Tele buzz noise when not touching the strings

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by jjk1407, Jul 26, 2021.

  1. jjk1407

    jjk1407 TDPRI Member

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    Hi,

    I recently got a thinline with a S/S PU setting. It's pretty nice overall but gives an annoying buzz noise when I'm not touching the strings or any metal part on the guitar. Did some research myself on grounding/shielding and made some tweaks too, but the issue remains. Maybe someone with more experience can shed some light on this?

    Here are the things I tried:
    #1 - Tele with amp A - not touching the strings gives the continuous buzz noise. Measured the Ohm between the strings and the amp chassis - just a few Ohms. Also used a spare guitar cable to connect the strings and the chassis, the issue remains. Now if I touch the strings, or the chassis of the amp, the buzz goes away.

    So I thought maybe it's the grounding of the amp that caused this? Then I tried:
    #2 - All of my other guitars, HH, SSS, SH, you name it, plugged into amp A. None has this issue. Some do have noises but the noise does not go away when I'm touching the strings.

    #3 - All the guitars with amp B - same buzz issue only happening on my Tele thinline.

    #4 - Tele with a battery powered amp C - same buzz issue, and goes away when I touches the strings or the metal parts on the amp.

    I *think* it's not lack of shielding because I shielded the back of the pickguard and grounded the shielding to the bridge. Also the noise is pretty consistent no matter where I'm facing or the distance to the amp.

    Seems so far the only way to get rid of it is to have my body touching any part of the grounding loop. Any ideas?

    Thanks,
    Jay
     
  2. gkterry

    gkterry Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    That is pretty normal. Some Teles are worse than others and some rooms are worse than others. When you touch the strings it completes a ground loop reducing the buzz. The only thing that may help is copper shielding in all the cavities that are electrically connected together and also connect one of those leads to ground. Also make sure the bridge itself is grounded. Most just have a bare wire mashed under the bridge plate near the saddle side of the bridge.
     
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  3. this_grackle

    this_grackle TDPRI Member

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    Agreed with the “that’s kind of normal” response. I’ve had some luck with shielding quieting things down a little, and sometimes different environments/electrical circuits. Make sure the ground wire has good contact to the bridge. The human body makes a damn good ground for electrical current, which is why when you touch the strings/amp chassis it goes away. Sometimes the additional shielding helps, not because of shielding, but because of increased mass for grounding.
     
  4. jjk1407

    jjk1407 TDPRI Member

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    Thanks for the reply. I believe the bridge is grounded properly - when plugged in, the resistance between the bridge and the chassis is 2-3 Ohm. As of shielding, I don't have the entire cavity shielded but I don't have it on my Strat either (only the back of pickguard). My archtop has a Charlie Christian at the neck and is completely unshielded. None of them has this noise. Also I believe the symptom of lack of shielding is picking up random electromagnetic field noises?

    If it's normal for Tele, what makes a Tele special in terms of making idling noises comparing to, say, an archtop with single coils?

    Also, all the 3 positions have the same noise...
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2021
  5. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted

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    I've encountered the following explanation that makes sense to me. Our bodies are antennas (or at least reflectors) for RF energy. When you touch the guitar you are grounding yourself thereby eliminating yourself as a noise source. Why you are a noise source has to with whatever ambient EM noise is kicking around you. Why this guitar is susceptible to it more than others - who knows -pickup type/circuit/shielding/placement... who knows.

    If I understood right the other amp does it on all? That's a bit concerning. Suggests the amp is not properly grounded and you are (inefficiently) providing a ground path.

    This is a frought subject. Grain of salt needed... especially on what I say. :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2021
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  6. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted

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    Oh yeah... the reason the metal parts on the guitar are grounded is precisely so that when you are touching them you also are grounded. And because they too can act like antennas. But they don't tend to be as good at coupling noise to your pickups as your body does.
     
  7. jjk1407

    jjk1407 TDPRI Member

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    Super interesting! Tried it myself. Plugged the Tele into amp B, noise was there. But when I touched the chassis of amp A (plugged to the wall but not turned on), so that my body is grounded, the noise went away!!! So does look like I myself is one to blame here!

    Now... a more pragmatic question, why just Tele? And how can I make it as quiet as my other guitars...?
     
  8. bendercaster

    bendercaster Tele-Afflicted

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    Maybe it's that big metal bridge plate?
     
  9. joeypnw

    joeypnw TDPRI Member

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    I was just noticing mine was doing this, the low buzz also stops when I touch anything metal on the guitar like the knobs or bridge, guess it’s a grounding thing or something
     
  10. jjk1407

    jjk1407 TDPRI Member

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    Yeh, like mentioned above, it's the fact that your body needs to be grounded, not the guitar.

    Now thinking of it, guess more aggressive shielding is the way to go, so that the PUs and the circuit won't pick up the signals from my body...
     
  11. joeypnw

    joeypnw TDPRI Member

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    that makes sense! like you said my other guitars don’t do this so might just have to go overkill on shielding everything, or ground myself to the amp :lol:
     
  12. gregulator450

    gregulator450 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Consider contacting @donh about his safety circuit. It was not intended to reduce noise in guitars but it accomplishes just that. I have used it to quiet single coils with great success.
     
  13. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Play your guitar and stop listening to the buzz inbetween playing (like ALL guitarists do since the single coil pickup was invented :) )
    If the buzz goes away when you touch the strings than your guitar is properly grounded.
     
  14. DougM

    DougM Poster Extraordinaire

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    The bridge plate, the copper plate on the bottom of the bridge pickup, the cover of the neck pickup, and all the shielding need to be connected to a common ground, like the back of all the pots, and the ground of the output jack. I know some folks say that the Tele control plate grounds the pots, but only if it'd connected to all the ground points too. I like to ground the backs of all the pots anyway, just in case the nuts holding them on are loose. You can't ever have too many ground connections, but you can have too few.
     
  15. fuzz guy

    fuzz guy Tele-Meister

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    This is the correct answer. When you touch the guitar you're not grounding it, it's grounding you.
     
  16. tubedude

    tubedude Tele-Meister

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    You can take a wire, or old string, make a loop around your pinky, add an alligator clip on the other end. Connect the clip to your bridge and you'll be grounded. I think the Stratosphere sells one like this.
     
  17. jjk1407

    jjk1407 TDPRI Member

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    Well, first of all this particular guitar surprised me a lot on it's level of buzz... I play clean a lot, and the buzz makes the guitar unplayable for some amp settings. Secondly, it's to fulfill my curiosity :twisted:
     
  18. jjk1407

    jjk1407 TDPRI Member

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    Thanks everyone for the help! I think I solved the problem. I am no expert on this as you can tell, and I only have a CS degree, not EE. But I think with the experiments I ran the reason for the buzz and the solution seems logical to me, at least.

    TL;DR - shielding at the BACK of the PU is the key, and no, the noise is not always from the player's body

    Longer version. Read on if you have the similar curiosity needs to fulfill.
    • Basic problem - Holding the guitar myself, buzz. Touching the strings or any metal part that is grounded, even the chassis of a different amp that is plugged into the wall, buzz is gone
    • Experiment #1 - Putting the guitar on a couch, plugged in, and myself walked away. Buzz, but not as loud as when I'm holding it. Now if I touch the strings or any metal part on the guitar's ground loop (e.g. amp's chassis), pretty much no change, still buzzing.
    So now we know the player's body is not the only source of the noise. Even there's no player, the guitar is picking up the noise from somewhere else.
    • Experiment #2 - Holding the guitar myself, but put a sheet of aluminum foil, roughly the size of the guitar body, between my body and the guitar. Loud buzz again. Then here comes the magic - if I connect the foil and the guitar's bridge, say, with a spare guitar cable, the buzz is completely gone!
    • Experiment #3 - Putting the guitar on the same couch, same foil between the back of the guitar and the couch. Mid-level buzz again. Touching the strings myself nothing happens. But again, if I connect the foil and the guitar's bridge, or any part on it's grounding loop, the buzz is gone.
    With these experiments, my theory is that, the guitar is noisy because of poor shielding on the back. Last time I opened it up I don't recall seeing any shielding at all behind the PUs or in the cavities. The shielding I did was on the back of pickguard, which shields the circuit from the EMI at the front only.

    The player's body does have EMI, as mentioned earlier, just like an antenna. That's why the buzz is much louder when being held by a player than left on a couch. But as soon as the player's body is grounded by any means, it's no longer an antenna. At the same time, the body becomes a super nice shielding itself, and helps the guitar to block all other EMI from the back! So now the guitar is shielded on both sides therefore no buzz.

    With a piece of aluminum foil at the back of the guitar and grounded, it creates the same shielding effect as the body does. So no matter whether the guitar is held by a player, or left on a couch, or anywhere else, there's no buzz.

    Then why only this guitar?

    Because traditionally tele's PUs are not shielded at the back!!! A humbucker usually has a metal plate at the back, so it's shielded out of the box. My Charlie Christian PU also has a metal plate and the coil is shielded all around. Now strats - although the PUs are not shielded the cavities are, creating the shielding on the back. So this tele I have is the only one running naked on it's arss!

    I will be doing a full shielding to my tele soon and report back.
     
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  19. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    ALL traditional bridge telecaster pickups are FULLY shielded ...in the back because they have a baseplate that is also the essence of the classic twangy Tele sound.

    Some cheaper or modern teles don't have a baseplate though.

    The neck Tele pickup is also fully shielded by its metal cover

    BOTH must be GROUNDED for less noise.

    More knowledge here

    https://www.tdpri.com/threads/tele-bridge-base-plate-steel-or-brass.49607/

    If your bridge pickup lacks a base plate you can buy cheap ones here or on eBay (your bridge pickup sound will vastly improve)

    https://www.philadelphialuthiertool...-bridge-pickup-baseplate-copper-plated-steel/
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2021
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  20. jjk1407

    jjk1407 TDPRI Member

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    Thanks for the info and the correction! Will check it out when I'm redoing the shielding.

    Also for the neck PU I don't think it's shielded on the back?
     
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