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Old November 4th, 2009, 10:55 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Fixing single coil pickup buzz without sacrificing tone!!!

Hello,

I just recently had a tele built that uses a set of Detemple/Lollar sweetspot pickups. I have a charlie christian single coil in the neck position and a standard single coil in the bridge.

When a band is playing loud the sound doesn't bother me, but with some playing right now in a chamber classical group the buzz is out of hand. What can be done to minimize the buzz without sacrificing tone? I have to imagine that a 60HZ inhibitor pedal would be an unwanted addition to my chain.

The worst was when I ran the guitar through my early 80s rat distortion pedal and the band dropped in volume. The sound from the amp was insanely overbearing. Can anything be done to the distortion pedal or is fixing the issue on the guitar enough?

Lastly, would copper shielding on the pickup affect my tone? What other options exist? Does anyone have solid step by step instructions on how to install the copper shielding?

Thanks!
Alex

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Old November 4th, 2009, 11:17 AM   #2 (permalink)
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So you hear the buzz while you are playing, yes?
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Old November 4th, 2009, 11:18 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Some buzz is normal in many Teles, but "some" to many is not a problem, while to others it's a deal breaker, so I’m not sure how "overbearing" your buzz is.

you may have a wiring "anomaly" or the bridge may not be “grounded” check your wiring against the standard Tele schematic and I betcha you find something not right.

The Lollars should be fine, and the shielding shouldn’t be necessary.

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Old November 4th, 2009, 11:36 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Some say shielding will affect the tone... and maybe it does a bit... but I certainly can't hear it. I'd rather have a guitar that is as quiet as possible and if that means shielding then by all means do it.
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Old November 4th, 2009, 11:48 AM   #5 (permalink)
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You're using a Rat in a classical group? This is a joke, right?

Seriously... if you want noise-free electric guitar, get noiseless pickups. There are dozens to choose from.

But, I suspect you already know this.
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Old November 4th, 2009, 11:52 AM   #6 (permalink)
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You're using a Rat in a classical group? This is a joke, right?

Seriously... if you want noise-free electric guitar, get noiseless pickups. There are dozens to choose from.

But, I suspect you already know this.
Rat is from a seperate project - should have specified more clearly.

I know about noiseless pickups but love the tone I'm getting from this particular model. It sounds killing but I'd love to find a way to make it a bit quieter.
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Old November 4th, 2009, 11:59 AM   #7 (permalink)
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The low E is tuned to 82.4 Hz tuning down to D is 73.4 Hz so filtering out 60 Hz would be very difficult.

Is your guitar noisier than other single coil guitars in the same setting? If it's not you probably are using too high a gain setting in an electrically noisy environment. I believe that vintage pickups tend to be lower output and tend to have a less favorable signal to noise ratio. Sometimes it is possible to identify sources of electrical noise and turn them off. Light dimmers are incredibly noisy around single coil guitars for example.

My big surprise was buying a guitar with SCN pickups and anticipating that I would replace the pickups with a vintage type as I had done in other guitars. The shocker was that I actually like the sound of SCN's and they are dead quiet.

Good Luck!!
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Old November 4th, 2009, 12:10 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I have tried noiseless pickups from Bill Lawrence and the Fender SCN (also from Bill Lawrence, I suppose) and while they are dead quiet, they cannot reproduce vintage tones exactly. They are either too thin or too muddy. You might check with Suhr Guitars and see if they are working on something like their silent backplate system for strats, but for teles. There are hum eliminating pedals, but they usually have an effect on your tone than some find undesirable. Looks like you have some trial and error ahead of you I'm afraid.
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Old November 4th, 2009, 12:46 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Typically a tele is setup so middle switch position will cancel noise right? I have a four-way switch and am relatively new to tele's so I don't know for sure...One of my 4 positions does cancel the 60Hz hum.
You can probably do some modding to add volume for each pickup and dial in tone and volume from there...
I don't know, just throwing out suggestions. I have copper shielding throughout and even though my pups aren't SCN (or similar) it's got pretty low hum.
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Old November 4th, 2009, 12:55 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Typically a tele is setup so middle switch position will cancel noise right? I have a four-way switch and am relatively new to tele's so I don't know for sure...One of my 4 positions does cancel the 60Hz hum.
You can probably do some modding to add volume for each pickup and dial in tone and volume from there...
I don't know, just throwing out suggestions. I have copper shielding throughout and even though my pups aren't SCN (or similar) it's got pretty low hum.
Is one of your positions dual coil series? That's likely and if so that's humbucker!
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Old November 4th, 2009, 05:42 PM   #11 (permalink)
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If you're serious about shielding, there are online instructions that you can follow. I believe Chris Kinman's site has some good instructions (at least they used to). You won't be shielding the pickups, but you will shield the routes and under the pickguard, plus you'll be adding a few extra grounding wires to make sure everything is grounded. Also getting a high quality shielded lead cable can help.

I have tried a number of noiseless pickups and for Tele, I really like the DiMarzio Area T. Bill Lawrence also makes some nice ones. For strat, you can't beat Kinman. It's worth trying some if you haven't already.
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Old November 5th, 2009, 04:20 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Is one of your positions dual coil series? That's likely and if so that's humbucker!
Sorry, it doesn't work that way.

There are 2 things that affect the phase of interference in a single coil pickup: The coil wind direction and whether the "hot" and "cold" connections are reversed. If you change one thing, the phase is reversed; if you change both it's back in phase again.

For example, combining 2 single coil pickups that are wound in opposite directions will cancel hum. It doesn't matter if they're connected in series or parallel.

A third characteristic affects the phase of the guitar signal: the magnetic polarity. This is how RWRP pickups and humbucking coils work: reverse winding puts the coils out of phase to cancel hum. A second change with reverse magnetic polarity puts the guitar signal back in phase, but doesn't affect interference.

If the pickups are identical and close to each other, you'll cancel nearly all hum; different pickups and/or further apart will have less cancellation.
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Old November 5th, 2009, 07:15 AM   #13 (permalink)
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you could shield only the control cavity with that good and thick golden metallic tape and minimize the length of the wires in your control cavity and use good shielded cable to go to the output jack from there.
Also check your bridge ground connection, it has to be reliable and permanent.

I once heard a noticeable difference in tone on a guitar after shielding it around the pickups + pickguard, so I only shield the control cavity.
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Old November 5th, 2009, 02:16 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Another thing to try is to turn your amp on without plugging in the guitar, turn it up to playing volume, and see how much hum is coming through the amp itself. There are electronic gizmos you can plug the amp into to quiet the electronic noise that comes from the outlet.

If you're using any effects boxes, use batteries, not wall warts. I've heard effects that were supposed to be high quality hum like you wouldn't believe. You can pick up radio stations with some of them.
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Old November 5th, 2009, 07:42 PM   #15 (permalink)
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You don't want a 60 Hz EQ to kill the hum, you want a noisegate pedal, before you distortion pedal. Whether you like the changed attack or not is a different matter.

Shielding helps but doesn't get rid of the noise, unless you currently have n improperly grounded guitar.

In the Strat world the closest sound from noiseless is probably the Lace Holy Grail, but they are low volume. They don't have Tele pickups, though.
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Old November 6th, 2009, 04:30 PM   #16 (permalink)
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+1 on a noisegate, as the LAST pedal in your chain before the amp.

If you must use wallwarts, don't go cheap - make sure you get a phase-regulated power supply, like the Boss PSA-120.
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Old November 6th, 2009, 04:55 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Noise gates can't eliminate the hum that's audible during your notes. It can only cut hum when there's no music anyway. And they cut off the end of your notes, always; no matter how fancy they are.
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Old November 6th, 2009, 06:12 PM   #18 (permalink)
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The noisegate will still be better than trying to kill 60 HQ with a parametric EQ or something along those lines.

If there is a lot of gain then the noisegate stops working if you have it after the gain stage. Because the gain stage will take the 50/60 Hz cycle hum and amplify it up until you are within the range of the noisegate.
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Old November 7th, 2009, 10:45 AM   #19 (permalink)
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In answer to the age old question

Fixing single coil pickup buzz without sacrificing tone!!!

Before reading on you should know that I do not have any association with EMG whatsoever apart from the pups I bought from them yesterday.

from today, I believe there is one cast iron, sure fire way to accomplish this, and it is to fit the "EMG Tele T-SET. (everything but the control plate)
I am no different than the rest of the guys on here, and I have had a huge array of pups fitted to my guitars over the years. Searching for MY perfect sound. Although I doubt that it's that complicated or different than yours...that true tele twang...full, fat, loud and hugely definitive without the ice pick.

I had never done a pick-up swapout myself before, and apart from a very annoying situation, where when following the instructions and soldering the two braided sections of the pickup wires to the volume pot, I was left with not enough of the wire to reach the selector, and one of the screws that goes through the control plate and holds the selector drops straight in and out because that side of the selector isn't threaded, it was otherwise a piece of cake.

I mention these things because I want to give you an honest and full appraisal, and although obviously a pain in the ass these nuisance factors dont overshadow the real factor that we want to cover here.

The set up couldn't be easier as you just have to get them as close to your strings without interfering with them, or your playing style as you possibly can, and whoosh!! more power than you are ever going to need, and tone to die for...(obviously in my opinion) but I know a true tele twang when I hear it, and the neck pup goes into a different league altogether, lots of output, extremely smooth, but without the mud.
and everything in between is exactly what you would expect with a front and back of this calibre.

I had been a little jittery because of the price tag, around the £160 GBP mark, then I saw two places retailing them for £35 or so less, so I took the plunge, and I couldn't be happier.
Now the kicker. I posted a thread a little while ago regarding what I thought was a Fender U.S.A. tele that I picked up off e-bay for £285, and was looking for help ID'ing the model as I couldn't get a reply from Fender. Anyhoo I got a bit of a shock to find out from one or two of our more knowledgable members that the serial was bogus and that it was probably a squier, but do you know it played like a dream and the acoustic sound from it took my breath away, I have read it here so ofen that it doesn't matter what it says on the headstock, always judge a guitar on it's individual merits. So I did, and decided to play it for a while, I really loved it. And as the pickups in it were dire, I had to make the most of that beautiful acoustic tone. I felt it was something special (to me at least) so I decided that I would get the "EMG's" for it.

I swear to god, and I am now going to sound like some kind of looney tune, but I feel that I have found the (my) one.
I doubt that I will ever pick up my other tele's again, and I have some nice tele's.
Usually when I splurge on new pups, I am that excited about what's in store that I get the anti-climax that goes along with it, you know, they're great at one end but not at the other...or they don't sound as good as they did on Brent's. It's obviously not just the pups, but I believe that the right tele and these pups have the potential to be a match made in heaven.

If your tele sounds right to you acoustically then these pickups purely and simply interpret that sound exactly. The rest is down to you, your selector switch and your control knobs.

At the end of the day we can only express our own opinion, but I hope that this helps the next time that you get the urge. All the best, Dave.
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Old November 21st, 2009, 01:42 AM   #20 (permalink)
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The problem with trying to filter 60hz hum is that the hum is not just at 60hz, but at every harmonic of 60hz. That means it's also at 120, 180, 240, 300, etc.

Shielding helps, but it will not fix it. Noiseless pickups are what you need. A noise gate will help, but only when you aren't playing anything. If you just need quiet for long pauses when you aren't playing, you can also use a volume pedal near the end of your chain to mute the signal. The volume pedal also has the added usefulness of allowing you to do swells and stuff, especially if you have a delay after it.
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