Guitar Hum Problem – The Dummy Coil Pickup, When Guitar Shielding is Not Enough
So you like the tone of the three single-coil pickup configuration in your Fender Stratocaster? Yeah, me too. Just one problem… too much guitar hum or other unwanted noise. We really do not need to get into why. Just accept this one fact: single coil pickups cause guitar hum. That is just the way they are. The guitar hum comes as part of the design. So what do we do about this problem? Well, there are a number of solutions. Let us take a look.
1. The most obvious fix would be to purchase brand spankin’ new humbucker pickups. Yep, I just love the thought of dropping at least $200 to solve a guitar hum issue. Did you detect the sarcasm? However, if you are dissatisfied with the tone as well as the noise, then it may be time to shell out the big bucks for a total pickup overhaul. Here are some options: rail humbucker, Lace Sensor, single-coil sized side-by-side humbucker (humbucker tone), stacked humbucker (single coil tone without the hum), active single coil, etc. Get on the internet and check some out.
2. If you are proficient with the soldering iron, then an entire wiring re-do may be an option. Upgrade the wire to insulated wire. Replace the pots and pickup selector switch with higher quality components. With a good soldering job, this could take care of much of the guitar hum.
3. Guitar shielding may be helpful in the cavities and the backside of the pickguard. This can be done with conductive metal tape that can easily be found at a hardware store. The purpose of this tape is ordinarily for HVAC repair. For guitar shielding, make sure the conductivity is consistent across the entire area. Generally the adhesive on HVAC tape is not very conductive. This can be solved by folding the end of one piece of tape (so there will be conductivity on the underside). Then position that piece of tape with the folded edge overlapping a piece of tape that is already in place. Then tape it down. Follow? If not, check out some tutorials over at YouTube land. The idea behind guitar shielding is to make a box that isolates the noise in the cavities. I did this to my guitar. It seems to have made an improvement.
4. Although I went the route of guitar shielding first, this was just not enough. So I sought out another solution. And what I found was the dummy coil pickup. It’s simple. Find another single coil (should be similar in specs) and remove the magnet so it does not produce sound. Now wire this pickup to be out of phase with the other three. How? Well, it is simple. The wiring is reversed. Solder the hot lead of the dummy coil pickup to the ground wires of all three pickups. Then connect the ground wire from the dummy coil pickup to one of the pots. It it that simple. I have read mixed opinions on this topic. All I know is that the noise went away and the tone did not. Good enough for me.