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Defeating Hums and Buzzes – Top Tips

Defeating Hums and Buzzes - Top TipsTom Lang is determined that these sounds “will be assimilated.”

Have you been all set up at a gig to sing your heart out and then discovered an annoying buzz or hum?

These are sneaky little noises that can undermine your concentration and the focus of your audience.

In the tangle of wires and mounds of equipment, many singers give up on eliminating these noises.

Don’t let your performance be compromised.

There are entire manuals written on this subject, but I’ll focus on the most practical tips for a singing gig at a modest venue with a small PA.

1. Put Your Audio Gear on Same Power Bar.

Put your audio gear on the same power bar

…and plug this into a single power outlet. You will be surprised how much gear will run without blowing a circuit breaker. Lighting gear usually consumes most of your available power so it should definitely be connected to a separate circuit.

2. Get Ground Connectors In Tact

Ensure that every piece of audio equipment that has a power cable (not an adaptor) with its third ground connector intact.

3. Locate the Hum Inducer

OK, this is a little harder but if everybody’s hooked up and the pa’s buzzing or humming, it may be due to a single input to the mixer such as mics, keyboards, or effects. Successively mute each channel if your mixer has mute buttons; if it doesn’t, just pull out and replace each input (in turn) listening for a reduction in hum. When phantom power is on, lower the main pa volume before physically pulling each input.

4. Fix the Humming Input

For instrument-induced hum: (a) relocate its ac power to the same outlet as the pa, (b) use a direct box [DI] to connect to the mixer, and (c) make sure its power cable has a ground connector if originally equipped with one.

5. Know Your Ground Lift Button

It’s less likely that you have microphone induced hum as many mics are not generally plugged into a power source. It can occur, however, if you are using a voice processor such as a Harmony-G or VoiceLive 2 that has connections to a guitar amp and a pa system simultaneously. Get to know where the ground lift button is on your processor and use it when hum strikes.

If it's a house party, ask the host

6. Check the Lighting Dimmers

Often, lighting dimmers will cause hum so you may have to turn the house lights up full, turn some off, or as a last resort, play loud to drown it out!

7. Bring The Long Extension Cord

You’ve connected all your audio gear to one ac plug. Now you need a separate outlet for your lights –and the outlets on the stage aren’t marked. Short of becoming an electrician, start by asking someone in charge at the venue, as, surely, you’re not the first band to play there. If it’s a house party ask the host. Usually, physical distance between outlets is a good indicator that a circuit is on a separate breaker so bring an extension cord along. (Make sure to string it where no one can trip). Lastly, if you are able to find the main electrical panel, check to see if each outlet is labeled as to its location.

Tom Lang

Tom Lang’s career has spanned everything from playing postage-stamp sized stages to international headlining tours for up to 40,000 rabid fans. By day he’s a product manager at TC-Helicon, where his singing experience and extensive use of audio products provides invaluable feedback on performance in diverse environments. Tom regularly sings and plays guitar, keyboards and fiddle in several bands. For examples of Tom’s music and more info, check out www.tomlangmusic.com.

  • Brett

    Great peice of information

    many thanks

  • Jumboshrimpmusic

    My two piece band plays 2-3 (acoustic guitar/vocals drums/percussion) times 2-3 times a week. I bought the G-XT and love the tone, harmoniesm, etc. HOWEVER, this is my second unit…once every 3-4 gigs we get a HUGE “GONG” like sound….both units have done this. I feel like I might be keeping it at bay my snyching my unit with the voicesupport application but it still happens…what/why is this huge horrible sound coming from the G-Xt's?

    Anyone else getting this?

  • I love the pic Tom! Yer' freak flag is flyin!

    Recently, I helped one of our house engineers locate a bad buzz in a brand new system! We tried many of the approaches you've set forth in this article. When we got down to it we discovered that someone had incorrectly soldered the XLR connectors in the patch bay…freakin' weird! It was a long day to eventually discover a very interesting and easy solution…whew! :)



  • Joey Elkins

    Hiya Jumbo,

    That sounds a bit strange… might want to check in with TC-Helicon's support team about that issue:- http://www.tc-helicon.com/support.asp

    Best wishes,


  • teleman

    Speaking of nasty noise, I played a gig in a theatre in the uk.

    The single coils on my Strat ( into Fender Twin ) suddenly became dreadfully microphonic, to the piont that I could barely turn up the guitar. The cause…the theatre was running an electronic “Hearing Loop” system for the hearing disabled. The solution…turn off the Hearing Loop system…this could have been a nightmare gig but this solved the problem straight away.

  • That is a wild story! Way to think on your feet :)



  • Simmons Craig

    I a bass player n singer in a band I use the voicelive 2 just to give a better tone, dubbing n harmonies. lately I've been getting this hum from it which is really annoying. Is there something that I can do?

  • Patrick Harrod

    I borrowed a TC-Helicon from a friend and tried it in a live setting. It caused a hum in the speakers when plugged in. Is there something I can do to remedy this? I tried running through a power strip, would some kind of grounding adapter help. I realize it may be something in the house system, but thought I’d see if there’s an easy fix. Thanks!

  • Have you tried using the “ground” switch on the unit? (depending if the one you’re using has one)

  • keith

    thanks… love these tips. One final thought is bad cords. 9/10 times I’ve had hum problems it has been because of a crappy cord that has been walked on too often, pulled, kinked, etc.. I bring a spare cord for everything (1/4″-one short and one long), mic, midi, ac… to gigs tucked away at the bottom of my gear. Saved my derriere (and other band mates also) on a few occasions