If you’re playing an electric guitar, it’s only a matter of time when something will either malfunction or produces 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.
But 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.
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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.
However, another issue might be due to the guitar’s poor shielding. And 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 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.
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:
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 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 directs 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.
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 enough 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!