We all know that the best guitar sound doesn’t include white noise. Humming, buzzing, and hissing sounds can make you sound unprofessional and can distract listeners from your guitar playing. Therefore, you need to figure out where any unwanted noise is coming from and remove it.
There are several places where white noise can originate, including:
- Guitar’s interior electronic components
- Power supplies
We’ll go through each component in your guitar chain and see how to remove the unwanted white noise.
How Do I Get Rid of White Noise from My Guitar?
The methods to remove white noise from your guitar depend on where the sounds are coming from. However, replacing or fixing certain components can do the trick. You can also use pedals like equalizers and noise gates to attenuate noticeable frequencies or to stop the signal from getting to your amp when you’re not playing.
Some components that may need replacing or repairing are jack cables, pickups, transistors and tubes, ground cables, power supplies, batteries, and more. To ensure which part of your chain is creating the white noise, you’ll need to start with some troubleshooting techniques.
How Do I Troubleshoot My Guitar Chain?
If you’re a guitarist with a lot of gear, you have many components that can create unwanted noise, some of which you might not even think of. Even if the problem isn’t coming from your guitar, it could come from your main jack or patch cables, your pedals and their power supplies, or your amp and its electronic components. And then there’s the power supply in your house or studio…
In order to troubleshoot so many components, you’ll need to reduce the possibilities. Start by plugging your guitar directly into your amp. If there is white noise, you’ll know it must come from the guitar, cable, amp, or central power supply. However, if the noise is gone, you can eliminate these suspects and focus on the pedals, their power supplies, and patch cables.
Quick Tip: Set your guitar’s volume knob to zero. If you still have white noise coming through, it must be coming from one of the links in the chain after the guitar (cable, pedals, amp,…).
White Noise from Main Guitar Chain (Guitar, Cable, Amp)
If you’ve reduced your guitar chain down to the essentials and the noise is still coming through, you know it must be arising in one of the components. You’ll need to try a few different variations to figure this out. Here they are (in no particular order):
- Change the amp: if you have another amp, try using the guitar and jack with it. If the issue is solved, the amp is guilty. If it persists, move on to the next step.
- Change the cable: connect your guitar to the amp with a different jack cable. If you still get white noise, try the following step.
- Change the guitar: use another guitar with your amp and jack cable. If the noise is gone, then you’ll need to repair your guitar’s pickups or electronic components.
If you’ve tried all these methods and still get white noise, your home’s power supply is the most likely culprit. It could be an issue with an individual socket or the supply in general. You can consult an electrician in case it affects appliances around your house. If the issue seems to only be with your guitar, you can look into power conditioners.
Power conditioners are made up of outlets and electrical components that regulate the energy flowing from your central supply. They can be useful not just for your home but also for taking on the road. You never know how steady the electrical supply will be in different venues.
Later on, we’ll see what you’ll need to do if the issue is coming from your guitar or amp. But first, let’s see if your pedalboard or other accessories are creating white noise.
White Noise from Pedalboard and Accessories
It’s very common for extra noise to be coming from outside your main guitar chain. Pedals, patch cables, and power supplies, especially with daisy-chain cables, are often the main culprits for introducing humming to your guitar sound.
One example that can add high-pitched frequencies to your sound is if you have a digital pedal (like a reverb) connected to analog ones using a daisy-chain cable. These different types of pedals tend to need independent power supplies as their range in terms of amperage are quite different.
If you’ve ruled out your guitar, amp, or jack cables as the creators of the noise, then you can use them with each of your pedals, one by one, to see if these stompboxes are the issue. Make sure to use one power supply for all of them. If one of the pedals is the problem, you might need to get it fixed by a technician. There might be a loose wire or other component causing the noise.
If none of the pedals are generating noise, it’s time to check the patch cables. Link your guitar and amp to two pedals and change out the patch cable that links them both. Because they are small and are commonly bent and twisted to fit your pedalboard, they can easily become damaged.
The last thing to check is your power supplies. As mentioned before, differences in amperage between your pedals can cause noise when connected to the same supply. In addition, damage to the cables themselves or the output heads can introduce humming and buzzing to your sound.
How Do I Solve White Noise Issues With My Gear?
Now that you’ve gone through your gear and have found the noisy guilty party, you can try to solve the issue yourself or with the help of a technician. Repairing or replacing faulty gear will get your sound back to where you want it to be.
If you’re still unsure where the noise is coming from or don’t have enough money to replace or repair certain bits of gear, you can use some pedals to ease the influence of the noise over your sound.
EQ pedals are useful for attenuating certain frequencies that interfere with your chain. You can cut these frequencies to reduce their influence on your sound, giving it a clearer and more professional vibe. However, cuts in the spectrum might change your tone to a point that you don’t want. For example, removing some mids can reduce noise but also make your guitar sound thinner. You’ll need to find a balance between a good guitar sound and a lack of noise.
Noise gates are also handy in removing noise as they stop the signal completely when it goes below a certain threshold. Once you start playing again, the signal gets through, but so does the noise. So, while these kinds of pedals are good for reducing the impact of white noise in pauses in your playing, they don’t solve the issue altogether.
Electric and electro-acoustic guitars include several electronic components that can generate white noise. If any of these are poorly connected or have come loose, they can affect your overall sound. These components include:
- Wires to the volume knob
- Wires to tone knobs
- Wires to the pickup selector
- Wires to pickups
- Wires to jack output
- Jack output
- Wires to the battery
Any of these components can cause issues to your guitar, but the ground connections commonly create noise if damaged or not connected properly. In most cases, you just need to solder the wires back onto the connection points. If you’re uncomfortable doing this yourself, you can get a technician from your local music shop to do it for you.
Your pickups can also cause the issue. Cheaply made pickups generally generate a lot of noise. Single coils are also well-known for their humming, much more so than humbuckers. You can upgrade your pickups in order to get a cleaner sound.
Just like with the wires in your guitar, the jacks and patch cables that connect your instrument to an amp and pedals can also get damaged and have loose connections. You will need to remove the ends of the cable (male connectors) and check the state of the wires. If any are disconnected, you just need to solder them.
However, if the connections seem fine in the ends, the issue may be arising within the cable itself. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do without damaging the protective part on the outside of the cable, so replacing the whole thing is your best option.
Amps are notorious for adding noise to your sound. But while a certain amount of noise is expected, especially with high gain levels, other problems can arise due to faulty components, including wires and tubes.
As mentioned above, bad power and ground connections can commonly cause white noise, including on your amplifier. You can try using a power conditioner or soldering your ground connections so they’re correctly connected.
There can also be lousy wiring within parts of the amp. For example:
- Cable input
- Return and send connectors
- Gain channel
These can be more difficult to repair, as you would have to dismantle parts of the amplifier. If you’re comfortable with repairing bad wiring yourself, take out your soldering iron and get to work. Consulting a technician from your local music shop can also be a good choice.
Lastly, buzzing noises can arise from bad tubes. If the quality of the gear you use is low, the noise might be standard. Tubes can also start emitting more noise as they get older and are used more, and even when they’ve been moved a bit in transport. Try reconnecting them properly and check the results. If this doesn’t work, you will need to buy a new set of tubes.
As with all the gear we’ve already mentioned, pedals are also subject to wear and tear and bad wiring. The inputs and outputs can need rewiring from time to time, as well as general maintenance, especially if you use them for gigging. They can gather dust and dirt, and become sticky from spilled drinks.
If you’ve figured out that a particular pedal is introducing noise to your sound, you can see how it works with a power supply plugged into the mains or a 9V battery. If either works better than the other, you can stick to it or see if the wiring for the worse option is damaged.
The power supply units you use to power your pedals can also become damaged over time. Their internal wiring should stay well protected if it’s in a sturdy container, but knocks can make some parts come loose. You can open up the unit and make sure everything is well-connected.
You should also ensure that the cables connecting the units to your pedals are in good condition. If not, you may have to replace them.
How Do I Avoid Noise Issues in the Future?
The best way to avoid noise issues in the future is by taking good care of all your gear and regularly maintaining it. You should invest in protective cases not just for your guitar but also for your pedals and accessories.
You should also open up any enclosures to regularly remove dust or dirt from the interiors. You can verify if any wiring has become damaged or disconnected at the same time.
When it comes to cables, you should roll them carefully. If you jumble them up and stretch them too much, they’ll become damaged over time.
And finally, investing in good quality gear is essential. When electrical parts are well-constructed and soldered, it’s a lot less likely that they’ll become damaged and create noise.
White noise can be annoying to listen to and also make you sound less professional than you are. It can put you off when practicing, recording, and playing live, so reducing any unwanted noise is essential for guitar players. Keeping your gear protected, regularly maintaining it, and investing in quality products reduces your chance of having hums, buzzes, and hisses come through. Don’t forget that troubleshooting your guitar chain is the first step in isolating white noise. Then you can work on a solution.
Irish-Portuguese writer and musician. Experience in producing, recording, and mixing, as well as writing reviews and how-tos on plugins, gear, and software. I’ll make some changes to the Melda microtexts and get back to you soon.