My Guitar Has No Sound
Ah yes, that dreaded circumstance. You’ve just sat down to have your nightly play. You turn on your amp, grab your six-string, plugin and… nothing. For some, this story is one of much familiarity. For others, this may be a foreshadowing of what could come to fruition. Either way, it is always a good idea to be prepared for this kind of situation. Not having any signal coming out of your rig is one of the most frustrating things we can experience as guitar players. So, let's take a dive into some of the most common troubleshooting techniques for getting your guitar back to making sweet music. But before we jump in, keep in mind this article is only going to address problems that can be solved with either the guitar electronics or some simple obvious solutions. No messing with the amp here, that sort of work needs to be done by a professional. Okay, with that out of the way, let's see what we can do on our own to fix no signal coming out of your guitar.
Check the Obvious
I know so might scoff at this first step but hear me out. I cannot tell you just how easy it is to miss something obvious, especially if you have a complex rig. So, start by checking every step of your rig is as it should be and ready to produce sound. Are all your cables connected? Are they plugged into where they should be? Is your amp off standby? Is your current pickup’s volume knob up? Is everything plugged into a reliable power source? Do you have a dead battery somewhere (active pickups)? Do you have a bad cable? These are just a few of the very first questions that need to be addressed. I have found that this step alone tends to catch most issues right off the bat. Do not overlook things. Check to make sure you are not missing something obvious.
Moving on from the normal everyday issues, we come to perhaps the most common repair that you will have to deal with in guitars. In fact, I would guess that well over 90% of problems with electric guitars can be grouped into checking the obvious and jack issues. Here’s how jack issues work. There are basically two scenarios. The first is that your solder points (ground and lead) inside of the jack have been broken or weakened. This will often happen after trying to tighten the nut so that the jack doesn’t wiggle. This first scenario is a very simple fix for those with a little soldering experience (just make sure you look up a diagram to know where the lead/ground attaches!). The other scenario with jacks is that yours is simply burnt out. This means a replacement it necessary, luckily this should only be a $10 to $15 part that can be soldered on just as easy as the first scenario. That pretty much covers the jack situations. Let us move on to some more complex stuff.
Look at Your Wires
Often times, after you have made sure that the jack is not at fault, the next logical step becomes to take a look at your guitar’s wires. I am not even talking about soldering anything at this point, just look. Do a google search for your given guitars wiring diagram online. Unless you are dealing with some really obscure instrument, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a matching diagram. Once in hand (or on your device), just go back and forth and check to make sure everything is connected where it should be. However, during this process keep in mind that your guitar might have subtle differences to the diagram. If your guitar was working before you opened it up, you are just checking for things that look disconnected or to have been jarred. Ultimately this step can be sort of a Hail Mary, just hoping something will jump out at you. But you should still be sure not to skip this step.
Now we are starting to get to the point that many people would just opt to take their guitar in for repair. However, if you have the time and know-how, there is a lot that a meter can tell you in regard to the condition of a guitar’s signal. One of the more useful tests you can do is continuity. All meters differ here, so refer to your manual to find where the setting is. Once set, the meter can show you where (and how well) signal is traveling inside of your guitar. Just touch the ends to two different points and it will attempt to send a small electrical current between the two. You can do this test to any part of your guitar, but the best spots are going to be anywhere that your lead wire is running. I always like to go from the pickup to jack and work my way in. There are a lot of ways to go about this kind of testing for different problems, so it might help to do a quick search for your specific situation. Regardless, having a meter is a crucial tool in diagnosing guitar signal problems.
That’s pretty much all of the steps that I would take if your guitar is not making any sound. If you have gone through all these without finding a solution it is best to take your guitar into a store or tech in your area. Even if it is something simple that you missed, easy and or obvious repairs tend to be on the lower end of things price-wise. Yet, always be sure to do some of these simple checks on your own before taking your instrument in. If nothing else, you can learn a thing or two.