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static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby slateboy » Fri Jun 10, 2011 5:47 pm

Bit of a weird annoyance this one.
I seem to build up a bit of a static charge on my scratch plate when playing my guitar (just like when you rub your hair on a balloon, expect this is done by rubbing my fingers over the scratch plate) Its not physically noticable (no shocks) but when i discharge the static by touching the scratch-plate i get a little "crack" sound which is a pain in the a$$ during recording. (similar sound to the old vinyl records static crackle, but just single clicks in my case)
i've tried anti-static spray on the scratch plate and all earthing is in place. I even tried changing clothing in case it was my nylon y-fronts! If my hand is a little damp it seems to cure it for a short while but i get fed up having to keep licking my knuckles mid-strum. (serious, this is no joke)
i wonder if there is a coating i could add?

any advice, please?
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby Frisonic » Fri Jun 10, 2011 11:36 pm

I mentioned in a previous post that I used to have a problem with whistling whilst recording acoustic, which was overcome when a 'zen like friend' I had asked for advice told me to just stop it. So I did. But this sounds more kinetic. I don't know if this interference lasts for longer than a few moments but if it doesn't, and its basically a recording problem... automation? A little 'nip & tuck"? I mean just rub it out. It's not going to cure the problem but it might help with the symptoms. I have to admit though, I'm really looking forward to hearing what the experts have to say about this!
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby frankb » Sat Jun 11, 2011 6:36 am

Hey,

I have the same problem with all my electrics!

I've had to use copper foil to cover the back of the scratchplates on my tele and strat, and line the control cavity's as well.

Now it only sounds scratchy when I touch pickup covers etc

Hope that helps!!!

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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby ef37a » Sat Jun 11, 2011 8:54 am

Slateboy,
You say "all the earthing is in place" but are you sure?
Are the strings and all the pot/switch casings bonded?

Anti-static sprays do not last long (the works carpet was a bugger! Kept getting zapped from the Dexian. I used more RS AS foam on that carpet than ever I did cleaning amps!) and you need a good one, a foam for preff'. Use plenty all over the guitar, not just on the scratchplate, the charge has to GO somewhere!

Last resorts, Ssteel scratchplate or this..
http://www2.zipperling.de/Products/PAni/u-lack-e.html

Both might be pricey tho'!

Dave.
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby 4TrackMadman » Sat Jun 11, 2011 6:19 pm

Sounds to me like you need to reexamine the soldering. It is possible that the pickups might be acting up as well.
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby MattHT » Sat Jun 11, 2011 7:46 pm

I have the same problem on my Gib LP - I have quite dry skin and when I rest the 3rd fourth fingers on the scratchplate I get the static effect. I find that moistening my fingers gets me through the recording! My other LP is a Tokai and has poly finish and dosen't do it whereas the Gibson is nitro finish - does this cause it perhaps?
the dry skin is a contender too.
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby Madman_Greg » Sat Jun 11, 2011 7:55 pm


I have it happen on my Squier Tele, only in the middle and neck pickup postions. Not got round to fixing mine though, but here is the approach to take.....

Get some of the self-adhesive copper foil and line your control cavity with it, and also the back of the scratch plate (they need to touch so the copper in the control cavity needs to overlap slightly onto the flat top of the guitar), and include it in your earthing connections (ideally soldered).

So what you have is a shielded Faraday cage for all your controls to help minimise hum, buzz, rf interference, etc.
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby dubbmann » Sat Jun 11, 2011 10:56 pm

hi,

i'm the opposite of a 'heath robinson' electrical guy (i know the math, hardly ever use a soldering gun) but it seems to me you've got a grounding problem. worst case, buy a grounding strap (they sell them in electrical stores, used to be required when handling circuit boards and hard drives) and experiment with grounding yourself. it might actually be enough to put it on your ankle (hope you don't play in the pete townsend 'flying splits' style) and connect it to a grounded chassis.

the old-fashioned solution to static electricity in trucks used to be metal chains dragged on the ground from the chassis. maybe you could work it into your stage show ;-)...

cheers,

d
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby ef37a » Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:03 am

It is surely a given that the control cavity, including the back of the scratchplate should be screened but if the front of the plate is a very good insulator it can still aquire a static charge.

If the anti-static foam does produce a temporary cure one solution could be to keep a cloth soaked in the stuff to hand and have a wipe over periodically. I have seem lots of players wipe hands, necks and strings of sweat between songs. Presumably if you were a pigsweaty type you wouldn't have this problem!

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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby slateboy » Sun Jun 12, 2011 11:28 pm

I opened up the guitar when i first had this problem months ago and stuck aluminium tape all over the underside of the scratch plate and wired it to the guitars earth. This should give me additional screening too. (maybe it acts like one half of a capacitor plate now?) the bridge and strings are all earthed too. I tried the anti-static wrist strap to but this is not convenient.
I believe the static charge is on the guitar, not me, as my left hand is in contact with the strings which are part of the earth circuit. Touching the scratch plate appears to discharge the charge that builds up on the scratch plate through rubbing it.

The other option, which i am reluctant to do is to cover the outside of the scratch-plate in conductive tape.
This will look a ruddy mess and is bound to peel off as it gets strummed against. Maybe a different scratch plate made of another material would cure it?

The suggested option of editing out the crackles in the DAW is not really practical in this instance, but thanks to all who have put comments forward.
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby ef37a » Mon Jun 13, 2011 5:32 am

http://www.axetec.co.uk/axetec%20guitar%20parts%20spares%20pickups_023.htm

These guys have a good name for guitar spares and so would I imagine be able to tell you if a replacement plate is likely to cure the problem.

In fact very few common plastics are THAT good an insulator! PTFE and acrylics (Perspex) are the only ones that come to mind.

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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby Madman_Greg » Mon Jun 13, 2011 11:28 am

slateboy wrote:I opened up the guitar when i first had this problem months ago and stuck aluminium tape all over the underside of the scratch plate and wired it to the guitars earth. This should give me additional screening too. (maybe it acts like one half of a capacitor plate now?) the bridge and strings are all earthed too.


You need to ensure the copper is continuous across the scratch plate and cavity, thus enclosing the major components in a cage

This is worth a read http://www.stewmac.com/freeinfo/Electronics/Shielding/i-3789.html and there is plenty of stuff on the web as well
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby ef37a » Mon Jun 13, 2011 11:35 am

I think we are getting hung up about shielding as opposed to the static.

Shielding the underside of the scratchplate, whilst desireable in itself, might be making the static charge bigger, as the OP said, it forms a capacitor.

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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby Madman_Greg » Mon Jun 13, 2011 12:25 pm

ef37a wrote:I think we are getting hung up about shielding as opposed to the static.

Shielding the underside of the scratchplate, whilst desireable in itself, might be making the static charge bigger, as the OP said, it forms a capacitor.

Dave.

Totally agree, but do the shielding properly and continiously then see if you have a problem and if you need to look at other pickguard materials.
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby 4TrackMadman » Mon Jun 13, 2011 4:22 pm

I forgot this but my amp has 3 types of ground options on the back: +, 0, -.
Sometimes I need to change that when changing venue. I did get some minor buzz through one of my guitars as described and adding a filtered power supply (Juice Goose) - that and the right ground selection on the amp usually fixes it when in different rooms.
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby Vintage DNA » Mon Jun 13, 2011 9:04 pm

I've had the same problem with a few guitars, worst was a Japanese Strat. Shielding doesn't help at all, unless you ground it and stick it to the front of the scratch plate rather than the back! Best solution we found was to treat it with Rain-X windscreen treatment(from Halfords etc) It is an anti static coating and more long lasting than most as it usually has to contend with wiper blades. Doesn't last forever but certainly helps.
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby zenguitar » Mon Jun 13, 2011 11:54 pm

These problems are always the worst to resolve because they are different for every guitarist.

And it does vary from guitar to guitar. You can't even pin it down to the scratchplate I'm afraid. You haven't mentioned what guitar you have, so I don't know how much this applies, but most affordable guitars these days have a polyester finish. And a good rule of thumb is that 'the more affordable a guitar is, the thicker the finish'. So it is highly likely that the static charge is building up across the entire body, not just the scratchplate itself.

The one question that hasn't been asked yet is whether you have similar problems on other guitars, or haven't had the chance to try. Essentially, we need to find out how much it is YOU and how much difference the guitar makes. It's possible that you need more than a quick fix to solve things.

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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby Music Wolf » Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:42 am

2thick4uni wrote:Best solution we found was to treat it with Rain-X windscreen treatment(from Halfords etc) It is an anti static coating and more long lasting than most as it usually has to contend with wiper blades. Doesn't last forever but certainly helps.

Just to be clear. Rain-X, in common with all hydrophobic coatings, increases the contact angle of the water droplets so that they form up into tiny beads which can then be 'blown away'. If it has any anti static properties then it will be as a side effect but if it works then that's all that matters.

I'd be interested to know whether the OP has experienced similar problems with other guitars and whether other people have the same problem with his guitar (i.e. is it the guitar or the guitarist?) My experience with static is that it's very dependant upon the environment. Cold dry days are the worst and the type of carpet in the room / footwear have a huge impact. I've also noted that some people are more prone to static problems than others - me being one of them. Maybe I need to stop shuffling along nylon carpets?
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Jun 14, 2011 6:52 pm

Music Wolf wrote:I've also noted that some people are more prone to static problems than others - me being one of them. Maybe I need to stop shuffling along nylon carpets?

I was quite famous back in certain obscure circles back in the 80's for regularly crashing my Commodore 64 computer while wearing nylon socks. As soon as I went for a rich cotton mix the problem disappeared


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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby slateboy » Tue Jun 14, 2011 10:30 pm

my other guitars dont suffer the same problem, those with or without scratch plates. The only difference i can find is that the guitars that are ok have a black-white-black 3-ply laminated scratch plate.
The guitar with the problem is a early 90s yamaha pacifica 112 with single ply scratch plate, possibly nylon? (ok before you mock the guitar i bought for 80 quid years ago, for recording it actually plays and better than most usa 1000 quid strats i have tried, but obviously this is a personal thing. whether they were made differently back then of the "aged" pickups given it a smooth tone, i dont know, but most guitar-friends that have tried it agree its a nice tool)
I have more expensive/pro-end guitars but this is my studio knock-about work-horse guitar.

i figure after all the advice given it must be the type of material the scratch plate is made of. if i bought a replacement scratch plate it would probably double the value of the guitar!
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby zenguitar » Wed Jun 15, 2011 12:37 am

Don't worry, you won't find us knocking Yamaha Pacifica's here. We often recommend them in fact.

A quick search found this link for aftermarket Pacifica 112 scratchplates. Although I've never used them so I can't comment on quality. Alternatively, you could get a sheet of scratchplate material from someone like Allparts and use your existing part as a template.

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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby 4TrackMadman » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:27 am

OK, now that we know it is a 100 quid guitar there are a few things that are suspect here...like all the electronics.

Single coil pickups? Those are a bees' nest.

The pots are rubbish, the caps in between as well. The pickups are usually not to par with more expensive stuff. I'd start from cheapest culprit - are there any capacitors that are stuck in between the pots for tone control? I'd look at these first. Resoldering all the connections with brand new pots of same value might be a good start. Stewmac would probably be a good place for comparison shopping.

Or on the other hand you can get a MXR Smartgate (or similar) and probably kill those problems without any mods. Possibly losing some of the tone in the process but it is a tradeoff.
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby Music Wolf » Wed Jun 15, 2011 5:37 am

Before you shell out any money on replacement parts you could try a temporary solution. Why not try sticking a piece of gaffa tape to the area of the scratch plate where your fingers are rubbing. If this helps then it may be worth trying a different scratch plate.

If you have other guitars but still prefer this one despite the problem then it would suggest that it's good enough to warrant spending some money.
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby slateboy » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:39 pm

I am aware that a budget guitar, such as the one in question, will have budget parts fitted. There is no confusion that the snap/crackle/pops are static charge and not electrical wiring issues. (i have gutted and checked this)

Yes the PUs are noisy (single coil budget plop) but i like the tone. Interference is sometimes present but is not a concern (at least since the death of CRT monitors)

If i rewired the instrument with high quality components the scratch plate issue would still be there, and for what the guitar is worth it seems silly to do this.

I dont think a noisegate (assuming thats what the MXR Smartgate is) is the answer as the static spikes appear throughout playing.

I will try the gaffer tape solution and possibly a replacement scratch plate. (thanks for the link)

Hope i dont sound too negative-gloomy. i appreciate all comments and thank everyone for their continued advice.
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby 4TrackMadman » Wed Jun 15, 2011 5:52 pm

What do you mean by "gutted and checked this"?

Reason I am suggesting these fixes is the fact that a friend had a budget Squier tele with the same issues. Turned out the single coil p/ups were somehow creating an electrical field or whatever you want to call it around themselves that was interacting with the pickguard screws and metal bridge. He liked the tone too and since he didn't want to replace anything a noise gate fixed his issues to a point.

The MXR can filter the broad spectrum of background noise (high, high+mid, full range in two different trigger modes) so most likely this will disappear.
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby dubbmann » Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:55 pm

hi,

the more i think about this, the more i'd recommend getting a ESD strap from an electronics store and trying it out before any drastic changes to the guitar. the nicer ones have an elastic band the goes around your wrist and usually has several feet of electrical wire ending in an alligator clip that you attach to anything you think is grounded. i'd even try attaching it to the guitar bridge and seeing if it solves the problem. these ESD straps cost about $5 and they're useful to have around in any case, so little ventured, nothing lost.

martin's story of his atari illustrates the vulnerability of older equipment to this problem. i have horrible nylon ply carpet in my studio (previous owner o/t house) and if i walk in there with certain shoes, i zap my older gear. fortunately, i hate wearing shoes in the house so it doesn't happen too often but that's static electricity for you.

also, as andy said, we all love the yamaha guitars, not least the inexpensive ones. i have one of the pacifica's i picked up for $75 used, not cause i needed it but because it was such a cracking guitar that i couldn't stand to see it on the shop wall for that little money. so i gave the waif a home....

cheers,

d
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby slateboy » Thu Jun 16, 2011 11:30 pm

4TrackMadman wrote:What do you mean by "gutted and checked this"?

what i meant by gutted and checked was i opened up the guitar checked and re-soldered all connections, dusted out, cleaned pots/switches (the proper spray, not wd40), lined the cavity with insulation/screening and earthed pots/screening/etc accordingly.

I have tried the static wrist-strap that i already owned.
As mentioned, i am convinced the problem is a static build up on the instrument and not me, therefore earthing myself with wrist-strap or simply fret-hand touching the strings (which are part of the earth circuit) makes my body discharges the static.

I covered the scratchplate in insulation tape and it has reduced the amount of "cracks" so some progress though, like my other encounters of static, it has the ability to jump through air. (walk across that nylon carpet and see how close the metal door handle you can put your finger before you draw an arc). I got some of that aluminium-foil tape left so i might try a layer of that on the scratch plate and earth it. will let you know the result...
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Re: static crackle from guitar scratch plate

Postby slateboy » Fri Jun 17, 2011 12:00 am

solution found (of sorts)
covered the top of the scratch plate (in the area where i strum) in conductive aluminium foil tape and its cured the static cracks. If i touch outside the foil i get static pops.
(more foil tape required)

the only downside is it looks a buckin mess, but as its studio use only and not for the stage i can tolerate the aesthetic compromise.
thanks for everyone's comments
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