There are few things more frustrating.
You buy a new guitar, get it home, plug it in and……buzzzzzz.
You’re not even touching the strings, but there’s a constant buzz coming from your guitar. You new guitar.
Your electric guitar buzzing when not touching strings or anything else, is quite annoying. But it’s also not uncommon. And luckily, it’s usually pretty easy to diagnose and to fix.
Below, we’ll take a look at the common causes of guitar buzzing and give you instructions on how to fix them.
Table of Contents
- 1 Electric Guitar Buzzing When Not Touching Strings: Common Causes And How To Fix Them
- 2 Electric Guitar Buzzing When Playing
- 3 Related Questions
- 4 Electric Guitar Buzzing: Final Thoughts
Electric Guitar Buzzing When Not Touching Strings: Common Causes And How To Fix Them
The electric guitar is the second most popular instrument worldwide after the piano. Every year, millions of aspiring guitarists buy their first instrument. And they soon realize that getting the perfect sound is not as simple as they thought.
Any electric instrument takes a bit of work to get it sounding the way you want. And in some cases, it can sound quite bad. That is obviously the case with an incessant buzzing sound. So let’s try to get rid of that buzzing, shall we?
Here are the most common causes of an electric guitar buzzing when not touching the strings, along with some instructions for remedying the issue.
Guitar Grounding Issues
The same as other electrical devices, poor grounding can cause problems with an electric guitar. And if your instrument is buzzing, even when you’re not touching the strings, there’s a high probability you have grounding problems.
Try touching the strings. What happens the moment you touch them? If the buzzing suddenly goes away or is not as loud as when you’re not touching the strings, it is a grounding issue.
Of course, it’s not just the strings. The same goes for every metal part that is, in one way or another, connected to the electronics. These could be the pickups, pickup screws, potentiometers, the bridge, or the tuning pegs.
This is not an uncommon issue, especially with cheaper guitars. The first thing you’ll want to do is open up your guitar’s electronics cavity, while the guitar is unplugged, of course.
There should be a wire, usually a black one, that’s connected to all of the components. Take a closer look at all the soldering and check whether anything is loose.
There’s a chance you’ll see the wire completely detached from one of its designated places. If it is not obvious from simply looing at it, where the wire should go, you can always find your guitar’s wiring scheme on the internet and see where this wire should go.
Note that some Les Paul guitars can be a little tricky if you want to repair them by yourself. This is due to one end of the grounding wire going below one of the studs of the instrument’s tailpiece. Removing this is more complicated, so we’d recommend taking your Les Paul guitar to a professional rather than doing it yourself.
Amp Or Electrical Outlet Grounding Issues
Buzzing could also be the result of a problem within the amplifier, or the electrical outlet that it’s plugged into. The easiest way to check is to try your amp and your guitar in different places and electrical outlets.
Or you could always take a guitar and an amp that you know work well and plug it in an electrical outlet that you suspect of being defective. If you have a small amp that can also run on batteries, you can try it that way and see whether anything happens.
If the buzzing issues go away when using a different outlet or switching to battery power (and all of your guitar components and wires are in the proper place), then you’ve got yourself a faulty electrical outlet.
If this is the case, call an electrician and see if it’s possible to fix the outlet. Of course, you could also just use another electrical outlet in your home.
Naturally, an outlet with faulty or no grounding will cause problems with other electrical devices, too. For instance, you may even notice that the noise stops as appliances near you stop working, including fridges or any type of ACs.
Single coil pickups are great at picking up noise. In fact, they’re practically like one-directional antennas. Back in the early days of electric guitars, this wasn’t a problem. The pickups didn’t cause much noise.
But since there is a lot more electromagnetic interference these day, single coil pickups are always noisy. This problem is usually a little different from what we’re talking about here, so we’ll also touch on this issue in the next section.
That said there are cases where single-coils do have this high-end buzzing issue that goes away when you touch the strings, or any metal part connected to them. Generally, there’s no solution to this issue and it’s just a nuance of using single-coil pickups. The only potential solution is to get yourself a noise suppression pedal that can remove this quiet noise while you’re not playing.
Electric Guitar Buzzing When Playing
Of course, there are other types of buzzing. Most notably, you can notice buzzing while you’re touching the strings. This is caused by different issues from those discussed. But don’t worry, it’s not a biggie and you can easily sort it all out.
If the noise increases when you touch the strings and gets quieter when you play a note, then you’ve got a shielding issue. Your electronics cavity can act as an antenna if not properly shield. This is not unusual, even with some more expensive guitars.
The solution is not that complicated, although there’s some work to be done. Put some adhesive copper tape around the cavity. If your guitar has more than one cavity, as is the case with Les Paul guitars, put the copper tape in all of them. If the issue still persists, you’ll also need to change the wires.
Mains hum, or 60 cycle hum, is common with single-coil pickups. This hum still persists even when you’re playing.
As already mentioned, single-coils are like antennas and pick up a lot more noise than humbuckers. The easiest solution is to get yourself a set of single-coils that have better shielding and pick up less noise. These are often referred to as the “noiseless” single-coil pickups.
String Buzz Or Fret Buzz
One of the most common confusions among beginning guitar players is what classifies as buzz or as hum in your tone. If you’re just starting out on an electric guitar, it’s extremely important to differentiate between these two problems.
If you’re not sure, try playing your instrument unplugged and listen to whether the strings buzz from getting too close to the frets. If they do, the problem can easily be solved.
Depending on the type of bridge on your guitar, you can set it all up on your own, to adjust the string height, as well as the intonation.
Buzzing and reduced sustain can also come from a worn-out nut. This is usually only a problem with older guitars that have been used extensively for many years. If you have a worn-out nut, the only solution is to replace it.
Why does my guitar stop buzzing when I touch it?
If your guitar stops buzzing when you touch the strings, or any metal parts connected to its electronics, then you’re most likely experiencing grounding issues. You’ll need to sort out whether the issue is in your guitar, your amp, or the electrical outlet your rig is plugged into. IF it’s the guitar, you need to properly ground it.
Can guitar cables cause buzz?
Guitar cables can sometimes cause extreme buzzing noises. This is the case if one of two wires in it is not well connected to the jack. Some cables can be repaired, some cannot be repaired. It’s easy to figure out whether it is the cable that is causing the issue, becauses you’ll also experience cracking noises and a loss of signal.
Why does my amp buzz when I plug my guitar in?
If your guitar amplifier buzzes when you plug your guitar into it, there are two most likely causes for it. One is faulty grounding in your guitar, and the other one is poor shielding. Of course, you should also also remember that single-coil pickups always cause buzzing noises, especially if they’re cheaper ones, so this could be causing the buzzing, as well.
How do you fix a ground loop?
One of the most common ground loop issues comes down to a detached or loose grounding wire inside your guitar’s electronic cavity. If this is not the case, then your amp or electrical outlet is to blame. If it’s the electrical outlet, you can improve things with a quality power supply and quality cables. You can also get yourself a line isolation transformer and ease things up a bit.
Do cables affect guitar tone?
Just like every component of your signal path, guitar cables can affect the tone. However, this is usually not as noticeable, especially if you have a simpler setup. The more cables there are in your signal chain, and the more components you have overall, the more your cables can affect the tone to the point where it’s noticeable.
Electric Guitar Buzzing: Final Thoughts
There are a number of reasons why your electric guitar might be buzzing when you don’t even touch the strings. The good news is that it’s usually pretty easy to figure out what is causing the problem, and it’s also not generally too hard to fix it.
Hopefully this article helped you do both. If it did not, we recommend taking your instrument to a professional to have it looked at and potentially repaired. We also recommend this if you are not comfortable making small repairs to your guitar or other equipment by yourself.