I'm familiar with musicians getting injured or killed during rain at outdoor
venues, but my band will be playing a number of clubs beginning next month,
and I'm wondering about the risks of incorrectly grounded circuits. These
are all indoor situations, by the way. Hypothetical example: Let's say I use
a circuit tester and find that the guitarist's amp is plugged into a
correctly wired outlet, but the microphone mixer is not. There's no
connection from his guitar strings to anything electrical, but there
certainly is through the body of the microphone, and perhaps the stand
itself. Is he at risk only if there are other problems within our equipment,
or at all times due to the wiring faults at the outlets?
The risks are at a maximum- easy death.
I believe you could build a couple of outlet strips with GFCIs that you
could bring to your venues- or just by a GFCI-protected extension cord
or 3. I think I've seen them home despot.
I'm not sure about any risks to human life, but problems with wiring can
cause noises to show up through your speakers. You would especially hear
things when you have a situation that you describe above.
Many musicians carry a cheap outlet tester because if one of you dies it
spoils the show. Your strings are connected to your amp's ground. It would
be nice if your amp was grounded. Even if it is you will be touching mike
stands, mikes, and fellow musicians who may have defective grounding. Be
sure that all of the bands equipment is ok. Always be suspicious of the
house PA. And be sure that everything is plugged into the same circuit so
there won't be ground loops.
Now make it a term in your contract that the bar or whoever must supply
"safe" electricity. That if you show up and the house AC is unsafe that you
will be paid but not perform. Or go wireless.
I'm sure you remember when many amps had the third prong of the power
cord cut off because most bars did not have grounded outlets. This was very
common in the 70s.
well you can typically feel the shock, so its not likely you will die
outright. However, other problems arise. If polarity is reversed you
can create 220v situations between equipment on seperate circuits I
believe. This is espeically problem for your equipment because your
equipment tends to all connect to each other sooner or later. You
definitely want good solid grounds to eliminate the sometimes humm you
can get from ground imbalances.
I would carry a tester with me. I would simply not plug into anything
with reversed polarity. Open ground you can get away with if it sounds
ok and you dont fall in any puddles :)
"Then said I, Wisdom [is] better than strength: nevertheless the poor
Getting fried trying to imitate Jimmy Hendrix can be a bummer. My
suggestion is to buy several outdoor outlets that incorporate GFCI
devices. I have seen them at Home Depot and Lowes, or you can make on
We keep a few of them around because some of our remodeling jobs
don't have GFCI's and it is a company policy that all tools must be
connected to a GFCI device.
A GFCI should not introduce any noise into the circuit and it can
save your life, even if the power source is not properly grounded or
not grounded at all.
If your equipment trips the GFCI then you either have a fault in the
equipment or there is a problem with the power being supplied to the
If you go wireless, you can reduce most of the risk, but I would
still not want to get zapped while turning off an amp.
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