If you’re playing an electric guitar, it’s unfortunately only a matter of time when something will either malfunction or produce unwanted noises. If this is happening to you, don’t worry – it’s nothing unusual.
So instead of feeling discouraged and just going back to an acoustic guitar, you can always find ways to deal with these issues. And in a lot of cases, these are even some minor adjustments that you can do by yourself. Gladly, even if you take your amp or a guitar to a professional, it’s usually something that won’t cost a lot.
In this guide, we will focus on those awful buzzing or humming noises that electric guitar amps can sometimes make.
- First, we’ll look at the common issues that can cause buzzing
- Then we’ll look at how you can try to fix the buzzing
Who crafted this post:
David has been playing guitar since 1998, his main focus back then was hard rock and metal. With years, his music tastes evolved and he eventually started appreciating all musical styles. Although officially an agricultural engineer, David began writing for Ultimate Guitar in 2017 where he’s currently working as a senior editor.
Editing & Research: Teemu Suomala
Playing guitar since 2009. Mainly focused on electric guitars, although jamming with acoustics too. Has played dozens and dozens of different guitars through different amps and pedals over the years. That’s why he started this blog in January 2020 and started sharing his experience. Has produced content for several large guitar websites, such as Songsterr, Musicnotes, GuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar.
Why Does My Guitar Amp Buzz?
Types of pickups
The most common causes actually come from your guitar and not the amp. And one of the most frequent issues comes down to the types of pickups that you’re using.
Pretty much all single-coil pickups cause some kind of a hum or buzz. And whether it’s a regular single-coil you find on a Stratocaster or a P-90 pickup, this is just what they do. And it only gets worse when you turn on the distortion and turn up the gain knob.
The reason behind it is that your pickups basically act as an antenna and we’re always surrounded by some kind of electrical interference. Humbuckers don’t have this issue as they’re designed in such a way that each coil cancels out the hum from the other one.
Some of the more expensive single-coils are made to keep this hum at a minimum. But no matter the model, single-coils will always make these troubles one way or another.
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However, another issue might be due to the guitar’s poor shielding. This it can happen no matter the type of pickups on your guitar. If you notice that the buzzing increases when you touch your strings or any metal parts on your guitar that are in some way in contact with electronics, then it’s most likely the shielding.
Electrical hum is usually at 60 Hz if you’re in the US, and around 50 Hz if you’re outside of the US. The difference in the frequency is due to how the electrical current alternates, depending on the electrical infrastructure in the country.
Grounding on your guitar can also cause issues and it’s not an uncommon problem. But compared to shielding, it will cause an opposite problem. When you touch your strings or any other metal part, the buzzing noise stops or is significantly reduced. When you let go of it, the buzzing will become louder, quite often even unbearable.
Too often guitarists underestimate the importance of the cable. It can make or break your game. So, you can check if your cable is the reason for problems but testing another cable. You can also bend your cable while it’s plugged in and volume is on, if your rear more or less buzzing, or cracking, the cable might be the reason for your problems.
Pedal Troubles(if you have one)
If you notice the humming issue even when your guitar’s volume knob is turned all the way down, then you might have issues with your guitar pedals.
In some cases, this can be due to high gain distortion pedals where the volume and gain knobs are way over the desirable limits, and you can hear a “hissing” noise from your amp.
But if everything is at a normal level and you still hear interference, you’ll need to single out the problem and find the pedal that’s causing troubles. If all of your pedals are having the same issue, then there might be a problem with your power supply or the overall electrical installations. If only one pedal is causing the issue, there’s a chance that it malfunctioned.
And, of course, the source of the problem can come from your amplifier. The most common issue comes down to ground loop problems.
However, the overall electrical installations can cause issues, and there are plenty of potential problems that might occur. For instance, if your amplifier is in the same power source as the lighting, you can actually hear noises in your amp when light dimmers are used.
Even some mechanical devices that are plugged into the same power source, like fans, can also cause noise issues. This is why identifying a noise issue at clubs and other live venues can be really difficult.
Guitar Amp Noise Troubleshooting
Before setting out to deal with any problems, it’s important that you’re 100% sure about what’s the issue. In the section above, we’ve explained what might cause noise issues. But in order to know what’s causing the issue, you need to do step-by-step troubleshooting.
- The first thing you should do is to just unplug instrument cable from your amp. If the hum vanishes, your amp is probably OK.
- If hum continues, then start with the pickups, roll off the volume on your guitar, and see if it goes away.
- Then move on shielding, grounding, and then pedals and if nothing helps, look closer at your amplifier.
You can also try different guitars with your amp, or different amps with the same guitar. Do the same thing for pedals, and try as many combinations as you can. It would also be a good idea to take your rig and all of your gear and try them out where you know that electrical installations are done well.
How to Fix Guitar Amp Buzz
Pickup Buzzing and Shielding
Single-coil pickups will always buzz, and you can only put this noise to a minimum. However, doing proper shielding to your guitar can also help to some extent.
So whether you’re having trouble with shielding (increased buzzing when you touch the strings) or with single-coils, you’ll need to get a roll of copper foil and cover all the inside cavities of your guitar. These issues are not uncommon, even with more expensive guitars.
Along with adding copper tape, make sure to check all the electronics inside. Some wires might need replacing since the stock ones that you get with your guitar can be of low quality.
Shielding your guitar is not impossible, but it might be tricky for someone who’s not experienced. If you’re not confident enough to follow online tutorials on how to do it yourself, then take it to a professional.
If you want to know more about shielding your guitar, check this video out:
If you’re experiencing symptoms of poor grounding, then there’s probably a grounding wire in your guitar that needs soldering. This is usually the case with cheaper guitars, but it’s not unusual to notice it with mid-range or even more expensive instruments.
The repair shouldn’t be that difficult if you’re experienced with soldering. Just open up your guitar’s cavity where all the wires are, locate the grounding wire, and see whether it’s detached.
However, the problem with Gibson and Gibson-style guitars can be trickier. In almost all cases, the grounding wire is connected to one of the tailpiece studs. These are not easy to remove and you really need to be careful not to damage your guitar.
If you have a guitar with the classic tune-o-matic bridge (like Les Paul or an SG) and don’t see any detached wires in your guitar’s main cavity, then we would advise that you take it to a professional.
Or if you don’t have any experience with the soldering, ask someone with soldering skills to help, or take your guitar to a professional.
Here is a video that will help you with soldering the ground wire:
If the instrument cable is the reason for unwanted noises you can check if the soldering inside the connectors is gone bad, and you can try to fix it by soldering it yourself. This video will help you with that:
If you don’t want to go through the trouble of fixing your cable, these guides will help you to pick a new guitar cable for you:
- Best Guitar Cable Under $20 In 2020 – Buyer’s Guide
- Best Guitar Cable Under $30 In 2020 – Buyer’s Guide
Pedal and Amp Electricity Issues
If your pedal is malfunctioning, then you have no other choice but to either have it repaired or just get a new one.
However, this is rarely the case, and buzzing usually occurs due to electrical current issues. The best solution is to get a power conditioner and a quality power supply for your pedals. You can also use batteries for your pedals, but it’s not recommended for live gigs as some may run out of power too soon.
Aside from power conditioners, there are other devices like hum eliminators*(links direct you to the Amazon where you can check out a hum eliminator). But in most cases, a good power stabilizer(this link directs you to the Amazon too) will do the trick and will also keep your equipment safe from any sudden power surges.
*Consider all links in this post to be affiliate links. If you purchase, at no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission. It helps us to keep the lights on, thanks! 🙂
You can also try to locate your amps grounding wire and see if the solderings hold up.
If none of these helps, then your amp might have malfunctioned. But if this is the case, you’d most likely experience more serious issues, like sudden loud clipping noises, hissing, or even a complete lack of sound.
If you’re playing a tube amp, then you should always check whether your vacuum tubes are doing fine.
There’s a high chance that any buzzing problems you’re experiencing are pretty common. Whatever is the issue, someone else has already dealt with it. And knowing we live in a time when everything is shared on the internet, you can definitely find a solution to your problem.
Use Google and Youtube. Or leave a comment down below if you don’t know what is wrong with your amp.
But whether you want to sort it out yourself or take your guitar or amp to a professional, you should always troubleshoot the problem yourself. After all, this is the only way to get experience as an electric guitar player.
I hope that this post helped you out. Leave a comment down below if you have any questions and feel free to share this post too.
I wish you all the best and keep rocking!
Here’s Our Favorite Gear Right Now!
Our Favorite Guitars:
Consider all links in this post to be affiliate links. If you purchase, at no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission. It helps us to keep the lights on, thanks! 🙂
Our favorite Electric guitar of 2021 was the PRS SE Custom 24-08. It gives so much versatility, comfort, and good tones that it’s impossible to ignore.
For beginners, Yamaha FG800 is our go-to guitar. It offers more than any other guitar in the same price range.
For intermediate and beginners with bigger wallets, Gretsch G5024E Rancher offers so clear and detailed tones, plus easy playability that I had to include it here.
Seagull S6 Original is the best acoustic around the $500 mark. It has the construction, sound, and feel that many more expensive guitars don’t achieve.
Our Favorite Amps:
For beginners, Fender Mustang LT25 offers the most. It’s versatile, sounds good, and is simple to use.
For most home players, Boss Katana 50MKii is the amp that serves you in any situation. From country to metal.
If you are searching for a tube amp for home use, Blackstar HT-5R MKii is my go-to option because it sounds so good, and you can adjust the wattage(power).
When it comes to acoustic guitar amps, Fender Acoustasonic 40 will serve most people really well. But our favorite is Fishman Loudbox Mini BT. It offers a professional level tone and volume with a price most people can afford.