The world of guitars is just fascinating.
I mean, seriously. You begin by playing your first guitar, barely knowing the difference between an acoustic and an electric one.
Next thing you know, you’re discussing whether you prefer single coil pickups or humbuckers, and how great your luthier reduced intonation instability problems by adding more springs to the back of your guitar.
What the hell?
Indeed, the world of guitars is both fascinating and vast.
There’s just so much to do to a guitar to “improve” or “upgrade” it.
One of those “boosts” is when you shield your guitar. Shielding your guitar is fantastic for reducing hum.
Oh, so yours still hum anyway? Like, have you shielded it properly?
Oh, you did. Okay, here’s why your shielded guitar still hums.
Shielded guitars still hum because the unwanted signal is coming from inside the guitar. In other words, shielding a guitar avoids the electronics to gather outside electromagnetic interference, but not feedback caused by the pickups themselves.
The good news is that there are some solutions to completely eliminate every hum, hiss, and buzz that your guitar may create.
Want to find them out? Then stick with us to the end!
What actually is shielding a guitar?
Shielding a guitar means installing a tool that reduces the electromagnetic interference in the guitar’s signal.
Naturally, guitar pickups are electromagnetic transducers, which will generate hum.
Consider that the guitar’s electronics are similar to antennae that pick up every frequency nearby.
This makes the pickups vulnerable to feedback and unwanted noise. By shielding your guitar, you are creating a “blockage” or “cage” that prevents these frequencies to interfere.
In other words, you’re literally shielding the vulnerable parts of your guitar.
Now, there are two main forms in which one can shield a guitar.
The first one is by applying an electrically conductive paint, or shielding paint.
Although painting the guitar cavities with shielding paint is effective, it tends to be a non-go-to choice.
This is because conductive paint is rather expensive, and is not a good investment if you’re planning to shield just one guitar.
Not to mention, it requires several layers of paint for it to be effective. Lastly, we could argue that a poorly done shielding job will end up being a waste of time (and yes, it’s easy to mess it up and do a poor job).
The second, and most used way, is by adding a copper or aluminum shield. Simply cover the pickguard, the body, the jack cavity, and the main cavity with a layer of copper.
We recommend you check for a tutorial on how to do it, or better still, have someone else do the job for you (in case you want not to spoil your instrument).
The process is relatively simple, but make sure you watch out for the sharp edges of copper when working with this material.
Can a guitar with shielded electronics still hum?
Unfortunately, shielding a guitar is not always a guarantee to reducing hum.
Bear in mind that a shield will only reduce interference noise. Thus, single-coil pickup humming won’t be drastically reduced, and the 60-cycle hum will remain.
To sum it up, shielding is perfect for canceling outside signals (or EMI), but not for reducing the noise coming from the instrument itself.
What could be causing a shielded guitar to still hum?
The reasons why a shielded guitar still hums are mainly two.
First of all, it can be something as simple as battered shielding. If the paint layers were not enough, or if the cropper has been applied wrongly, then the shielding won’t work effectively.
Now, what happens if the job was done assertively but it still hums?
Well, once again, a shielded guitar prevents outside noise to be picked up, but not noises or humming created by the instrument. So, the other reason is the pickup itself.
In the end, having a guitar with single coils means that copper shielding won’t put a stop to the noise.
Is there a way of suppressing the hum in a shielded guitar?
The only solution that we can think about is switching your pickups.
That is to say, to change from single coils to humbuckers.
Unfortunately, single coils are too noisy, and a shielded guitar is not enough to solve the problem.
Of course, you could give a try at some of the alternatives that we will mention below, in case you don’t want to change pickups.
Will the hum ever go away in a guitar with single coils?
Regular single coils will always generate hum.
Now, there’s no need to switch from single coils to humbuckers.
It’s a great solution, no doubt about it. However, we understand how annoying and time-consuming is to do such a job.
Not to mention, it takes more money!
Luckily, you can get rid of feedback and hum with a single coil, but not with simple settings and configurations in your amp.
All you have to do is stick with one of the solutions mentioned next.
Are there any other mods or gear to eliminate the hum on a guitar?
So, you have already shielded your guitar, but the feedback created by the pickups is driving you nuts.
You want to sound as clean as possible. What can you do, then?
Give these solutions a try:
- Noise Gate pedals: these pedals set a limit to the volume. So, as soon as that limit has trespassed, the pedal will reduce or mute the sound.
- Noise Suppressor pedals: these are similar to the Noise Gate pedals. However, instead of completely cutting down the extra signal, it will reduce it (or suppress it), while letting some of it leak in. It’s not the cleanest solution, but it does eliminate unwanted noise.
- Hum eliminator pedals: self-explanatory, don’t you think?
- Noiseless single-coil pickups: little trick here. Noiseless single-coils are in fact humbuckers! However, the sound of a noiseless single-coil resembles pretty much the sound of a standard single coil, but without the hum. Also, the size of these pickups is exactly like any other regular single-coil, so they will fit in your guitar’s cavity without problems. Bear in mind, though, that it won’t reduce the hum completely.
- Humbuckers pickups: it’s quite a job to adapt a pickguard from single-coil to humbucker, but it’s worth the effort.
We hope you have found this information useful, and, most importantly, that you’ve been able to reduce unwanted noise in your guitar. Now go out and play!
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.