Proper Grounding: How not to die?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by BassAndReeds, Feb 15, 2018.

  1. BassAndReeds


    Oct 7, 2016

    I'm going to start gigging a lot more soon, and I want to make sure I'm safe. I sing and play bass, and Im concerned about faulty electric wiring and getting a deadly shock. A few questions:

    1) If I play with a wireless guitar transmitter, am I fully protected from electrical hazards? Even if I'm singing with a wired Microphone?

    2) How do I test a wall outlet, to ensure it's properly wired? So I know I'm not in danger.


  2. You can get a plug-in circuit tester at any hardware store for a few bucks that will verify the presence of a functioning ground. Not a bad gizmo to have for anyone playing in venues in old buildings that may have questionable electrical service. Any outlet that equipment is plugged into should be checked – guitar amps, PA gear, etc.

    The other piece of the puzzle is that all the PA equipment must be properly grounded through intact power cables (no “ground lift” adapters).

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    hrodbert696 likes this.
  3. BassAndReeds


    Oct 7, 2016
    Great. So pardon my ingnorance. But as long as this little tester shows 2 yellows lit (signaling correct wiring), that means we're safe?

    Is GFCI testing necessary?
  4. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    There are NO guarantees... but I do believe you are over analyzing the issue.
    Being wireless will insulate you from anything come from your bass gear, but will not help you with bad grounding from a mic.
    Even using the tester isn't going to insulate you from everything.
    One question I have is..
    Who's supplying the PA? you or house?
    If house, there's not much you can do..
    If you, them you need to ensure that your gear is all using a common ground - it will also remove any mains hum and/or buzz.
    Here's one approach.
    AC Cables Page
    My build of a "poormans" PowerCON Distro

    Here's more on it.. BTW - NEVER EVER ground LIFT a TUBE amp !!
  5. BassAndReeds


    Oct 7, 2016
    The band that supplies the PA

    I don't think the band will invest in piwercons. Need to just do the best with regular power chords.
  6. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    OK.. so you need to ensure that you use common grounds on ALL your power lines/outlets.
    If you put your mouth on or near a mic and get "tingles". FIX IT then and there.. You have a grounding issue. Based my 25 yrs of gigging experience, it's NOT that common a problem tho'.

    Mains hum or buzz is another indication of grounding issues and ground lifting an amp is a common (but faulty) solution - as it masks the issue, by making it non-audible.

    Again, NEVER GROUND lift a TUBE AMP. The ground pin in the plug is there for a reason.. There are EXTREMELY high voltages going thru a tube amp, and you don't want those going thru you to ground, versus the grounding line.
  7. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    Grounding is important and something you want to take seriously. But the odds that you're going to die are pretty darn slim.

    There's one dive bar bands around me play at that has ONE grounded outlet in the area bands set up, and a couple of ungrounded one. A guitarist I know got thrown back against the wall when he plugged into the wrong one and then stepped up to a mic. But anyone who bothers with a $5 tester knows which is which.

    In my drummer's basement, his power is not grounded. Just playing bass there (with a cable), is no problem. If I step up to a mic I get a bit of static at my lips, a mild sting like sometimes when I step out of a car and touch metal. It's annoying and I bug him to fix it, but hardly lethal.

    You could also bring a rubber mat to stand on.
  8. BassAndReeds


    Oct 7, 2016
    Good to know.

    I purchased an outlet tester today for $5. But I'm also running my bass wireless, so I'm pretty sure I'm safe.

    Apparently you can touch the bass strings to the microphone to really test if there's a ground issue. Something about sparks being a bad sign.
  9. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009

    of all the body parts i want to use to check for shock hazard, my lips are pretty far down the list
  10. mbelue


    Dec 11, 2010
    Yeah, definitely start with the body parts much closer to your waist.:smug:

    If you are truly scared of this and want to be double safe, bring your own microphone. Get a wireless mic and receiver or an adapter. Using that and a wireless rig for instrument, no worries. Then the only things that can electrocute you are: falling stage lights (unlikely their cords are long enough), jackass guitarists with jumper cables (probably be fun once or twice), stray bolts of lightning, and Pikachu.

    Not being physically connected via wire to anything gives you the best insulator known to man: an air gap.

    In the United States this problem in far less of a concern as we use 120VAC for our receptacles. Many other countries use 220VAC which is much much more likely to seriously hurt you. Still being aware of danger is the first step to avoid it.

    Safety is important even if I make jokes about it.
  11. Michael4bass


    Aug 20, 2011
    Florence, MS
    You can put a capacitor between the bridge ground wire and the basses ground, and as long as you don't touch the metal controls or output jack of your bass (if they're non metallic you'll be safe) while singing or touching any other amps or metal objects on stage, you'll be safe from being shocked.

    Bassically, Michael
    Geri O likes this.
  12. badstonebass


    Jun 7, 2006
    So you get this tester. Go to a gig and find out they have crap wiring(not uncommon), what are you going to do about it?

  13. mbelue


    Dec 11, 2010
    Don't fellatiate the mic?
  14. Geri O

    Geri O Endorsing Artist, Mike Lull Guitars and Basses Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    As opposed to what? Burn up gear and/or possibly suffer a lethal shock?
  15. badstonebass


    Jun 7, 2006
    What I am trying to say is this:

    I do approximately 150 shows a year and I would say that at least 2/3 of those gigs are in venues with questionable wiring. Wether it be old animal clubs, bars or festivals. Most times you don't really have much of a choice. If you want to play you have to be where the gigs are.

    While I wouldn't plug in to obviously bad circuits, many times you just can't tell or are at the mercy of generators, old wiring, or temporary power runs.

    I use a decent surge protector, but what else can you do? In close to 40 years I've lost one RBI to bad power and out of thousands of shows never did anyone die, or be seriously injured among the 100 or so guys I have played with.

    Just not something you can really be all that worried about as a working musician IMO.
    mbelue likes this.
  16. Geri O

    Geri O Endorsing Artist, Mike Lull Guitars and Basses Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    Okay, I’ve been working that many years, playing and providing production, seeing a few instances of gear damage and diagnosing a few cases of shocked (not fatal) performers.

    In nearly all cases, I can manage to fix or work around those issues in order to have a safe show.

    We all choose our amount of risk we are willing to take. Ours are obviously different, and based on, I guess, our experiences. So be it. I can live with mine and you yours.

    But there’s no doubt, you’ve been lucky/fortunate/blessed, what have you. May that luck and blessings continue.

    (Yeah, I know, it’s risky walking out the door in the morning....:D)
  17. badstonebass


    Jun 7, 2006
    I have been shocked before. Doing house wiring or working on engines. Rarely at a microphone.

    I just don't see getting electrocuted as being the biggest(or even a big) risk as a gigging musician. Far more risk of dying driving to and from gigs or having a heart attack from the late hours or load ins/outs being as I am 55 years old. :D
    s0c9 and Geri O like this.
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