tech take a look and make sure the ground is working as it should, it takes about fifteen minutes with a multimeter and then he'll know. It's really not a big deal to do a continuity check and make sure all is good, it's not like this would be the first guitar in the world to have a ground issue.

And if the guitar is more or less as it should be, then maybe it's time to think about shielding the guitar better, or a line conditioner, or changing what's plugged in where and all that. But really, making sure the ground is OK is just so easy and cheap that there's no reason not to do it in this situation considering what we know.
Old 22nd January 2013
  #10
Gear Addict
 
Mr. Wilson's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
OP:
1. You need to look into doing a complete shield job with either foil or shilding paint...google it...it works I have a Tele thinline that was a bitch...real quiet after a copper shield job.
2. Look into noiseless pups. i use em on both my teles and on my p90 LP special. There are some really great sounding ones out there by the major makers.
3. A top quality cable can also help. This is where mogami or the like is not snake oil.
4. As others have mentioned assess your AC line situation in your playing environment...could be a problem there. But even with good clean AC I had a bad buzzing situation that was fixed with the above remedies.
Old 22nd January 2013 | Show parent
  #11
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Hot Vibrato's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Mal ➑️
I don't know, guys. Sure, there's always going to be 60 cycle hum, but if the guitar is properly grounded, it should be relatively constant. The fact that it goes away when he touches the strings (thus completing the ground) is a huge sign that there is a grounding issue.
On a guitar with passive pickups, the 60 cycle hum (which sounds like a buzz) ALWAYS gets quieter when you touch the strings. There is a ground wire that connects the bridge to the back of one of the pots specifically for this purpose. On a strat, the ground wire is connected to the tremolo spring "claw".

Sounds like the OP has particularly noisy power. If you're plugged into the same circuit as fluorescent lights, neon lights, computer monitors, dimmer switches, etc. the problem can be audible to the point of being annoying. Try plugging into an outlet somewhere else in the house.

If you want to prove to yourself that the guitar's wiring is okay, have a friend bring their guitar over, and have them p[lug into your amp. More than likely, any guitar with passive pickups will behave similarly.

Shielding the guitar with foil tape can make a huge difference. In my experience, foil tape is far more effective than shielding paint.[/QUOTE]
Old 22nd January 2013
  #12
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Larry Mal's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I know all about grounding and shielding, I did this to a Jazzmaster some years ago:

OffsetGuitars.com • View topic - This is my rebuild!

The cable that this guy bought, by the way, is just another way of adding ground to a guitar. It's exactly the remedy for exactly the problem I am discussing.

I am not saying that there isn't a lot of dirty "noise" present in the sixty cycle electrical system in the original poster's room. I'm not saying the guitar doesn't need to be shielded... as a matter of fact, I'm absolutely certain that it does.

But the first thing to do, the absolute first, is to make sure that the ground inherent to the guitar is functioning as it should be. All the shielding in the world, all the cables, all the power conditioners, none of this means a thing if the ground wire isn't connected.
Old 23rd January 2013
  #13
Gear Guru
 
John Eppstein's Avatar
 
58 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
First off, it's a TELECASTER. Tellys are notoriously noisy, especially in the lead position (bridge pickup). It is very difficult, if not impossible to shield this pickup more than it already is (it's already partially shielded by the bridge plate and the copper plated steel reflector plat under the PU, unless you wrap copper tape around the coil, which will affect the tone by adding capacitance.

The neck pickup is already pretty well shielded by the cover.

That being said, it sure sounds to me like the string ground has come unsoldered somewhere, so if the OP is not comfortable working on the guitar he should have a tech take care of it. There should not be a great difference when he takes his hands off the strings.
Old 23rd January 2013 | Show parent
  #14
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Hot Vibrato's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein ➑️
...it sure sounds to me like the string ground has come unsoldered somewhere...
The fact that the buzz dissipates when the OP touches the strings indicates that the string ground is indeed connected.

Bottom line is (as John mentioned), telecasters ARE noisy. Shielding the electronics cavity will help to some degree, but if you want quieter electronics, you might consider some pickups that aren't true single coils. The Fender vintage Noiseless pickups are some of the most realistic sounding ones that I've heard.
Old 23rd January 2013
  #15
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
One other point for the OP - when recording guitars with normal level of hum (assuming the guitar is not defective), you can use a noise gate to cut the hum when your hands are moving. Usually works pretty well.
Old 24th January 2013
  #16
Gear Guru
 
John Eppstein's Avatar
 
58 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato ➑️
The fact that the buzz dissipates when the OP touches the strings indicates that the string ground is indeed connected.
Not necessarily true.

Quote:
Bottom line is (as John mentioned), telecasters ARE noisy. Shielding the electronics cavity will help to some degree, but if you want quieter electronics, you might consider some pickups that aren't true single coils. The Fender vintage Noiseless pickups are some of the most realistic sounding ones that I've heard.
If you want the guitar to still sound like a Telly noise cancelling pickups are NOT the answer.

What WILL take care of the noise without screwing up the tone is the under-pickguard noise cancelling system from Lindy Fralin.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Early21 ➑️
One other point for the OP - when recording guitars with normal level of hum (assuming the guitar is not defective), you can use a noise gate to cut the hum when your hands are moving. Usually works pretty well.
Not if you don't want the attack of your notes cut off.

Noise gates work horribly for guitar unless you want that particular "fading in" type of sound, which most people do not. Gates also tend to cut off the tail of a fading out sustained note.

Have you ever actually played through a noise gate? Or only played around with one ITB?
Old 24th January 2013 | Show parent
  #17
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein ➑️
Not if you don't want the attack of your notes cut off.

Noise gates work horribly for guitar unless you want that particular "fading in" type of sound, which most people do not. Gates also tend to cut off the tail of a fading out sustained note.

Have you ever actually played through a noise gate? Or only played around with one ITB?
Here. 1983 Stratocaster, stock pickups.
MP3 Player SoundClick
Old 24th January 2013
  #18
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
I hook a wire from the guitar to my waist so it never loses contact
Old 24th January 2013 | Show parent
  #19
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Larry Mal's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato ➑️
The fact that the buzz dissipates when the OP touches the strings indicates that the string ground is indeed connected.

Bottom line is (as John mentioned), telecasters ARE noisy...
Come on, think this through. The noise dissipates when the strings are touched and returns when the hand is removed from the string. What is the difference here? What has changed?

Plain and simply: the hand touching the string has become the ground. When the hand is removed there is no ground. This is why the noise comes and goes while the hand is removed. Nothing else makes sense.

Under your scenario, if the ground was properly connected, why would it matter if a hand touched the strings or not? You don't need two grounds, or additional grounds. A ground is simply the path of least resistance. If it's working properly then that's that.

I can't believe I'm watching this person be advised to switch out pickups, try a grounding cable (!), use a different outlet or rewire the electrical system in his house, and all the rest.

Just make sure the ground is working properly, you could have done this a dozen times by now or had a technician do it. Again, any more radical change- pickups, shielding, you name it- would all be done only after you had done the simple task of making sure your guitar was properly grounded anyway.
Old 24th January 2013
  #20
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Scooter Trash's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 5 years
You can do a really quick test...
Get a short length of 16 gauge or so wire. (12 inches/30 centimeters)
Wrap/twist one end around the shield of your guitar cable 1/4" connector.
Plug the guitar cable into your guitar.
Wrap/twist the other end of the wire around your bridge.

If this eliminates the issue, you should ground your bridge.
Old 24th January 2013
  #21
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Hot Vibrato's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein ➑️
Not necessarily true.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Mal ➑️
Come on, think this through. The noise dissipates when the strings are touched and returns when the hand is removed from the string. What is the difference here? What has changed?

Plain and simply: the hand touching the string has become the ground. When the hand is removed there is no ground. This is why the noise comes and goes while the hand is removed. Nothing else makes sense...
On electric guitars, there is a ground wire that runs from the back of one of the pots to either the underside of the bridge, the tremolo claw, or the tailpiece. The purpose of the STRING GROUND is so that WHEN YOU TOUCH THE STRINGS THE NOISE GOES AWAY. THAT'S WHY IT'S THERE! THIS IS NORMAL. How can you people have never noticed this before? Typically, when the guitar is NOT grounded properly, the noise gets LOUDER when you touch the strings.

Before you guys respond, please read this article: GuitarNuts.com - You're a Walking Bucket O' Noise
And watch this video: Guitar Ground: Dealing with ground noise problems - YouTube
Old 24th January 2013
  #22
Gear Addict
 
Bristol Posse's Avatar
 
5 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Most electric guitars have a ground that is connected to the bridge.

However the bridge, jack, strings or whatever have no inherent ground connection. Hang your guitar on a coat rack in the middle of the room and see if you can find how it is grounded, even with the best wiring in the world it's not. The connection to ground is completed when a person or something else that is grounded touches the strings or bridge or anything else on the guitar connected to the ground wire

Shielding will help with RF interference/noise (your electronic system in the guitar is a big RF receiver too) but will not create a connection between guitar and ground, that still needs to come from the player

Not really sure what to think about power conditioners/dirty power, they feel like snake oil to me. All of my amps have dirty great power supplies with transformers in them that convert and condition the AC supply into the required DC voltages required to run the amp and should LPF any RFI from the supply. That said maybe delivering more consistent supply (if the lights plugged into wall sockets dim momentarily when the AC or fridge compressor kick in etc) may be better for your amp but I think you'd need to get something like an always in line and on uninteruptable power supply that will use a battery to deliver rock solid, unvarying AC sine wave to your amp to achieve that. Or run your rig off a really good generator

I'd say do all the common sense stuff before tearing apart yout guitar and home electrical system:

Keep you picking hand resting on the bridge when you play or run a grounding wire from the bridge to your waist as already suggested

move away from or turn off known RF generators like computer monitors, TVs, Fluorescent strips etc. when you record

Turn off AC/heaters, dimmer switches and other stuff that add inconsistencies to the AC etc

Learn to love the "warmth" and "Character" of single coil hum, you can hear it on lots of recordings

All of that is free to try and if it doesn't work then you can start tearing things apart and spending big bucks
Old 25th January 2013 | Show parent
  #23
Gear Guru
 
John Eppstein's Avatar
 
58 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scooter Trash ➑️
You can do a really quick test...
Get a short length of 16 gauge or so wire. (12 inches/30 centimeters)
Wrap/twist one end around the shield of your guitar cable 1/4" connector.
Plug the guitar cable into your guitar.
Wrap/twist the other end of the wire around your bridge.

If this eliminates the issue, you should ground your bridge.
Exactly. Make sure the wire is contacting metal on the connector, not a plastic coating.
Old 25th January 2013 | Show parent
  #24
Lives for gear
 
Hot Vibrato's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scooter Trash ➑️
You can do a really quick test...
Get a short length of 16 gauge or so wire. (12 inches/30 centimeters)
Wrap/twist one end around the shield of your guitar cable 1/4" connector.
Plug the guitar cable into your guitar.
Wrap/twist the other end of the wire around your bridge.

If this eliminates the issue, you should ground your bridge.
Again - The fact that the hum dissipates when the OP touches the strings indicates that the bridge is connected to ground.

Judging from the OP's description of the problem, it's likely that he's dealing with the same kind of normal electrical noise that the rest of us have experienced all along - for the OP, it just wasn't very apparent until he recorded his guitar (it wasn't a problem until he "listened back carefully" to the recording).
Old 26th January 2013 | Show parent
  #25
Gear Guru
 
John Eppstein's Avatar
 
58 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bristol Posse ➑️
Most electric guitars have a ground that is connected to the bridge.

However the bridge, jack, strings or whatever have no inherent ground connection. Hang your guitar on a coat rack in the middle of the room and see if you can find how it is grounded, even with the best wiring in the world it's not. The connection to ground is completed when a person or something else that is grounded touches the strings or bridge or anything else on the guitar connected to the ground wire
???????????????

The jack is connected to ground via the grounded shield connection of the cable, which connects to the ground in the amp. The bridge and strings generally have a ground connection via a wire connected to the bridge that runs to either the ground connection (shield) on the jack or the case of one of the pots which is connected to ground on the jack.

Your body is not grounded unless you are either barefoot or wearing leather soled shoes and standing on a grounded conductive surface like a concrete or metal floor. (Yes, concrete conducts. Anyone who was in a '60s garage band before amps had 3 conductor power cords can testify to this.) Your body DOES couple to the pickups of the guitar by capacitance. This does increase the amount of hum slightly when you're not touching the strings. It shouldn't be a lot, however. When you touch the strings you should be grounded and the noise should drop a bit. On a Telly it's still going to be noisy. Standard type Tellys are noisy guitars.

If you have a Telecaster and the noise really bothers you invest a couple of hundred bucks in the Fralin noise cancelling system.
Old 26th October 2013 | Show parent
  #26
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frodebro ➑️
If it's a buzzing and not a hum, and it goes away when you touch the strings, this is absolutely normal for guitars with passive pickups and is caused by electrical "noise" in the room (lights on dimmers, computers, etc). It's NOT something wrong with the guitar, and it's NOT something that you need to take to a tech or start chasing around with a soldering iron. It's the way most electric guitars are designed, and it's absolutely normal. When you touch the strings, your body becomes part of the ground.

You can reduce the noise by better shielding the cavities, but in reality the guitar is functioning exactly as it's supposed to.
This is absolutely incorrect advice.
First, a 60 cycle hum is generated by the non-humbucker, single pole pickups.
Shielding may help this problem but will not cure it.
Noiseless, stacked humbucker pickups is the only cure for eliminating 60 cycle hum in a Telecaster.
A hum that dissipates when you touch the strings or the control knobs indicates that you have an insufficient ground which is causing the hum.

My advice to cure this ground hum problem is as follows:

1) Remove the control plate and cut both ground wires from the pickups where they are soldered onto the back of the pot.
2) Leave the original ground wire from the jack soldered as is.
3) At the ground post on the jack, solder another dedicated ground wire onto the negative jack post.
4) Connect the pickup ground wires to the new dedicated ground wire.
5) Also connect a short ground wire to the new dedicated ground wire.
6) Loosen the top screw on the 3-way switch and place the other stripped end of the short ground wire between the switch frame and the chrome control plate, and retighten the screw.
7) Solder the "star" collection of ground wires with the dedicated ground wire.
8) Do not solder "ground star" to the back of a pot.
9) Cover the "ground star" with electrical tape.
10) Replace the control plate onto the guitar.

This method of grounding should cure the ground hum that occurs when you lift your fingers off the strings, assuming that the bridge is grounded.
"Star" grounding will also resolve possible ground loop hums.
It will not resolve the normal 60 cycle hum from the pickups.
Hope this helps.
Old 23rd November 2014
  #27
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
I recently revived an old Telecaster and was trying to hunt down the source of the hum in my guitar. I read this thread and didn't believe that the dimmer switches in my house could be causing the issue. Sure enough I'm working on the guitar and my wife flips off the dimmer in the kitchen and BAM, humming gone. Wouldn't have believed it if I didn't hear it myself. Hopefully somebody else will find this information useful.
Old 23rd November 2014 | Show parent
  #28
Gear Guru
 
John Eppstein's Avatar
 
58 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by sporkit ➑️
I recently revived an old Telecaster and was trying to hunt down the source of the hum in my guitar. I read this thread and didn't believe that the dimmer switches in my house could be causing the issue. Sure enough I'm working on the guitar and my wife flips off the dimmer in the kitchen and BAM, humming gone. Wouldn't have believed it if I didn't hear it myself. Hopefully somebody else will find this information useful.
Cheap home style (SCR/Triac based) electronic dimmers work by chopping off the leading and trailing edges of the 60Hz sine wave. This generates lots of radio frequency harmonics, modulated by the60Hz frequency. Since guitar pickups make great antennae they pick this up. The noise is worst when the dimmer is around 1/3 to 1/2 brightness, as that's when the ratio of harmonics to base frequency is greatest. Having the dimmer full on or full off eliminates the noise, but if it's dimming it causes problems.

Professional studios get around this problem by using Variacs for dimming instead of cheap electronic dimmers. A Variac is a variable autotransformer and works by reducing the amplitude of the sine wave instead of chopping the waveform so it does not generate RFI. The downside is that they're bulky and expensive.

Professional theatrical dimmer packs use electronic dimmers but they're greatly overdesigned and employ large filter capacitors and toroidal inductors to (more or less) eliminate the RF so it isn't a problem (although it sometimes still is with cheaper systems). The downside to adding big filter caps and toroidal chokes to an inexpensive dimmer circuit is - you guessed it - that those components are bulky and expensive, although perhaps not as bulky and expensive as Variacs (which used to be used in better theatrical systems back when a thetrical lighting rig took up an entire wall of a room backstage and looked like something out of a '30s Frankenstein movie.)

Variacs are, however, the gold standard for low noise and reliability - they simply do not wear out under normal usage.
Old 25th November 2014
  #29
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Didnt know Mick Jagger was also a guitar tech!
Interesting suggestion - I have used star grounds on a bunch of things, mostly 19" rackmount stuff, but never thought to try it on a guitar.

Might just try this on my new "test bed" instrument, which coincidentally hss some really cheap nasty P90s on it, stock.
Old 25th November 2014
  #30
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Yeah, sounds like a grounding problem. I've had this as well with guitars.
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