Unwanted noise can be a major challenge in audio recording and production. One common annoyance that stands out is the so-called 60 cycle hum.
This audio anomaly can cause many different issues while recording, especially musical instruments such as guitars.
So, in order to eliminate them, first you need to know what is it and why it happens.
What’s 60 Cycle Hum
60 cycle hum is a common audio problem. It causes a low-frequency hum or buzzing sound. The name comes from the frequency of the AC power systems used in places like North America, where the power grid operates at 60 hertz.
The main reason behind the 60 cycle hum is electromagnetic interference (EMI) produced by the electrical power system.
When audio cables or equipment come into contact with the electromagnetic fields emitted by AC power lines and electrical devices, it causes an unwanted hum in the audio signal. This interference is often heard as a continuous hum at around 60 Hz or its multiples like 120 Hz, 180 Hz, and so on.
If you never heard of it, this is how 60 cycle hum sounds:
60 Cycle Hum In Electric Guitars
Electric guitars, with their magnetic pickups, are susceptible to picking up electromagnetic signals, including the 60 cycle hum. This hum is most noticeable when the guitar is not producing any sound and the volume is turned up.
The primary reason for 60 cycle hum in guitars is the interaction between the guitar’s pickups and external electromagnetic fields.
These fields can originate from sources like fluorescent lights, computer monitors, dimmer switches, or nearby electrical equipment. When the guitar’s pickups pick up these electromagnetic signals, they produce an audible hum that gets amplified.
Single-coil pickups in guitars are more likely to experience 60 cycle hum because of how they are built. It also concerns guitars with P90 pickups.
The wire coils inside these pickups work like antennas, picking up electromagnetic interference from the area around them.
In contrast, humbucker pickups were made to reduce hum. They use two coils with opposite winding and polarity, which helps cancel out the hum, making the signal quieter and less noisy.
How To Get Rid Of 60 Cycle Hum
As you understand now, 60 cycle hum could be a big issue when it comes to recording electric guitars, especially ones with single coils.
The good news is that there are some methods to get rid of 60 cycle hum or at least, make them quieter.
And here I will explain three ways you can eliminate it. You can use all of them to get the best results.
The first way to eliminate 60 cycle hum is to use copper shielding for your electric guitars.
You will need a copper sheet which you can find at different guitar luthier shops.
And you need to cover the guitar electronics cavity with these copper sheets. This includes areas where pickups, cables, and the input jack are.
I suggest finding a guitar luthier and using their service to do it properly because you might damage the electronics.
The second way to get rid of 60 cycle hum is to use plugins. There are a couple of good 60 cycle hum plugins that will do the job.
These plugins are specifically designed to eliminate this hum for guitars or any other instruments.
Plugins will find the unwanted sound and you will be able to cut only that frequency.
And lastly, you can do it manually with EQ VST plugins and I know the best way to do it.
Record the guitar you used for recording guitar tracks – same guitar with the same settings – but don’t play anything, just record the 60 cycle hum.
Then add the EQ plugin and see what frequency causes this electric hum. And once you know it, you can easily cut it with a narrow EQ band.
I have used this method many times and it drastically reduces the hum and cleans up guitar sound.
As you can understand, 60 cycle hum could be the worst thing when recording electric guitars, and removing it will make the sound much cleaner. You can implement all or any of these methods to eliminate 60 cycle hum.