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Buzz Kill – There are two kinds of guitar buzz……

//Buzz Kill – There are two kinds of guitar buzz……

Buzz Kill – There are two kinds of guitar buzz……

The first is a mechanical or “guitar fret” buzz from high frets or very low action on a guitar where the frets haven’t been leveled on the guitar fret board. This kind of guitar buzz rarely translates through an amp.

 My friend Curtis called me when he discovered the cause of a recent “mystery guitar buzz”  thought to be in his guitar but instead when he switched off his “push-on” style knob in his music studio to operate on the dimmer lights the “buzz” disappeared. He asked if I knew about that. Sure I knew about it. Sometimes we forget to share information with our friends until they jog our memory. Thanks Curtis!  Now that you reminded me of the buzz. Musicians have a lot to deal with during performances: club owners, equipment failures, another band playing on their stage tonight because someone double booked etc. It also reminded to to share some solutions with my guitar playing friends to make their lives a bit easier.

The second  type of guitar buzz is an “electronic or electrical guitar buzz” from extraneous and malfunctioning electronics, poor ground circuits, loose guitar ground wire and variable resistor switches. These inline with the circuit the amp is plugged into can wreak havoc. For this problem solver we’ll concentrate on the most common forms of electrical buzz that drive musicians crazy.

What Curtis discovered was how a rheostat acts in a circuit with a guitar amp. What is a “Rheostat”?  Simply, a device used to regulate an electric current by increasing or decreasing the resistance of the circuit. Some common uses of a rheostat are to dim stage and room lights, to control the speed of an electric motor.  They are used to control the volume of a “house” sound system. It’s usually in the form of a push-push on-off wall light control button in place of a light switch. They are used to lower the lights in a room,club, on-stage, in-studio and drive musicians crazy. Armed with this information you are now more prepared to do something.

Some solutions: Calm down. Think. Get your heavy duty extension cord. Look for alternate sources of power in the room. You’re looking for an isolated output, ensuring that any electrical noise and interference present on the incoming power supply is filtered out. Try each outlet until the buzz is gone in which case you are no longer in the circuit with the problem. If you still have a problem check to see if you are using a three prong plug. That is important. Most of all you need a good ground. Therefore be sure you have all three prongs working due to any ground issues

Another effective solution to use is a “power conditioner”.

Why?  First of all, it has an isolated output, thereby ensuring that any electrical noise and interference present on the incoming utility supply is filtered out. Simply put, a “power conditioner” is used for surge protection and noise filtering. The rig I use has an amp top mounted 3 space rack. There is a power conditioner in one of the spaces (see photos below). As a result if you use a power conditioner or try all of the above solutions something is bound to go right!

image guitar amp and power conditioner for less guitar buzz

Buzz Kill – There Are Two Kinds Of Guitar Buzz……

Since power line conditioners provide effective and reliable protection against voltage fluctuations they clean up line disturbances. They deliver an enhanced level of power protection consequently referred to as a ‘CLEAN’ supply. – See more at: Power Conditioners

Your guitar needs an isolated output, hence ensuring that any electrical noise and interference in the area on the incoming power supply is filtered out. Kill your guitar buzz.


By | 2019-07-18T09:50:23-04:00 January 24th, 2016||0 Comments

About the Author:

Mr. Rick Mariner Owner and Founder and CEO of Haywire Custom Guitars Inc. He is a member of The Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans (A.S.I.A.) as well as a guitar player. Rick holds a bachelors degree from University of Md. and a Masters degree from George Washington University. Rick developed his exclusive 8 – Point “Gig- Ready” guitar process that allows for Custom Guitars that are “GIG-READY”. With Rick’s many years of development and guitar set-up experience, Haywire Guitar shop “Builds satisfied players… one Haywire guitar at a time”.

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