My guitar has split coil pickups, and I've started to have more problems with noise on the single coil setting since I changed my recording setup. I used to use a laptop to record into and if I had noise problems they would be fixed by unplugging the charger, but now I don't have that option. It's the sort of noise that appears to get better/worse depending where the guitar is pointing. It's also much less of a problem when I switch the pickups to humbuckers. But lately I much prefer the sound of the single coil. Any ideas how I could get rid of this ringing? If I buy a DI will that fix it?

(My kit: patrick eggle with split coil pickups, focusrite solo, imac)

  • You've mentioned you used to use a laptop, but you don't seem to say what your new recording setup is. It's worth giving a few words on this as it may affect some of the answers you've received. Is there now a seperate monitor and computer, or something else? By the way - "High pitched ringing" sounds like what I hear through my guitar with some flat-screen (LCD) monitors, if this is what you have try switching the monitor off for a few seconds...
    – Andy
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 9:06
  • So from what people are saying it seems like the environment is what's causing the noise, annoyingly. We recently moved and now live above a bank, and some other shops. There's bound to be a tonne of florescent lighting downstairs. I'm pretty sure it's none of my gear causing the ringing. I did mention at the bottom that my new setup is an iMac (brand new), so it's not coming from any old monitors. I tried going through my guitar in my amp instead in a different room and the ringing was just as bad, if not worse actually.
    – teddy
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 14:39
  • Ah that's a pity - the bank offices downstairs probably have all sorts of digital equipment, wireless networking (nasty!), monitors and fluorescent lighting that can cause this sort of high pitched noise. And unshielded single coils will pick all this up. Possibly shileding your pickups by lining them with foil might help (user2808054 below is onto this too), though that might change the inductance/capacitance and subtly affect the tone of the pickups...
    – Andy
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 9:07

4 Answers 4


You are experiencing electrical interference from one or more external sources. Single-coil pickups are particularly sensitive to this. For instance, are you using the guitar in front of a computer with an old-style cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor? Are you playing in a room illuminated by flourescent tube lighting?

You may need to play your guitar in a room with only incandescent lighting and with an LCD monitor on your computer, or you may need to sit far away from light sources and computer monitors while you play.


This sounds perfectly normal; humbuckers get their name because they "buck the hum", the hum being electrical interference which the coils are picking up like an antenna. A humbucker is effectively two single coils configured to cancel out the interference from each other.

The exact noise you'll hear can vary quite a bit depending on the building's wiring (or your laptops, perhaps) and the environment you're in. If it really is a problem then you might consider installing electrical shielding under the pickguard and behind the pickups. If you like to tinker then it's a simple project--basically just using spray adhesive to line the pickup cavity with copper foil. In some cases it can make a night and day difference, but you should always expect some level of noise from a single coil pickup.

Other things you could try:

  • Using a power conditioner for your recording rig
  • Avoiding common sources of interference -- cordless phones, microwaves, flourescent lights, cellphones
  • Switching to pickups specifically designed to reduce interference--Lace Sensors are the classic example of a single coil with built-in shielding
  • Build a Faraday cage :-)

If your noise changed, then either your equipment or environment changed.

Your connection could be considered either, depending on it's role. It could be adding noise itself, or it could have changed the voltage your pickups are operating at and increased their sensitivity. Messing with the volume control could help identify a line voltage issue. Your pickup switch will have a capacitor inline which determines the attack of your notes. I put in several capacitors on a rotary selector knob to choose my attack, but capacitors also function somewhat as line conditioners and the same solution may serve that purpose as well.

The first thing to check of course is whether it's even your guitar or any thing at all plugged into your amp, but if only your single pickup is problematic, you've figured that out already.

It could be line noise or picked right out of the air. If it only occurs with the singles, not the humbuckers, that leans toward radio noise.

Curing radio noise involves better shielding or removing sources of radio noise. Curing line noise can be as simple as placing a battery powered stomp-box with an op-amp isolator and phantom power in the effect chain next to your guitar. Try some different pedal effects and see if that helps.

Most likely your noise is AC wall hum which fluorescents, CRT monitors, wall worts, and several other appliances might produce. That would have a 60hz hum, somewhere between B and Bb. Any other frequency, and it's likely to be your audio gear itself.

Power conditioners exist for both wall hum and other frequencies, as do inline anti-noise devices dialed in to similar frequencies. You can also get battery blocks to plug your devices into instead of wall worts, which are essentially magnetic coils reaching through time and space to commune with your pick-up coils. The further away the better.

All wires are antennae, and all antennae have multiple ideal lengths to resonate with different wavelength signals. Simply laying power and audio cords out with different curves, stretches, or coil diameters may lose your noise.

Also make sure your appliances like refrigerators are properly grounded.

You don't have what option? ..Unplugging your laptop charger? You could get an external battery to replace that too, though that's rather desperate.

Presuming your noise is consistent, and since it seems you are recording with software, you should be able to find an anti-noise plug-in for your recording studio which simply uses your unplayed guitar noise as a reference recording to subtract from your input.


STW's answer links to a Faraday cage (+1 for that!). I just wanted to explain that in a guitar context. It's a kind of wrapper in which your hum-sensitive gear (coils) go. The screening on guitar cables is effectively a faraday cage: The earth wire is a 'tube' of copper sheath around the signal wire, with an insulator between. That is: The earth wire acts as a sheild around the signal wire inside it, and protects it from outside interference.

If you do the same thing with the electrics your guitar, this will help. It doesn't have to be thick metal; tin foil will work. For example on some Strats, the scratch plate has a bit of tin foil glued to it on the inside, which is earthed, which helps stop the hum.

If your pickups have metal covers like some Telecasters, you could try earthing that too meaning the whole coil, tone & volume knob setup is pretty much surrounded in an earthed foil/metal case.

One thing I'm not sure about is whether earthing a pickup cover would affect the sound.

Another thing to check is that the strings themselves are earthed - OR - not. Sometimes you get better hum reducing results with them earthed (usually in fact), other guitars it works best with them un-earthed.

Although it sounds like something definite is making the hum, it's possible that the guitarist can act as a kind of aerial owing to being mostly made of conductive water, so when you touch the strings, you get more hum. Our bassist was once in this situation and rather than waste loads of studio time working out what to do about it, we earthed him. Literally put a (gentle) crocodile clip on his enmoistened arm and clipped the other end of the wire to a 'known earth' (metal chassis of mixer). Job done.

He thanked us forever.

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