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Completely frustrated with static electricity issues on a 2018 Explorer


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I am seriously bummed out right now. 😔

Last week, I bought my first Gibson (used) from a local, reputable music store that sells gently used gear in addition to brand new gear. The guitar basically looks brand new, with the exception of a few little dings here and there in the finish. The salesperson told me the previous owner barely played the thing, was more a "collector" who had lots of guitars up on his walls. And I believe that -- it's in great condition. The price was right and it played great in the store, so I bought it. I was ecstatic.

Took it home and the following day, noticed something I haven't encountered once during over 20 years of playing multiple guitar brands of varying quality: a distinctive sound of static electricity crackling and popping when running my hand lightly up and down the neck, when my clothing rubs against the back of the guitar, when I rub my hand behind the control cavity, and when I rub my hand behind the switch cavity. I think the reason why I didn't notice it in the store was (1) because I only played it for about ten minutes, and (2) I was playing it sitting down and wasn't moving much. Lots and lots of research seems to suggest that a build up of electrostatic charge on the neck and on other parts of the body occurs quite frequently with new Gibsons, and is potentially related to the finish. 

Threads get started, people offer suggestions based on what they think might be happening, and there's hardly ever any clear resolution. The OP disappears, and we never find out if they fixed their static problem. Some suggest rubbing the guitar with dryer sheets. Some suggest stuffing dryer sheets in the guitar's cavities. Some suggest shielding the cavities with copper tape or shielding paint. Some suggest re-doing the wiring entirely. Some suggest waiting it out, because it's "normal on Gibsons" (???) and "goes away with time."

I just want to know three things: (1) what the heck causes this problem, (2) why is it happening to a guitar worth over $2000, and (3) what definitively fixes this problem? I've already tried rubbing the guitar with dryer sheets, and that's a no go. Opened up the cavities, and everything looks appropriately soldered, including the bridge ground. Do I seriously need to spend money on getting a tech to shield and re-wire this thing?

I love this guitar. It's my dream guitar, the guitar I've wanted since I was a kid. I don't want to have to return it over STATIC ELECTRICITY, of all things. I haven't had to return any guitar at any point in my life due to major manufacturing flaws, and it's blowing my mind a little that the first time I'm considering it is on an instrument that's more than twice as expensive as the most expensive US-produced guitar I've owned up until now.

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1. electricity

2. Cuz Gibson for some reason won’t fully shield their instruments at factory I guess.

3. Easy DIY copper shielding entire cavity with slight overlay and copper shielding entire back of  pick  guard created a copper box of sorts when guard installed. It 100% fixed this problem on my 2019 LPDCTribute bass, silenced my 4003, too. Explorer a little diff but same principle. Pm me and I’ll send pics if needed. It is so easy to do it yourself. No need to unsolder anything. Just apply tape and check connectivity with a multimeter . Done. Where are you? In DMV? If so I could do it for you for fun.

Edited by Lungimsam
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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Lungimsam said:

1. electricity

2. Cuz Gibson for some reason won’t fully shield their instruments at factory I guess.

3. Easy DIY copper shielding entire cavity with slight overlay and copper shielding entire back of  pick  guard created a copper box of sorts when guard installed. It 100% fixed this problem on my 2019 LPDCTribute bass, silenced my 4003, too. Explorer a little diff but same principle. Pm me and I’ll send pics if needed. It is so easy to do it yourself. No need to unsolder anything. Just apply tape and check connectivity with a multimeter . Done. Where are you? In DMV? If so I could do it for you for fun.

Thanks for the reply. Today is my last day to return the guitar, and I’m so close to doing that…

You’re saying that I can shield the guitar and fix this problem with no soldering whatsoever? I don’t have to ground the shielding material? I have zero experience working with guitar electronics, but if this is something I can do on my own without any soldering, I’m willing to give it a go. I just don’t understand why this doesn’t happen to any of my other guitars, which also are not shielded.

Edited by GraceToo
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The static buildup problem that you're experiencing is from a charge on the surface of the lacquer.  It doesn't have to do with the electronics of the guitar.  Shielding will not do anything to stop it.  Low humidity makes it worse.  If I had to guess, I'd say it's partly the composition of the lacquer and partly the curing process that causes some guitars to be worse than others.  I had a 339 with that problem and it eventually went away as the neck wore in. 

As the finish gets worn in and isn't so slick, it gets better.  dryer sheets are the usual treatment.  They help.

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Like @badbluesplayer said not electronic related in the sense that guitar is not wired up wrong.

What I believe goes on is when someone picks up the static charge built up on the nitro, then they come into contact with any metal part that’s grounded afterwards, then that built up charge will have a path to ground. The “pops” we hear during a static discharge is the air breaking down electrically between the metal and your body - a spark albeit visibly tiny. Therefore I believe your guitar is electrically sound in the sense that yes, the external metal parts are grounded and doing what it is supposed to. Shielding is to protect from electrical waves being picked up from the air. I still have yet to see significant differences after shielding a guitar personally, but hey… what do I know. I digress, so if you are not getting radio stations or something with your guitar plugged into the amp with amp on just sitting there, don’t think you need shielding to fix what you’re attuned to right now. Just play the guitar and don’t think about this. You should eventually not care about this and should improve over time. Unfortunate but is what it is. No one ever really hears it when you play anyhow. Never had someone call me out on my LP’s static issues. I have them too but they get better over time. Patience…

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3 hours ago, badbluesplayer said:

The static buildup problem that you're experiencing is from a charge on the surface of the lacquer.  It doesn't have to do with the electronics of the guitar.  Shielding will not do anything to stop it.  Low humidity makes it worse.  If I had to guess, I'd say it's partly the composition of the lacquer and partly the curing process that causes some guitars to be worse than others.  I had a 339 with that problem and it eventually went away as the neck wore in. 

As the finish gets worn in and isn't so slick, it gets better.  dryer sheets are the usual treatment.  They help.

 

2 hours ago, NighthawkChris said:

Like @badbluesplayer said not electronic related in the sense that guitar is not wired up wrong.

What I believe goes on is when someone picks up the static charge built up on the nitro, then they come into contact with any metal part that’s grounded afterwards, then that built up charge will have a path to ground. The “pops” we hear during a static discharge is the air breaking down electrically between the metal and your body - a spark albeit visibly tiny. Therefore I believe your guitar is electrically sound in the sense that yes, the external metal parts are grounded and doing what it is supposed to. Shielding is to protect from electrical waves being picked up from the air. I still have yet to see significant differences after shielding a guitar personally, but hey… what do I know. I digress, so if you are not getting radio stations or something with your guitar plugged into the amp with amp on just sitting there, don’t think you need shielding to fix what you’re attuned to right now. Just play the guitar and don’t think about this. You should eventually not care about this and should improve over time. Unfortunate but is what it is. No one ever really hears it when you play anyhow. Never had someone call me out on my LP’s static issues. I have them too but they get better over time. Patience…

Honestly guys, it's just not good enough. Humidity is not an issue. The guitar was originally purchased in 2018, so the finish should have hopefully cured by this point. Why spend so much money on a guitar that you can barely record with because you're getting electrostatic crackling and popping 95% of the time when you slide up the neck for a solo or some harmonics, or because your freaking leg happens to brush lightly against the back of the guitar? I shouldn't have to rub dryer sheets on a guitar that retails for CAD $2150 and wait months or even years for it to stop picking up huge amounts of static that are audible in recordings -- especially not when no other guitar I've ever played since 1999 has had this problem. I shouldn't have to be "patient" with something that is marketed as a superior, premium instrument.

I ended up returning the guitar this afternoon and got my money back. Salesperson at the store said another customer returned a new SG not too long ago for the exact same issue.

Maybe I'll buy another Gibson guitar if/when Gibson figures out how to apply nitro finish without rendering a certain percentage of their guitars unusable for recording purposes.

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33 minutes ago, merciful-evans said:

unfortunate, but at least its resolved now.

Really unfortunate. It felt amazing, it looked amazing, and it generally sounded amazing (you know, when it wasn't crackling and popping with the slightest amount of movement). A really bad first-time experience that has honestly soured me a little on the idea of owning a Gibson. I'll buy one again eventually, but I just feel so disappointed right now. 

 

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2 hours ago, mihcmac said:

The Gibson static problem has been reported for a very long time, but seems to get better as the Nitro cures.

Perhaps Gibson needs to rethink applying an electrostatic charge to their guitars during the finishing process — or, at the very least, improve their quality control if this process is responsible for the static issues some Gibson customers end up experiencing. You shouldn’t have to wait months or even years for this problem to go away when you’re spending a large chunk of change on a supposedly premium instrument.

2 hours ago, Eracer_Team said:

Some said it was the plastic covers on control panel.

But since you sent the guitar back, we can't recommend anything more

Like to try like take the control cover off

Believe me, it wasn’t the control cavity cover. I tried taking it off. No improvement.

Even though I returned the guitar, I still welcome your suggestions and recommendations, so that the next poor schmuck who spends their hard-earned on a crackling Gibson has some options to try before getting their money back.

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3 hours ago, GraceToo said:

Perhaps Gibson needs to rethink applying an electrostatic charge to their guitars during the finishing process — or, at the very least, improve their quality control if this process is responsible for the static issues some Gibson customers end up experiencing. You shouldn’t have to wait months or even years for this problem to go away when you’re spending a large chunk of change on a supposedly premium instrument.

Believe me, it wasn’t the control cavity cover. I tried taking it off. No improvement.

Even though I returned the guitar, I still welcome your suggestions and recommendations, so that the next poor schmuck who spends their hard-earned on a crackling Gibson has some options to try before getting their money back.

 Don't worry once the Nitro  cures fully and the static reduces the next thing to look forward to will be finish checking.

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Like I said, copper shielding 100% cure on my 2019 LPDC Tribute bass. No more static noise. The static noise was extremely loud crackling and pops when I touched the neck or while walking on carpeted floor, etc..  Now it is all gone.

If you can hear it in your speakers then it is an electrical problem and the noise should be able to be sent to ground with proper shielding. Yes it is good practice to run a jumper wire from the closest location of copper shielding to the ground lug on your output Jack, or to one of the pot casings. You can strip one end of the shielding on the jumper wire  and copper seal tape it to the copper shielding. But you will have to Solder the other end to the ground lug of your Output Jack. Oddly it made no difference if I did it with a jumper or not ( I experimented) I still got the same results with 100% removal of static noise. This may be because The pick guard shielding touches the lock washers of the pot casings when installed and the pots are wired to ground from factory.

First step in shielding is to shield the entire cavity and pick guard, making sure you have connectivity between all the pieces of tape you used.  Be sure to overlap the ends of the tape onto the top lip of the cavities so the pick guard shielding tape will contact the cavity tape when the pick guard is reinstalled. Reinstall pick guard. This makes a "box" of shielding around the electronics. See if that helps without the jumper to ground first.  No need to solder between pieces of tape if you used copper shielding tape with conductive backing like stewmac sells. Get the widest roll they sell. Also, when you first get the guitar,  you should touch one probe of your multimeter to one of the strings and then touch to the OutputJack casing to make sure that you’re grounding in your entire instrument has connectivity then you know at least that much is correct from factory. If you loved the guitar that much you could always buy another one and then do the copper shielding if you feel up to it.

I have copper shielded RF and static away on three of my basses successfully (even a semi-hollowbody bass). Add a hum bucker to get rid of the AC hum. If you want I will be glad to send pics so you can see what I did.

Edited by Lungimsam
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1 hour ago, Lungimsam said:

Like I said, copper shielding 100% cure on my 2019 LPDC Tribute bass. No more static noise. The static noise was extremely loud crackling and pops when I touched the neck or while walking on carpeted floor, etc..  Now it is all gone.

If you can hear it in your speakers then it is an electrical problem and the noise should be able to be sent to ground with proper shielding. Yes it is good practice to run a jumper wire from the closest location of copper shielding to the ground lug on your output Jack, or to one of the pot casings. You can strip one end of the shielding on the jumper wire  and copper seal tape it to the copper shielding. But you will have to Solder the other end to the ground lug of your Output Jack. Oddly it made no difference if I did it with a jumper or not ( I experimented) I still got the same results with 100% removal of static noise. This may be because The pick guard shielding touches the lock washers of the pot casings when installed and the pots are wired to ground from factory.

First step in shielding is to shield the entire cavity and pick guard, making sure you have connectivity between all the pieces of tape you used.  Be sure to overlap the ends of the tape onto the top lip of the cavities so the pick guard shielding tape will contact the cavity tape when the pick guard is reinstalled. Reinstall pick guard. This makes a "box" of shielding around the electronics. See if that helps without the jumper to ground first.  No need to solder between pieces of tape if you used copper shielding tape with conductive backing like stewmac sells. Get the widest roll they sell. Also, when you first get the guitar,  you should touch one probe of your multimeter to one of the strings and then touch to the OutputJack casing to make sure that you’re grounding in your entire instrument has connectivity then you know at least that much is correct from factory. If you loved the guitar that much you could always buy another one and then do the copper shielding if you feel up to it.

I have copper shielded RF and static away on three of my basses successfully (even a semi-hollowbody bass). Add a hum bucker to get rid of the AC hum. If you want I will be glad to send pics so you can see what I did.

I don’t doubt that shielding can help or even completely eliminate the problem: my point is that this really shouldn’t be necessary with an expensive, premium instrument. If it happened to the guitar a year or two after I bought it, I would certainly be willing to spend time, money, and effort fixing the problem. I just bought it, though. This guitar was used, yes, but I’m willing to bet it had this problem from day one, and that’s why the original owner sold it. 

It’s puzzling that you hardly ever hear of other (often WAY cheaper) guitars from other companies having this issue. Did Gibson always apply an electrostatic finish to their guitars in the factory, or is this just a recent change? If it’s recent, that might explain why most of the guitars experiencing this problem were produced within the last decade.

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On 6/19/2021 at 2:40 PM, GraceToo said:

Really unfortunate. It felt amazing, it looked amazing, and it generally sounded amazing (you know, when it wasn't crackling and popping with the slightest amount of movement). A really bad first-time experience that has honestly soured me a little on the idea of owning a Gibson. I'll buy one again eventually, but I just feel so disappointed right now. 

 

It has been brought up here many times as stated. I never had it happen to me (I've owned about 20 Gibson's in my lifetime, but only one was new and the rest were used), but no longer own any Gibson's, but there are people who buy that brand because it says Gibson on the headstock and defend them to the death because of it and Gibson knows people will buy their product due to the very same reason.

My advice buy an acoustic and it won't do that.

Edited by Sgt. Pepper
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2 hours ago, GraceToo said:

I don’t doubt that shielding can help or even completely eliminate the problem: my point is that this really shouldn’t be necessary with an expensive, premium instrument. If it happened to the guitar a year or two after I bought it, I would certainly be willing to spend time, money, and effort fixing the problem. I just bought it, though. This guitar was used, yes, but I’m willing to bet it had this problem from day one, and that’s why the original owner sold it. 

It’s puzzling that you hardly ever hear of other (often WAY cheaper) guitars from other companies having this issue. Did Gibson always apply an electrostatic finish to their guitars in the factory, or is this just a recent change? If it’s recent, that might explain why most of the guitars experiencing this problem were produced within the last decade.

Gibson has always used Nitrocellulose Lacquer or some type of Lacquer, inexpensive guitars use different types of Poly so they are not effected by the same static noise.

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1 hour ago, Sgt. Pepper said:

It has been brought up here many times as stated. I never had it happen to me (I've owned about 20 Gibson's in my lifetime, but only one was new and the rest were used), but no longer own any Gibson's, but there are people who buy that brand because it says Gibson on the headstock and defend them to the death because of it and Gibson knows people will buy their product due to the very same reason.

My advice buy an acoustic and it won't do that.

Yep. I used to be dazzled by the headstock and the legacy. Actually owning a Gibson has cured that for me. Maybe getting an acoustic is in fact the way to go, haha.

 

40 minutes ago, mihcmac said:

Gibson has always used Nitrocellulose Lacquer or some type of Lacquer, inexpensive guitars use different types of Poly so they are not effected by the same static noise.

I know they’ve always used nitro. I’m talking more so about the electrostatic charge they apply to get the finish to adhere to the guitar with less waste. 

Skip to 3:20.

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I agree that all gibsons should not have the problem. In fact I think all electrics should come completely shielded and grounded from factory. Especially for the price!

I don’t know why most electric guitar makers put a ungrounded small strip of shielding buy the parts under the pick guard or spray the cavity with Shielding paint and then they don’t bother to ground it and they don’t even bother to completely shield the instrument. All this partial shielding they do doesn’t help anything at all.

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1 hour ago, Lungimsam said:

I don’t know why most electric guitar makers put a ungrounded small strip of shielding buy the parts under the pick guard or spray the cavity with Shielding paint and then they don’t bother to ground it and they don’t even bother to completely shield the instrument. All this partial shielding they do doesn’t help anything at all.

To be fair, though, I’ve never experienced static electricity problems on any other guitar I’ve ever played (including cheap, unshielded copies). The only other type of guitar that seems prone to the issue is Telecasters, and only with regards to the pickguard. Modern Gibsons are literally the only brand of guitar I’ve ever heard of that can develop problems with static on the neck and on the back of the guitar. Pickguards are understandable, because they’re plastic and plastic is prone to generating static. The actual BODY of the guitar, though? That should NEVER happen. Shielding the guitar might just be putting a bandaid over the real issue: an electrically charged finish that takes WAY too long to lose its charge, all in the interests of saving some money on paint.

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45 minutes ago, SteveFord said:

I've had a couple of GIbsons over the years and none of mine have ever done that.

Maybe it's luck of the draw or my halitosis which keeps it at bay.

This static thing is a real thing - seen firsthand. But it does get better over time. I must have low standards compared to others apparently. Lol you know which guitar you have I like! If that thing was a static mess, well I just wouldn’t care. Absolute beaut!

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29 minutes ago, NighthawkChris said:

This static thing is a real thing - seen firsthand. But it does get better over time. I must have low standards compared to others apparently. Lol you know which guitar you have I like! If that thing was a static mess, well I just wouldn’t care. Absolute beaut!

I guess it depends on what you’re doing with the instrument. If I was jamming along to some backing tracks for my own enjoyment or playing in a bar band, I probably wouldn’t care about a bit of static. When I’m recording, though, those fizzles and pops get picked up very easily, and it’s frustrating to either re-do a part that was played perfectly the first time or try to edit it out. It’s totally unacceptable for recording purposes, IMO. 

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I'd be pissed, too, but I never encountered that with any of them unless it was a bad input jack or a scratchy control.  There's probably been 40 or 50 that I've owned over the years, everything from current to early 60s production. 

Occasionally a new or seldom played guitar will have a sticky feeling neck but that eventually goes away.

 

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@GraceToo I came here to attempt to provide insight about your situation and understood your reasoning why you did not keep it after all. No issues with what you did - just a “thing” there’s plenty more of out there to buy. Hope you find a good Gibson one day because I’ve played a Gibson for nearly 30 years and the business set aside, they do make some great guitars - IMHO. Maybe that guitar you got wasn’t the one…

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12 hours ago, SteveFord said:

I'd be pissed, too, but I never encountered that with any of them unless it was a bad input jack or a scratchy control.  There's probably been 40 or 50 that I've owned over the years, everything from current to early 60s production. 

Occasionally a new or seldom played guitar will have a sticky feeling neck but that eventually goes away.

 

I hope you never encounter the issue! It’s really frustrating, and really surprising to see just how many people have encountered it over the past several years.

3 hours ago, NighthawkChris said:

@GraceToo I came here to attempt to provide insight about your situation and understood your reasoning why you did not keep it after all. No issues with what you did - just a “thing” there’s plenty more of out there to buy. Hope you find a good Gibson one day because I’ve played a Gibson for nearly 30 years and the business set aside, they do make some great guitars - IMHO. Maybe that guitar you got wasn’t the one…

I hope I do find a good one at some point. I’m in no hurry to keep looking, though.  This experience certainly has eliminated some of that Gibson GAS for me. It blows my mind a little that getting a “good” Gibson these days is a gamble…

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