Guitar Pickup Tips: The Tin foil Trick

ThreeSingleCoils Learn how to cancel that single-coil hum with just a few household items!

It comes as no surprise that since the invention of the pickup, manufacturers have been trying to get rid of that annoying hum that is inherent as a result of the general principles of electronics.

Since we can’t change the rules of electricity, manufacturers had to use those very same principles for their benefit, which gave us the humbucker which is essentially two single coil pickups placed next to each other. The hum cancelling properties of these pickups were great but the fact that they were twice as large meant guitars made for single coil pickups, such as the Telecaster, would not be able to use them without modifications.


Sure, we can cut away a hole large enough to fit a humbucker or buy a select kind of model that happens to be able to fit one, but all that requires major work or a new guitar – which isn’t going to help your old vintage Telecaster any time soon, but what if I were to say you can cancel out that hum using something that most of us have lying in our house or can buy from the grocery store for a couple of bucks? I’m talking about tin foil. That’s right, plain old tin foil.


Before we get started, here is everything you'll need:

  1. Aluminum Foil
  2. Soldering Equipment
  3. General Purpose Spray Adhesive
  4. Philips Head Screwdriver


Essentially, you will be applying a layer of tin foil on the underside of the pickguard that houses the pickups, creating a shield that will help block outside electrical interference that cause hum from your signal. This means removing the strings, pickguard and input jack. You will have to desolder the connection between the input jack and the pickguard in order to be able to entirely remove the pickguard. Once you have that done, spray the exposed cavity of the guitar with a light coat of the adhesive. While that’s drying, you can remove all of the electronics connected to the pickguard. Once your pickguard is free, spray the underside of it with the adhesive as well and apply the tin foil, making sure you cover its entirety. The reason you want to spray BOTH the cavity and the underside of the pickguard is so that when the two meet, a nice tight seal will be formed. Once you have all that done, you can put everything back together, including (of course) resoldering the connection between the pickguard and the input jack.

Once that’s done, your guitar will have the proper shielding necessary to cancel out the hum!

14 thoughts on “Guitar Pickup Tips: The Tin foil Trick”

  • daddymack

    Alternatively, you can use aluminum tape, which I find much easier to deal with that spray adhesive and foil.

  • kevin nelson

    used this before & it works. any help for all in one pickups such as the seymour duncan or dean markley soundhole pickups?

  • Dave Goessling

    copper foil is even better.

    These instructions are great, and include how to do "star grounding"

    The single best mod you can do to your single coil-equipped guitar.

    It's still a mystery why most manufacturers don't just do this. Once they set up the templates it would be easy to manufacture.

  • Zalmo

    I think the aluminum tape is a considerably better option if it functions in the same way as the unsticky foil. Why mess with the adhesive gunk which might somehow get a little too much over the guitar and perhaps even into the electronics? And, due to its nature, the tape can be cut more evenly and not tear with handling like the straight foil might.

  • David

    Shielding does not cancel hum. There's two types of noise encountered, magnetic field noise, and electrical field noise.

    Humbuckers cancel magnetic field noise, that low pitched hum, but not electrical field (electrostatic) noise. That's the high pitched buzz you often hear. Shielding helps that.

    But putting aluminum under the pickguard will only help shield the wiring. You can wrap foil around the pickups, which will get rid of some buzzing, but not hum. But if you used a closed loop of foil, such as copper tape, it can kill some of the high end from the pickup. So you need to leave a small gap so the two ends don't touch.

    This happens due to eddy currents forming on the conductive foil.

    Also the thicker the foil, the better the shielding.

  • Carolyn Donovan
    Carolyn Donovan January 19, 2015 at 7:39 am

    One of the first things I learned when I became a certified tech over 30 yrs. ago was to put copper foil on the underside of the pickguard like others have mentioned - takes a couple minutes and no soldering involved, always works, and you don't have to worry about a solder job maybe eventually coming loose. I guess I'm just of the mindset if there is an easier way that works great might as well use it.

  • Danshoeco

    Nice. However, considering the price of these instruments (old or new, it's all relative), why aren't these companies shielding out hum when they build them? They're suppose to be "top of the line", not some knock-off!

  • Stewart Simon

    It may help a bit to reduce noise from lighting & spurious signals...but NOTHING will prevent or remove single coil p'up hum.
    This is why the "hum-bucking" p'up was invented...

  • Paul Sherman

    Copper foli with conductive adhesive is readily available, superior to DIY "tin foil" in every way (copper is far superior to aluminum for sheilding, tensile strength, and gauge).
    Aluminum foil will have an effect but disassembling an instrument justifies popping for proper copper shielding tape/sheets for best results.

  • Walt

    Dang! That's a lot of work for an un-handy guy!

  • Walt


    Just buy a good guitar with humbuckers on it!!!

  • leo M Whitebird

    A couple of products that will save you $ here- Expensive copper shielding tape can be replaced with "slug tape" from your neighborhood hardware or garden store. The same thing in a 3/4" tape, meant for taping rim joists and other places slugs might try to slime into your house; the copper reacts with enzymes in their slime coating and they wont cross it. Probably 1/4 the price of "shielding" products. HVAC installers use an aluminum foil adhesive tape to seal vents,etc. Comes in 2" rolls (think shiny Duct Tape) and works well but doesn't take solder; you will have to install a conductive lug to solder to or some means to ground the foil to your guitars master ground to the output jack. copper you can solder this to....

  • mwseniff

    Copper tape works much better. Solder all the seams a bit of solder at least every inch. Then make a central ground point to solder all ground wires possible. Copper tape has a lower impedance than aluminum it can be soldered to create a good shield. Worth the money as it is easier to install and is more durable. Looks cool too!!!!!

  • Ken

    Has anyone ever tried wire mesh like fine screen? It would have an effect like a faraday cage.

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