Why Do Single Coil Pickups Hum And How To Fix It?

The single-coil pickup is one among the two pickup monarchs. It has been a permanent match in plenty of guitars and used in almost all genres of music. This is what shapes your tone and provides a crisper and brighter sound.

Even after that, single-coil pickup confronts a common issue that is an unwanted hum, noise, or buzz. The buzz single-coil pickups produce that discourages most guitarists from generating their tone using single coils.

Guitar hum ruins studio recording and even become a headache while performing live. So, why do single-coil pickups hum and how to fix it? Well, single-coil pickups hum due to its magnetic coils that acts as an antenna.

These are quite responsive to outside electromagnetic interference, like lights and even amplifiers. This issue can be solved in several ways, and all have their good and bad sides. Not all may work for you.

In this article, we will explain why it happens and the possible solutions to this problem. Take a look to get a knowledge of which one you should pick. 

Single Coil Pickup And How It Works?

Assuming that you know what a single-coil pickup is. Notwithstanding, let us discuss a little about it.

Single coil pickup is a magnetic transducer that electromagnetically transforms string vibration to an electric signal. While a player strums the guitar, it generates vibration.

Then, this magnetic field is scattered all over the pickup and generate an electrical signal or current. The amplifier traps the electrical current and expands it. Finally, it goes to a speaker to produce a sound.

The pickup should have a higher output to send a resilient electrical signal to the amplifier. Having loads of copper wirings can help you get it. Moreover, the potency of the electrical current can be increased by using thicker strings.

Why Do Single Coil Pickups Hum?

As mentioned earlier, the magnets of single-coil pickup act like an antenna. These magnets are supposed to pick up constant vibrations from the strings. But, you know that the magnet is quite powerful. It also captures signals or currents from other sources in your home.

The magnets in the single-coil pick radiation mostly from fluorescent lights and lighting circuits. So, where does a single-coil get these sources? Well, anywhere, in the posh studio settings or in the live stage.

This radiation from the light source generates magnetic and electric fields. It oscillates at about 60Hz, which doesn’t raise real issues. The issue is that it also makes harmonics.

Unfortunately, the amplifier captures all these facts. When the currents in the surrounding are mostly strong, it generates more powerful hum. This is how single-coil pickups produce hum or buzzing sound.

How to Fix Single Coil Pickups Hum?

There is a range of solutions to this annoying and frequent problem. Not only the electric guitar has, but an acoustic guitar fitted with a single-coil can also have the same issue.

Here are the possible solutions to fix single-coil pickups hum;

  • Hum Eliminator Pedal
  • Shielding Pickups and Guitar Body
  • Getting a Noise Gate Pedal
  • Installing Noise-less Guitar Pickups

These solutions have proven to be useful in removing or at least minimize the humming and buzzing problems. Let’s get into the details.

Hum Eliminator Pedal

For the guitarists who want a simple yet effective solution, getting a hum eliminator pedal can work. The hum eliminator pedal is designed to dislocate the 60Hz cycle hum. It can also balance the signals to make your tone clearer and more potent.

This may not be the only solution but a great option to fix humming issues. You can consider buying Ebtech Hum Eliminator . Usually, the hum eliminator pedal comes in three forms.

Ebtech Hum Eliminator

  • One type includes a two-channel box for ¼” guitar cables.
  • The second type includes a two-channel box for ¼” cables and XLR
  • The third type contains eight channels.

Shielding Pickups and Guitar Body

Shielding is a somewhat tricky but beneficial option to reduce single-coil pickups hum. It can efficiently minimize the exposure of a single-coil to different noise sources. You can shield pickups and guitar bodies to keep them isolated from the noise.

The shield works as a cage that can be made of aluminum or copper tape. These two materials are conductive that helps to control external signals. So, it will not reach the single-coil magnets.

Moreover, you can shield the pickups by using shielding paint. Shielding paint is made with graphite, and it also looks artistically better. But, not everyone can afford to buy shielding paints because of its high price.

There is also another affordable solution that is using aluminum foil. But, aluminum foil doesn’t have adhesive so that you can use adhesive spray. Here we’ll tell you how to do this DIY way. If you have already done any modification to the guitar, this can be effortless for you to do.

However, to shield pickups and guitar body, you’ll need aluminum foil, adhesive spray, scissor, and a marker. Then follow the process below.

Shielding Pickguard

  • Take away the pickguard from the guitar by using a screwdriver.
  • Now place the pickguard over the aluminum foil. Then, outline it with a marker.
  • Cut the outlined pickguard into small pieces. Cut into small pieces instead of a large piece that makes it easier to do.
  • Then, apply a light coating of any adhesive spray over the aluminum foil. After that, gently place the foil sideways of the guitar pickguard.
  • Use the small aluminum foil pieces in the connection points to ensure the foil is well connected.

Shielding Guitar Body

  • Trim the aluminum foil into small pieces and place these pieces in the hollow of the guitar’s electronics. Make sure to cover the entire cavity in a puzzling form.
  • After cutting the foils, take one piece at once and do a light coating of adhesive spray. Now put it back to its place and do the same for the rest foil pieces.
  • Then, again cut the aluminum foil into four pieces and cover the body. Make sure it overlaps at the outer part of the guitar’s body. This is to ensure a continuous aluminum connection between the body and pickguard.
  • Leave the spot exposed where the pickups are connected through the screws.
  • Keep the guitar’s electronics back into the foil of the guitar’s pickguard and then into the guitar’s body. Finally, put the screws back at the end.

Getting Noise Gate Pedals

Noise gate pedals not only help to reduce hum, but it is also effective in creating a whole pedalboard. It works by fixing a volume limit on your tone. If anything crosses the limit, then the noise gate will either reduce or mute your sound. You can try Rowin Guitar Noise Gate Suppressor.

How to Use it?

Usually, noise gate pedals have two or three parameters to operate. One is the threshold that limits the sound that you fix before the gate triggers. The gate acts faster with the higher threshold that helps in better noise suppression.

This is mostly handy for rhythm guitar, as it creates more space. Also, it may not be a good option for solos and leads because it will cut the tone sustain. In that case, lowering the threshold can work.

The second parameter is decay, which really useful. This provides the chance of decaying the sound from the place you are to zero. It is more like a reverse swell effect. The larger the decay, it will take more time to reach zero.

Lastly, some noise gate pedals have the parameter called “mode,” which is either “mute” or “reduction.” It gives you a choice to decide if you want to hear absolute silence or the sound remains to boost the song’s vibe.

Is It a Good Choice?

Honestly speaking, noise gate pedals might not be a good option for beginners. However, it still can be an excellent augmentation to your pedal collection.   

Installing Noiseless Single Coil Pickups

Our last suggestion is installing noiseless single-coil pickups. It may not be that effective like others, but this could help to pursuit your tone. However, ever heard about noiseless single-coil pickups?

It is actually a humbucker because of the way it is made. The reason behind calling it a single coil is that it retains the same sound as a single-coil pickup. But, it doesn’t generate hum like single-coil pickups. The size is also the same as single-coil pickups.

There are two reasons for which we called it the less effective option. The first reason is the high price of the noiseless single-coil pickup. Secondly, it can reduce hum to a certain extent but cannot eliminate it completely.

Conclusion

In the end, it’s your preference to choose the best solution for your single coil hum issue. Hitherto you know why do single-coil pickups hum and how to fix it. Give these solutions a try to understand what works for you. Thus, you can maintain a unique, bright, and crispy sound in your single-coil pickups.

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