There's nothing quite like the sound of a guitar playing into a warm tube amp with the pre turned up high and the post turned down. There's also nothing quite like the hum you get out of one of these rigs. I've noticed that software amp simulators are good enough that they also simulate the hum.

How can you deal with this buzz in the studio, both before and after tracking? I've tried using EQ to notch out the hum and that kills the sound. Noise gates seem to either not do enough or they do too much and it kills the track.

I assume you're better off fixing this before tracking, but I have some killer guitar tracks on disc with too much amp noise.

(There are probably multiple strategies one can use to fix this. I'm asking this as a general question, and I'm looking for an overview of the problem with specific examples of recommendations. Are there any details in particular I can add that would help?)

  • Software amp simulations do not usually introduce too much mains hum themselves (at least you should be able to turn this down in proper designs), but they do of course always greatly amplify any hum coming from the guitar. Perhaps it's best to start with the guitar pickups: there are many types of humbuckers and hum-free single coils (stacked humbuckers) nowadays, which eliminate this kind of static while sounding no worse than traditional pickups (though most vintage enthusiasts claim otherwise). It's also necessary that the guitar is properly shielded (grounded tin foil works great!).
    – leftaroundabout
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 15:40
  • The guitar in question is well-shielded with copper foil on the pickup cavity. I think that looking at the electronics themselves would be the logical next step. Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 15:48

2 Answers 2


Try a narrower notch filter instead of an EQ. And remember it's not just 60 Hz, but all the harmonics, too (120 Hz, 180 Hz, etc.) To avoid ruining your guitar sound, maybe only enable the filter during the quiet parts?

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  • Combining this with Ian's answer may be the best way to go. Can you recommend any good Audio Unit notch filters? Commented Dec 20, 2010 at 1:50
  • No, I don't know of any
    – endolith
    Commented Dec 20, 2010 at 14:17

Sometimes there's no substitute for a little manual labour. Combine a noise gate with some judicious manual editing and you can eliminate the hum in the parts of the track where the guitar isn't being played. Duck the fader on your guitar track when ever there's a pause in the playing that would let the hum stick out. If your DAW supports it, you can use an automation editor view to draw the fader automation the track, doing things like instantaneous drops to -inf dB at the transition from playing to not playing in the track.

Edit: you can also cut up the track and remove the parts where no playing is occuring. IIRC it's considered "polite" to strip out all the "instrument is not playing here" parts on a track before mixing -- so that you only see regions in the DAW where actual played content is occurring. I'm not 100% certain on this since I don't share my tracks all that often with other people and when I do I end up bouncing every track end-to-end instead of sharing a project file.

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