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Thread: Will copper shielding fix a ground buzz?

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    Will copper shielding fix a ground buzz?

    I recently did a major mod to my guitar, rewiring everything. Surprisingly, I got it all to work perfectly on my first run-through. However, now it has developed a small ground buzz (a buzz that goes away when I touch any metal on the guitar). I read up on it and looked into it some: I rechecked all my connections for solid solder jobs, wrapped electrical tape around all bare wires or open spots, and I reapplied generous amounts of solder to all grounds to ensure that that are all indeed attached and grounded. No luck though. I did a lot of wiring and soldering work to get all the mods connected, so I am very hesitant to tear everything apart and do it again.

    I have been reading up on shielding cavities with copper tape and am considering it.

    Do you think copper shielding will affect a ground buzz such as this? Or does anyone have any other troubleshooting suggestions?

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    ToneOholic! big_teee's Avatar
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    Lots of varibles on guitar wiring and noise.
    Shielding can help, but must be grounded.
    When you rewired,
    Did you use shielded wire on long runs, like to a switch
    Did you ground the bridge
    Ground the Backs of the Pots.
    keep leads short,
    Are your pickups Single Coils, or Humbuckers?
    Is noise better or Worse when playing close or far from the amp?
    A few things to consider.
    GL,
    T

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    Quote Originally Posted by big_teee View Post
    Lots of varibles on guitar wiring and noise.
    Shielding can help, but must be grounded.
    When you rewired,
    Did you use shielded wire on long runs, like to a switch
    Did you ground the bridge
    Ground the Backs of the Pots.
    keep leads short,
    Are your pickups Single Coils, or Humbuckers?
    Is noise better or Worse when playing close or far from the amp?
    A few things to consider.
    GL,
    T
    I used shielded four conductor from the pickups and cloth push-back wire for all other wire.
    I did attach the ground to the bridge.
    I did ground all pots to each other and the main ground.
    The leads are relatively short I suppose...
    Humbuckers.
    Noise remains the same at all points from amp.

    Thanks for the feedback.

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    Senior Member Paleo Pete's Avatar
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    Check your guitar cable. Or try another one. Also try a different power outlet just in case.

    I'm not sure if shielding would do the trick, what that does is reduce interference from outside sources, it probably wouldn't do much good with a definite ground problem. Somewhere along the line you have something you missed in the grounds. Double check especially the ground to the bridge and make sure it has good contact, and also has contact through the bridge to the strings. If you're getting that type of hum you have a ground problem somewhere.

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Something about the way you're wired may not be grounding the guitar to the amp properly. If your amp is grounded then the guitar should be grounded via the jack. Assuming your guitar has a ground lead to the bridge (it must since the buzz stops when you touch the strings or other metal parts) YOU are the ground. You should make sure all your cable shields are grounded via the amp when the guitar is plugged in. Otherwise it's possible your amp isn't grounded correctly. Bad house, garage, shop, studio or stage wiring isn't uncommon. Ergo the ground lead to the bridge so that the guitar can ground to you. Other than that... IMHE some guitars just need to have a hand on them to remain quiet. You did say you did major mods. Assuming you have your hands on the guitar when your playing it, it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

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    I checked with another cable. My amp is a new vox and it was fine prior to the mods. Tried a different outlet, plugged in to through a surge protector. I have tried so many quick fixes but I'm struggling to find the solution.

    Thanks for the help.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paleo Pete View Post
    Check your guitar cable. Or try another one. Also try a different power outlet just in case.

    I'm not sure if shielding would do the trick, what that does is reduce interference from outside sources, it probably wouldn't do much good with a definite ground problem. Somewhere along the line you have something you missed in the grounds. Double check especially the ground to the bridge and make sure it has good contact, and also has contact through the bridge to the strings. If you're getting that type of hum you have a ground problem somewhere.

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    Thanks for the help. I really doubt it's the amp, it wad fine before. But I don't know that I can just accept the ground buzz. I need to fix it. I am doubting the shielding will fix it, but I'm also pretty unwilling to redo everything j did. Any thoughts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    Something about the way you're wired may not be grounding the guitar to the amp properly. If your amp is grounded then the guitar should be grounded via the jack. Assuming your guitar has a ground lead to the bridge (it must since the buzz stops when you touch the strings or other metal parts) YOU are the ground. You should make sure all your cable shields are grounded via the amp when the guitar is plugged in. Otherwise it's possible your amp isn't grounded correctly. Bad house, garage, shop, studio or stage wiring isn't uncommon. Ergo the ground lead to the bridge so that the guitar can ground to you. Other than that... IMHE some guitars just need to have a hand on them to remain quiet. You did say you did major mods. Assuming you have your hands on the guitar when your playing it, it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

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    ToneOholic! big_teee's Avatar
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    A lot of us here wire guitars all the time, we can probably figure it out if we can see it.
    Can you include some pictures of the wiring area in the guitar?
    Not sure what you have, and we are only guessing.
    If it was quiet before and it is noisy now, sounds like something to do with wiring.
    T

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    Old Timer soundguruman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bjfly17 View Post
    I recently did a major mod to my guitar, rewiring everything. Surprisingly, I got it all to work perfectly on my first run-through. However, now it has developed a small ground buzz (a buzz that goes away when I touch any metal on the guitar). I read up on it and looked into it some: I rechecked all my connections for solid solder jobs, wrapped electrical tape around all bare wires or open spots, and I reapplied generous amounts of solder to all grounds to ensure that that are all indeed attached and grounded. No luck though. I did a lot of wiring and soldering work to get all the mods connected, so I am very hesitant to tear everything apart and do it again.

    I have been reading up on shielding cavities with copper tape and am considering it.

    Do you think copper shielding will affect a ground buzz such as this? Or does anyone have any other troubleshooting suggestions?
    "Do you think copper shielding will affect a ground buzz such as this?"

    No.
    One of the obvious things is that you probably don't have a good electrical receptacle ground.

    Adding shielding tape inside the guitar is simply installing parallel capacitance to the audio path...
    killing the highest frequencies...
    and making it "appear as if" the noise is reduced.
    But all that has been done is remove part of the audio, the highest frequency buzz noise.
    And the lower frequency buzz is still there.

    The tone control does the same thing, and so does an EQ with the high frequencies attenuated.

    The noise originates in the winding of the pickup. It inducts AC fields...from wiring, transformers, fluorescent light ballasts...
    shielding the inside of the guitar does nothing to prevent that.
    But it does kill the high frequency response, and attenuates the higher frequency of the "buzz."

    I could solder a capacitor across the guitar output jack, and accomplish the very same results.

    OR use a very long guitar shielded cable to add parallel capacitance...same thing.

    The fundamental problem is that single coil pickups are noisy...
    and people who install them want to believe that
    single coil "should be" noiseless.

    But it will never happen. That belief system is flawed to start with.
    So, shielding the inside of the guitar to stop a single coil pickup buzz...is a defective assumption constructed on an imaginary belief system.
    That will never come true.

    So, you can play guitar in a Faraday Cage.
    Which blocks AC fields from reaching the pickup...
    and the buzz will finally be gone.

    Or power all appliances with pure battery DC...so that no AC fields are present, anywhere.
    and the buzz will be gone.

    Or use a dummy coil, in series with the single coil pickup...
    to make a humbucking pickup.
    And that means that the PU is no longer single coil.

    All methods of shielding the guitar, to get rid of single coil buzz, are quackery.
    They all fail, every time.

    There IS no "troubleshooting" for this problem...
    because there was no trouble...to start with.

    The problem is in your head, not in the guitar.

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    Last edited by soundguruman; 04-12-2014 at 03:16 PM.

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soundguruman View Post
    So, shielding the inside of the guitar to stop a single coil pickup buzz...is a defective assumption constructed on an imaginary belief system. That will never come true.
    That's only true because the pickups stick up out of the pickguard. Your suggestion that shielding the guitars electronics cavities causes audible capacitive losses is ridiculous.

    One COULD shield the inside of the pickup covers and achieve some buzz reduction. But this also comes at the expense of introducing additional self inductance and capacitance on the pickup coil. I know, I've done it. The actual amount of buzz reduction was small. Maybe 25 to 35% (I didn't measure it). So if you try it and don't like the tonal alteration it has on the pickup, just undo it.

    A little wound up this morning? You seem angry. Your post this morning to one of my new started threads also demonstrated impatience since it was clear that you didn't read it carefully. Maybe get a cup of coffee and a walk in at a local park or something. Have a bowl of hot soup.

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    ToneOholic! big_teee's Avatar
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    I've done lots of experimenting with pickups and noise in my shop.
    I have a jack wired to alligator clips, that I hook to a raw pickup.
    I then can wave it around in front of the test amp.
    You always get maximum noise in front of the PT of the amp.
    All pickups do pick up some hum if placed close to the PT, whether SC, or Humbucker.
    All pickups are quieter in a guitar, they pickup the most noise when loose.
    I then experimented with Strat Pickguards.
    I like to glue heavy aluminum foil to the full pickguard, and mount all componets on the foil.
    This does help on what I call Static noise, Ticking type noise.
    Shielding has no effect on 60hz hum, but does help on the static ticking type noises.
    I tried putting foil around single coils, and all I accomplished was breaking a wire on one of my prized Single Coils, and it had to be rewound!
    The alternative to Strat SCs, is Blades, and Stacked pickups, but I have never found them to sound as good as true Single Coils.
    Shielding IMO if properly grounded is some effective, but left ungrounded, just make things worse.
    I like the shielding Paint, it is easy to apply, and can be touched up at anytime, but expensive.
    T

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    Old Timer soundguruman's Avatar
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    I could take a strat, and put all the tape, paint, foil, shielding inside it.

    I could take a strat and solder a cap across the output jack...

    And there is NO WAY any of you could tell which one is which. (except looking inside it)
    There is no difference in the sound, or the noise, between the two.

    You have been duped.

    Noise in = Noise out

    You wanted a single coil PU because the high frequencies sounded better...
    Then you put the foil inside, and killed the high frequencies....

    Oh, that makes sense.


    Look at me! I have single coil pickups, with no high frequencies! Look mom, no buzz!
    (except the buzz is still there, minus the high frequencies)

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    Last edited by soundguruman; 04-12-2014 at 04:19 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by soundguruman View Post
    I could take a strat, and put all the tape, paint, foil, shielding inside it.

    I could take a strat and solder a cap across the output jack...

    And there is NO WAY any of you could tell which one is which. (except looking inside it)
    There is no difference in the sound, or the noise, between the two.
    You have been duped.
    The Cap effects the tone, the shielding does not.
    If the Cap Works, great, whatever works is OK with me, it would have to be a very small cap.
    On the Cap, I have noticed that if you turn the tone control all the way off you have less noise, but then you have the muffled tone of the Cap.
    I don't get the You have to be right, and everyone else has to be wrong attitude?
    We're all on the same team here, or least I thought we were?
    T

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    Old Timer soundguruman's Avatar
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    "The Cap effects the tone, the shielding does not."

    Hahahahahahhahahahhahhhahahhahhahahahhhahahahhhahahhahah ah!

    I know better than to fall for that one.
    The shielding obviously does kill the high frequencies. You "could" measure the capacitance of the shielding, with a meter.

    Over the last 35 years, I have seem gimmicks, come and go.
    And this is just one more gimmick, to add to a whole pile of other gimmicks...

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    Quote Originally Posted by soundguruman View Post
    "The Cap effects the tone, the shielding does not."

    Hahahahahahhahahahhahhhahahhahhahahahhhahahahhhahahhahah ah!

    I know better than to fall for that one.
    The shielding obviously does kill the high frequencies. You "could" measure the capacitance of the shielding, with a meter.

    Over the last 35 years, I have seem gimmicks, come and go.
    And this is just one more gimmick, to add to a whole pile of other gimmicks...
    Sorry, but IMO you're wrong on this one.
    You need to go back to the lab and do more experimenting.
    You can have your opinions, and I have mine.
    I'm done with you, It is a waste of time, have a nice life!
    T

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soundguruman View Post
    The shielding obviously does kill the high frequencies. You "could" measure the capacitance of the shielding, with a meter.
    Tell me, what are the test points for this? The shield and the guitar output?

    SGM, try to consider what you are saying before you continue. There is no significant current in the pickup coils for cavity shielding to cause shared inductance and there is too much distance between cavity shielding and any components or their leads to cause a capacitance affecting audio frequencies. Your principals are sound but they don't apply in this case because of it's particulars. When you see the color red you know it's red, but a red car isn't principally red. It's principally a car. Stop creating theoretical arguments that ignore some aspects of the issues at hand. It's antagonistic and harshes my mellow on a Saturday morning.

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    Old Timer soundguruman's Avatar
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    There are an infinite amount of players with single coil pickups,
    and they will pay $$$ to have their guitars "shielded."

    But will this make a single coil pickup stop buzzing?

    No.

    Will this make a lot of money for people who install "shielding" inside guitars?
    Yes.

    So, you can see where the underlying motivation is coming from...

    Single coil PU will always buzz and hum, no matter how much "shielding,"
    and no matter how much you "think" it's going to stop the problem from happening.

    That's cause there is no problem, to start with.

    As long as you live in a world with AC electricity...single coil pickup will buzz.

    Gullible, unlimited.

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    Last edited by soundguruman; 04-12-2014 at 05:54 PM.

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    I generally agree with you. But the shielding does help a little. Copper by itself even without grounding will present some EMF shielding. And we're after every improvement we can get. The principal problem is that the coils are sticking most of the way up and out of any shielded cavity.

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    Supporting Member Jazz P Bass's Avatar
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    Big Tee, the trick is to not read his posts.

    I believe you will feel better if you don't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz P Bass View Post
    Big Tee, the trick is to not read his posts.

    I believe you will feel better if you don't.
    Thanks for that, and you are correct, I'll try not to do it again.
    I try to be nice to others, but he just wants to be a Troll, spreading Nonsense, hate and discontent!
    Also, don't forget there is the member Ignore List.
    T

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    Last edited by big_teee; 04-12-2014 at 10:11 PM. Reason: Cleanup!
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    Quote Originally Posted by bjfly17 View Post
    I recently did a major mod to my guitar...now it has developed a small ground buzz (a buzz that goes away when I touch any metal on the guitar)...
    Consider this: The buzz goes away when you touch the metal of the guitar. What’s up with that? You did not change anything in the guitar by touching it but you did ground your body and that allowed the noise that your body was picking up from the electric fields in the room and re-radiating to the guitar to bleed off to ground. If the guitar is quiet enough for you when you are touching it then maybe all is good.

    Here is an experiment that you can try. Prop up the guitar on something non conductive. Connect the guitar to your amp and set the controls as usual. Stand close to the guitar and find a position that gives you the same buzz effect when you touch / don’t touch the metal on the guitar. Now walk away from the guitar. If the buzz diminishes as you walk away then it demonstrates that guitar is picking up the noise field from your body.

    What can you do about it?

    1. Maybe you don’t need to do anything now that you understand the physics behind the situation. As I noted earlier if the guitar is quiet enough for your purposes when you are touching it then just play and enjoy.
    2. If it really bugs you then maybe additional shielding will help. However, shielding the cavities will only reduce the buzz energy making its way through the body of the guitar to the wiring and controls. If the buzz getting in directly through the pickups is still significant then that remaining buzz could overwhelm the improvement you get by shielding the cavities. In that case you are back to #1.


    Cheers,
    Tom

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    I'm wondering if someone's meds run out every weekend. That seems to be when the inane posting rampage begins weekly.

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Everything is futile! Consider that our current maths and sciences can't properly explain an infinite area. It's theoretically impossible. Since we exist within one, we aren't.

    Here's another... If you drop an object it will never reach the ground. And I can prove it too. The object must first travel half the distance, then half of the remaining distance, then half the remaining distance, etc. Since the distance it will travel can always be divided in half there is an infinite number of halfway intervals to be traversed and the object never reaches the ground. By this logic nothing ever happens and none of us have ever come to be. Therefor we aren't.

    Logic is futile.

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    Quote Originally Posted by big_teee View Post
    .
    Also, I forgot, but you can mark a member to not read their posts.
    It's called the Ignore List, I just put him on it!
    I didn't know about that.
    Thanks.

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    I really appreciate all the response to this thread, but for the sake of my poor guitar, I'd like to direct us back on track. Here is an overly detailed post of my mod. As everyone here obviously has faith in their own abilities, I'd love to submit this project to you guys and (if anyone has the time/kindness) hopefully someone can work out where there is room for error.

    What I did: Modded my ESP with a set of JB/Pearly Gates humbuckers to a 2 Humbuckers/3-Way Toggle Switch/1 Volume/2 Tones/Coil Tap & Series Parallel. Guitar Wiring Diagram 2 Humbuckers/3-Way Toggle Switch/1 Volume/2 Tones/Coil Tap & Series Parallel
    On top of the tone mods, I also used a push pull pot on my volume to wire a kill switch Wiring Diagram
    And topped it off with a simple treble bleed circuit on the volume knob Guitar Wiring Mod-Volume Treble Bleed-Bypass Circuit w/ Parallel Resistor

    For reference, here are the Seymour Duncan color codes for my JB/Pearly Gate setup: Guitar & Bass 4-Wire Humbucker Color Code Diagrams

    Using four conductor wire and cloth push back wire, here are some pictures of the final job with short descriptions:
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    View of switch cavity. Down goes to neck - pot 1.

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    Detail of Pot 1 - neck tone. Includes the 4 conductor wire running from the neck pickup.

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    Detail of Pot 2 - bridge tone. Note that the electrical tape is covering a joint I had to make to accommodate the schematic. Splitting the black conductor into two separate wires.

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    Detail of Pot 3 - master volume. Includes kill switch and treble bleed with parallel resistor.

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    Connection from jack to Pot 3. For the killswitch, I had to double wire it.

    Next three are attempts at capturing the grounds on the back of each pot. Pardon the solder, when I first discovered my ground buzz, I reapplied generously to try to fix it. This includes the ground for all wires, capacitors, pot-to-pot grounds, and pot-to-bridge (pot 3).
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    (I had to post the last picture in the next post.)

    I realize this is a lot, and the pictures may not be super helpful - I am only hoping that there may be someone here who truly knows their stuff and can spot an error either in my physical work or the combination of the mod circuits.

    Ignore the attached thumbnails.

    Thanks in advance guys!
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  26. #26
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    Final ground picture (pot 3):
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Summary:

    Basically, I truly believe the buzz is coming from a ground fault and I am doubting that shielding will remove it - as I've heard that it would only help with hum or interference. But I am willing to give it a shot.

    I am not sure if anyone can spot any causes for this in the pictures, but I am hopeful. Additionally, there are a few aspects which I would like to point out:
    1) I removed the old tape from my humbuckers and used common electrical tape in its place. Is this okay?
    2) Would the coil split mod introduce buzz that is typical to single coil setups?
    3) I had to create joints for each individual conductor coming from the pickups to extend the wire to the cavity. Then wrapped in electrical tape. I also had to create a similar joint on pot 2 to extend the black conductor into 2 separate leads.
    4) Are cloth push back wires sufficient for shielding purposes? I assumed so...
    5) I soldered the tabs on pot 3 directly together to avoid short wiring runs. I know this is common in some cases, but didn't know if it would negatively influence the kill switch on my push pull pot.

    Just some thoughts to try to pinpoint where I went wrong.

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    Last edited by bjfly17; 04-13-2014 at 10:37 PM.

  27. #27
    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Lemme ask... Does the guitar do this in ALL the pickup selections? It seems you've added a bunch. I've been through as many custom guitar wirings as anyone and I can tell you for certain that the more elaborate you get, the greater the likelihood of noise in some of the selections. If you touching the guitar is grounding out the buzz then it's very unlikely you have a mistake in the selection wiring. The only four possibilities I can think of are:

    1) The guitar isn't making a proper connection to the shield terminal on the output jack. Not likely since I don't think a human body has enough ground potential to entirely squelch the noise without, itself, being grounded.

    2) As suggested, YOU are an antennae and touching the guitars ground grounds you. Quite likely if the problem exists mainly with the pickup selections you didn't have before OR with the Pearly Gates, which is a little asymmetrically wound IIRC.

    3) The problem exists only on certain pickup selections because you now have elaborate wiring that allows non hum cancelling selections AND you are an antennae.

    4) Your guitar cord or input jack on your amp isn't grounding your guitar. Try a different cord and amp. Not likely the cause but can easily be ruled on.

    If you have phase, series, parallel and coil tap switching there is also the possibility of a coil floating in one or more pickup combination selections. I wouldn't expect touching the guitar to ground that out though.

    It's virtually impossible to decipher what's happening in your guitar by looking at the pictures. A schematic is absolutely necessary to determine if the circuit may be responsible. This ignores the possibility that there is a mistake in how the circuit was wired.

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    Hey there big_teee.....I didn.t know there was an ignore list.....he has insulted me on a few occasions as well....Think I'll add him to that list......all he does is put everybody else down.......he is always right and everybody else is wrong....the funny thing is...it is usually the other way around...

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    If I read the photos correctly this wiring method will not work without noise.
    I only see push back wire going to and from the 3 way switch, no shielded cable.
    You can not run un-shielded wire from the control cavity, across the pickup hole routs to the switch unshielded, and back.

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    Last edited by big_teee; 04-13-2014 at 11:19 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bjfly17 View Post
    ...Are cloth push back wires sufficient for shielding purposes? I assumed so...
    N0. The cloth push back wire shown in your photos provided no shielding at all. It is just single conductor insulated wire.

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    Quote Originally Posted by big_teee View Post
    If I read the photos correctly this wiring method will not work without noise.
    I only see push back wire going to and from the 3 way switch, no shielded cable.
    You can not run un-shielded wire from the control cavity, across the pickup hole routs to the switch unshielded, and back.
    Dang, this is an unforeseen setback. I've never had a vintage/Fender style wiring so I just assumed single conductor cloth push back would be good for my purposes.

    Two people already have issues with this. Can others confirm that this type of wire running from switch to cavity (through humbucker holes) can indeed produce a buzz? Specifically, one that has the grounding characteristics to the touch that were previously described?

    Great insight guys, I'm feeling wiser/completely foolish.

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  32. #32
    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Well it MAY help to shield the body cavities. This should be equal to using shielded pickup leads through the routes (provided you also shield the routes, a bit harder). In the end though I contend that the two hundred feet of unshielded copper wire poking up out of the guitar is going to be a lot more problematic than one foot of lead going to the switch. But indeed I think shielding the guitar AND shielded leads could help. Understand that EMF induced in the pickup coils that isn't hum-bucked is seen by the guitar as signal and can't be grounded away without grounding the guitar signal.

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    ToneOholic! big_teee's Avatar
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    On a regular les paul with 2 vol. and 2 tone.
    Run one shielded lead from the jack all the way to the switch.
    Then a shielded lead back for each vol. and pickup.
    Yours will be a bit different, but you still need to follow shielded cable guide lines.
    This gives you an idea how the leads are kept shielded.
    http://ashbass.com/Gibson/WiringLibr...ringModern.jpg
    The shielded 4 wire cable from the pickups does little, if you don't keep the signal shielded all the way to the amp.

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    Last edited by big_teee; 04-14-2014 at 01:00 AM.
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    So it could potentially be corrected by desoldering the push back wire used for the long run from switch to cavity and replacing with the braided, shielded wire? What of the short wiring runs connecting ground-to-ground and lug to lug in the cavity? Are they acceptable with the cloth push back wire? Furthermore, assuming the shielded, single conductor wire from the switch would be a good investment for these runs, what of the PVC coated 4 conductor wire from the pickups? I've never had a buzz problem using it prior to this mod. And never seen a metal shielded 4-conductor wire... (not that I've looked)

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  35. #35
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    So Consider this.
    From the jack shielded to the Master Volume.
    Then shielded from the MV to the Switch.
    Then use another from the switch to each Tone Control.
    The Seymour Duncan 4 wire pickups, have a 4 wire cable with shield.
    The pickups are fine, if you ground the shield wire in each pickup cable, to the back of the Pots.
    The Push back wire will be fine within the Control cavity.
    Ground and tie the 3 or 4 pot backs together.
    I would only hookup the split taps, after you have it all wired and quiet in humbucker mode.
    GL,
    T

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