Understanding Guitar Pots and Caps
Guitar Pots and Caps Explained
Guitar potentiometers (pots) and capacitors (caps) are perhaps the least understood components in electric guitars, bass guitars. Learn what they are and how new pots and caps can improve the sound of your instrument.
The terms “pots” and “caps” are abbreviated terms for potentiometers and capacitors respectively. Pots and caps are part of the electrical system in electric guitars and bass guitars. They are located in hollow cavities in your instrument’s body, underneath control knobs. Your control knobs are installed on the shaft of the potentiometer thereby enabling you to make changes to tone and volume.
Guitar Pots Explained
What Do Guitar Pots Do?
A potentiometer is basically a component that allows you to progessively change what it controls. A light dimmer switch (which is technically a variable rheostat) is an example of being able to incrementally adjust power. The website ResistorGuide.com states this definition, “A resistor of which the ohmic resistance value can be adjusted. Either mechanically (potentiometer, rheostat) or electronically (digital potentiometer)”.1
Guitar pots are used to affect and control volume and tone. Volume control speaks for itself. Tone control enables you to change the sound, including how you mute or blend the signal from guitar pickups.
Types of Guitar Potentiometers
At a top level there are mini-pots and full-size pots. Potentiometer designs are short-shaft pots, long-shaft pots, and push-pull pots. Potentiometer designs also have split-shaft design, solid-shaft design. All pots shafts have splines (the rib-type grooves that run the length of the shaft). The shaft length, diameter and type of splines does affect the fitment of control knobs. When replacing pots you should note these critical dimensions. Some pot replacement jobs require modifying mounting holes and buying new control knobs.
For more detailed information you can read a great article on the PremierGuitar.com website. Of particular interest is a comment by author Dirk Wacker concerning Imperial vs. Metric installation issues. Mr. Wacker commented, “Now it’s time to discuss some typical pitfalls you might encounter when replacing pots or knobs on your guitar. The first scenario is a hot topic in guitar repair shops worldwide: installing U.S. pots (measured in inches) in a guitar that sports metric electronics.”2
PRO TIP: If your knobs are loose on split-shaft pots DO NOT try to pry open the gap in the shaft to make it wider! One side will shear off and you will have then ruined your new potentiometer.
Mini-pots vs Full-size Pots
Generally speaking, mini-pots are inferior to full-size pots. Using mini-pots is one-way manufacturers cut costs of making new guitars. While mini-pots (Alpha pots) are usually associated with low-end guitars, however; you sometimes find them on higher-end brands like Ibanez and Spector. If your guitar has mini-pots it’s not a huge problem: however, when it’s time to change your guitar pots you should look into upgrading to full-size guitar pots.
Mini Pots are recognized by their case (body) which is about the diameter of a dime. Mini-pot shafts usually have coarse splines and need 5/16″ round mounting holes.
Full Size Pots are recognized by their case (body) which is about the diameter of a quarter. Full-size pot shafts usually have fine splines needing 3/8″ round mounting holes.
500k vs 250k Tone Pots
Both 250k pots and 500k pots have their place in making a guitar sound great. Some guitar wiring circuit designs use 300k or even 1 Meg pots. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the right [pots for your guitar.
Generally speaking, to control volume, humbuckers should be paired to 500k pots, while single-coil pickups should be paired with 250k pots. A 500k volume pot offers twice the resistance to the current flowing from the pickup to the output jack versus a 250k pot when turned up to maximum.
When to Use 500k Pots
Humbuckers have far more windings than a single-coil pickup thus need a 500k pot (Gibson sometimes uses 300k pots). Because 500k pots are great for guitars with humbucker pickups they are the most commonly found in Gibson Les Paul, PRS, Dean, and Ibanez humbucker styled guitars.
When to Use 250k Pots
Because 250k pots are great for single-coil pickups they are the most common with Fender, Ibanez, Schecter, and similar guitars.
When to Use 1 Meg Pots
In some situations a 1 Meg pot can bring an amazing sound to a guitar. G&L uses 1 Meg pots for a bass roll-off. Telecasters, Gibsons, and others have used 1 Meg pots to greatly lift high tones. You may want to look at a different guitar (pickups) if you’re chasing a brighter sound.
When to Use 25k Pots
The use of 25k pots is typically found in smaller stringed instruments. It is often used in many instruments utilizing active electronics, in particular guitars using EMG humbucker pickups.
Volume Pots vs Tone Pots
Firstly, everyone wants to know if tone pots and volume pots are the same. There’s truly nothing made that is legitimately called a “tone pot” or a “volume pot”. This simply refers to where you choose to use any particular pot. However, there are best practices when choosing the type of pots you use for controlling tone and volume.
Industry experts such as the folks at Fralin Pickups recommend using audio taper pots for tone and volume controls.3
Linear Pots vs Audio Taper Pots
A great way of describing the difference between linear pots and audio taper pots can be found in a thread on StackExchange. Eric Gunnerson commented, “Very simply, with a linear taper, if you turn the pot halfway, the resistance measured on each side will be equal. With logarithmic (aka “audio”) taper, that is not true; the resistance follows a logarithmic progression. Log taper is used because it gives a more natural progression when used for volume control.”5
Linear Pots increase/decrease signals in a linear fashion. (“1” on your control knob equals 10%, “5” equals to 50%, etc.). Because of its predictability, many people prefer a linear pot for their volume control.
Audio Taper Pots, aka logarithmic pots, are non-linear potentiometers that deliver a more natural variance in sound when you turn your knobs. Audio taper pots compensate for the relationship between resistance and volume in a passive guitar circuit.
What Do Tone Pots Do?
The tone pots increase or decrease the flow of higher frequency signals to ground. The lower the resistance to this high-frequency sound loss the less shrill the sound. A high resistance tone pot can decrease the loss of high-frequency sound more than a low resistance tone pot.
What Are Push-Pull Pots
A push-pull pot is simply a potentiometer sitting on top of a switch. Fralin refers to this as, “…a DPDT (Double Pole, Double Throw) switch the switch has two separate poles.”4 The net effect is that it multiplies what you can do with the sound of your guitar.
Symptoms of Bad Pots
Signs of a bad potentiometer include a scratchy, static type noise (from your amp) when turning a knob or anything less than a smooth feel when you turn the knob.
You may not need to replace a pot that has signs of problems. Sometimes you simply need to clean the pot with a specially designed electronics contact cleaner.
PRO TIP: Always protect your guitar’s finish from possible harm when applying solvents, solutions, lubricants, and other foreign substances.
How Much Do Guitar Pots Cost
Guitar pots generally cost $6-$9 each. If you hire a guitar shop to install pots the labor should be about $30 for one and up to $75 for three. There could be an additional fee if a luthier needs to ream (enlarge) the mounting holes to accommodate the potentiometer’s shaft. Hollow-body guitars may be more expensive due to extra time required to pull and replace the circuit.
Tone and Volume Pots Wiring
There is a vast array of guitar wiring configurations. As you can imagine, multiply the number of pickup configurations by the number of knob configurations and you are well into the hundreds, if not thousands. Fortunately, there are some standard wiring configurations available online that work for almost any setup.
The best source we know for guitar wiring diagrams is at the Seymour Duncan website. They provide precise and accurate diagrams for a wide range of configurations.
What Are the Best Guitar Pots?
Ask people what is “the best” anything and you’ll get a lot of different answers. Identifying the best guitar pots is about the same. Below we have listed five guitar pots that consistently get good reviews. (We use DiMarzio, Emerson, and Seymour Duncan and always have stellar results.)
- DiMarzio (CTS) Potentiometers are always a solid contender for the best guitar pots. They are well made and competitively priced. They offer 250k and 500k pots ranging from $9-$15 each.
- Emerson Pro Pots (CTS) Potentiometers are custom made by CTS to Emerson specifications. Emerson Pro Pots are low torque and feature a proprietary custom audio taper that ware designed to maximize response (think turning down your volume to 2 and it’s the same effect as turning down your amp’s volume knob).
- Seymour Duncan (Bourns) Potentiometers are yet another example of the brilliant minds at Seymour Duncan. They make a YJM-500k pot, suitable for tone and volume controls, that will exceed your expectations. They 500k pots have a special lubricant that makes them ultra smooth for many years of use. These 500k pots cost around $14 each. They also offer their signature SD Pots, 250k or 500k, for only $9 each.
- Fender Stratocaster Potentiometers are obviously designed for Fender Strats. It’s a no-brainer that they are one of the best pots for a Strat guitar. Even better is you can buy a wiring kit with shielded wire, pots, input jack, 5-way switch and required installation hardware for under $120 from Artisan Luthiers. Go to the Fender website and you can buy individual pots for around $9 each.
- WD Music Potentiometers are really good and are reasonably priced. You can get a set of three for under $20 + shipping. They have a wide selection of Bourns, CGE, Alpha, and CTS pots from which to choose.
Guitar Capacitors Explained
What Do Capacitors Do?
Guitar caps are used to manipulate specific frequencies to shape tone. The tone pots and capacitors combine to create a low-pass filter. How you integrate it into your wiring plan adds another dimension to the manipulation of your tone.
When you opt to lower the pot your treble is throttled and your tone gets darker. Larger value caps reject less signal thereby allowing more to pass to ground. A larger cap value knocks down high frequencies faster which better exposes the midrange tones at lower volumes.
What Are the Difference in .022 vs .047 Tone Cap
The numbers assigned to a capacitor indicate its value. At lower volumes, the .022 cap will retain more highs than the .047 cap. What do the experts like? The sound experts at Seymour Duncan seem to have a strong preference for the .047 pot cap value. In fact, this is the most common choice for the vaunted treble bleed mod.
What Are the Best Guitar Caps?
In our opinion, the following are our top three caps for electric guitars (listed in no particular order).
- .047 Orange Drop Caps are very reliable and do a great job pushing mids at any volume level. These are often found in high-end guitars such as Fender, PRS, and Gibson. Sprague Orange Drop caps cost around $4 each + shipping.
- Black Beauty Caps Truly a vintage sound component, Black Beauty caps mute some high-end tones to soften tones that are smooth and rich. Black Beauties are best used with vintage cloth push-back wiring. Black Beauties caps cost around $25 each + shipping.
- Paper-in-Oil Caps Emerson still makes these amazing paper in oil caps that deliver a responsive warm, vintage tone. Emerson’s mod to sealed metal tubes means you get the sound with a much longer useful life. Paper-in-Oil caps cost around $18 each + shipping.
Pots and caps play an important role in sculpting your instruments sound output. If you want a lower-cost way to alter or improve your sound replacing or modifying your pots and caps may be right for you.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes. This information is not intended to be a guide or similar instructions. Guitar repairs and mods should be done by only qualified guitar techs or luthiers. Errors in installation and wiring will have negative outcomes. If you are uncertain about doing repairs or mods you should use the services of a local guitar tech or luthier.
- 1 ResistorGuide.com, “Variable Resistor”, March 15, 2014, Available from ResistorGuide.com
- 2 Dirk Wacker, “Mod Garage: Dealing with Knobs and Pots”, January 1, 2016, Available from Premier Guitar
- 3 Tyler Delsack, “How Do Volume and Tone Pots Work for Guitar?”, March 3, 2017, Available from Fralin Pickups
- 4 Tyler Delsack, “Push Pull Pot Power”, March 29, 2017, Available from Fralin Pickups
- 5 Eric Gunnerson, “Difference Between Linear and Audio Tapers”, November 30, 2012, Available from Stack Exchange
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Rule #1 – do not buy any cheap crap from communist china. The parts won’t last and you’ll have to redo it all within a year. Go with quality parts like CTS pots, CRL or Switchcraft switches, etc.
Seymour Duncan has a ton of free wiring diagrams to download. It’s my go-to source for easy-to-read and accurate circuit wiring info.
I bought a Gibson Les Paul and replaced the computer board with regular circuit parts. It sounds much better.
I strongly urge people to buy products from TheArtofTone.com and stop buying cheap, inferior products sold on eBay. If you’re going to do the job, you should always use the best possible components.
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What do you think of the Super Pots? Supposedly they are even better than CTS or Bourns. I know they cost more.
The Super Pots are very good; however, we do not think they are worth the price. The CTS 450G pots, especially 10% tolerance, are extremely good in all regards (and with an affordable price).
I think people would understand the difference in potentiometers if they looked at a potentiometer taper chart, and understand that not all pots have the same taper. Comparing linear to audio pots is another thing to see.
This is some nice stuff. We would like to share some of your content on our music industry websites. Thanks!
Where are good sources to buy wire for doing guitar circuits? What sizes are best?
Can you actually save much money and get decent quality by doing your own circuit repairs? It seems like it’s too easy to make a lot of mistakes.
Can you add more information on how to fix ground loops and weird humming noises?
Here are some good informative articles:
What is a ground loop, and how do you get rid of it?
UNDERSTANDING GUITAR GROUNDING
Electric Guitar Buzzing When Not Touching Strings
Always go with 10% tolerance pots. It makes a huge difference in the overall quality of your circuit. It serves to make the functionality the way it is supposed to be.
CTS pots are my favorite!
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HI, could you please explain more on “The terms “pots” and “caps” are abbreviated terms for potentiometers and capacitors respectively. Pots and caps are part of the electrical system in electric guitars and bass guitars. They are located in hollow cavities in your instrument’s body, underneath control knobs. Your control knobs are installed on the shaft of the potentiometer thereby enabling you to make changes to tone and volume.”. Many thanks. I have bookmarked your website for future use.
Are you getting products that have been sitting on store shelves for weeks or months before you buy them? Does it matter if potentiometers are unused but months old?
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I buy my circuit stuff from Art of Tone – they have quality merch.
I definitely liked this article and learned a few things
I just discovered some vintage style wiring diagrams. The info here helped me to understand a little more about the different tones that are available just by changing the caps.
I totally agree with what you said. However, there are also some other things that could be covered like types of pickups and circuit wiring options. Overall, it’s a really good info source.
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Great post and a big thanks. I’m just getting into the idea of completely rebuilding a cheap guitar I have, as a learning curve, and this has helped me understand some of the vast amounts of knowledge needed.
Hi. Thanks for the useful information regarding guitar wiring.
As a rule I can understand the schematic for wiring, BUT I can’t understand why the diagram for the pots shows the usual 1 to 3 connections and then it shows a block of six other connections, but the pot only has 3???
Good question. What you are seeing is a schematic that includes a “stacked pot”, aka push-pull pot, which are used for complex circuits for coil-split, coil-tap, etc. Look at a photo of a push-pull pot and the schematic image will make more sense. Push Pull Potentiometer
I used this information to rewire three of my guitars. The first attempt was a little frustrating, mainly with the soldering. After some practice, I figured it out.
The next two were much easier. There is definitely a difference after gutting the cheap Chinese pots and caps and installing CTS pots and Sprague caps. On average, for my Squier starts the cost of the parts was about $40 for three pots, caps, and a 5-way switch.
Thanks for having an informative blog, including controlling spam comments. It makes it a lot easier to scroll through and get useful information.
Do pots have any influence on tone?
From my experience and I would say no but yes…
No in the sense that if you take two pots with the exact same resistance and same taper from different brands… they should sound exactly the same. So if you are happy with your sound but discover that your guitar is equipped with cheap Chinese mini pots don’t change anything. (“if it ain’t broken don’t fix it” 😉 )
But yes, if you compare two pots with different resistance values, you could ear a difference.
– for volume pots, the lower resistance they are the more high frequencies they will filter (even when on 10 !). That’s the only reason why 500K are recommended for Humbuckers and 1M are used for bass pickups. Since they generate less high frequencies, you want to ensure not loosing them in the volume pot !
– for tone pots the frequency cut is a function of the resistance and of the cap value.
And of course a different taper will also influence the tone.
In a nutshell, don’t expect changing your tone by replacing a cheap 250K audio pot by an expensive one with same specs… but changing it to a 500K or linear taper will (for good or bad, that’s a question of taste). And when changing it, considering the cost of a pot, I would take an “expensive one” for its reliability over time.
The huge difference in cheap pots and quality pots is in the manufacturer’s tolerances. For example, most pots sold on places like eBay or Amazon are sold with 20% or greater tolerance. Even a quality brand like CTS has a lot of 20% tolerance pots for sale online.
What does “20% tolerance” mean? This means that when the manufacturer is offering a 500k pot, the value could vary up to 100k (20% ). The reality is the pot’s value could be anywhere between 400k and 600k. Obviously, this can make a huge difference in functionality.
Vendors such as The Art of Tone offer pots with 10% tolerance, which are consistently less than 5% tolerance. Buying quality potentiometers with low tolerances can make a significant difference.
It’s worth noting that if you shop around you’ll be surprised at the prices. The Art of Tone sells CTS 250k pots with 10% tolerance for as little as $4.40 each. Compare this to eBay sellers offering CTS 250k pots with 20% tolerance for $7 to $13 each. The time/cost to install is the same so why not do it better?. And ultimately, it’s much preferred to support a free country than buy pots where slave labor is more than common.
I got a question, why are those values a convention? I wired a pot volume of 50k with passive single coils, and it worked just fine. When I used 250k, 500k or 1M it didn’t have any sound.
I buy most of my parts on eBay because they are far cheaper than name-brand manufacturers.
Check out TheArtofTone website. Get top quality, fantastic prices and they ship ultra fast.
Great article and I also like the one you have on sources for guitar parts and bass parts. I used this article to learn how to do basic wiring, and used the other article to order quality parts instead of the cheap ebay parts from China.
The best capacitors for the circuit on an older Gibson Les Paul are paper-in-oil caps – saweeeeet tone!
Can you write another article on ways to wire up a parallel/series switch and an in/out-phase switch? I’m always interested in getting more out of my circuit. Thanks!
Oil in Paper caps – wow, they are the bomb for my Epiphone 335!
Any recommendations on a good source to buy ready-to-install wiring harnesses? I’m looking for a fully wired circuit with pots, caps, output jack, and obviously wiring.
I just installed a solderless wire harness from Mad Hatter Guitar Products. Its pretty nice.
COVID is making it hard to get parts in a timely manner. Any suggestions on sources that can get things to me in a week or so?
This article is generally very informative. This is very good for someone that did not know anything about guitar electronics.
The following link is another good article for troubleshooting guitar circuit issues
Some people have a hard time understanding how to find out the value of a capacitor. This is a good article on tonecaps to go along with what you’ve written.
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As far at pots go, I like the easier turns on a CTS. The Bourns feel too stiff for me. Either way, these are the on;y brands I will use.
Are there any books you recommend for learning more about guitar wiring and electronics?
Thank you for sharing this information.
Do you recommend to replace components of expensive guitars as well?
For example Ibanez prestige 1570, or Fender Yngwie Malmsteen signature?
How can I tell the quality if I do not have experience in guitar electronics?
I truly appreciate this article. Much thanks again. Keep writing.
After trying my hand at reading diagrams, buying parts, and doing the dis-assembly and re-assembly I decided some people should just leave it to the techs. I’m still trying to learn but it’s really complicated for me.
Just a heads up for the DIY crowd – do not buy cheap guitar electronics on Amazon, Alibaba, or other sites with Chinese garbage. You’ll save only a few dollars and your time is wasted. In fact, your guitar is probably going to be worse than it was.
Thanks for developing a good and informative article.
What can you share about soldering? How do you do it best? What is the best equipment and solder wire?
Can ur business make ready-to-install wiring? I’m interested in buying all of the wiring and stuff put together. I want to just put it in place and attach my pickup wires.
The clarity of your information makes it easy to understand and use the information in your post. Thanks a million and please keep writing articles that focus on helping (not selling).
I enjoyed reading this remarkable article and find the info very useful. I look forward to more info to help me with guitar upgrades and maintenance.
I definitely recommend changing out the circuit that comes with guitar kits. Everything is cheap and lacks any reasonable sense of quality. Everything you mention here is in the ballpark of why I’ve used name brand components. Go with quality parts and workmanship and you’ll always have great results.
I’m having a lot of trouble soldering wires to the back of my pots. Is there some kind of trick to doing this?
Great article! We will be linking to this particularly great post on our luthier website blog.
What do you think about active electronic upgrade kits for a bass. I’m liking the kits Bartolini sells for my Warwick.
Can you make an article with a diagram to show how to wire my guitar to get a Hoobastank (Dan Estrin) sound? Any advice on better pickups for my PRS Custom 24?
I replaced the PCB circuit in my Gibson LP with traditional pots/caps/wiring. It’s wired for the vintage tone and it sounds much better. My guitar guy said it will last longer and be far more reliable. So far, so good.
Is it worth keeping old pots and caps or should I just toss them in the trash? It seems like if I replaced them they’re not worth keeping, even if they work.
Personally, I love the Emerson oil-in-paper capacitors. Great tone enhancer
I replaced PCB board in my Gibson Les Paul with vintage style circuit using traditional pots/caps/wiring. Amazing difference and massive improvement. I don’t know why Gibson started using PCB circuit boards. My guitar now sounds sweet and smooth.
Is there a way to wire an electric to make it sound like an acoustic, just more louder?
Is it possible to order the wiring and stuff already assembled and ready to install in a guitar? I have a Fender Stratocaster and Precision bass that need new wiring but I’m not good at soldering.
“Having read this I thought it was very enlightening. I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this article together. I once again find myself personally spending way too much time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!”
I’m working to become the rare female guitar tech. Articles like this are very helpful for people like me. I also like your article on guitar parts resources. That gives me a good idea of brands and quality options for customers.
Using your info and the wiring diagrams on the Seymour Duncan website I was able to rewire a Fender Squier Strat and a Silvertone Strat. I saved a lot of cash and both sound great so thank you!
If I upgrade my pots, and the shafts don’t fit in the pickguard holes, can I enlarge those holes or do I need a new pickguard?
No need for a new pickguard. A step bit is probably your best bet, The cutting surface is stepped incrementally, so they’re sort of Christmas tree-shaped. They cut very fine holes in plastic and light metals without tearing. The cutting surface is only about 1/8 in. Before it graduates to the next size but if you drill from the face and also from the back you can cut plastics or thin Woods up to about a quarter inch. There’s also something called a fluted reamer that works well 4 guitars.
Nice article but I just gave up and took my guitar to a pro. I guess some people (like me, lol) will never learn how to solder.
I think the admin of this web site is really working hard in support of his website since here every data is quality based stuff.
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I found that I really like paper-in-oil caps for my Les Paul. It gives it an even sweeter mellow sound.
In general, if you buy a guitar for less than $300 you should probably replace the electronics with quality components. It’s a good investment with immediate and long-term benefits.
What do you think is the best type of solder for working on guitars?
Our recommendation for the best solder for guitar electronics work is 60/40 rosin-core solder. For optimal results, make certain to tin the tip of your soldering iron (and tip of wire to be soldered). Keep your soldering iron tip clean, and be mindful of the temperature of your soldering iron. If it is not hot enough you will probably have a lot of cold solder joints.
Any advise on a good soldering station set for home use would be much appreciated. My tech guy told me my soldering was bad because my soldering tool does not get hot enough.
Having just experienced the situation, I’m passing along a tip to make sure you know that pots, besides value, are not all the same. Specifically, you need to know these things before ordering replacement pots for your guitar:
POT SHAFT DIFFERENCES
Pot shaft lengths are short (3/8″) or long (3/4″). Getting the wrong ones can mean not enough comes through for your knobs or too much sticks through and your knobs end up away from the body. Simply measure what you have now to know what you need.
Pot shaft diameters are typically either 7.8mm or 3/8″. While either can work electronically, buying pots with shafts that are larger than your existing pots means having to drill out the holes. While this is not particularly difficult (if you can use tools), you can damage the face side of your guitar.
Solid vs Split pot shafts are something to consider. Generally, you buy solid shaft pots if your knobs have a set-screw, and split shaft for push-on knobs. Electronically there’s no difference.
Hope I added some value to the conversation.
Richard, all great comments and tips. Thanks for “adding value to the conversation”.
If you’re like me, not great at soldering, you can buy some rewire kits that use solderless connectors. These kits usually have everything matched electronically, and the wire is already cut. This can make the job go faster and cut out a lot of mistakes and hassles for us newbies.
Sometimes this is a good way to go. Verify the brand of the parts. Some online sellers build harnesses with cheap parts just to have a low price – a really bad experience awaits. Also, make sure the harness has enough wire length for your type of guitar.
Is anybody else having problems getting these parts shipped due to COVID? It seems like so many legit suppliers are closed.
Unfortunately, this IS a problem. Things being what they are we definitely recommend NOT ordering from places like Amazon and eBay which are likely parts from China. Companies located in California seem to be the ones with the biggest shipping delays.
I really like how you wrote about Understanding Guitar Pots and Caps.
Thank you for the well-written Understanding Guitar Pots and Caps article.
Hi, your Understanding Guitar Pots and Caps article it is well written, it’s very informative.
For anyone who is unsure about upgrading their wiring and parts – do it! It’s a solid improvement that is really underrated. In particular for tone controls.
Sharing a tip from a hard-earned lesson – ALWAYS cover your guitar body when soldering. It’s easy not pay attention for a second and drip hot solder or touch the soldering iron tip to the paint. Use something thick like an old sweatshirt for most of the body and tape off around the exposed edges of holes in the body.
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When upgrading pots and stuff, what type of output jack do you recommend?
We enthusiastically recommend the Pure Tone Multi-Contact output jacks. The shorter overall length works in every bass or guitar, and it has a very firm “lock” on the cable input. The price is extremely reasonable.
What do you think about the old paper-in-oil caps? From what I’ve read they provide a cool tone, they’re just kinda expensive.
They work great, especially Emerson brand products. Check them out here >> Emerson Pots and Caps
I can’t wait to learn much more from you. This is actually a tremendous site with a lot of good info.
What kind of tools would I need to do electronics work on a guitar?
A question with a multitude of answers. Hollow body guitars require more than your basic start style, etc.
At a minimum, you’ll need several sizes of flat and Phillips head screwdrivers, a soldering station with soldering supplies, wire cutters, strippers, heat-shrink and/or electrical tape, and a multimeter is handy.
What do you think about upgrading Gibson Les Paul guitars from 300k pots to 500 k pots?
Do it. Make sure you use the right caps. Do Google searches for Gibson Les Paul 50’s vintage guitar wiring.
Hi! I could have sworn I’ve visited this website before but after browsing through some of the articles
I realized it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m definitely pleased I stumbled upon it. Nice work!
I was able to find almost everything I needed for a wiring modification. Can you do articles with wiring diagrams too?
What do you think about using alpha pots for a PRS guitar?
This blog article is very useful. I’ve got a much better idea of what I’m doing now.
This is the 4th article I’ve read on your site. I have to say you write good articles about things of interest.
Thanks for writing an article that is easy to understand and that tells you what parts to buy.
What are your recommendations for websites with good guitar wiring diagrams? It seems like a lot of forums have links to digrams that don’t work or have problems.
I’m working on a beginner level electric guitar. So far, I’ve wired up the output jack, tone pot, volume pot, and two single coil pickups. How do I know which size capacitor to use for my pickups to have a good sound?
On the newer Gibson LP’s they have 300k pots for tone and volume. I’ve read a lot of articles saying to replace the 300’s with 500k pots. What are the benefits of doing this?
I recently picked up a loaded pickguard with a set of “Hot Noiseless” pickups. The pots on the new pickguard are 1meg but the original pots are only 250k. Shold I stay with the originals or is there a good reason to leave the 1meg pots?
Getting gigs in NJ is really tough so our band is trying to get a really unique sound. I had an idea to cut out the body on my acoustic and add a humbucker. Has anybody ever tried this? I think the acoustic & electric tones mixed together might be cool.
Thanks for writing an article on where to buy parts. It’s a very helpful sister article for this one.
I absolutely feel this site has a lot to offer guitar owners. Id’ love to see more info on acoustic-electric guitar sysytems.
I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the information!
Good day! Would you mind if I share your article on my blog?
There’s a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content.
Please let me know.
Hey, very interesting blog! Write articles for owners of vintage guitars. Thanks!
Very good information site useful for my gitar work. Thank you
Very useful info. Kudos!
Readers interested in exploring this further need to understand the units of measure for pot and cap values. Learn terms including Picofarad = pF (not PuF), which is “pico-microfarad”. A couple of other are Microfarad = µF (or uF), and Nanofarad = nF.
I would like to add that buying quality potentiometers like CTS definitely does make a difference. The allowable variance from the specification is much lower with CTS and Bourn. Since the labor to install cheap pots or good pots is the same, why not go $3-5 more than the cheap ones and do it right? Nice article by the way.
Love playing bass and making mine better. Thanks for writing helpful articles.
Interesting read and easy to understand. Does the type of cap really matter if the value is the same? I mean, are paper-in-oil better than poly or other types?
Interesting article. Do capacitors ever wear out and need to be replaced? If so, how can you tell when they need to be replaced?
Thanks for writing a helpful article. Could you add a list of places that sell pots, caps, and electrical stuff for decent prices? Where are the best places to buy guitar capacitors and guitar potentiometers?
Great article! I also found a similar article that has good information. I hope you don’t mind me sharing a link to the article at Lindy Fralin
Your article helped me better understand how these things work in an electric guitar. Could you add a chart or something that shows which capacitors are the best to use for different types of pickups? Also, add some info on capacitor and resistor wiring in series and parallel. Keep up the good work!
I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with getting new and better sounds from my guitar. Yeah, pots matter, but caps are the real game-changer. The right cap can make a world of difference in tone. For the mechanically able, try a few types of caps and you’ll find a new world on tonal possibilities.
I really enjoyed reading this article. I also found this article on pots and caps to be very useful. Keep on writing great articles!
Can you write an article on using these to do a low-pass filter job? All I really know at this point is that the tone pot is a resistor, it is wired between the volume pot and a grounded capacitor. II think the resistance of the pickup creates the resistance from the low-pass filter. The tone pot functions to bypass the cap by increasing resistance between the signal and the grounded cap. How to actually wire this up is where I get lost. Thanks!
Thanks for writing an easy to read article on this part of wiring a guitar. I’d like to suggest adding some info to this article about sources to buy these components. If you could build a table with types of pots, suppliers and approximate prices that would be very useful. Thanks!
I enjoyed reading your blog and found this info to be useful. I’m learning how to work on my own guitars and always looking for people who know what they are talking about. I look forward to your future work. Gracias!
Very good information here. Can you write another blog post that explains the different types of caps? I want to understand what the different number ratings mean, how to identify them by the many sizes and colors, and know a little bit more about who makes the best caps and pricing.
This article is a good primer on the basics. For anyone interested in learning more they should Google articles on how pots work, audio pots vs. linear pots, and the role impedance plays in selecting the right pots for your rebuild. There is good info on this page at the Seymour Duncan website forum.
Great article! What are your thoughts on types of guitar wiring? I see offers for Gavitt wiring with the push-back cloth and PVC plastic coated. It looks like most people use 22 gauge wire. Is this correct? Cheers!
This is a great article! I think I’ve learned enough to try this on my own. I would like to learn more about how to connect the wires and parts? Is there a book or a place online to see how to do this work?
This is a very informative article that gave me the information I’ve been wanting for wiring my guitar. Can you add information on which brands make the best capacitors and potentiometers? Maybe also let me know what makes one kind better than the other? Cheers!
Thanks for an article that helps me better understand how these things work. I’m trying to learn how to do some of my own work and this information is very useful.