If you get a lot of guitar hum, this article is for you. Aluminum foil guitar shielding can help protect your guitar from electromagnetic interference, significantly reducing and even eliminating noise.
There are plenty of products that you can purchase and use for aluminum foil guitar shielding, including guitar shielding paint and guitar shielding foil tape. The shielding paint is often graphite-based, while the foil tape is usually aluminum or copper. Any of these solutions will do a fantastic job of shielding your guitar from interference, but there are also DIY techniques that you can use.
Instead of purchasing a guitar shielding kit, you can use household aluminum foil, or make your conductive paint out of a few ingredients for a fraction of the cost. Here’s a rundown on how to use typical, household aluminum foil for your guitar shielding.
What You Will Need
- Roll of heavy-duty aluminum foil
- Two-sided tape
- Masking tape
- Phillips screwdriver
- A small, sharp knife
- Bus wire
Our goal is to encase all of our electronics in aluminum, which will create a shield to protect them from electromagnetic interference. We’re going to do this by covering the pickup and electronics cavities with household aluminum foil. Once we cover everything in foil, we’ll connect the shield to the ground.
Remove the Electronics
How to coat cavities with aluminum will vary from guitar to guitar. Since there are so many different pickup configurations and ways to route the guitar, it’s difficult to find a one-size-fits-all approach. The first thing you need to do is remove the pickups and electronics to coat the surfaces with aluminum foil.
If you’re shielding a Strat, remember that your electronics are all attached to your pickguard. So, just disconnect the output jack, remove the pickguard, and set it aside. Doing so should leave the bare cavities in your guitar exposed.
If your guitar does not have all of its electronics attached to the pickguard, you will need to remove them to expose the cavity.
Do Your Aluminum Foil Guitar Shielding
With the electronics removed, you should have unobstructed access to the guitar cavities, and you can begin to coat them with aluminum foil.
The critical part of aluminum foil guitar shielding is to line the entire surface of each cavity with aluminum, including any remote toggle switches and the output jack. Remember to shield the cavity that holds the springs for the tremolo. Double-sided tape can help keep the foil in place, and a sharp knife can cut the aluminum to the right size. Patience is paramount if you want results that look good and work well, especially when working with typical aluminum foil.
The bare wire on most humbucker pickups is a built-in shield. As long as you have the type of humbucker that has four colored wires and one bare wire, there is no real need to shield that cavity. Gibson Les Paul, Gibson SG, and Ibanez Iceman guitars are all examples of guitars that most likely won’t need shielding in the pickup cavities. These guitars often come equipped with humbucker pickups.
Connect the Cavities
With the cavities covered in aluminum, we will need to make sure that they’re all connected. Making sure that they’re connected means the aluminum coating in your output jack connects to the aluminum foil in the pickup cavities.
The easiest way to connect distant cavities is to use bus wire. You can purchase bus wire at most electronics or hardware stores in rolls similar to wire rolls. Bus wire is commonly found on pc boards, and also when building homemade foot pedals, as well as a lot of other electronic work. If you can’t find any bus wire, you can strip regular wire and use that. On many occasions, you can even use ordinary wire.
The easiest way to connect the compartments is to use masking tape to connect the bus wire to the aluminum in one cavity and string it through the holes to a second cavity. Tape the other end of the bus wire to the aluminum in the second cavity. Follow this same process for any remaining compartments.
You want to make sure you get a good connection between the bus wire and the aluminum. Sometimes it might be a good idea to put the wire under the aluminum, but this will make it harder to troubleshoot later. You can use a multimeter to test your connections and should be able to register continuity between any two points in your shield. If your multimeter does not register continuity, you have a broken connection. A bus wire coming loose, or not making good contact, is the most likely cause of a break in continuity.
Shield the Covers
With our cavities shielded, it’s time to move on to shielding the covers. We shield our covers the same way we shielded our cavities, and we only need to shield the side that faces the electronics. The aluminum foil does need to be under the pots, so apply it with the electronics removed. Make sure that when you replace the cover, the aluminum on it will make contact with the aluminum in the cavity.
Ground the Shield
With everything coated in aluminum, we need to ground the shield. The easiest way to ground it is to use another bus wire. Tape or solder one end of the bus wire to the aluminum shield, and solder the other end to the back of the volume pot.
Reinstall Your Electronics
The next step is to put your electronics back the way they were when you started. At this point, your guitar should work if you plug it in, but there are still a few minor changes we need to make before you replace the screws.
Eliminate the Ground Loop
The last issue we need to face is the ground loop. The ground loop is the result of the aluminum coming into contact with the metal casing on our tone and volume pots. This contact causes a ground connection between the two pots when there is usually one already present. Often, there is a ground wire from the back of the volume pot to the back of the tone. When both of these ground connections happen simultaneously, the result is a ground loop. A ground loop acts as an antenna for unwanted noise. When you have many pots, you have the potential for many loops.
To eliminate the ground loop, you must remove any ground wires. Start by looking up the wiring diagram for your guitar; ground wires are the ones attached to the back of the pots. Remove those, and you should be good. The only wires that should go to the back of the pots are the ground wires from the pickups, the ground wire from the output jack, and the wire from the shield.
With the ground loops eliminated, your guitar should function normally and be very resistant to noise caused by outside interference. Even when heavily bombarded with electromagnetic interference common in live venues, your guitar should remain quiet. The aluminum foil might seem cheap, but it will work every bit as well as anything else, and with careful application, it will look as good. Another advantage of household aluminum foil is that you can re-apply it as needed.
We hope that you have found this article helpful and will put this idea to use. Anytime you have any questions, feel free to message us. If you’ve found this article helpful, please share on Facebook and Twitter. For more articles on guitar electronics, visit humbuckersoup.com.