So after a summer of playing acoustic guitar, I went to set up my old faithful electric guitar. I found my electric guitar buzzing when plugged in.
What cause this? A few things can be happening here, and the solution can vary greatly depending on the severity of your problem.
It could simply be dust, a bad cable, an over complicated set up, or loose wiring. The culprit could be your guitar, the cable, the amp, or any gadget or peddle in between these things.
Let’s get into the why:
Why does my guitar buzz when plugged in?
The first and most common reason your electric guitar buzzes when plugged in, thankfully, is also the easiest to resolve.
Dust in the cable jack
That’s right, over time your guitar will of course collect dust inside an out. Using some compressed air or a spitless huff and puff might be all you need!
The constant buzz is likely coming from the output jack. A little air duster in the jack and you might be pleasantly surprised.
Take a quick look at the connections on your cable as well as the amp as the exact same problem might be there.
Foreign debris might be stuck on the ends of the cable, or dust might be trapped in the amp input jack just the same as the guitars output jack.
It may be tempting to use your mouth to blow out the jacks, just be mindful not to get spit in the electronics.
If this doesn’t immediately improve the buzzing test out the knobs and switches on the guitar.
If you get a grainy or scratching buzz when you adjust the tone or volume knob, or with the pickup switch, you’ll need to dust out the internal components.
Carefully remove the pickguard and the cover for the volume knobs and dust them out.
I’m just going to briefly mention this as most musicians are familiar with the feedback you get when you have too much reverb and you point your guitar at the amp… it doesn’t sound great.
Just make sure that the “buzzing” you hear isn’t actually feedback that sounds like buzzing.
I know, might be silly to suggest this, but feedback can come in a lot of forms, some more noticeable than others.
Bad Cables and Interference
I already mentioned checking the cable for any tumbleweeds or junk stuck on it, but also check to ensure the cable is in overall good shape.
Make sure the male ends of the connections don’t wiggle, run your hand along the length of the cable to check for any kinks or bulges in the internal wiring.
Further, Electric guitar buzzing could be the result of interference from other cables. If you have a multi instrument setup, such as a recording setup, or live gig setup you might have a bunch of cables.
It’s tempting and usually normal to want to bundle the wires together and run them along the same path to where you need them to go.
This can be problematic in some cases as some cables can cause interference with others. This can cause a lot of buzzing for electric guitars and most other instruments or microphones.
Many modern cables solve this problem with shielding in the external sheath of the cable. However, if that sheath is damaged or not there you can run into interference problems.
You will end up going through a few cable in your lifetime. You can reduce the cables you go through by buying good quality cables and wrapping them correctly.
Also, not rolling over them in your wheely chair is a good start. Hahah
Replacing a cable can run you roughly 15-60 dollars depending on how fancy you want to go. I’d recommend going with a mid range, not the cheapest, but staying under the fifty dollar range, that seems to be the sweat spot in my opinion.
Electric Guitar and Amp Buzzing
If the above troubleshooting hasn’t resolved you issues, then I’m afraid you’re getting into more complicated territory (read: expensive).
You may have a bad connection with the wiring in either your guitar or amp. Depending on your gear, this can vary wildly with how hard it will be to fix.
For example, the wiring on the 3-way switch on my Telecaster became lose many moons ago. My local shop took less than 5 minutes to repair it with a soldering iron and it was working like new again.
Telecasters tend to have very simple and robust wiring routes, so the fix was easy and cheap. The more complex the internal components, the more expensive the fix will be.
For amps there is more variety and complexity with the internal wiring. Connections to ground or a bad shield connection can put you out in the cold.
The most you can do, without a lot of prior knowledge is to dust everything out and check for loose wires. any wire that seems loose or a bad grounding wire can be the reason your electric guitar buzzes when plugged in.
Electromagnetic interference can be a toughy!
How to fix buzzing noise on electric guitar
- Gently wiggle or adjust the cable connections, knobs and switches. If the buzzing increases or changes you likely have a dust problem or a loose connection.
- Ensure your guitar’s cable is in good working condition, no kinks or bulges. Further, make sure you’re not running multiple cables in parallel with one another as this can cause interference buzzing.
- Check the internal wiring on both your guitar and amplifier. A bad solder joint will love to buzz and drive you nuts. It might be a more costly repair, or you might be able to perform a quick fix with a soldering iron.
So there we have it. There’s a number of reasons why your guitar might be buzzing.
Another reason you might be having buzzing issues on your electric guitar can be the peddles or extra gear that intercepts the signal from the guitar to the amp.
I’m not going to address these in specifics, as there’s a million that you could be using. Nonetheless, the same general advice I gave about the amps will more or less apply to switches and peddles for guitars as well.
Here’s a cool guide from Roland/ Boss on resolving grounding and buzzing issues.
All the best in beating the buzz!