Why does my guitar buzz?
Every guitarist, at some point, will encounter the dreaded buzz. And if you play an electric guitar, you will experience an additional problem, the mystery hum.
If you’re a new guitarist, you may be a bit panicked. I know the first time I had a buzz problem, I panicked. I know a buzz can suck the fun right out of playing.
I’m all about making playing the guitar fun. So, I’ve put together a comprehensive guide for you, covering the full range of causes and fixes for buzzes and hums.
I’ll begin by going over the common causes of buzzes and what you can do to correct the issue. And if you’re an electric guitarist, don’t worry, I’m going to help you with that hum.
I’ve been all around the internet, and I can tell you with full certainty that what you have in front of you right now is the most comprehensive collection of causes and fixes for string buzz and electronics hum on the internet.
Everything from loose hardware to physical damage is covered, and how to find it and fix it is listed for each cause. If you are a novice guitar smith, bookmark this page, because you’ll be returning here a lot.
If you have an issue with your guitar right now, check the table of contents, and it will give you some idea of whether this is something you can fix for yourself, or something you’ll need to hire a luthier for.
- Guitar Buzz Caused by Technique
- Hardware Buzz
- Fret Buzz
- What causes fret buzz?
- Fret buzz caused by drop tunings
- Fret buzz caused by changing string gauge
- Fret buzz caused by old strings
- Fret buzz caused by damaged Strings
- Fret buzz caused by an improperly strung guitar
- Frets are not level with each other
- Neck does not have enough relief
- Electric Guitar Buzz and Hum Issues
- Other sources of noise
Guitar Buzz Caused by Technique
If you’re a new player, the first thing we want to look at is your playing technique. A string buzz caused by poor technique can be traced to three causes.
The first is not applying enough pressure to your strings. This can be hard to do in the beginning.
The muscles in our hands must become conditioned to the extra pressure they have to exert on the strings. You may notice after playing that your hand feels tired.
That’s because playing the guitar, especially an acoustic guitar is like lifting weights for your hand muscles. Pay attention to how much pressure you’re applying when you make a note or chord.
If you press down hard and the buzz goes away, then it’s safe to say finger pressure is the culprit. Fortunately, after a few weeks or months of playing regularly, this issue will resolve itself.
Your hands will grow stronger, and you’ll find it easier to apply the correct amount of pressure to prevent buzzing.
The second buzzing problem caused by poor technique is finger placement in relation to the frets. You can experiment with this by placing your finger midway between two frets.
When you pluck that string, you’ll likely hear a buzz. To take this a step further, start strumming a chord. When you hear a buzz, stop strumming, but keep holding that chord.
Take a moment and look at your finger placement. Are your fingers directly behind the fret, or are they closer to the midpoint between two frets?
If they are midpoint, trying adjusting your finger position to press down closer behind the fret and strum again. If the buzz goes away, then this is the likely culprit for the buzz.
If this is the problem, you can easily resolve it with practice, paying attention to where you’re placing your fingers. A few weeks or months of practice and this problem, too, will resolve itself.
The third cause is strumming or picking too hard. Keep your fret hand off the neck of your guitar and strum or pick a string like you normally would.
If you hear a buzz, soften your touch and see if the buzz goes away. If it does, then practice picking and strumming with a lighter touch. As with the other two issues, this will resolve itself with practice.
But, if your finger pressure is good, your finger placement is correct, and you’re not strumming too hard, then we can rule out technique as the culprit, and it’s time to begin examining your guitar for the cause.
Chasing down a buzz is a process of elimination. So, the next step is to examine our guitar’s hardware.
Guitars vibrate a lot. These vibrations are the enemy of screws, nuts, and bolts. Over time certain parts of your guitar may become loose and, in turn, generate a buzz.
Strap buttons and other screw-on hardware
For acoustic and electric guitars, check your strap buttons. Do they feel loose or twist easily? If so, this may be the problem. Carefully tighten these with just enough pressure to stop their vibration.
After checking your strap buttons, check your tuning pegs. If they are on a tuning strip, check to see if these have become loose.
Then check your pegs to make sure there is no play or looseness on any gearboxes or posts.
It’s important to avoid over tightening any screws on your guitar as it may damage your instrument.
Loose glue joint or brace
Another cause of buzzing for an acoustic guitar is a loose glue joint or brace. If this is the culprit, listen closely to the buzz. Does it sound metallic or wooden?
If the buzz has a wooden sound, it may be caused by a loose glue joint or brace.
An easy way to check for loose glue joints or braces is to use your finger or thumb to thwack your guitar all over the front and back and listen for a wood knocking into wood sound.
Repairing a brace or glue joint is a rather delicate process that requires special tools. To avoid irreparable damage to your guitar, I suggest taking it to a luthier for this kind of repair.
An electric guitar’s pickups are another source of buzzes, as these sometimes become too loose. If you push on your pickups, they will move a little, and this is normal.
But, if you hold your guitar up and move it around a little, if the pickups move on their own, they are loose. There are a couple of ways to tighten loose pickups.
The simplest way is to gently tighten their mounting screws until they no longer move independently.
The other way to tighten a loose pickup is to loosen your strings and move them out of the way, then take the pickup out and place a piece of sponge behind the pickup then reattach the pickup.
Buzz caused by the nut
If you have a buzz at the first fret, it may be because your nut is set too low, or the grooves in the nut have become worn down.
You may also encounter a single groove in the nut that has become worn. You’ll notice the affected string making a distinctive sitar sound rather than a guitar sound.
To correct these issues, you will need to replace the nut.
How to replace a guitar nut
Replacing the nut is something you can do yourself, or if you’re unsure about it, you can take it to a guitar repair shop. You can purchase replacement nuts or even craft one yourself.
If you decide to do it yourself, here is a list of tools and materials you will need:
- Craft knife
- A narrow flat head screwdriver
- A small block of wood
- Masking tape
- A factory replacement nut
Most factory nuts are pre-fitted. When ordering one, it’s best to ensure you’ve ordered a nut for your brand and model of guitar.
Once you have your materials gathered, remove your guitar strings.
Place the small block of wood against the nut and begin gently tapping it with the mallet. This will loosen the old glue. Keep doing this until you can rock the nut back and forth.
Once the nut has become loose, use the flat head screwdriver to prise the nut from its slot gently.
Now take the new nut and check its fit in the slot. It will need some shaping if it hangs over the fretboard’s edges or doesn’t fit quite right.
Before taking sandpaper to the new nut, protect any finished surfaces of the nut with masking tape.
Then carefully sand the areas that need it and check the fit often because you don’t want to remove too much material. This can make the nut sit too low and cause a buzz at the first fret.
Once you have established a good fit, place masking tape around the nut slot’s edges to prevent getting super glue on the neck and fretboard.
Then place two drops of superglue on the nut and fit it into the slot. Allow the glue some time to dry, then restring your guitar, and you’re ready to rock.
Flat Saddle Buzz
Another source of guitar buzz is your guitar’s saddle. If you have an electric guitar, you’ll want to make sure your strings are properly seated in the saddle grooves.
Also, check for any looseness in your saddle and bridge that may be contributing to the buzz. And look for debris, like an odd bit of string or other objects that may have become lodged in your bridge assembly.
If you have an acoustic guitar with a buzz, you’ll want to pay special attention to the saddle. It may be too flat, which will cause a buzz.
Or, if it’s a guitar that’s had some years under its belt, inspect the saddle for grooves or notches. If you have a flat saddle or grooves and notches in your saddle, it’s time for a new saddle.
Depending on how adventurous you are with making modifications to your guitar, you can replace the saddle yourself or take it to a repair shop.
Since it’s so easy to damage an acoustic guitar, I always recommend taking acoustic guitars to a repair shop.
Once you’ve checked your guitar’s hardware, if the buzz remains, it’s time to turn our attention to the frets.
Fret buzz is a common source of guitar buzz. The buzz volume might be barely audible, or it may be so loud it sounds more like a rattle than a buzz.
Knowing what’s causing the fret buzz is half the battle. Once you’ve narrowed down the source of the buzz, the next step is fixing the problem.
To take the detective work out of finding the source of the fret buzz, I’m going to take you through each of the causes of fret buzz and what you can do to fix it.
What causes fret buzz?
Fret buzz occurs when a vibrating string comes into contact with a fret. The contact may be light, which elicits that irritating buzz.
Or the string may come into heavy contact with a fret stopping a note in its tracks. Either way, you don’t want that buzz, you can’t stand that buzz, and I’m going to help you get rid of it.
I’ll start with the simplest problems and solutions and move to the more difficult ones. Of course, if you have a pretty good idea of what the problem is, feel free to skip ahead to that section.
Fret buzz caused by drop tunings
When you use a drop tuning, like a dropped D, dropped C, or any other drop tuning, you’re decreasing string tension.
This extra slack in your strings makes them flop around more, and if your action isn’t set high enough, you’ll definitely encounter buzz.
If you’re planning on using a drop tuning a lot, there are a few things you could do to eliminate the buzz.
I’m big on starting with the simplest solution first. So, let’s take a look at your pick hand. Sometimes it’s possible to eliminate buzz from drop tunings by switching to a lighter pick.
You can also try using a softer picking/strumming technique. Remember, in a drop tuning, your strings have more flop, and if you hammer away at them, they will flop more and start smacking into your frets.
Next, you can try using heavier strings. Heavy strings will have less flop while maintaining the right tone.
For drop tunings, I recommend Dunlop Heavy Core strings. They are specifically made for use with drop tunings, and the heavier core retains sound quality while keeping the excess vibrations in check.
And finally, you can try setting your string action higher. You may not find this to be an ideal solution, but I recommend giving it some thought if you plan on playing a lot of drop tunings.
Fret buzz caused by changing string gauge
Depending on how high your action is set, switching to much heavier or lighter gauge strings can cause fret buzz.
This is usually seen with low action. The larger diameter of the heavy strings naturally places them closer to the frets.
Likewise, much lighter strings are floppier, and these will vibrate right into your frets. You may experience this even without having low string action.
There are two ways to fix fret buzz caused by string gauge. If you went with a much heavier gauge, you could try going lighter, and if you went with a much lighter gauge, you could switch to a heavier gauge.
But, if you want that specific gauge, then you’ll need to make some adjustments to your string action. I’ll go over how to make adjustments to your action in the section about string action.
Fret buzz caused by old strings
Strings wear out over time. They lose their elasticity, making them floppier. You’ll notice other signs, including a loss of tone and the need to tune your guitar more often.
When it comes to fret buzz, it’s the loss of elasticity in old strings, which is the usual culprit. The fix for a buzz caused by old strings is, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, restringing your guitar with new strings.
Fret buzz caused by damaged Strings
Whether moving around a lot, playing in tight spaces, or traveling, despite our best efforts to protect our equipment, something may whack our strings, damaging them.
And, even if you are careful not to bump into anything, other sources of damage include string wear causing loose string wraps, kinks from sloppy installation, and factor defects.
Oftentimes, you can see or feel the damage to a string. You may notice some missing wrap near a fret or feel a bump on the string from a kink or defect.
To check your strings for damage, look along the full length of the string, then run your finger over the string from bridge to nut.
If you find any damage, this may be the source of your fret buzz and can easily be resolved by replacing damaged strings.
Fret buzz caused by an improperly strung guitar
An improperly strung guitar can also cause fret buzz. This may be a rare occurrence, but it’s worth checking.
I’m guilty of having improperly strung my guitars before. It’s one of those things that can happen. There are three things to look for in how your guitar is strung that may cause a fret buzz.
First is kinks, which I mentioned before in the section on string damage. Despite our best efforts, sometimes we get sloppy and kink a string.
Secondly, if the string gauges get mixed up, this can cause a fret buzz along with other issues. It’s a super easy mistake to make, especially with the high E and B strings.
The third mistake that can occur, which will cause a fret buzz is too many wraps around the tuner. That string needs to be tight against the peg, without any loose bits of string.
That excess string may cause a buzz, or a small piece of debris can lodge in that bird’s nest around the tuning peg and cause the buzz.
Feel along the strings for any bumps caused by kinks, and replace the damaged string.
Double-check your strings. Using a magnifying glass can sometimes help, especially on your G, B, and E strings. Make sure the right string is in the right place.
When stringing your guitar, you only need one and a half to two turns around the tuning peg. Any more than this is too much.
I use a small pair of wire cutters to trim off the excess length close to the peg after two turns. This method holds the string in place and gets rid of a potential source of guitar buzz.
String action is too low
If you’re new to playing guitar, string action is the term for how high your strings set above your frets. If the strings are close to the frets, that’s called a low action.
And, if the strings are sitting high above the frets, that’s called a high action. But, for fret buzz, it’s the lower string action where you’ll run into problems.
It’s also important to note that the string action on an acoustic guitar needs to be higher than the string action on an electric guitar.
String action also dictates how aggressive you can pick and strum.
With high action, you can really hammer away at your strings, but you have to be a bit gentler with low action, or you’ll end up causing fret buzz.
Now, getting back to a string action that’s too low, let’s take a look at your guitar. Do the strings look like they are incredibly close to the frets?
When you strum your guitar with open strings, does it buzz? If so, your action is set too low. It’s important to note that an action that is too low is not always so obvious.
Being able to see an abnormally low action or hear it from strumming open strings is an extreme case of string action that is too low.
Even if your action isn’t to that extreme, it may be the source of your guitar buzz. There is only one sure way to check, and that’s to measure your string action.
How to measure guitar string action
To measure your string action, you’ll need a ruler, a feeler gauge, or a specialized string action gauge.
I prefer to use a string action gauge, and if you were to ask, I would tell you that I recommend a string action gauge over a ruler or feeler gauge.
A specialized string action gauge is marked and sized specifically for guitars, and they are cheap and easy to acquire.
Most guitar manufacturers recommend measuring string action at the 8th to 12th fret. For this guide, I’ll be using measurements taken at the 12th fret.
The default height is going to be different for electric and acoustic guitars. It’s important to keep in mind that these are my default recommendations to use as a starting point.
You still have plenty of leeway in either direction, so feel free to make further adjustments to suit your style of play. The main objective of using these default heights is to remove string action as a factor in causing fret buzz.
Measuring at the 12th fret on an electric guitar, the default height is 6/64th an inch (2.38mm) on the bass side strings and 4/64th an inch (1.59mm) on the treble side strings.
Using this default height, you’ll have about 2/64th an inch (0.79mm) leeway to the low action side before buzz becomes an issue.
The default height for an acoustic guitar is 7/64th an inch (2.78mm) on the bass side strings and 5/64th an inch (1.98mm) on the treble side strings.
Using these default heights, you’ll have about 2/64th an inch (0.79mm) leeway to the low action side before buzz becomes an issue.
If you’re experiencing a buzz and your measurements are significantly below the default height, then string action that is too low is a strong candidate for the source of your fret buzz.
How to adjust guitar string action
Now, let’s cover how to adjust your string action. There are three ways to adjust your string action.
You can adjust your string action by making adjustments to your truss rod, bridge saddle, and nut.
The only one of the three I recommend using is bridge saddle adjustments. While you can adjust string action with the truss rods, this can lead to neck relief issues, which I will cover later.
You can replace or reshape the nut to change your string action, but this is usually an impractical way of approaching string action adjustments.
Adjusting your bridge saddle is dramatically different for acoustic and electric guitars. There are also some slight differences between bridges, depending on your electric guitar’s manufacturer.
First, let’s look at adjusting the string action on an acoustic guitar. Acoustic guitars are far more delicate than electric guitars.
That is why I recommend taking your acoustic to a guitar shop or luthier to make adjustments, especially if you have a high-end acoustic guitar.
The process for adjusting string action on an acoustic involves removing your strings, then removing the saddle.
Once you have the saddle out, to lower string action, you sand it down, and to raise string action, you shim it up.
This can be a tedious process since you are dealing with millimeter adjustments, and it’s easy to sand off too much.
I’ve found it much simpler and headache-free to take my acoustics to a professional since they have far more experience with this delicate process than I.
Adjusting your string action on an electric guitar is far simpler than adjusting an acoustic. I adjust my electric guitars myself since it’s a simple matter of measuring and turning screws.
Turning the screws one way will raise the action, and turning them the other way will lower it.
Usually, it’s left to raise action and right to lower action, but with so many models out there, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a guitar where this is the opposite.
Depending on who manufactured your electric guitar, you may also see some subtle differences in the approach to adjusting string action.
For some brands, you’ll need a hex-head key, and for others, a screwdriver will suffice. One significant difference worth noting here is the difference between Gibson and Fender bridges.
On a Fender style bridge/saddle system, you’ll need to adjust the height of each individual string.
This gives you greater control over each string’s height, but you have to pay greater attention to maintaining the correct height for an even action across every string.
On a Gibson style bridge/saddle system, you’ll have the Tune-O-Matic system. With this system, you have one screw for the three bass side strings and one screw for the three treble side strings.
The Gibson system gives you less control over each string, but it makes it easier to maintain a uniform string height overall.
Before you begin adjusting your electric guitar’s saddle height, remember to loosen your strings a bit first to reduce tension.
You can use your string action gauge while making adjustments on your electric guitar, making it a rather quick and painless process.
Once you’ve adjusted your string action to the default height, you should no longer have a buzz problem. But if that buzz remains, then we need to keep digging.
Frets are not level with each other
You’ve checked, and the buzz isn’t because of your string action, and your strings are in good condition. Now it’s time to take a look at the frets themselves.
Although frets are just little strips of metal, a lot can go wrong with them. So let’s take a look at the different issues that arise with frets that can cause fret buzz and what you can do about it.
The most common fret buzz issue arises when frets are not level with each other. This can be a flaw that occurred at the factory, or it can occur due to normal wear, climate, or an aging fretboard.
To locate a problem fret, you can work your way down the neck, fretting all six strings one fret at a time or using a capo at each fret to isolate the fret responsible for the buzz.
You can also place a short ruler over a few frets at a time. If your frets are even, the ruler will remain flat.
But if you have an uneven fret, you’ll be able to rock the ruler on the fret that stands higher. If you use a capo often, you may also see grooves form on the fret where you place your capo.
Sometimes you may also encounter a loose fret, which will make the fret uneven. But how does an uneven fret cause fret buzz? I’ll take you through a fret buzz scenario using the fifth fret.
Let’s say you’re playing a note on the fifth fret and when you play the note, you get buzzing. That buzzing is likely occurring at the sixth fret.
This is because the string is at its lowest point at the fifth fret and only a little higher at the sixth fret. So either the fifth fret is uneven, sitting lower than the other frets, or the sixth fret is sitting higher than the other frets.
So, now you’ve narrowed down the source of the guitar buzz to the fifth or sixth fret. To confirm which fret is the problem, let’s break out the ruler again.
Remember to use a short ruler, long enough to cover three frets. Once you have your ruler handy, place it over the 5th, 6th, and 7th frets.
If you can rock the ruler back and forth on the 6th fret, then it’s sitting too high. But, if you place the ruler on these three frets and it sits evenly on the 6th and 7th frets and rocks down on the 5th fret, then you know the 5th fret is sitting too low.
How to fix a loose fret
Now, if it’s the sixth fret and it’s sitting too high, it might be loose. To test for a loose fret, take a slip of paper and try to slide it between the fret and the fretboard.
If the fret is loose, the piece of paper will fit.
To fix a loose fret, you have a few options. If the fret is loose because of microscopic fretboard shrinkage, you’ll likely have other loose frets as well. In this instance, it’s best to replace all your frets.
But if this fret is the only loose one, you can either replace it with a new fret or glue it in place with cyanoacrylate.
If this fret isn’t loose and it’s just an oddball fret that sticks up higher than the others, you can carefully sand it down to match the others, but remember to round the sides of the fret as you do so.
How to fix an uneven fret
Let’s say it’s the 5th fret, and it’s worn down, sitting lower than the other frets. There are several things you can do to fix it.
If it’s a single fret or a small group of frets, you can try removing them and using glue to build their height to match the other frets.
Or, you can replace the fret or small group of frets with new frets. Just make sure they retain the same height as the rest of your frets.
Another option is using a fret sanding block. I recommend purchasing a commercially available fret sanding block rather than trying to make your own.
Precision is important in correcting the fret buzz problem without creating additional problems.
With the fret sanding block, you can shape your frets to a uniform height.
After you’ve sanded them to a uniform height, you’ll have to go through and round the edges of each fret since frets with tops that are too square will cause buzzing and tone problems.
If you have multiple frets that are loose or uneven, it may be best to take your guitar to a repair shop. Your guitar may require more extensive work.
This may include removing all your frets and reshaping or replacing the fretboard and installing all-new frets.
This can be an expensive repair, so I recommend trying the simpler repairs before resorting to this measure.
Neck does not have enough relief
Another source of that nasty fret buzz might be your neck relief. Neck relief is the curvature of your guitar neck.
For your guitar to work properly, a certain amount of neck curvature is required. If the neck were perfectly flat, your strings would be in constant contact with the frets, rendering your guitar unplayable.
If you have too much curvature or relief, that will also cause a buzz. And if your guitar’s neck is back bowed, meaning the neck curves backward instead of forward, that too will cause a buzz.
You can visually measure your neck relief by simultaneously pressing down on a middle string at the first fret and at the fret where the neck meets the guitar body.
Then look closely at the string you’re pressing on at midway between the two frets you’re pressing on.
You should be able to visualize the gap between the string and the fret. When checking your relief this way, it helps think of that distance between the string and fret in terms of string diameter.
If you can fit a low E string into the gap, that’s approximately a 0.025” clearance, making that a relatively high relief.
If the string touches the fret, then you don’t have enough relief. You may also have not enough relief if the gap is extremely narrow, say 0.010” which is just enough space to fit a high E string.
It’s also important to note that not all necks are perfect and may have more relief in some areas than others.
You can check the uniformity of your guitar’s neck relief in different spots by using the same trick of pressing down the same string in two different places.
Another way to check your relief is to pay attention to the location of the fret buzz on your guitar neck.
If you have fret buzz in the lower frets, from the nut to the 7th fret, you have either not enough relief or some backbow.
If you have fret buzz in the upper frets, from the body to the 7th fret, you have too much relief.
How to adjust your truss rod
To adjust the neck relief, you’ll need to make sure your guitar has a truss rod. The truss rod is in the center of the guitar neck and runs the length of the neck from the nut to the body.
You’ll find the truss rod nut either on the headstock or on the body of your guitar. It may have a cover over it, or it may be open and easily visible.
On a lot of acoustic guitars, you have to access the truss rod through the soundhole, which may seem tricky, but with the correct truss rod tool, it’s not a problem.
And, not all electric guitars have the truss rod at the headstock. On some brands, you will find the truss rod nut in the body or the neck where it attaches to the body.
You’ll also need a truss rod tool. If you’ve purchased a new guitar, it probably came with one.
If not, take a look at your truss rod and determine the type and size of the tool you will need. These can be purchased online or at a music store or guitar shop.
When making truss rod adjustments, you’ll want to be careful. Making too large of an adjustment at once can severely damage your guitar.
So, when making truss rod adjustments, it’s best to make a quarter turn and allow the truss rod to settle a day or two before rechecking the relief because you won’t always see an instant change.
If you have too little neck relief or backbow, you will want to loosen the truss rod by making a counterclockwise quarter turn.
If you have too much relief, you will want to tighten the truss rod by making a clockwise quarter turn.
Remember to allow a couple of days between adjustments to avoid causing damage to your guitar and recheck the neck relief before making further adjustments.
You can also purchase a relief gauge for a more accurate measurement of neck relief, or you can use some trial and error in making your adjustments.
The effects of humidity on guitars
Since guitars have wooden parts, they are susceptible to humidity. Too much humidity can make the wood microscopically swell.
And, too little humidity will cause the wood to shrink microscopically. In either case, this can cause your frets to shift position enough to cause a fret buzz.
The ideal relative humidity level for guitars is 45% to 55%. You can purchase a digital hygrometer to measure the humidity in the area you store your guitar.
If the humidity is too low, you’ll need a humidifier. It’s worth noting that several manufacturers produce humidifiers specifically for guitar storage.
If you have too much humidity, you may want to look into purchasing a dehumidifier for the room where you store your guitar.
Electric Guitar Buzz and Hum Issues
Electric guitars are, by their nature, a complex instrument when compared to an acoustic guitar. Aside from the guitar buzz issues I’ve covered above, electric guitars are subject to additional causes of unwanted noise.
Breakup from Bad Cable
Cables take a lot of abuse leading to damage that causes unwanted noises. Cable noises are often distinct, forming intermittent pops, buzzes, hums, and static.
If you suspect a bad cable, replace it and see if this solves the problem.
Low Battery Distortion
Low battery distortion is a frequent occurrence when you’re using pedals or playing a guitar that has active electronics.
Aside from unwanted distortion, you may also experience squeals or volume drops.
To determine if this is the source of your unwanted noise, test your batteries, and replace any that are low.
Active Electronics Buzz
If you’re experiencing a high-frequency buzz and playing a guitar with active electronics, you may be experiencing high self-noise from the electronics.
You may not be able to eliminate this buzz completely, but you can, at the least, reduce it significantly with an equalizer.
To determine the frequency of the buzz, start by boosting bands on your equalizer. You’ll know when you’ve found the right one because the buzz will become louder.
Then, all you have to do is reduce that frequency band until the noise is gone.
This may affect your tone, so you may find yourself in a situation where you have to find a balance between your tone and reducing the buzz.
Single Coil Pickup Hum
Single coil pickups naturally produce a hum. To reduce this hum, you can try adjusting the bands on your equalizer to compensate.
Another solution is to purchase a noise gate pedal that mutes your guitar when you’re not playing.
Dirty Power Noise
Dirty power noise may occur when you’re in a setting where you don’t have a clean power source.
This is because other equipment is on the same circuit, like dimmer switches, stage lights, or other devices.
To remedy dirty power noise, try using a power conditioner. If you’re unfamiliar with what a power conditioner is, it looks like a power strip.
It has some extra bells and whistles under the hood that help the quality of power delivered to your equipment.
If you have a noise that’s as loud as your guitar or louder, it may be because you have a bad ground in your guitar.
To fix this, you’ll need to solder the bad ground. This may not be as simple as it seems because the tricky part is finding the bad ground.
Going through the circuitry of your guitar can be a frustrating and confusing process, especially if you have no experience with electronics.
If you’re looking for an easy solution, you can either take your guitar to a repair shop or simply go through all the solder joints in your guitar and solder them again.
Ground Loop Noise
Ground loop noise is another potential source for an unwanted hum. You’ll hear a ground loop noise as a 60 cycle hum over your setup.
It happens when the electricity in a piece of your equipment finds more than one way to the ground. There are a few different ways to remedy ground loop noise.
One way is to purchase a ground loop isolator. This device helps to eliminate unwanted hum from ground loops and other sources.
Otherwise, you’ll need to dig into your system and start troubleshooting.
If you’re using a patchbay, try wiring your system without the patchbay. Using a patchbay increases the number of grounds working together, making a ground loop more likely.
If you stack your gear, you’ll want to make sure you don’t have metal parts touching each other. If you do, you can place something non-conductive, like electrical tape, between the two parts that are in contact.
If your gear is rack-mounted, your metal gear chassis and metal rack rails may form the ground loop. You can eliminate this problem by using non-conductive rackscrews and spacers.
The last resort is to take your system apart and put it together again piece by piece, checking each time you add a piece to see if it’s caused a ground loop.
This can be a real pain and take some time depending on your system’s complexity, so I recommend holding off on this option until all else has failed.
Other sources of noise
Sometimes despite your best efforts, tracking down an unwanted noise or guitar buzz isn’t always possible.
The way a guitar is made or a piece of equipment manufactured may cause it to have an unwanted noise or buzz that, no matter what, you can’t get rid of because it’s a defect built into the equipment.
However, I hope this isn’t the case for you, and that this guide has been of some help to you and that you’re back up and playing guitar and having fun.