Guitar Troubleshooting: Finding the Source of a Bad Electric Guitar Connection

Sooner or later your electric guitar, cable, or amplifier is going to have problems and you need to do some guitar troubleshooting. There really isn’t much that you can do to prevent it. Honestly, instruments and equipment just get old and need repairs.

But, it’s still good to know what components of your electric guitar connection need replacing so you can prevent yourself from spending money on something that wasn’t actually necessary. Here is a basic order for troubleshooting the connection between your electric guitar and amplifier.

1. Cable

  • Before you even attempt to get your precious guitar or your expensive amplifier fixed, you need to find out if your cable is just messing with you. The fastest way to check it is simply… replace it.
  • Switch it with another that you know is guaranteed to work and you’ll know immediately from your guitar troubleshooting if you need a new cable.

2. Guitar

  • Jiggle and turn the tone and volume knobs. There could possibly be something wrong with the volume or tone knobs of your guitar and you can find out by giving those knobs a little jiggle. If there appears to be static in the sound or no change in tone or volume when the knobs are manipulated, now you know it’s a guitar problem and it’s primarily in those knobs.
  • Lightly jiggle the cable input. A lot of guitar troubleshooting finds bad guitar input jacks, because they tend to go bad with lots of playing while you’re sweaty. If you have your guitar plugged into the amplifier, move the cable around in the guitar’s input slightly and notice if you hear any static or dismissal of sound.
  • Press the strings to the pick-ups. The pick-ups underneath the strings where you strum are where all the tone gets absorbed into the hardware and if those aren’t working, your guitar is now a poorly made acoustic. To check, simply turn on your guitar while plugged into an amplifier and lightly press a string to one of the silver dots on your pick-ups. If you hear a sound come through your amplifier, then your pick-ups are all ship shape.

3. Amplifier

  • Check the power: This one is a no-brainer, but sometimes it can be overlooked when you get overwhelmed by your guitar problems. For this guitar troubleshooting, if your amplifier won’t turn on, you’ll need to try the power cable. Simply switch it out with another and see if your amp turns on. You’ll immediately know if something is wrong.
  • Move the cable around lightly inside the input: Just like you tested the input on your electric guitar, the input on your amplifier should be tested the same way. Jiggle it around and if you hear any static or the sound begin to cut out, you’ll know it’s an input problem.
  • Press and turn all of the knobs, even the ones not used often. I once had a faulty knob that chose to create a loud, blaring noise every time that it was pushed in slightly. Test your amplifier knobs by pressing on them and turning them in their appropriate directions.

It really stinks when you have to get repairs on your electric guitar or your equipment, but doing the necessary guitar troubleshooting can save you some money on unnecessary repairs. Go through these steps the next time there’s a problem with your guitar’s connection and discover where the source is.

Kyle Hoffman is an experienced guitarist that loves to play just as a hobby, and to perform live on stage. To learn Kyle’s valuable tips for beginning the guitar the RIGHT way, visit How To Play Guitar as part of his popular guitar blog, How To Tune Guitar.