Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

My guitar is shocking me

  1. Aug 17, 2004 #1
    My guitar is shocking me!!!

    I play the electric guitar, and for the past 2 days, I've been getting electrical shocks from it. I don't know if anyone here has enough knowledge of electric guitars to help me out with my problem, but I figure it's worth a shot.

    Anyway, the basic principle behind an electric guitar is you've got the strings, made of steel and nickle, which vibrate when struck. These vibrations are sensed by the guitar's pickups, which are essentially magnets with copper wire wrapped around them. The signal is converted to an electrical signal, sent through the guitar, and to the amp etc. Most guitars will have 2 or 3 pickups to provide for different sound options, mine has 3, 2 are single coils (only one coil of wire), and one is a humbucker (essentially 2 single coils put together, linked in series, with opposing winding directions so as to eliminate RF interference from the signal).

    So, anyway, I've a habbit of when I'm playing on the higher strings to rest my hand on the lowest string. Yesterday I noticed that I was getting slight electrical shocks when I hit strings particularly hard, and today, the problem persists. I'm guessing it's only happening when I hit the strings particularaly hard because a greater signal is generated then, and I'm actually constantly being shocked, but can only feel it once it passes a certian level.

    I only noticed the problem yesterday, but didn't do ANYTHING with the wiring yesterday, my guitar's been wired the same way without any modification for several months, and I just noticed the problem yesterday. Today, I switched my middle pickup, not to try to solve the problem, but just because I had planned to anyway, and the problem persists. Since the problem began occuring without any change of wiring, I'm thinking that perhaps a component just became faulty? I checked all of my grounds and they all seem to be sturdy and unmoving.

    Attached is a diagram of how my guitar is wired, maybe this could help diagnose the problem. When in the diagarm I say that the red and white wires from the bridge pickup are soldered together, those are the wires which form a series link between the 2 coils of the bridge humcbuker. When I say the middle pickup isn't RWRP, that is short for reverse wound, reverse polarity. Most companies will offer a middle pickup which has a reverse wind and reverse polarity, because when the reverse wind will cancel out RF hum when 2 pickups of opposing winds are used together, and the reverse polarity provides a sound which many people prefer for the positions where the middle and either neck or bridge pickups are used together.


    Thanks for any help,
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 17, 2004 #2
    Try switching your guitar chord. I found that this was the problem when It happened to me.

    Maybe I was just lucky though.

    Paden Roder
  4. Aug 17, 2004 #3
    I forgot to add, the problem happens even when my guitar isn't even plugged in. I'm positive the current generated from my pickups when I strike my strings is somehow being re-directed to my strings and my hand.
  5. Aug 17, 2004 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    That sounds about right. Perhaps you should try getting some non conductive strings?

    My bro had a bass guitar that did this to us, and upon changing the strings, we never had any more trouble. Something may not be grounded, but most likely one of your pickups is inducing an electrical current in your string, perhaps only on certain notes, or when you strike it a particular way.
  6. Aug 18, 2004 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I think that the earthing could be a problem. On my strat the strings (well, the bridge) is grounded to a conductive shielding foil which is in turn grounded to the jack plate, the pickups, everything. Never heard of anyone getting a little shock from a guitar though, only a rather big one when some kid plugged his guitar straight into the mains....
  7. Aug 18, 2004 #6
    Just thought of something else! How low is your guitar tuned? If you have it in C, I would advise tuning up to E-flat or E. Maybe the extra slack is connecting with your pickups.

    Paden Roder
  8. Aug 18, 2004 #7
    just my idea.
    You said you had your hand resting on the string, any chance of it touching the pickup?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook