Strat Ground Wire And My Sound

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by bigislandpaisan, Apr 23, 2015.

  1. bigislandpaisan

    bigislandpaisan Member

    Messages:
    126
    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2015
    I broke the solder attaching my strat ground wire to the tremolo spring claw.
    What's the purpose of the ground? Aside from safety does it help the pups or other components function?
    I ask because after it detaching, my strat sounds like it does with my OD pedal off, even though it's on. Sounds like just the amp gain is up. Just very mildly dirty. But my other girls sound fine. How does a detached ground apparently kill the pup output?
     
  2. cratz2

    cratz2 Member

    Messages:
    10,478
    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2009
    Location:
    Indy, IN
    When the wire is attached, your guitar should buzz less (electrically speaking) when you are touching the trem or strings. On some rigs, the difference is pretty radical. On others, in certain rooms, not a big difference at all. Not so sure I'd try playing in a bar with fluorescent lighting and neon signs without a functional ground wire.
     
  3. asatbluesboy

    asatbluesboy Member

    Messages:
    67
    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2011
    Location:
    Brasil
    Pretty much what happens is that electrons have to go from somewhere to somewhere else, so you need an input and an output point. For educational reasons, it doesn't really matter which is which (if electrons come from the hot or the ground wire, that is), as long as you have one of the wires to ground and the other to somewhere else you should be good.

    As far as guitars go, having all metal parts grounded ensures none will act as an antenna and add noise to the signal. But that only really works if you've got all ground wires connected to the very same spot, as to avoid ground loops (which add noise to the signal). This is called star-grounding.

    My bet is that your guitar was not star-grounded (as most aren't anyway) and breaking that wire broke one of the ground loops that, albeit adding noise, also helped the electrons go wherever they should.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015
  4. bigislandpaisan

    bigislandpaisan Member

    Messages:
    126
    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2015
  5. bigislandpaisan

    bigislandpaisan Member

    Messages:
    126
    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2015
    Thank you both.
    But tell me, is the fact that the guitar sounds like its output signal has been cut in half have anything to do with the ground break; or is it completely coincidental, and I have another issue? Cause everything you explained doesn't seem to account for the output drop.
    Sorry.... Did I miss something?
     
  6. JamesOD

    JamesOD Member

    Messages:
    72
    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2015
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    "Aside from safety"? Actually, I believe it's safer without the bridge attached to the ground. Noisier... yes. Safer... no.
     
  7. Mark Robinson

    Mark Robinson Member

    Messages:
    7,084
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2002
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    Throwing a guess here, the events that resulted in the loss of the string ground, either shoddy work or too much flexing of the other wires , say doing something like changing a pick guard etc. May have messed with the grounds on the volume pot, which could easily get you reduced volume. If the terminal on the volume pot that's grounded to the case gets undone, you'll get exactly what you've described. Take a picture? Just guessing btw, no offense intended, good luck!
     
  8. bigislandpaisan

    bigislandpaisan Member

    Messages:
    126
    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2015

    Explain please.
    I was assuming 'safety' as far as what grounding is for in say household outlets and appliances.
    Why is a guitar safer without a ground?
     
  9. bigislandpaisan

    bigislandpaisan Member

    Messages:
    126
    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2015
    [​IMG]
    No offense taken.
    Hmm. Well, here is a picture of the ground just before I broke the solder. The only thing I was doing was trying to pop off the tremolo spring so I can run the ground wire underneath it after noticing it was probably being pinched between the cover plate and the spring, when - for the first time - I took the cover off. I've never tinkered with anything on that guitar; never had the scratch plate off; no bumps or trauma.
    So considering all that, would you say with fair certainty that the terminal to the volume pot is grounded to the case, as you said? Since that's the only wire I messed with?
    I hope so, cause that would mean when I re ground it, the sound should return to normal. If it doesn't, that means something else happened in freak coincidence with the ground wire break.
    Well I'm getting a solder station soon, so we'll see.
     
  10. Gary_

    Gary_ Member

    Messages:
    272
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2013
    Location:
    UK
    My guess? Some other part of your wiring which is *supposed* to have a decent quality wire to ground does not.

    Pots are sometimes grounded just by their physical connection to the scratch plate which has silver foil on the back to help with shielding..... Sometimes, wiring is done in such a lazy manner that a pot will only be actually grounded by that touch point to the foil. The foil is then finding a way back to earth via the term block and then via that little black wire. If this is the case, putting the wire back will sort it out.

    As to what it does? Airborne electrical noise can cause interference that you'll hear as buzz. If you can send that noise to earth you get less buzz. Your body acts as an antennae and, as your body is near the guitar pickups when you play, some of that noise goes to the pickups. When you touch the bridge or strings the noise lessens because your body is being grounded so the noise energy goes to earth, not to the pickups.

    The earlier safety comment isn't quite right..... All modern guitars have this path to earth. The time it would be dangerous is in the event of ANOTHER piece of equipment having a fault..... There is no issue with being connected to earth unless you come into contact with a nasty voltage from elsewhere.... Then the fact that you are connected to earth makes a difference as the potential for injury is worse.

    Things that cause this? A poorly wired valve amp (tube amp) that has been 'modified' by a fool. Three phase wiring at a venue where your amp is plugged in to one phase and the microphone is plugged into another. Bad wiring in general at a venue...... Always take a simple mains tester plug with you to ensure the mains outlet you're plugged into is wired correctly. They are cheap and may save your life as venues aren't always the best for electrical safety.

    So if you're not planning on playing a dodgy modified tube amp in a poor venue, it's to your advantage to have your bridge plate securely grounded :)
     
  11. candid_x

    candid_x Supporting Member

    Messages:
    6,694
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2007
    Location:
    Golden Valley, AZ
    A key to a secure solder ground to that claw is a hot enough iron. Scraping or sanding the surface helps as does using extra flux, but you really need quite a bit of heat to heat up that claw enough to get a good solder connection. Solder is not glue. You must heat the object to be soldered so it will draw the solder to it. I've found that a 40 watt is good enough for most jobs without frying circuits. I put together an inexpensive soldering station using Stew Mac soldering tools: 40 watt iron, a solder sucker is a very handy tool and can make a neat job from a globby mess (I prefer over the copper braid method), and safe iron stand and be sure to get the extra chisel tip. Also reading up on good solder technique is recommended.

    You probably had a cold solder connection to that claw, which is not uncommon. When soldering ground to volume pot, a good iron should make quick work of it rather than holding the iron there too long, which can ruin the pot.

    Also, some Strats use special shielding paint in pickup routs with a screw-to-wire which is also soldered to the volume pot for extra grounding, as well as the grounding wire from the input jack also being grounded to the volume pot. I also like a heavy grounding wire connecting all pots. I don't like unnecessary hum.

    You won't regret investing in essentials. I like the iron he sells. It's not expensive and is just the right size and heat to handle basic guitar wiring jobs. But get the chisel tip, a 3 buck option.

    http://www.stewmac.com/Pickups_and_Electronics/Soldering/Essential_Soldering_Tool_Set.html

    http://www.stewmac.com/Pickups_and_Electronics/Soldering/Solomon_Soldering_Stand.html
     

Share This Page