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Shielding method?


I've been on the fence whether shielding affects tone - I'm thinking it does, depending on the method/materials.

I rewired one Strat last week - It had the cavities shielded 100% with copper tape. I remember cutting up my fingers doing it. I've gone to CU/NI cloth tape, which is MUCH easier on the fingers. Acoustically it sounds like it should, I just need to significantly raise the treble on it to get it sound right through the amp - like there is significant capacitance. I'm pretty sure there are no wiring mistakes. There are Alnico V PU's, so the brightness should be there.

But - I've done one particular Strat multiple times and have heard a slight difference. The most recent attempt being with leaving gaps in the coverage here and there - It's still very quiet. It's bright, clear and seems to have no difference to my EJ, which is unshielded.

I'm going to pull the foil out of the PU cavities and redo with the cloth tape, leaving gaps.

Just wondering if anyone noticed the same thing - Or am I imagining the result?

Keyser Soze

If your shielding is properly grounded it should not have any appreciable capacitance so should not affect your tone.

Even if done less than perfect the amount of capacitance created by shielding will be darn small - a fraction of any single tone capacitor.

The simple solution is to go with tone caps of slightly lower value - thus reducing total capacitance back to where it was.

But you are not alone in this observation, many people who fully shield their guitars report a change in tone. My own opinion is that at least some of what people are hearing as a loss of treble/brightness is actually the noise reduction itself. Remember that to the human ears a certain amount of distortion actually sounds 'sweeter' than perfectly clean tone.


Senior Member
Are you noticing a difference between the copper foil and the CU/NI cloth tape? I've never used the CU/NI cloth tape so I can't comment on that. And alnico 5 magnets aren't necessarily bright. Did you wire the guitar up without the shielding first for a before and after comparison? If not what what you are hearing may just be the regular sound of the pickups minus the unshielded noise. I'm a big fan of shielding. I believe it makes guitars sound better.


Silver Supporting Member
I use aluminum tape in the cavities and entire back of the pickguard on Strat's and Tele's. Never cut my fingers and aluminum makes the best shield. No loss of tone to my ears.


BPSSC just bucks the 60hz hum - Shielding "blocks" (picks up RF and shunts it to ground) higher frequency RF - might have my terminology wrong there.

EADGBE - I've shielded several guitars - one being an experiment in shielding/de-shielding and then reshielding using a slightly different tactic based on an article on the old Guitarnuts forum. I've also heard mention here and there of a warning not to let shielding not form an entire loop around the pickup (that was in reference to shielding a pickup, not a pickup cavity). Leaving a gap here and there in that experiment seemed to give me what I wanted - or my mind is telling me that. The shielding/deshielding/reshielding experiment was with the cloth tape.

The cloth as I recall supposedly reduced eddy currents - I don't really buy that. What I do buy is that it is more forgiving to work with (as in no cuts on the fingers). Paint might be an even better material for the purpose, but I don't like permanent mods.

This particular Strat I mentioned had been shielded since I got it back around 2001 with foil. I agree with the comments on Alnico V - The deal is Strats should be very bright (YMMV) by nature with 50s/60s style pickups. I like the noise floor as low as possible too - it's not sounding bad, but needs a boost in treble compared to my Suhr, '54RI and EJ. The Suhr and '54RI are both fully shielded. Something's not quite right, but the wiring looks correct going through it several times.

My theory now is the shielding method does affect the tone somewhat - we're going to find out on this Strat when I get around to it. :) Since the holidays are over, well I'm going to be crunched for time so it might be a while before I get to it.

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