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Please Help Me with this "Shocking" problem.

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by alfonso_bundis, Dec 29, 2016.

  1. alfonso_bundis


    Nov 13, 2011
    Hello everyone,

    Short version:
    I played in a couple of venues where for some reason I received electrical discharges from one or more of my pedals. What can I do to prevent this from happening?

    Detailed version:

    a) I have around 12 pedals in my pedalboard, half of them I built either from kits or veroboards.
    b) I power most of them with an MXR dc brick and the rest are daisy chained to a Boss power supply.
    c) The pedals are connect to eachother via a DIY bypass loop
    c) I recently relocated from Germany to Bolivia and started to played gigs. Most houses in Bolivia, specially old ones do not have earthing. In fact people remove the earthing pin from the socket since it is not use.

    On one of my gigs which took place in a Pub and with my rig was connected directly to the PA system, my tremolo (a DIY clone of the hummingbird connected to the MXR dc brick) was making some aweful broken noises. Additionally touching the metallic parts of the pedal would result in small electrical shocks. Toughing the floor (made out of marble I think) would also result in small discharges.

    On another gig, which took place in a backyard also with the ig connected directlly to the PA, the issue was even worst. I woulld get strong discharges from all my pedals!! I had to connect my rig to a small pactice amp and use the phones jack as an out to the PA. Regardless, my box, which has alluminum parts, would give me some electric shocks if touched. My board was placed on some blankets that separated it the grass.

    My question:
    Why is this happening?
    Is there something I can buy or build to prevent this from happening again? I would hate to be unable to play a gig due to this issue.

    Thank you in advance for yoour help.
  2. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    Something is not properly grounded. Either the power source or pedal. Be careful brah!
  3. Dave W

    Dave W

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains

    Are you pedals properly grounded?
    Are the venues you're playing at properly grounded?
  4. boomertech

    boomertech Frank Appleton Commercial User

    Apr 8, 2009
    Syracuse, NY
    Designer/Owner of FEA Labs
    Try battery power on you pedals to see if the problem stays or goes away.

    Dug2 likes this.
  5. boomertech

    boomertech Frank Appleton Commercial User

    Apr 8, 2009
    Syracuse, NY
    Designer/Owner of FEA Labs
    I have had shock issues with backyard gigs, especially if the grass was damp. It happened enough times that I started to carry a tarp in my gig bag to stand on if I was playing on grass.

    If you can get an isolation transformer for your bass cable, that may help a lot.

  6. You may need to try something like a reachable battery pack, and check with the musicians you play with for common solutions.
  7. reddesert


    Mar 19, 2015
    The pedal cases are almost always connected to the negative of the power supply output. They are also connected to the cable shield, which is connected to the bass and usually the bass strings if your bass has the normal bridge ground wire; and it's typically connected to the amp's ground.

    Line voltage shouldn't be present on any of these things, and if all power outlets are properly grounded, then line voltage leaking to the amp chassis should trip a circuit breaker. But you don't have grounded outlets.

    More often this situation happens with getting shocks from a microphone when the mic and instrument are plugged into different badly-wired outlets, such that one of them has hot where neutral should be. It's a little odd to me that you're getting shocks from the pedal cases since normally those would be connected to the bass strings via the cable. But regardless, I think you should check both the pedal power supplies and the amp to make sure that there isn't a faulty connection that allows AC power onto the signal connections. It's not just getting the pedals to work, you could also get hurt.
  8. alfonso_bundis


    Nov 13, 2011
    Thank you all for your replies. As I mentioned, I had never had this problem before relocation to Bolivia. How could I check if the pedals are properly grounded? or the power supplies? the time I had the issue with only the tremolo I tested the pedal with a battery but it did not go away.

    Any recomendation on what isolation transformer should I get?
  9. Johnny Mac

    Johnny Mac Riff-finder General Supporting Member

    Sep 28, 2005
    Springfield, MA
    I think you answered part of your question already:

    I assume "earthing" is a synonym for "grounding" in this case? I'm no electrical engineer, but my assumption is that if there's no earthing/grounding pin on the wall outlet, then your power won't be grounded.

    One solution is to power every pedal with a battery, if the pedals all have that option. If not, Warwick makes a rechargable power supply that you can use; you can pick up a couple and daisy-chain your pedals off of them (you might run into some noise issues, but it's better than getting electrocuted!).

    You might run into similar problems with your amp, though, and while I'm sure there's some kind of portable solution that will provide grounding when your wall outlet doesn't have one, I'm not sure what that solution would be.
  10. alfonso_bundis


    Nov 13, 2011
    Thanks for your reply dude. Yes, I was talking about grounding. I will check out that rechargable power supply, seems like a great idea.
  11. Grumry


    Jul 6, 2016
    It's the electricity of the venue.
  12. Crater


    Oct 12, 2011
    Dallas, TX area
    Pedals are grounded by the instrument cables connected to them. :meh:

    I don't think this has anything to do with your pedalboard. Your pedalboard's power supplies naturally isolate the line voltage power from the low-voltage pedal power. It's the electrical service at the venue and/or the PA systems you're plugging into that's causing this. The ground (earth) side is somehow connected to the "hot" wire. This situation can be EXTREMELY DANGEROUS for musicians! People have been electrocuted from this.
  13. boomertech

    boomertech Frank Appleton Commercial User

    Apr 8, 2009
    Syracuse, NY
    Designer/Owner of FEA Labs
    To have 100% isolation from the issues that you are having, you will need to run your pedals on batt power and use a wireless transmitter from the pedal board. 100% isolation!

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    Apr 11, 2021

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