Have you ever noticed an annoying buzzing sound when you’re not even touching the strings of your electric guitar?
It can be frustrating and make your playing sound unprofessional, but don’t worry! There are ways to fix it, and you can do it yourself with some knowledge and troubleshooting skills.
In this article, we will explore the different causes of buzzing when not touching strings and provide you with practical solutions to help you get back to rocking out on your electric guitar.
Common reasons for guitar buzzing when not touching the strings
There are several reasons your guitar produces buzzing sounds even when you’re not touching the strings, and understanding them can help you address the problem and get back to playing smoothly.
Interference and lack of shielding
Еlectromagnetic interference (EMI) from nearby electrical devices can cause a hum or buzz in your guitar or amp. The solution to this problem is called shielding, which involves adding conductive material around the components to block EMI.
Actually, you can manually shield your guitar. You just need a few basic tools like pliers and screwdrivers, as well as copper tape and a digital multimeter.
Follow our steps, and you’ll be ready in no time:
- Remove all electronics from the cavity of the guitar.
- Clean any dirt or debris inside the cavity with a soft brush or cloth.
- Apply copper tape over all surfaces inside the cavity, including walls, sides, and even on top of pickups if necessary.
- Make sure there are no gaps where EMI could leak through by using a multimeter to check for continuity between different points within the cavity.
Guitar grounding issues
If you’re experiencing grounding problems, there are some common signs to look out for:
- The humming noise stops when you touch the strings or metallic parts.
- Frequent popping sounds, followed by noise buildup.
To address this issue, you can take a few steps:
- You can check and repair any damaged grounding wires inside your guitar.
- You can swap guitar cables to identify any broken grounding wires.
- You can use another amp to help identify the problem.
Did you know that while humbucker pickups use two coils to eliminate hum, many guitarists still prefer the unique sound of single coils? However, it’s important to note that not all single-coil pickups are created equal, and some brands offer better noise reduction than others.
If you’re experiencing excessive buzzing or guitar hum with your current single coils, there are several solutions you can try before resorting to replacing them entirely:
- Turn off or move away from electronic devices to reduce interference.
- Shield your pickups with copper or aluminum foil.
- Invest in a pedal designed specifically for eliminating hum, such as a “noise gate” or “hum eliminator pedal”.
- Check for loose connections or faulty wiring in your guitar’s electronics.
By trying these solutions, you may be able to reduce the electric guitar buzzing and continue enjoying the sound of your single-coil pickups.
Moving on from the discussion of single-coil pickups, it’s important to note that damaged pickups can also cause buzzing without touching the strings.
This problem is often characterized by strange noises and a background hum that persists even after switching pickups.
When this happens, it’s best to get a professional opinion on whether or not your pickup can be repaired.
The pickups are made from delicate electronics, and any damage could cause problems that make them useless. If repairs are impossible, you’ll need to replace the pickup entirely.
Dirt or dust in the electronics
It’s crucial to regularly clean your guitar’s electronics, as dust and dirt can cause stray electrical signals and short circuits that lead to background noises like hums and pops.
The number one place for dust accumulation is inside the volume and tone pots, which are sensitive circuitry exposed to the elements and dirty fingers.
The output jack is another common problem area where oxidation can form on or inside it over time. Cleaning it with a contact cleaner helps remove dirt and grime from its open surface. If it’s too damaged, replacing it is easy too.
Regularly cleaning these components will help prevent buzzing when you’re not touching strings due to short circuits caused by dirt or dust buildup in your guitar’s electronics.
If you’ve noticed a humming noise when playing your guitar, especially at high volumes, it could be feedback from too much volume.
For example, a guitarist in a small gig venue may turn up their amp to compete with the other instruments on stage, but this can lead to feedback and buzzing.
The more you amplify your guitar’s volume, the more background noise will be amplified with it. So when you’re not playing anything, the only thing it can amplify is the humming from the feedback.
To solve this issue, try turning down the volume on both your guitar and amp. If you can still get a loud and clear signal after doing so, then it may be that your amp is just too loud for the space or environment you are playing in.
Another solution would be to invest in a noise suppression pedal which can help eliminate unwanted feedback and interference from electronics or other sources.
You can also create a controlled feedback effect on your guitar for a different sound effect. This effect is more common in genres such as rock, metal and blues.
How to fix the guitar buzzing when not touching the strings
Now that we have discussed some of the primary causes of guitar buzz and provided ways to deal with it, we have some additional tips to help you get rid of that irritating noise.
Check the connections
Before you start playing your electric guitar, make sure to double-check all the connections between your guitar cable and amp to ensure optimal performance.
The buzzing problem in electric guitars often arises due to loose or faulty connections. Check both ends of the guitar cable and ensure that they are plugged into their respective jacks securely. Also, check for any signs of damage or fraying on the cables, as this could cause current leakage leading to buzzing.
Try a different guitar cable
If everything looks fine with your connections, try a different guitar cable to see if it fixes the issue.
Sometimes, a broken ground wire inside the cable can cause buzzing even when not touching strings. Using a different cable is an easy way to identify if this is causing the problem.
Remember always to use high-quality cables because cheap ones tend to pick up interference from nearby electrical sources like TVs or computers, exacerbating the buzzing problem.
Try another power outlet
If you’re still experiencing that annoying humming noise, try plugging your amp into a different outlet – this could be the solution to getting rid of that distracting buzz and enhancing your playing experience.
In older homes, power outlets can often cause buzzing issues due to poor grounding or wiring problems. If the noise stops when you switch outlets, especially if it’s on another circuit, then it’s likely a problem with your current outlet.
To check if the issue is with the power outlet itself, take your amp to a friend’s house and see if the humming noise persists. If it stops and you’ve changed nothing else, then it’s time to call an electrician.
Grounding issues in power outlets are not just harmful to sound quality but also dangerous.
Check your pedals
Now let’s get to the root of the problem and check those pedals – they might be causing your electric guitar to hum when not touching the strings. Pedals, including their power supplies, can often be the source of grounding issues.
Daisy-chaining a power supply across multiple pedals can cause this problem, so it’s essential to investigate each pedal individually.
Start by plugging your guitar directly into your amplifier’s clean channel and see if there is still hum or noise. Then add one pedal at a time to identify which one is causing trouble.
If you suspect that your power supply may be causing the issue, try running your pedals off batteries instead.
In case it turns out that noisy pedals are causing buzzing in your guitar, consider investing in an isolated power supply for each pedal. This will ensure that each pedal has its own power supply and doesn’t interfere with others.
Tuning is crucial for optimal performance and avoiding buzzing issues when playing electric guitars.
Tune the Guitar
Tuning is crucial for optimal performance and to avoid buzzing issues, especially when playing an electric guitar. Temperature and humidity changes affect the instrument’s tuning since it is wood-made. Therefore, tuning your electric guitar properly before every session is essential.
Configure the Amplifier
It’s funny how often we forget that the source of our buzzing troubles could be as simple as an incorrectly configured amplifier. As mentioned earlier, amps can cause buzzing issues if not connected properly or configured correctly. It is essential to ensure that your guitar amp has the right configuration to avoid unwanted noises.
Make sure to go through your amp’s user manual or seek advice from a professional if you’re unsure about its proper configuration. Once you have set up your amplifier correctly, you should notice a significant reduction in unwanted buzzing noise.
By the way, you can also split your guitar signal into 2 amps, which creates a stereo effect and make your sound deeper.
If you suspect a short circuit, it’s important to check for any signs of damage or wires in contact with the metal parts of your instrument before taking it to a professional for repair. Short circuits can cause buzzing in the guitar even when not touching the strings.
The metal parts of electric guitars can come in contact with connecting wires, causing a short circuit.
It is crucial to identify the source of the short circuit and fix it as soon as possible. If left unaddressed, it may cause permanent damage to your instrument.
Once identified, consider hiring a trained professional or fixing it yourself if you have enough knowledge. Checking for any visible signs of damage and ensuring that none of the connecting wires are in contact with your guitar’s body or metal part is a good place to start troubleshooting before moving on to other solutions like changing strings or shielding electronics cavities.
Change the Strings
Over time, your strings can get rusty, which affects their tension and may lead to a string buzz. If you recently replaced your guitar strings, make sure they are the correct size for your guitar. Thinner strings can also alter the tension and lead to buzzing.
Hire a technician
Consider hiring a technician if you’re still experiencing issues with your instrument, as they can diagnose and repair any underlying problems that may be causing unwanted noise.
While it’s possible to troubleshoot some issues on your own, more complex problems may require the expertise of a professional. A technician will have the tools and knowledge necessary to figure out what is causing the buzzing and provide an effective solution.
When seeking a technician, look for someone with experience working on electric guitars. Be prepared to pay for their services but keep in mind that investing in repairs now can save you money in the long run by preventing further damage to your instrument.
With proper care and maintenance, your electric guitar should produce clear, beautiful tones free from unwanted buzzing.
Buzzing is a common issue faced by electric guitar players, but it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker. By understanding the different causes and implementing the practical solutions we’ve discussed, you can eliminate the annoying noise and get back to enjoying your instrument to the fullest.
Can the type of guitar strings affect buzzing when not touching the strings?
Yes, the type of guitar strings can affect buzzing when not touching the strings. Using thicker gauge strings or strings made from different materials can change the tension on the guitar neck and alter the sound of the instrument. Thicker strings may also cause more fret buzz if they are not properly set up.
Also, old or worn-out strings can cause buzzing due to uneven wear or corrosion. It is important to choose high-quality strings that are appropriate for your playing style and keep them well-maintained to avoid unnecessary buzzing issues.