Shield Your Guitar to Eliminate Noise
Disclaimer: as always, if you have any doubts about your abilities to work with the guts of your guitar, up to and including soldering, desoldering, rewiring, etc—it’s best to just take your guitar to a professional for shielding (or any other work). There’s no shame in taking the guitar to someone who you KNOW is going to do it right—especially if it’s a valuable instrument. Of course, maybe you have a little beater guitar available that you can work on so that if you mess something up, it’s not the end of the world. You gotta start somewhere!
On the whole, not many guitars are shielded coming out of the factory. Single coil pickups are extremely susceptible to 60-cycle hum; applying shielding is a fairly simple solution to reducing the noise out of your guitar.
In order to shield your guitar’s cavities, you’ll need to completely dismantle and de-solder most of your guitar’s components. Everyone in the world recommends that you take DETAILED notes on every component and where it was originally wired to. Use your smartphone or digital camera to take detailed pictures. Label specific wires with tape to help you remember which wires go where. You want to make every effort to leave yourself a map to get home with! Pull all the components off the guitar so that you’re just working with the wood body and have complete access to all pickup cavities and electrical cavities.
photo via thefenderforum
There are two quick, easy methods of shielding: conductive copper tape or conductive shielding paint. I think the paint is a little easier to work with and is easier to use in the nooks and crannies of your guitar’s body cavities, but you’ll want tape for the backside of plastic pickguards. All shielding must be in contact with ground. If you are using copper shielding tape, you can solder the ground wire directly to it. You can also use a solder lug attached to the control cavity’s sidewall- a brass screw works well—and then solder a wire from the volume pot casing to this lug for good ground. Alternately, if your volume pot housing is in contact with the conductive foil, you won’t need a ground jumper wire. Both the paint and the foil should come with detailed instructions on how to best apply them for ideal shielding. Once you have completely covered the cavities with your preferred material (allowing time for the paint coats to dry, if you’ve chosen paint), you can put your components back together and get your guitar back into playing shape—but with way less noise—aside from the beautiful noise that YOU make of course.
See you next time in the Corner!