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When I was a kid, about 25 years ago, I bought a cheap amp and a cheap second hand squire telecaster. Lately I have finally started playing that guitar a bit more intensely, and I noticed that whenever I was not touching the guitar there would be this annoying buzzing sound.

I always thought it was due to my cheap amp, and thus finally decided to upgrade to a better one. Unfortunately, with this new amp you hear the sound even more clearly, which means it must be my guitar (my flatmates guitar also doesn't have any issues with this amp).

I already brought my guitar away to a repair shop about a year ago, but the guy said it worked perfectly (after charging me...). I now decided to get it apart and am wondering if anyone sees anything weird with it.

I uploaded some photos here: https://imgur.com/a/Xfg3cET. Could someone check whether this wiring is ok or if something is soldered on wrongly?

As I said, while playing the guitar there is no noise, so my body seems to ground the guitar through the strings / front plate. I did check the electronics and there is a connection from the ground of the input cable all the way to the front plate, even though the cable to do that looks quite dodgy.

I also noticed that some of cables look quite thin, and some things look cut away. Is there a 'recommended wire' for electric guitars? And is there a 'recommended material' to shield the components against background signals?

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    Was the loose wire in the first photo already loose when you disassembled the guitar? If it wasn't connected to the bridge, that could be the explanation.
    – ojs
    Jun 21, 2023 at 14:04
  • On second look, are you sure it was a cheap Squier? Those usually don't have Seymour Duncan pickups. But there's a good chance that whoever installed them messed up the grounding.
    – ojs
    Jun 21, 2023 at 18:34
  • Does your flatmate's guitar have humbucker (double-coil) pickups?
    – Theodore
    Jun 21, 2023 at 21:24
  • The loose wire in the first photo is always loose... It kind of connects to the bridge by touching it. Should it be soldered to it in some way?
    – rmeertens
    Jun 22, 2023 at 12:12
  • Soldering to a big object like the bridge is difficult, touching it is enough but it should not hang loose. Wrapping it around a mounting screw could work.
    – ojs
    Jul 21, 2023 at 9:17

2 Answers 2

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I can't advise if anything is wired incorrectly just from the pictures, but it does look like it was done competently, and you've had it checked out, so my guess is it's probably ok. Certainly the wires themselves look good. The thicker signal wires look decent quality.

The disconnected wire is, as you have surmised, a ground wire, and should be connected to the bridge or some other metal-work of the guitar and strings to ground both the guitar, and you when you are playing it, to earth. It's for electrical safety as well as hum reduction.

It is normal for any hum to reduce when you touch the strings, and in cheap guitars is often the main or only way of reducing single coil hum. The wire to ground is usually quite thin anyway though, so looks fine to me, and as the hum reduced when you were playing the guitar, it was obviously working.

It looks like it's just been sandwiched between the pickup/bridge plate and the body however, so I'd go along with the recommendation to fix it to something more solidly. As commented, soldering to the bridge plate will be difficult to say the least, but wrapping around a mounting screw will provide a more secure contact between the screw, the bridge plate, and the wire.

As regards the buzz, standard single coil pickups are inherently noisy as they suffer from electro-magnetic interference from external sources. Fluorescent lights for instance are very bad in my experience.

What I do notice however is that there is no shielding inside either the control cavity or the pickup cavity, and I imaging this is the same for the neck pickup too. This is going to allow more buzz or hum than if they were properly shielded, and the shielding connected to ground.

Cavities can be shielded with gold foil, which works well for the back of the scratch plate and the pickup/control cavities, or I believe you can get some conductive paints you just paint on the inside of the pickup and control cavities. Don't let any of the other wires contact the shielding though.

You can find some decent videos/guides for applying shielding on you-tube, but you'll have to Google it as I haven't got any links I can post to hand.

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Single Coils are noisy. They have always had that humm at certain volumes and gain stages. It is part of there design. Some people make call it a flaw. I just think it gives them character.

Although there does exist noiseless single coil pickups they are a relatively new thing.

This buzzing sound is what motivated the design of the first humbucker pickups. They were designed to buck the humm

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  • The normal single coil hum doesn't change when you touch the guitar.
    – ojs
    Jun 21, 2023 at 14:05

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