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Guitar Shielding and Tone

Guitar Shielding and Tone

Two years ago (2003) I started selling precut copper pickguard shields for Tele and Strat style guitars. I knew it was a good concept. Fender actually used aluminum shields on their early Strats. At first, I sold them in aluminum until a friend of mine who is an amp builder suggested I try copper. I tried it and my buyers loved them. It’s a very simple concept—by shielding the pickguard the copper helps draw noise to ground. Nothing Earth-shaking here, just plain old electronics 101. It wasn’t long before I started receiving e-mails thanking me for the shields and for the positive affect it was having on their tone. It was also during this time that I discovered that the shields were eliminating static buildup on pickguards. I had experienced this a few times before and didn’t realize that my shields would eliminate this problem.

A few months went by after switching to copper and I started getting several e-mails from buyers stating that the copper shields were having a positive affect on their tone. The first few I received I just figured the reduction in noise was what they were attributing the improvement to. That is, until I got an e-mail from a player that was having problems with certain areas on a neck on one of his Strats. He stated he was experiencing a few dead spot up around the 14th fret and that after he installed the copper shield he noticed the dead spots disappeared. He went on to say that not only did the dead spots disappear, but his overall tone on that guitar had improved. He placed an order for 3 more Strat shields and a Tele shield that day. That e-mail, and order, really got my wheels turning. How could placing copper on a pickguard have an affect on tone?

To be honest, I still have no answer other than possibly this. We all know brass is used on guitar bridges, saddles and nuts. And that brass has an affect on tone. And we know that copper is one of the main components in brass. Could it be that the copper is positively affecting the tone as it travels across the pickguard? Well, it’s really the only explanation I have. My buyers keep coming back for more of the shields so I guess at least they feel it is positively affecting their tone. The fact that my shielding products reduce noise and are having other positive affects on tone is a good reason to properly shield your instrument. Why the guitar manufacturers don’t shield their instruments any better than they do is puzzling to me. I guess it has to be a budgeting decision. The benefits shielding give us as guitarists are well worth the minimal cost and time invested. Let me also suggest using the shielded wire I sell at my site here. I know many feel that using top grade shielded silver wire is overkill.

They obviously have never taken the time to use this wire in one of their guitars. The trick is to only replace the hot wires (not the ground wires) inside the electronics of the guitar. Replace these hot wires and connect the ground of the shielded wire to ground at one end only. It’s important that the ground be connected at one end only and that the grounds of all the wires connect to a common ground point. Once all the hot wiring in your guitar has been replaced you will be shocked at just how quiet and toneful your guitar will become. Do yourself and your tone a favor by replacing your guitar’s electronic wiring with top of the line shielded silver wire. You’ll be shocked at the improvement in your tone and just how quiet your guitar will become.

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