Shielding a Stratocaster

Having recently created a post about shielding a Telecaster I though I would do one about shielding a Stratocaster. In this post I will explain what can be done to greatly reduce or even eliminate that annoying hum that we associate with single coil guitars, particularly Stratocasters.

Why do electric guitars hum or buzz and why is shielding important?

If you want to understand this issue better I suggest you have a look at my post about shielding a Telecaster. In that post I briefly explain why guitars buzz or hum, and how shielding the guitars helps to reduce that noise.

Inside a Stratocaster

When I remove the pickguard on a Stratocaster, most of them look like the one below. There is no conductive paint or copper tape lining the cavities or the rear of the pickguard. This guitar actually belongs to my guitar teacher, Pete Farrugia. (Pete, by the way is an excellent guitar teacher.) Before I started working on this guitar is was buzzing badly.

shielding a Stratocaster
No shielding in the cavities or the back of the pickguard around the pickups.

How can I tell whether my Stratocaster is not fully shielded?

Try this: Plug you guitar into an amplifier and listen for any constant buzz or hum that is coming from the amp. Then touch the strings or the bridge and see if the hum largely disappears. If it does, then the chances are that your guitar would benefit from being fully shielded.

Shielding a Stratocaster

Shielding a Stratocaster is not technically a difficult job, but it does take practice to do it well. And to do a neat and tidy job takes time. Multiple strips of self-adhesive copper foil have to be cut to line out the cavities. The copper foil has to come over the top of the cavities so that it is in contact with the foil fixed to the underside of the pickguard. The foil I use means that I don’t have to connect each piece of foil with dabs of solder. If I did, the job would take hours!

shielding a Stratocaster
All the cavities shielded. A wire electrically connects the control and the jack cavities

Testing that all the shielding is connected properly

Having lined out the cavities I then check that all the cavities are electrically connected. I do this using a multi-metre. A reading of 0 is good. If you want to try shielding a Stratocaster yourself, don’t forget to connect the control and jack cavities by soldering a wire between them.

shielding a Stratocaster
Testing for continuity

Shielding the underside of the pickguard

The pickups are removed and copper foil fixed the the underside of the pickguard. The new copper foil should be in contact with the controls mounting plate. Again, I test for continuity to ensure that the controls plate and the copper foil are connected.

shielding a Stratocaster
Shielding complete

Job complete!

I’m happy to say that this Stratocaster is now dead quiet, even under strip lighting. Shielding a Stratocaster is time consuming and fiddly work, but it is well worth it. The guitar sounds more alive and you can use distortion without just magnifying the hum.

shielding a Stratocaster

If you have a Stratocaster or any other guitar that you think needs shielding feel free to CONTACT me