The sound of an electric guitar buzzing when plugged in is probably one of the most common issues for musicians. It can be extremely frustrating to play with a buzzy sound going through your amp – hence why it’s important to fix.
So what causes this issue? Buzzing usually occurs when you start up your amp and then start playing at the same time, as this increases the electrical noise that goes into your amp’s input.
Electric Guitar Buzzing
As the guitar’s signal gets closer to your amp’s input, it can change the way your tone is influenced. This is the reason that buzzes may occur at different volumes. For example, if you start up at a low volume – say with the effects turned down and/or starting with an empty tube – you might not hear any buzz as your input level increases.
If you’re playing a bit louder, however, then you’ll begin to notice a little fuzzing when you plug in. This is because the electrical noise is louder in volume, and thus your guitar’s signal gets obscured as you start playing.
Why Does My Guitar Amp Buzz
1. Loose Input Jack
This is probably the most common reason for buzzes. If your input jack is too loose, it will cause your guitar signals to go through the input jack first before getting to your amp’s preamp first. This will increase the electrical noise in your guitar pickups, which in turn will increase the electrical noise that goes into your amp’s input. If you hear a buzz when plugging in this way, as soon as you stop playing and/or unplug, then that’s the fix for you.
2. Effect Chokes
With effect pedals, the last thing you want is for your signal to go in and out of your effects loop. This will increase electrical noise in your guitar pickups, which will increase the electrical noise that goes into your amp’s input. To prevent this, make sure there are no effect chokes on or near your input – much like with a direct amp-out shorting switch (see below).
3. Loose Ground
If you’re using cables or a direct amp-out switch, make sure that the ground wire is not out of whack. This can cause buzzes because it will increase the electro magnetic noise in your guitar signal, which will increase the electrical noise that goes into your amp’s input. So make sure the ground wire is firmly attached to both your guitar and any devices you might be using for wireless communication.
4. Bad Ground Cable
As above, make sure your ground cable is connected properly. Using a bad cable or even a bad plug can cause the same buzzing issues.
5. Inductance in Cables
Induction is the invisible magnetic field created by an electric current traveling through a wire, and it can easily be picked up through other cables – like in your guitar cords. As previously stated, this will increase the electrical noise in your guitar pickups, which will increase the electrical noise that goes into your amp’s input.
How to Fix Buzzing
How can you fix this issue? There are a few different fixes, and one of them will work for you depending on the source of the problem. The first thing to try is to check your amp’s input jack and cables. The input jack is especially susceptible to dirt, corrosion, or even slight damage that can cause this issue right away. This is because the input jack is the “heart” of your guitar signal, so it gets a lot of use. That being said, just wipe out any and all dirt or corrosion with an alcohol pad or cleaner and then re-attach it; this should do the trick.
For good measure, you might want to get a new input jack as well (if you’re not comfortable with soldering). You can order these online for pretty cheap and have it shipped to your house.
The second thing to check is your cables. Using crappy guitar cables or even bad plugs can cause the same issues that loose jacks do – like noise and excess electrical noise in your guitar signal, which will increase the electrical noise that goes into your amp’s input. This is why it’s important to use good quality guitar cables and good quality plugs, and to make sure that both are connected properly.
Another part of the power cable that can cause this issue is the ground wire, so make sure it’s connected properly. As above, using a bad ground wire or bad plug can cause the same issues.
And finally, if you’re using wireless equipment, make sure it’s plugged in properly. Wireless devices (like wireless guitars or their receivers) will increase the amount of noise in your guitar signal and this will increase the electrical noise that goes into your amp’s input.
Keep your Guitar Amp Interference Free
There’s nothing more exciting for an electric guitar enthusiast to produce innovative music with an amp. However, constant radio frequency interference truly takes away from the excitement of powerful cords and riffs over amps and speakers. With this in mind, make sure to use new wires and balanced lines everywhere possible. This is very important in reducing or eliminating static, hiss, and especially interference from both internal and external signals.
Inspect your guitars to ensure they too have proper shielding. Sadly, many instruments have minimal shielding so it’s important to see which units may need additional refortifications. For folks with smaller spaces or cramped apartments, consider moving your studio to a new location. Another option is to build a metal cage around the studio and ground it. This will definitely protect your amps, wires, and components from annoying RF and AM/FM signals.
Tips on Maintaining Your Guitar’s Input Jacks
This is a quick fix that some people might find helpful to know about, as well – make sure you clean out any dust or corrosion from your input jack every time you plug in. If you don’t have any input jack cleaners, you can use a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol to wipe out any corrosion or dirt in your input jack.
To prevent this issue from occurring again, follow these steps. They are the same steps that guitar shops will use to fix this issue if you bring your instrument into them.