This article is an explanation of a problem I had and how I resolved it. The purpose of writing this is to make you aware of similar situations where you may have the same problem. Have a read through and in the future if you encounter similar problems, you will have an idea what you can do to fix it.
My friends recently bought me a guitar for my birthday. Unfortunately, it was sent to them with wiring problems and buzzed and hummed so loud you could barely hear what was being played. Apparently this is common for cheap guitars bought on eBay or unknown brands. Not being guitarists they gave it to me unaware of the problems. The guitar was still good quality, just the electronics weren’t done right.
THE LOCAL MUSIC REPAIR SHOP
Seeing as I had only a basic understanding of electronics I decided to take it to the local guitar shop to be repaired. Both shop assistants assured me that they will be able to fix it and I was told ‘no worries’. Two weeks later I received a phone call from the shop saying that they had improved the buzz but was unsuccessful in totally fixing the guitar. They told me the following were the reasons why the guitar isn’t working:
1) It is a cheap eBay guitar
2) There were not enough bits inside the guitar (yes they actually said bits)
3) The pickups are faulty
If you ever get an explanation like this from a guitar shop, hit the ground running! No electronics expert would ever use the term ‘bits’ when talking about electronics. They recommended I leave the guitar with them to get new pickups installed. The feeling I got from this person was similar to getting a car serviced and being told that X and Y need to be replaced. He sounded like a dodgy mechanic. I told them not to do anything and I will be picking the guitar up straight away. He also mentioned there would be a charge of $25 for the time spent on it.
As soon as I arrived at the guitar shop, I asked to plug the guitar in to see what they have done. I recommend everybody do this when taking a guitar to be repaired. I was shocked at the result. The guitar was actually worse off! Not only was the buzzing louder, but the volume and tone knobs didn’t work anymore. I demanded to see the person who repaired the guitar. Not surprisingly, he wasn’t in at the moment so another person came over to talk to me about it. By this stage I was pretty angry because I knew that they didn’t have a clue what they were doing. The person emphasized that the pickups need to be replaced and that they generally don’t do repairs on eBay guitars like this one. A very different response compared to the ‘no worries’ I was given when taking the guitar in. I believe that they were just looking for excuses to cover up the fact that they didn’t know what to do. After a few stern words on my part, they decided to ‘waive’ the $25 charge. As I left, they said I can bring it back in at any time to get those pickups replaced. Many people would just accept the person’s word and allow them to replace the pickups. Be very careful with doing something like that.
FIXING IT ON MY OWN
So I took the guitar home to have a go fixing it on my own. As I said, my understanding of electronics was pretty basic at the time. So I started by searching on Google for wiring diagrams for the type of guitar. Sure enough I found a couple. I then searched for information on how to fix the buzzing and humming. I came across this great website http://www.guitarnuts.com/ dedicated on wiring and shielding electric guitars. I recommend you read through the site before you try any repairs or modifications on your guitar. Don’t forget to read the page on safety from electrical shock at http://www.guitarnuts.com/technical/electrical/safety/index.php.
I followed the instructions on shielding the guitar. Shielding is when you cover the insides of the guitar with copper sheets or aluminum foil to act as a ‘shield’ from outside sources. A better explanation is on the website. After comparing my guitar to the diagrams, it was obvious that the mistakes were very basic. I was shocked that the ‘expert’ didn’t know how to fix it. After about seven hours of rewiring and shielding I plugged the guitar in. Surprise, surprise, it worked perfectly! The hum was almost completely removed (as good as my other guitars) and the volume and tone knobs worked. So what does this say about the so called ‘problems’ the shop said it had:
1) It is a cheap eBay guitar – has nothing to do with the problems. An answer like this is just a way of saying “we don’t know how to fix it” or “we can’t be bothered fixing it”. The fact that the guitar sounds great now proves that this had nothing to do with the problem.
2) There were not enough bits inside the guitar – actually there were enough parts. I am still dumbfounded as to why the person said this. My only guess is that they wanted an excuse to slap on some extra charges.
3) The pickups are faulty – actually they work perfectly. The problems were a few wires soldered to the wrong places and problems with the grounding. There was nothing wrong with the pickups. My guess is that they wanted to earn some cash by selling me pickups while keeping my working pickups to sell to somebody else. That or they actually have no clue (also very likely).
THE END RESULT
The end result was that I managed to fix the guitar completely on my own without spending a single dollar. It took some time because I’m a beginner with electronics, but it all worked out. If I had listened to the people at the shop, I would have spent at least a couple hundred dollars in total to have it ‘repaired’. This situation may be very rare but keep in mind that it can happen. Ask somebody you trust what they think the problem is before you consider taking it to be repaired. If the shop’s answer doesn’t match up (in my case my instincts told me they were wrong), get out of there and never go back. I’m sure most guitar shops aren’t dodgy, but you don’t want to take your chances.
You can get electrocuted if you don’t know what you are doing with the electronics. I don’t recommend people try it themselves unless they have experience and understand what they are doing.