ProGuitarShop

Take Control of Your Tone (control)!

June 21, 2013

By PGS Fitz

 

“Tone knobs are useless. You can quote me on that.”

          – this dude Jason I used to be in a band with…

 

Sometimes I think in these blog posts that I’m really just confessing all the things I’m guilty of as a guitar player—hopefully in the lofty goal of getting better as a guitarist. This week’s confession?! I never use the tone controls on my guitars.

 

I crank everything to treble and adjust the resulting tone with my amps’ EQ. Maybe it’s because my first guitar was a cheap Kramer that only had one tilted humbucker pickup and one volume control. Maybe I’m lazy and unadventurous. Maybe I’m scared of how awesome the tone control is going to be for my sound. I recognize I’m limiting myself—after all, there’s wouldn’t BE a tone control available if it wasn’t useful, right? That it exists at all implies its usefulness.  I’ve got the mechanical skills—I use my volume knob for swells all the time, so why not skip on over to the next control knob? You, too, might be skipping out on one of the best (and easiest!) tone manipulators available to you--unless you’re still rocking that Tom DeLonge strat or Nikki Sixx Thunderbird, in which case the tone control was dispatched completely, rendering this entire subject somewhat moot!

 

Many guitars feature a single tone control that will usually affect all pickups on the instrument-- whether it’s a single pickup or multiple pickups. In this scenario, that one knob controls the tone cut on everything across the board. If you’re holding a Telecaster, you’re in this scenario.

 

However, many guitars have much more complicated electronics that let you dig a little deeper into controlling your tone directly from your guitar. On a typical Strat, there are two tone knobs, which I always thought was weird, mathematically, because Strats typically have three pickups. On your typical strat, the top tone knob controls the neck pickup and the bottom tone knob controls the middle; the bridge pickup is not typically wired up to a tone parameter—but you can bet your Gilmour signature Strat that a zillion tinkerers have rewired their Strats for any of a number of different tonal options.

 

Most Gibson guitars (and their contemporaries) have opted to include a volume and tone control for each pickup, typically in a two pickup scenario. This really opens up the breadth of what you can do with your tonality—allowing you to set one pickup really bright and the other pickup much darker; flipping between the two via a pickup selector yields instantly diverse tones straight from the instrument—with no need to fiddle with your effects board to initiate a radically different tone.

 

Of course there are a ton of instruments with unique wiring options—the Fender Jaguar comes to mind with its separate controls for rhythm and lead tones—and it goes without saying that there’s an endless number of ways that one can tweak their existing tone circuits in their instruments, whether it’s by re-wiring what control knob is wired to a particular pickup OR whether it’s changing the values of components in the circuit OR adding a push-pull knob, for example, to take the tone control out of the circuit entirely (a nice mod for that Esquire style sound!).

 

Step one is to investigate the tone control you have, if you’re not already doing it. Just as manipulating your volume control can take you from dirty to clean, your tone control can really take you all over the map in a song and save you from doing some fancy footwork with your effects pedals. Once you’ve given the tone control a good once over, you might find that you want to experiment a little more with what you have going on under the hood, changing some of the values in the caps and pots to give you any extra flexibility you might not have known you wanted. Your tech will probably love to have a field day tweaking your instrument—or, if you’re nerd enough, you’ll love doing it yourself, too.

 

 

Let’s hear what the hive mind has to say about tone controls. Do you guys use the tone controls on your instrument regularly? What kind of results are you looking for and what kind of results do you get?! Anyone have any experience to share regarding circuitry upgrades/tweaks?! Sound off in the comments (again, maybe this is mostly for my personal benefit!) and let’s talk TONE. See you next time in Andy’s Corner!

Comments

  1. Lance says:

    So that’s what that knob does!  <JK>

    On my teles, I roll the tone down and then back up until I hear it open up (like a wah pedal).  Then, it’s left there.

    On my other guitars, I run the tone flat out and adjust the amp.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 2:49 am
  2. Michael says:

    I recently wired up my strat to have two volumes. One for neck and middle and the other for the bridge. Then I wired in a treble bleed circuit that can be turned on/off with a switch. I feel like the knobs are one of the most important parts of getting good tone on the fly. It’s like having many different amp channels in one knob.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 2:50 am
  3. TW says:

    I used to be that “never used the tone knob” guy. I’d wail my Telecasters wide open and let the icy bridge cut like crazy. That all changed when I decided to totally re-wire my old Strat and went with a .33 NOS paper in oil capacitor for the tone circuit. The smaller value and the NOS part took the thing to a whole new level, suddenly the entire range of the knob was usable, and instead of the ‘70s sounding, compressed and tight tone response of an orange drop, I had this smooth and highly wah-like curve that didn’t just get darker, it got tonally more interesting in different spots. It woke me right up, and having used the tone knobs constantly on that Strat since, it’s now bled over into my Telecaster playing - easing the treble off the bridge for less nasty solos, or darkening up the neck to sink back in the mix a little. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to “no tone knob” playing again. My advice? If you’re not using your tone circuit, it’s because it’s not working for you. Try things, different values for that tone capacitor, try different constructions, because just like me, you may stumble on a magic combination that makes you see tone knobs in a whole new light!

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 2:59 am
  4. Isaac says:

    I always use my tone knob on my tele to reduce shrill tones if my amp is set to bright, and it works great. I use the standard wiring too.  .047 cap, two 250ka pots, so simple, yet perfect, I don’t even have much of a high-end loss when I turn down the volume, in fact, I even use the volume to clean up a little, and smooth out the tone via the slight high end loss. ;-) It’s great, I also love doing gatton/buchanan, wah sounds with the tone control, its awesome!!!

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:00 am
  5. Gerald says:

    I’d like to use the tone control,but I have a PRS SE singlecut.The tone control has like 1/16th of an inch in it’s range where it actually does anything,up near the high side of the tone (treble).I bought it new and I’ve always wondered if it wasn’t wired wrong somehow and it’s always bothered me.No idea if this is where they just cut corners,or what’s going on.I’d appreciate ideas as I love the rest of this guitar.It was manufactured in 2008 and just has one tone control on it.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:01 am
  6. Rick says:

    I rewired my Tele so that it has to volume controls like a les paul….no tone control other than the dirt in my nails.  I have it wired with a Seymour Duncan ‘54 in bridge and a Joe Barden in the neck, I figured that those guys know what they are doing when in comes to voicing pickups.  It is like taking a fine sports car designed by the best design house in Italy and putting Gucci leather interiors and painting it flat black…who am I to mess with what the masters intended!

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:01 am
  7. Oquedo says:

    My SG bridge pickup sound amazing with the tone halfway up. I also put a grease bucket in my Tele and Strat bridge pups. And they rock big time!

    I wouldn’t buy a guitar without tone knobs.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:10 am
  8. elvis costanza says:

    Gerald, get RS Guitar super-pots and wire a treble mod bleed mod so you can turn down without losing high-end.

    I often wish my LP had a Master volume so I can turn down overall level without hosing my blend. Time to get a volume pedal, I think.
    My Tele has always been run with Tone backed off on the bridge pickup and pretty much full on for the other two positions.
    My Strat has the bridge pickup wired to the second tone control and it makes it a much more usable pickup on its own.
    My Esquire has the cocked-wah/ no Tone control mod; Tone/Vol in middle; and Vol/no Tone for the “bridge” position. The cocked-wah has a.0047 dime tone cap and it gets a beautifl round tone rich in harmonics. Love it.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:12 am
  9. Scott says:

    I use the tone control a lot on my Fender Cyclone. Big range of warmth, especially when dialing in the neck pickup.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:16 am
  10. Brian Wilson says:

    Tone knobs are so useful in adding various shades color to your sound. Watch closely a video of SRV-he was constantly messing with his tone knobs and pickup selector. I personally love that classic Eric Claption ‘woman tone’ you hear in songs like crossroads. Gotta use your tone knobs to get that sound.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:21 am
  11. Jim McGuiness says:

    Many liken it to a gun: it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. I personally don’t have a gun, but I use tone in such a small range it might as well be a toggle switch between full bore treble and not so.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:27 am
  12. Josh says:

    I play on the bridge pickup 90% of the time (maybe we need a pickup switching lesson next) and over the years have come to love the tone I get just by simply rolling off the tone a little. Maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of the way (there’s a sweet spot in there), just to round off the top, chop the harsh edge off and thicken things up slightly. It’s the first thing I do when I plug in a guitar.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:27 am
  13. Timothy Spillane says:

    Since I got my ‘79 Epiphone Genesis back in early 1980, I’ve been messing with its master tone knob…without knowing what I was doing, I stumbled upon Clapton’s “woman tone” by running both of the Genesis’ split humbuckers at full tilt (and not using the coil tap toggle…although that feature was used extensively after I realized just what it did) and keeping the tone completely down, which with this particular axe gives me a gorgeous cocked wah sound that makes me giddy to this day!  This worked even better with my Seymor Duncan loaded Hamer Vector V from the mid 80s, and my tone from my metal dayz was like no other during that period.  My reissue Gibson ES-135 with its stacked P-100s from the “alternative” 90s got a gloriously thick jazzy quality when I messed with its individual tone knobs.  My 2009 Epiphone Dot Studio, modded with the addition of a Guitar Fetish long profile wangbar and a Wilkenson roller bridge, absolutely lives with its tone knob about 50 to 60% up, giving it a thick, robust feel on its neck pickup and emparting a massive growling presence in the bridge position…and my current meister-axe (my trans red 2011 BC Rich Mockingbird ST) can do about 60 different tone related magic tricks with its individual coil taps, out-of-phase switch and its five way Varitone knob to manipulate its Duncan designed h-buckers…so, I’d have to say I’m a *huge* fan of that little knob at the bottom of the circuit and all of its added little helpers…use it, mess with it, and more often than not it will reward you with some glorious sound that you probably weren’t aware your guitar could make!

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:27 am
  14. President Dogeater says:

    Could someone convince the guys running the sound board at live venues that it is o.k. if the guitar player controls his own tone and volume once levels are set ? Does anyone else out there have the problem of always fighting with the sound tech with either volume or tone? I have done everything to try to help them do their job - like getting teeny weeny little amplifiers so no microphone bleed & the *possibility* of good tone but then they don’t level the mic correctly. All the tone control manipulation can’t help in that situation I find. Sorry to get off the subject but I wonder - am I just a whiner or is this legit? Are there any other guitar players weary of “helping” sound people but never getting the help or trust in return?

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:29 am
  15. Chris says:

    I installed a Clapton Mid-boost and TBX tone control with Lace Sensors on my MIM Strat. Now that’s taking care of your tone…

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:32 am
  16. Willy says:

    I roll all my tone knobs back about 1/2 way, then tweak the amp for a nice middle-of-the-road sound. That way I have a huge variety of dark to bright tones at my fingertips.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:33 am
  17. Joby says:

    Yeah that Jason dude you were in a band with… he was right.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:35 am
  18. Dimitri says:

    Use my tone knobs a lot on the Strat. You can get some good mood depending on what your playing.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:36 am
  19. Funk E says:

    Of course, beauty is in the ear of the beholder. That’s why we have a ton of variations to choose from. Never understood why strats don’t have a tone control for the bridge pickup, where you might really need it the most. It’s very easy to jump the middle pickup tone control to include the bridge if you want, or add a concentric pot and have a tone control for each of the 3 pickups. Caps are another reason some people don’t use the tone controls. The value and materials can make a huge difference to most ears. As well as pot values. ( some players say they don’t hear the differences, could be hearing loss or just an inability to distinguish different tones. The latter is something people are born with, so please don’t make fun of them ) The values used in the early days of the electric guitar were chosen so the player could really bass up the pickup to sound like an upright bass. The electric bass hadn’t been invented yet at the time the first electric guitars came out, so doubling on bass on the guitar was not unusual. Playing a very bassy rhythm sound was also common as many groups didn’t have a bass player. So Gibson chose .022 and Fender .05 to add the extra bassiness. These days, we have a bass player in the band. Using lower value caps usually makes for a more tonefull, usefull tone control. I use .033 or .022 with single coils. With humbuckers, .015 or .010 . I like Mallory 150’s and Orange Drop 225p’s, they sound good and aren’t expensive. But many oil caps and others sound good too. It’s not hard to find good caps. No load pots are also useful too. Again, it’s all in the ears of the beholder. All worth trying.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:40 am
  20. DetroitBlues says:

    I’m a big fan of the Stratocaster.  I typically put the neck and middle pots to the first tone control and tie in the bridge to the second.  I seldom use the middle pickup unless I want some quack by using it with the neck.  The bridge is almost always by itself and the tone control helps smooth out the harsh upper frequencies of the pickup.  Its worked quite well on almost every Stratocaster I’ve had.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:40 am
  21. Sean says:

    I play a Gretsch Nashville, dual inactive humbuckers, dual volume, dual tone, pickup selector switch, and master volume. Anyway, the tone knobs make a world of difference. When I take it to the darker tones, it sounds more like a traditional Chet Atkins or Johnny Smith, really mellow, but I brighten it and it’s some of the finest twang you can get out of an unmodified guitar.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:40 am
  22. Cosmic1 says:

    I have to agree with Brian W. i you’re playin’ the blues you need that warmth and flexibility that only those tone knobs will provide. It wasn’t until I started exploring the blues more extensively that I came to this realization. But, its essential in all genres totally opened me up!

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:44 am
  23. Jay Wilson says:

    IF you know the science and sonics of your pups at all, then you already know you need to use your tone control to get the full range of voicing from them.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:46 am
  24. Joe says:

    I rewired my Strat starting a few years ago, and have dialed it in here and there since. I got Dimarzio Virtual Vintage/Area pickups (Virtual Solo bridge, Virtual Vintage Blues middle, and Area ‘61 neck), and found that a very small cap (0.0082uF or 8.2nF) was just great on the bridge pickup. In fact, it was so good with the tone on ‘4’, that I used a Superswitch to preset the tone control for the bridge pickup when the bridge was alone (33kOhms in series with 8.2nF, the series combo then shunted from hot to ground).

    For bridge/middle, bridge/neck, neck/middle, and neck positions, I can either use the 8.2nF cap or switch to 18nF, or even bypass the tone control altogether. This is done using an on-off-on mini toggle. The two tone knobs are basically for middle combos and neck combos separately. The Superswitch gives a lot of versatility in how things are wired.

    I also have a volume kit, as I like brightness as I turn down for clean/dirty control. In my view, it’s not cool to dial back for a clean tone and have it be muddy.

    It’s a great setup that gives me lots of versatility and great tones in just about any knob/switch setting. It sounds complicated, but it’s very simple to use. It’s complex under the hood, but easy behind the wheel.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:49 am
  25. Shane says:

    I play mostly Gibson’s, I often roll the tone all the way off for soloing on the front pickup.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:52 am
  26. Michael James Adams says:

    I’ll second what TW says about .033 PIO caps! I’m a Jazzmaster diehard, and when I first picked up my Sonic Blue Thin Skin model, it sounded great wide-open but any time I rolled back the tone knob it was a lackluster experience. With a vintage Sangamo .033 PIO cap and a Treble Bleed/Volume Mod network on the 1Meg volume, I use the tone control way more than I use the volume these days! I keep it around 6 or 7 on the dial for my normal brightish/darkish tone, roll down if I want something more akin to a dark humbucker or up if I want Telecaster territory or beyond. Of course, using Lollar pickups helps! My only problem now is that my tone knob is nearly stripped!

    My Gibsons ALWAYS get PIO .022 caps, and a requisite 1950s wiring conversion as modern wiring just bleeds all of the treble frequencies dry. Tone controls FTW!

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 3:59 am
  27. SteveDallman says:

    I never liked the muddy, sledgehammer effect of a standard tone control. But I found that smaller caps gave me a much more usable tone.

    A pickup’s response has a low end rolloff and then is fairly flat until the resonant peak. This peak is rather steep and is largely responsible for the characteristic tone of a pickup. There is a steep treble rolloff right after this peak. A tone cap moves the resonant peak and subsequent rolloff lower. A smaller cap leaves more of the midrange and if the peak is just moved into the mid/high mid range, a pickup can sound like a different pickup.

    I like a .01uF for the neck and middle pickups and a .0033uF or .0047uf for the bridge pickup. The .01 will still pull “woman tones” but keeps more of the mids. The .0033/.0047uf leaves much of the frequency response, but moves the peak and rolloff into the high mids…one can almost get a P90 tone from a strat bridge pickup…great for distortion.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 4:04 am
  28. mark says:

    i just bought a project box, several different value caps and a footswitch. and now i got a varitone no matter what guitar i’m playing.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 4:13 am
  29. Brad Le'Lee says:

    I tend to agree with your guy Jason - for Gibsons.  Why would anyone want to cut the “high end” of the typical Gibson guitar - which is really not “high end”.  Fenders- sure, they have some “high end” to roll off, and there are times when a Tele is just too grating.  But I never really made much use of tone controls until I had a G&L F100IIe (with the ACTIVE pickups)  That guitar, with the preamp turned on, had real Treble/Bass controls - which would both boost and cut.  And yes - the FIRST “effects” pedal everyone should buy should be a volume pedal.  So much more versatile - you can roll your guitar volumes off a bit to clean up - but then get the overall volume back with the pedal if you need it.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 4:15 am
  30. Patrick says:

    If you want a huge tonal palette right at your fingertips, check out G&L’s PTB (passive treble and bass) system. So versatile - great for reducing harshness in the top end, tightening up the bass in the neck pickup and lots more. Cranking up the bass control when you’re plugged into a fuzz does absolutely awesome things, too :)
    They have schematics on the “guitarsbyleo” site, too, so you can DIY the system in a strat if you’re handy with a soldering iron.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 4:16 am
  31. Blake says:

    I’ve actually completely removed my tone knob off my Tele. It originally had a Lace Red Dually in the bridge, which I swapped out to opt for the Super Ferrite pickup of an old Peavey Patriot I bought years ago. The result? Well, I love older style guitars because they are bright. Brightness brings clarity to distortion, and if I want to get gnarly I’ll switch on my fuzz. It also adds simplicity, another thing I find beautiful. I’m a set and play punk/hard/alt rocker, so this is what works for me. I don’t miss it.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 4:20 am
  32. walker sherman says:

    I never used to never use the tone knob on my Fenders. I recently wired in a NOS tropical fish style cap to the tone circuit.  Now the tone sweep is much smoother and pleasing to the ear. My Tele is a lot more diverse than it was previously!

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 4:33 am
  33. President Dogeater says:

    You can get a great “horn” tone -almost like a trumpet or trombone by rolling the tone control down to zero & with an overdrive pedal using the bridge pickup and phrasing riffs like a horn player. It works great. I’ve done this at gigs and people look around to see who is playing a trumpet.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 4:43 am
  34. Erik Bennett says:

    I used to never used the tone control nobs on my guitars until recently. Now it hurts my ears if I have the treble all the way up; I love being able to control the tone on the fly if I want to go darker on some parts.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 4:54 am
  35. Meiertriest says:

    Have played with a lot of strategies on my strat and have eventually settled on running the neck tone pot wide open and rolling off the middle pup’s pot to about 5 or 6, and EQ the amp so that the bridge tone thickens up a bit and loses most of its shrillness. Then I’ve got a range of soft or dark tones in positions 2/3/4 with brighter and very distinct tones in 1 and 5. Will then occasionally roll of the neck pick up if it’s biting too much (especially with distortion).

    My other guitar is a Hofner, which is a whole other can of worms. It’s got separate volume controls for neck and bridge and a “lead/rhythm” tone switch. It’s pretty useless if you play clean, but when playing the neck dirty (and this guitar is all about playing dirty), you can get a really interesting hollow tone that sounds a bit like it’s always in the trough of a flanger.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 5:13 am
  36. Ryan says:

    I am one of those people that never understood the “typical” strat set-up and I have mine configured just like Lincoln Brewster.  I changed the middle tone control to be on the bridge pup and the middle is wide open.  This configuration provides better control of your tone and a great mix when you play with both the middle and bridge pups together.  I keep the tone control for the bridge around 5-6 most of the time and never take it over 9.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 5:17 am
  37. Bradley Shuppert says:

    First off….When the electric guitar was brought to us and widely used in the 50’s. the guitars tone control was designed to MUTE or dampen the high frequencies so a guitarist could partly mimic a bass line or go from country/blues to jazz and smooth out the high end.  But with doing this comes a price…you lose articulation and note clarity.  Most tone controls cut frequencies instead of “shape” or boost the frequencies that modern guitarist like, therefore a wide range of BOOST pedals have been used to compensate for a TONE control that is 50 years old and unusable by todays standards.  Lets bring in the real point here and how to fix it.  Eric Clapton while putting “Blackie” together from favorite parts of various 50’s guitars accidently overheated the TONE capacitor that was strapped to the TONE pot and the value drifted from the typical .05 MFD to a cool .015MFD giving Clapton that “woman tone”.  Also with this drift, he could dial back the TONE control and BOOST frequencies from his amp and when he wanted to stand out in a lead, ROLL the TONE control full on, getting a fat boost from his AMP and without pedals.  Jol Danzig from HAMER guitars was the first person to recognize the need for a change in the value of the guitars TONE capacitor to around .015 MFD and was one of the first American companies to change it to that value without advertising or saying too much about and let guitarist find it out on their own after playing with the tone controls. Still most people do not know how to use the tone stack off their guitar or set their amp to get a perceived boost from the amp even today. Like most, people still remember that rolling back the TONE control on their guitar turned out to be this bassy, muffled, muted MESS that did not interact with the guitars or amps natural frequencies which is commonly shades of MIDRANGE, not BASS.  So here we solve it.  Change your tone caps in your guitars to between .01 MFD and .015 MFD and experiment with different types of caps to get your ears desired effect.  A typical setting before this mod on my amp was BASS on 4, MID on 7, TREBLE on 8-9 and PRESENCE cranked to 10 for the sound I like, still having to buy a CLEAN/TRANSPARENT BOOST pedal to get MORE of that when I want to solo…..SO here is the beauty of this MOD of changing your tone caps…YOU now can crank the BASS to around 7-8 and the MIDRANGE to 8-9 and the TREBLE to 10 and the MIDRANGE to 10 and back your NEW MODIFIED TONE CAPACITOR CONTROL on your guitar back about halfway, essentially “CUTTING” back those louder higher frequencies boosted direct from your AMP.  the when you want to step into a solo, instead of kicking a pedal, you can roll your TONE control to 10 and the “apparent FREQUENCY shift makes your guitar sound “LOUDER” in the mix and making your LEAD stand out ahead of the band….and RIGHT FROM YOUR GUITAR.  You can also back the VOLUME knob back to 6-8 and add volume to you amp a few notches from where you normally play it and do the same by cranking it and controlling it right off your guitar.  Master volume amps and even NON-Master volume amps benefit by controlling or “PLAYING” the amp this way.  Jimi Hendrix loved having the tone and volume controls under his hand by playing a right handed guitar upside down and restrung LEFTY so he could max ALL the Marshalls TONE controls to 10 and controlling the AMP direct from the guitar.  Try it and see but I know every MOD I have done for people by changing the TONE cap to a more midrange point value of .01 to .015 MFD have found out they use the TONE control more than ever before because it sweetens the balance and mix right from the guitar and IS USABLE all the way to turning it ALL THE WAY OFF…still retaining clarity and articulation and shaving those NOW boosted frequencies off the AMP.  Just try it and see or write me and I can help you understand it.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 5:28 am
  38. Phil says:

    I have a ‘74 Gibson L6-s. It has 2 tone controls that both go the all the pickups selected on the chicken head switch. They have different capacitors. Does anyone have experience with this set up and how to get the most from it?

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 5:54 am
  39. Mark B. says:

    I remove the tone controls completely from the circuit on my guitars in case some of the sound sneaks though and is lost.  That may be superstition but I never touch them anyway.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 6:11 am
  40. Sheepy says:

    I’ve been gigging with a Reverend Warhawk the past year, and while the tone control stays wide open all the time, I love playing with the bass contour control.  Allows for quite a variety of sounds.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 6:18 am
  41. Chris says:

    I break the knob off all my guitars as soon as I get them home. Just in case I don’t wanna take any chances. You know what I mean ???? HA HA   HA HA…..

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 6:40 am
  42. Martin Deffee says:

    I take the Eric Johnson approach, I set up my over all tone on my amps and then use my guitar tone controls as a master tone control. I find that tone control from one song to another is better executed through separate effects and then if I need the signal a little sharper or a little fuller I can easily accomplish it through the guitar tone control.

    Not an all encompassing opinion just mine on what works for me.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 6:55 am
  43. FAST EDDIE! says:

    i wire my telecaster with a .01mfd orange drop film capacitor on the tone pot. the guitar has all 250 k potentiometers on it.i get good tones on the entire range of the tone knob now.before i would get that farty muddy tone when rolling the tone knob all the way off.it was a completely unusable tone.now i get a nice woman tone with the tone controll all the way off and have 2 or three reaaly nice sweet spots when i turn the knob closer to the off position. if you want to get what is your ideal sound to your ears, bvuy a deade box and it is extremely easy to due as all you have to do is lift out the volume and tone pots by removing 2 screws.clip the leads on the capacitor leaving a piece of lead to hook your decade box to. you can chande values on the decade box to anything you want,listen and find your perfect tone cap fo your own personal sound.it can alos be used in moding guiotar amps ect…...keep rockin….Ed~!!

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 7:04 am
  44. Toomanyguitars says:

    I never used a tone control until I bought my Tele.  All the way up was just too much.  So I tend to ride it back about halfway.  I then had my Strat rewired so that the middle p/u tone control changed to affect only the bridge p/u.  Most useful thing I’ve ever done.  I understand the Eric Johnson Strat is wired like that.  Very useful when playing with lots of overdrive on the bridge p/u.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 7:10 am
  45. Christopher Venter says:

    I don’t think you meant Gibson’s contemporaries. Contemporary means from the same time period so that would include all guitars made between Gibson’s first production runs to the present.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 7:12 am
  46. gypsy says:

    i have 2 strat wanna be’s. a squire affinity and a strat style i built. i generally leave the 2 tone controls on 5. not really into “chicken pickin’”. more of a blues man.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 7:17 am
  47. MJ says:

    For fun, and certain lead/solo situations I will roll the tone all the way back on whatever guitar I’m playing, then artificially restore the tone with a wah pedal in the way forward position. Having a tunable wah helps as well, but the results cause a punch in the signal and an added grit to the overall sound. If you manipulate the wah, the results are very usable and it adds a new dimension to the way your guitar reacts to your touch.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 7:26 am
  48. Bruce Weldy says:

    President D,

    As a guitar player and a sound man - I’d jump through hoops and rings of fire to get guitar players to what you are willing to do.  My job is to reproduce what you are getting out of the amp.  And if you keep the volume down and let me do that, I’ll try to give you whatever you want.

    So, as I sound man - I say thanks…...I wish more players would be willing to make the sound better.  As for the sound men that won’t work with you…..well, there are a lot of guys out there that don’t have a clue.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 7:53 am
  49. Aaron says:

    One interesting method of tone control that I don’t see in this article (Or in the comments I’ve read so far) is the tone switch used one several of the Gretsch models with humbuckers, such as the Duo Jet, Penguin or Falcon. They use a three way tone switch instead of a pot, which I find interesting, and actually quite like. I’ve played a few Gretsch’s with this control and find it to be far more useful than the single Tone knob on my own Gretsch.

    Personally I don’t use the Tone knob that much, every so often I’ll use it for a desired effect, but for the most part I’ll just leave it be.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 8:00 am
  50. mick says:

    good article, man, thanks…i found a nice, easy workaround for a my strat concerning my bridge pickup..i always thought it was strange to have 2 tone controls on pickups so close together, too much mud to have around, with the tone peeled back, ( neck, and middle), so without any soldering work, i just switched the middle, and bridge pickups around, and walla!  now i have bright and dark tones on the bridge pickup, and it works nicely, tone wise, on the out of phase positions, specially the neck- bridge combo…i’m sure it’s not a new idea, but works great for me an my old Boogie!

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 8:35 am
  51. Cliff Lang says:

    I take the tone controls off my guitars (all Fenders) completely. Just one knob- the volume control- does fine for me thank you.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 9:58 am
  52. Michael says:

    The Fralins in my Strat are modded so that the bottom Tone control works in reverse to bleed in the Neck pickup to whatever degree I choose regardless of the setting on the 5-position switch. I generally play with the bridge pickup cranked (Volume and Tone) and bleed in the neck pickup from 1/2 to 3/4 depending on the warmth I want to add to the sound. Works great. I realize it’s a pretty common mod, but I didn’t see it here.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 12:01 pm
  53. Aleksandar Stanojkovic says:

    well.. gary moore didnt use much tone control on his lps, but I would always go for the bonamassa tone with my les pauls.

    Also, listen to john mayer, and his trio recordings. Almost all rhythm parts are done with the tone set around 4 or 5, and ONLY THEN can his crispy and massive clean tone be so drastic moving.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 12:47 pm
  54. spark says:

    i’ve played guitar for…oh…i guess 30 yrs or so now….i think i’ve actually used a tone knob maybe twice…if there’s a reason i’m reaching for a tone knob, it’s a big red flag that i either have the wrong guitar or the wrong amp

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 4:07 pm
  55. DonPepe says:

    I love my Baja Telecaster for it’s simple and functioning controls. Versatile as heck with S1 knob.
    I also find gretsch’s master volume knob very useful.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 6:09 pm
  56. bigtime eddie says:

    I always change the ceramic disc tone caps to the paper-in-oil type . my L/P , my mij Strat , my ES-339 , my mim Tele , my mik Strat , all have benefited from this change . also , w/humbuckers , I have found using a .015 value in the neck position ‘de-mudified’  the the neck pick-up when rolling the volume back . I have a .1 in the mij strat w/Klein p/ups that works well . A cap change is a relatively cheap and reversible way to expand your tone .

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 10:26 pm
  57. Mojave Johnson says:

    All of my guitars (I play mostly Gibsons) have linear 500K potentiometers and Sprague Bumble Bee capacitors, whether the guitar has humbuckers, P-90’s, or Strat- or Tele-style single coils).  These caps, of course, are some of the most sought after caps for guitars, and can be pricey, but I think they’re more than worth the tone you can get from them.  In my opinion, the linear pots are much more usable than the standard pots that come in most guitars.  The standard pots that come in most guitars will give you a little control through part of the sweep, but then suddenly have a big spike in audible difference.  The linear pots give you a smooth transition from full open to full attenuation.

    Another option is going with a Gretsch-style setup, where you have a few toggle switched to turn on/off preset tone options.  Check out a Gretsch 6120 to see how this works.

    Still another option is adding Gibson’s Varitone circuit, which is a 6-way rotary switch with 5 preset tone options and a bypass.  Check out an ES-355, L6-S, or Lucille to see how this works

    I have even added a Vox wah circuit - complete with the on/off switch - on a Les Paul to give me another option.  For this, I would turn the effect on, then find the sweet spot where the guitar would naturally want to feedback easily.  This gives you a slightly nasaly, honky tone that is great for cutting through the mix during fills or solos without raising your volume.  The first version of the Joe Perry Signature Les Paul (1997-8) had a similar circuit built in.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 11:02 pm
  58. norden says:

    I wired off the tone control of the bridge pickup on my LP style guitar long time ago as I never saw the point of it. The bridge humbucker can never be trebly enough! :)

    I keep the tone control for the neck pickup in case I’m in the mood for some “under the blanket” jazzy sound.

    posted on June 22, 2013 at 12:06 am
  59. Ken says:

    Has anyone tried doing the grease bucket mod on a humbucker? My SG has a Super Distortion at the bridge and a Super Distortion 3 in the neck. They’re both set up with a coil split so I have a lot to play with. I also thought about using a rotary switch to allow for multiple tone caps, but I need to figure out where to mount it.

    posted on June 22, 2013 at 7:06 am
  60. plonker says:

    im always fidddling with the tone knob. recently got a ranaldo jazzmaster (which i love) but cant get used to not having a tone knob so ill probably install one.

    posted on June 24, 2013 at 5:38 am
  61. Christian says:

    “Just put the damn thing on 10. You can quote me on that”

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 12:56 am
  62. Steve says:

    Just did the 50’s mod with .22 Orange Drops on my LP and the tonal rage is great! Going to try a .15 in the neck while also looking into trying Bumblebees as well!

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 2:07 am
  63. Ken says:

    Steve, let us know how they work. I have a Hagstrom Swede. They put .47’s in it from the factory and the tone is too dark for me. I’m was planning to put .22’s in it but after reading all the comments here I may put .15’s in it instead.
    There’s cool thing Hagstrom did with their Swedes. They put two extra caps in the circuit in parallel with the regular tone caps. It uses an on-off-on switch so you can choose between an additional .47 or .22uf in the circuit, or just the tone caps. With two .47’s in the circuit it gives it a Wah type sound. So when I change out the tone caps I may add another cap to second circuit to keep that Wah tone.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 2:33 am
  64. Colin says:

    I’m pretty sure the bottom tone knob almost always controls the bridge pickup tone as well as the middle pickup on Strats.

    posted on June 27, 2013 at 7:09 am
  65. spentron says:

    I’m surprised so many are praising lower capacitor values—this is a first! I use .01 uF, regular stacked film. I occasionally take off a little harshness with it, but mostly use it more like a switch, all the way up or all the way down. I added the tone control on my most recent guitar since it lacked one. Humbuckers, 500K pots.

    2 important things about the guitar tone, one is it’s another point in the chain that tone can be adjusted, with distortion that’s completely different than adjusting the amp. The other is it automatically makes tonal changes based on the characteristics of the pickups. Due to the inductance of the pickups, it moves the high end peak down in frequency as SteveDallman noted. Some frequencies are actually boosted as a result when the control is all the way down, unless the cap is too large or there is too much resistive loading. However, middle settings dampen said peak. Turning it down just a little is more like changing the pot values in the guitar, the cap makes little difference.

    I think some here are confusing a decimal place. I got a guitar once with .22, didn’t much get through.

    posted on June 27, 2013 at 10:54 am
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  68. Steve says:

    Ken, sounds like an interesting circuit and just saw a demo of a Swede on YouTube that sounded great! Although I’m perfectly happy with .22 in the bridge, a lot of people are claiming great results with .15 in the neck. But hey, experiment!

    posted on July 2, 2013 at 2:41 am
  69. Ken says:

    Thanks Steve!
    That sounds good. I’m going to try your setup.  When I do I thing I will add caps in parallel with the secondary tone caps to bring the value closer to what the factory had for the bridge. I like that Wah like tone, but when not using that the tone is too dark for my taste.
    Thanks to PGS for giving us the opportunity to learn more about our equipment.

    posted on July 2, 2013 at 2:49 am
  70. Steve says:

    Great Ken, and if you don’t already have it the 50’s wiring will help retain your highs when rolling the volume down. Good luck! And yes, Kudos to PGS for the great articles!

    posted on July 2, 2013 at 3:17 am
  71. ken says:

    Steve, where can I find the 50’s wiring diagram?

    posted on July 2, 2013 at 3:34 am
  72. Steve says:

    Ken. Looking down on your control cavity you solder one wire of your cap to the center lug of your volume pot and the other to what was the ground lug on your tone pot and then use the center lug as ground. If you don’t have them already, 500k pots all around completes the job. You can also Google this and plenty of diagrams will come up. Hope this helped!

    posted on July 3, 2013 at 2:10 am
  73. Clay says:

    On my Les Paul I set the neck pickup to a jazz/blues tone for lead parts. Although I never use the bridge pickup alone, it is set to a bright tone in order to yield a balanced tone when playing rhythm parts with both picups selected. Obviously, the bridge volume pot is also used to achieve the desired balance.

    posted on July 3, 2013 at 2:39 am
  74. Nick says:

    On my strat i have the neck on the top tone knob and bridge on the bottom know and leave the middle open sounds great if i turn down the tone on the bridge it has a cocked wah sound and the middle pickup sounds great wide open with no tone pot load.

    posted on July 3, 2013 at 4:31 pm
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