By Sarah Broughton. Guitar Electric. Published at Friday, August 31st, 2018 - 15:28:30 PM.
The resistance value of the potentiometer plays an important role in tone; the rule of thumb is to use 250K potentiometers with single coil pickups and 500K potentiometers with Humbucker pickups. Both are commonly found on stock guitars. Guitar pickups can often be "hot", or sound a bit dull. To fix this, swap out the stock 250K pots with premium 500K models. This will allow the pickups to get more high-end sound while brightening up the overall tone.
Another thing to consider is the wiring harness (i.e. the tone and volume controls, and the pickup selector) inside the guitar. You can swap out cheap pickups to improve the tone of your guitar, but you won't be able to get the most out of the change if you have a cheap, low quality wiring harness connecting the pickups to the output jack. The harness consists of two or four potentiometers, one or two capacitors, a switch and the wiring connecting them all together (and any shielding inside the control cavity or around the wires). The best components are US-made CTS pots, Sprague caps, Switchcraft switches and jacks, etc. The controls reduce volume or treble by introducing resistance and capacitance into the circuit. If the quality isn't there, the tone will be negatively affected even when the controls are turned all the way up; and the pickups may hum more or less depending upon how well the harness is shielded. So if you are replacing your pickups to improve the sound, it usually makes sense to also check the wiring and see if it needs to be upgraded or additional shielding needs to be added. And, last but not least, any effect pedals you use between the guitar and the amplifier will also tend to dominate the final tone. Some pedals are more transparent than others, but obviously if you rely heavily on pedals for the tone you want, then the type of pickups and strings you use will have less of an effect.
If you own a Gibson or Epiphone Les Paul style guitar, you have a ready-made trick waiting for you. It's easy, it's fun, and it sounds really cool. This article will tell you what it is and how to do it. So you can understand how this trick sounds, take a listen to Van Halen's "You Really Got Me". At the 1:38 mark, the music quiets down a bit. Between 1:40 and 1:43, the guitar sounds like it's going through some sort of mechanical jet engine machine. That's the trick I'm talking about.
Recently, the bridge pickup on one of my favorite guitars stopped working. The guitar is a Yamaha semi-hollow body electric guitar in the style of a Gibson 335. Upon visual inspection of the wires through the f-hole, I quickly discovered that a single wire had broken off at the point where it was soldered to the volume pot. Under normal circumstances this would have been a snap to fix, but the difficulty in working on this style of guitar is that the only way to access the wiring is through the f-hole. There is no back access panel that makes it easy to get at the guts of the guitar, like there is on a Les Paul.
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