Sculpting your tone (tweaking your electronics)

Sometimes after you have played a guitar for several years, you start to see that certain qualities of the instrument need some mild tweaking to make it compatible with a larger variety of amplifiers and music styles.  Or maybe you just want the ability to fine tune the guitar to your tastes.  

There are several tweaks you can do to achieve all of this and more depending on your needs. Today we will discuss some of them.  We offer full modification services here at Righteous Guitars.  If you want us to help you get your guitar sounding and playing its best, contact us and we will be happy to help!


Potentiometers (commonly referred to as pots) have a big impact on the tone of your instrument.  Not only does the resistance have an impact, but also the quality of the actual potentiometer.  A good quality potentiometer is key to getting great tone.  There are several great manufacturers out there (contact us for recommendations).

In regards to resistance, the most typical setup will be 250k pots for single coil guitars and 500k pots for humbucking guitars.  That does not mean that you can't go outside of the norm!  Let's say you have some single coil pickups that sound a bit muddy.  Going to a higher value pot will allow some extra highs to get through.  Some people even like 1 Meg pots for humbuckers as they are very cutting and bright.  The great news is that you can experiment and anything you do is reversible if you don't like it.  Just remember to take a picture of how it is wired before you start poking around with a soldering iron!


There is a lot of talk about capacitors (commonly called caps) and the effect they have on the tone of an electric guitar.  Caps are relatively cheap and, like switching pots, the modification is easy to reverse.  It is important to note that if you do not use your tone knob, you will not tell a difference in one cap over the other.  A cap's tone change only happens as you turn the knob down.  As you turn down the tone knob on a typical guitar, the treble is reduced and the tone is more "bassy".  

There has been a lot of talk about how the material of the cap matters to the tone.  This has been debunked several times by many people.  The value is the most important part.  In a typical tone circuit, the larger value on a cap (.047) the more treble will be reduced as you turn the tone knob.  There is no set value but usually .047 is used for single coils and .022 is used for humbuckers.  Feel free to experiment with different values to see what suits you.  Usually a lower number makes for a more usable tone knob throughout the sweep.

Now I mentioned a typical tone knob because there are other uses for caps too. You can also use a cap up to roll off bass instead of treble.  This can be particularly useful for neck position P90s on some guitars or really any time you have a tone that is muddy or woofy.  It also is a great tweak to make the same guitar perform well on different amp platforms and music styles.  The mod would look something like this:

1 = regular tone cap (.022 or .047)         2 = Bass roll off (.0022 or similar)


These are a couple of quick and easy ways to tweak your tone.  We will cover more extensive ideas at a later date.  There really is no limit to what you can do and as long as you can get back where you started (take a picture before changing anything), it is a lot of fun to experiment!


Ben Calhoun