How Do I Get Rid Of Annoying Buzz?

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There you are in an intimate prayer service.  The room is full of people in prayer.  You could hear a pin drop except your bass player brings up the volume on his guitar and ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!

One of the biggest things that can distract from worship is bad sound.  I realize that many churches are financially strapped and already aren’t paying musicians, they’re underpaying the worship leaders or music directors and now you’re telling me they need to also have a sound guy on the payroll?  Yep.  For many of us we don’t have the luxury of having a professional audio engineer in-house.  You might be doing all of the set-up, tear down, and mixing yourself!

Having good sound can take a worship service to another level, but no one should know that it’s the sound mixing that helps it along.  It should be transparent.  This is why it’s hard to get a finance committee to approve a staff position for it, because they don’t realize what’s being done if it’s being done well.  If people notice your sound, it’s probably because of a bad mix or noise.  Nobody says, wow the pastor’s sermon was amazing today, did you hear how clear his mic was!?!  However, if his wireless mic keeps fuzzing out every couple of sentences, you don’t get the message.  How about every time a mic starts feeding back when someone is trying to read scripture?  It’s a distraction and anything that takes the attention of your congregation away from the word or the prayer is upstaging Jesus.

Back to the buzzing.  Here’s what I know and have learned.  Most buzzing comes from ground issues.  It’s an electrical thing…like how some plugs have three prongs and some have two.  XLR mic cable are like a 3 prong plug that’s grounded.  1/4″ is like two prongs.  They can be noisy.  Sometimes you just have bad grounding in your outlets.  At my house when I’m using PA for a practice, my electric acoustic has a hum when I’m facing a certain direction.  It’s bizarre.

When I am dealing with a hum or buzz issue the first thing I do is try a DI box.  Go from your instrument into the box, then to your amp or try from your amp to the PA if you are going directly in rather than with a mic.  DI boxes usually have different inputs and outputs.  Some require phantom power, but what you are looking for is one with a ground lift switch.  I have a good one I like that was only around $30, but the prices can vary.  Some have different things they do like pad or boost the volume.

If a DI box doesn’t work, I found this plug called HumX that you plug into the wall socket from your amp’s power cord.  It’s around $70, but worth it if it gets rid of the noise!  This has been working for me with my bass.  I play a single coil Peavey Patriot and I often get a lot of buzz from a bass amp when I use it, but the HumX plug gets rid of it.

So, there ya go.  I’m no electrical engineer, but over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks on quieting down an amp or PA.  If you have any other suggestions or things that have worked for you, post a comment.  I’d love to hear about it!

Non-affiliate links:
HumX (Sweetwater) (Musicians Friend) (Guitar Center) (Amazon)

 Live Wire Passive DI Box (Musicians Friend)

  • Jussi

    I use DI-box in between my guitar (ESP Ltd Ax-50 (Humbucker pickups))
    and fender Frontman 212r and there is still a little hum.
    It doesn’t bother me when I’m playing but when I’m recording, it gets very annoying.
    Do you have any solution for that?
    Cheers from Finland!
    – Jussi

    • Great question. Try adjusting the ground lift switch on your DI box (Turn amp off first). That’s helped me in the past with my acoustic guitar going into a PA system. Sometimes a HumX helps by plugging your guitar amp into one of those adaptors. Outside of that, you might try different electrical outlets. Guitar amps tend to pick up a lot of noise from other things like lights using the same circuit, so using a different outlet that’s on a different breaker might help. Good Luck!

      • Jussi

        Using ground lift switch reduces some of the noise but not all.
        When I set the Drive under 4 (Fender Frontman 212r), the hum stops (and also the DI-box reduces some of the drive). It’s hard to record Death Metal without very distorted sound 😀
        Anyway, thanks for your time! =)
        – Jussi

  • I recently started using a noise gate on the channel that a Fender Strat player is using on our mixer. He plays with a Fulltone OCD, and an EHX Big Muff. When those are on there’s a lot of noise. You don’t notice it while he’s playing, but when the band gets quiet again the buzz is there until he clicks off his pedals, so I gated his channel eliminating any sound until he hits a threshold of when he’s actually playing.