General tech questions

A strong electricity feeling from guitar strings


So yesterday I was up in my muggy office/music room, bare-footin' standing on a rug and I had my 6120 plugged into my blues jr all ready to rock. Then I grabbed my mic in my right hand and plugged it into this old tube portable record player which I usually use for vocals when just messing around. I've used this set up many times with no issues. But last night something strange and sorta frightening happened, my left hand, where I was holding the neck and muting the strings felt a sudden surge of electricity. I hadn't even turned the record player on yet , I just plugged in the mic and was going to attach it to the mic stand. Anyways, I dropped the mic and decided I'd just play some instrumental stuff. So my guess is there were a few variables that led to this issue. No 1, I'm using an old probably sketchy tube record player for vocals (although it is 3 prong). Possibly my outlet ground is not working? Or the ground in the player itself is not working? No 2, the humidity, my sweat, and the fact I was barefoot (though standing on a rug) exacerbated an issue that already existed that I hadn't noticed til last night? No 3, my amp isn't properly grounded? It should be as I took it apart to do the Bill M basic mods and put it back together and attached the ground. No 4, maybe my guitar isn't grounded? Although I used a multimeter and touched the strings and the output jack and got a steady tone so I don't think that is the issue. Anyways, just curious if anybody has any thoughts. I probably won't be using this setup in this fashion anymore. I've heard all the horror stories about musicians getting electrocuted by improper wiring/grounding between the pa and the guitar amp.


Low Voltage AC Ground Fault...something is leaking.

Wear shoes until you find it.

Only touch one piece of gear at a time, too.


Thanks for the quick response. How might I go about diagnosing the source of this low voltage AC ground fault?


The issue is not the guitar. If the ground was bad in the guitar, it'd either buzz or not work at all. I'd suspect either the phonograph first, amps second, and the house wiring third. Also, make sure the amp and turntable are on the same AC circuit (use the same outlet to be sure).

Ground loops are notoriously hard to sort out. Good luck.


Please be careful.

I once had an unknown electrical situation due to faulty house wiring and my Gretsch and Princeton was making funny noises. I could have been electrocuted, my electrical engineer friend told me. The more I tried to understand electricity, the more it scared me. What seems like a "low voltage" situation may be anything but.

RIP Keth Relf, lead singer for the Yardbirds who died as a result of exactly such a situation.


How old is your house? Original wiring, or has it been upgraded? Get a licensed electrician to scope it out. I'd suspect the record player more than anything else---someone else can explain "death caps" far better than I, but cheap, simple low power amps have issues with some large caps, and can be lethal. I expect your mike has a two conductor cable as well with A 1/4" jack. I'd upgrade the PA/record player ASAP. You can find small amps with dedicated mike inputs with XLR inputs and guitar inputs with about the same power output. Better mike, an amp with FX as well, and most importantly, safer.

I've gotten lip sparks before. You don't want to know what that's like.


Check your outlets. A grounded plug wont do anything if the outlet isn't grounded, & lots of them aren't.


Thanks for your help. My house is ca. 1910, but there is a lot of new stuff muddled in here and there. I think the wiring in that room is new. Thanks for the suggestion, I think I'll get one of those outlet testers. And I'll probably keep the old phonograph to play records only.

It was pretty freaky. Sort of one of those "what the heck am I doing?" moments. I can cruise down a hill on my skateboard or mt bike and I expect I might get hurt. I guess I never really thought I'd get injured making music. It was a good reminder of the raw power that goes into these things we call electric guitars.


Back in the Day my Beer Refrigerator electrocuted me...

I was in bare feet, and when I grabbed the handle I became stuck as I wobbled and studdered.

My wife unplugged it.

About 15 seconds total I was glued onto it, very odd feeling.


Sounds scary, good thing your wife was there and knew what was going on. Not to be too dark but it would've made for an interesting obituary. "He died in a quest to attain that which he ice cold Special Export"


Sounds scary, good thing your wife was there and knew what was going on. Not to be too dark but it would've made for an interesting obituary. "He died in a quest to attain that which he ice cold Special Export"

– Rockabilly_Nick

Better than " 'lectrocuted for a Lite."

BZ is right. Lots of so-called electricians don't know (or care) about code. Older work may have alumi9num wiring mixed with copper. The metals don't react with each other well and corrode. Those testers are cheap, especially when you consider what a life is worth. All of you should check your wiring out, especially if it's over twenty years old.


It was a Frigidaire, ... a big, old one. I took most of the interior shelving out, had a full keg dispensing system, etc.

When it went into Self-Defrost mode, the condensate was able to make its way to the feet, touching the garage floor.

I had to be in bare feet, it had to be in Self-Defrost mode, and it had to have been dripping enough.


Our house was built in '62, and only the bathroom and kitchen outlets were originally grounded, although the other outlets had all been replaced by 3 hole sockets with none of the grounds connected to anything. I had to add dedicated ground wires from all of the outlets to the breaker box. Electrical codes have gotten stricter over the years, as well as more consistant in different areas, but if your house isn't farely new, you can't take anything for granted, and even if it's new, I don't trust anyone to do anything right all of the time.


Also, check any gear that's had a non-original 3 prong cord added.


Better safe than sorry.

I owned a house built in the 1890s, and could see traces of three different eras of wiring---1920, 1950 and 1970. The original 30 amp fuse box was still in the basement, tho thankfully disconnected. Post and tube and cloth wire in the attic was the most dangerous. Switched neutrals, no grounds in the older wiring, and all the central part of the house was fed by one circuit with no easy way to upgrade it without tearing out the plaster. House wasn't worth rebuilding, so we sold it to the church next door for a parking lot.

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