Whether as a hobby, or even if you are a beginner, you know that an electric guitar is an electrical instrument. Therefore, you need to be extra cautious of the current and electricity it produces.
Like anything electrical, there are shock risks associated with an electric guitar. It doesn’t happen too often, but you might have heard of singers or musicians getting an electric shock while playing. Some musicians have even died of severe current shocks while playing their instruments.
So, the main question is, can an electric guitar shock you? Yes, it can shock you as well as cause severe injuries. This can happen if the instrument isn’t properly grounded, or even loose wires.
In this article we go over everything you need to know to stay safe from an electrical shock, and we learn what causes these shocks. You will also learn how to properly ground your guitar. Let’s get to it!
Reasons Why Your Electric Guitar Shocks You
People have different experiences with guitars giving off electric shocks. Some feel their guitar’s strings to be the main point from where they get a tingling sensation. For others, it’s the microphone that causes the shock. The latter is the most common experience among many guitar players. Your guitar is surrounded by many things that emit or produce EMI, or electromagnetic interference.
Many people blame exposed wires on the stage for such a shock. Some think that it’s either the microphone or the instrument itself that causes this problem. If you’re an amateur musician, you must know these things before performing. You need to know if touching a microphone is dangerous or if an electric guitar can shock you.
Guitarists also report that when they touch their microphones while playing a guitar, they feel an electric current. Some of the most common reasons why you will get shocked from your guitar include:
Poor grounding of an electric guitar is one of the most common reasons why you may get shocked. In most cases of poor grounding, the musician feels the current from touching the microphone either with their hands or lips. This issue could be potentially dangerous and life-threatening in some cases. That’s why it’s important to understand it, and make sure that it is avoided at all costs.
When your instruments are improperly grounded, touching them can put a charge on your body, putting some voltage over it. When this charged body touches a properly grounded item or surface, the voltage is discharged, giving your body an electrical shock. If the voltage is quite high, it can be very dangerous and, in some cases, fatal too.
Sometimes, this issue of poor grounding arises because the socket where your guitar is plugged in is damaged. Other times, it could be a complex fault inside the instrument itself that creates voltage on its closure or chassis.
It’s important to note that touching a properly grounded surface when you are not holding an improperly grounded guitar isn’t very dangerous. In this case, the discharging is usually subtle, only giving you a minor shock. On the other hand, if you are touching both the properly and improperly grounded points at the same time, the discharge could be very strong, resulting in severe shock and very dangerous scenarios.
Most modern musical instruments are strategically designed to fit in a three-prong adapter. Simply stating, these instruments have three pinned plugs to put them inside the sockets.
The three prongs design is a reasonable way to protect musicians from the voltage that is applied at the chassis, in case the instrument is damaged. In such instruments, the third prong often called the round prong, is connected to the chassis in such a way that the voltage applied there is drained to the ground.
However, many people commit the mistake of plugging in a three-prong instrument in a two-pronged or a cheater plug. Doing so disables the round prong, thus the voltage is not discharged to the ground. The voltage has, therefore, no place to go and instead shocks the human body, causing severe issues in most cases.
This is why you should always invest in guitars that are three-pronged, and you should always choose to plug them in the relevant sockets.
Poor grounding and two-prong adapters are usually the most common reason for an electrical shock. However, there could be other reasons why your guitar is shocking you too.
Below are some tips to keep in mind while using an electric guitar, or any other electrical instrument for that matter. Using these tips while playing electrical instruments can ensure your safety.
- Make sure your instruments are not too old.
- Keep a strong check on your guitar’s strings and wires and get them fixed instantly if you notice something wrong.
- Always try to detangle, settle all the sockets and wires properly before you sit down to play any instrument.
Also, try not to work with any electrical instrument when:
- Your body is wet or after you’ve just stepped out of the shower.
- Stop playing your guitar right away if you feel a minor tingle or electric shock from it. Get it fixed and check your connections properly before playing again.
How Do I Know If My Electric Guitar Is Grounded?
The easiest way to check if your guitar is grounded is to notice the hissing sound it makes. You simply have to touch the string and listen carefully for the background hiss that is produced. If the hiss is low and hardly notable, your guitar is grounded. Otherwise, you’re in danger and should get it fixed right away.
Grounding your guitar strings is essential for having a quieter guitar. You may have noticed your guitar’s noise gets quieter when you touch the strings. As it turns out, a human being makes a pretty good EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) antennae!
How To Ground An Electric Guitar?
If you’ve checked your guitar and noticed it’s not properly grounded, your next set will be to immediately ground it. Even though many musicians prefer taking their instruments to the professionals to get them fixed, grounding an electrical guitar is actually pretty easy.
My recommendation for grounding is, to connect everything, but only once. If you don’t already own a multi-meter, I highly recommend investing in one. This Fluke multimeter kit is amazing, and will be all you need to test your voltage.
Here’s how to find the grounding problem:
- With your guitar’s electronic cavities open, turn your multimeter to the D.C. Resistance setting, about 20K.
- Hold one terminal on the back of the volume pot.
- Use the free terminal to touch every metal piece, and pay attention to the reading of the multimeter.
If your Multimeter reads “0.0”, then you have a solid connection, meaning there is zero resistance between the two parts. If your Multimeter reads “0.L”, you have a severed connection, and this is at least one of your problems. You will need to run a ground jumper to make sure the part gets properly grounded.
Tip: Make sure you do this on every part of the guitar, including the Bridge, Switch, and Output Jack Sleeve Tab.
For a great single conductor shield wire, I recommend this Gavitt guitar wire. It’s perfect for shielding against unwanted EMI.
If everything checks out on your guitar, you might have to start looking at your cable. Make sure that your cable’s sleeve is correctly attached to ground. Lastly, if you have Shielding or Conductive Paint, make sure that there is a connection to ground.
You should also have some knowledge of the guitar and its components, so you can easily able to ground it on your own. Depending on where the grounding issue is arising from, you can ground your guitar in several ways. Two of the most useful ways to ground your guitar are:
1. Check your guitar’s output jack. Most grounding problems arise if this jack is faulty. Get it replaced with a new one and reverse the wires leading to the jack to ground it properly.
2. Take a wire and run it from a common grounding place inside the guitar leading it to the tailpiece or the metal bridge. This can create a connection between all the strings and the tailpiece, grounding each one of them, and solving the noise issues too.
Other than these two steps, there are some other ways to ground your guitar that may not be very beneficial, and might seem a little hard to carry out on your own. We suggest either going with one of the steps above, or just taking your guitar to a professional who could ground it for you if aren’t comfortable doing it yourself.
In conclusion, you can easily get shocked from your guitar if it is not grounded properly. Such a shock can at times, be very severe and might turn fatal.
Always remember how important it is to take care of your instruments and constantly check on their grounding. If your guitar isn’t grounded properly, stop playing it right away, and see if you can ground it following one of the steps we discussed above.