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A Weak or Intermittent Signal in an Electric Guitar Circuit

A Weak or Intermittent Signal in an Electric Guitar Circuit

Q – I bought a Fender Strat  guitar a few months ago. After I received it I have a problem concerning the five way switch intermittently working.  I used it for awhile to see if it would clear up. The switch works much less now. I have to mess with it just to get it to work and then at times it will work but at only very low volume. I try moving it thinking there could be a sweet spot that the switch will work and sometimes it is there and sometimes not. What is the problem?……….Thanks, Marco

A- What you’re describing doesn’t sound like it’s necessarily a switch problem. It could be one of several common circuit problems. A weak or intermittent guitar signal can have many causes.

It sounds more like a wire coming loose from a soldered connection and making partial contact and thereby creating a weak or intermittent guitar signal to the amp. But there could be other causes.

The 5 way switch has 5 connections typical in a Strat pickup configuration.

Each set of contacts in the 5 way switch can be in one of two states: either “closed” meaning the contacts are touching and electricity can flow between them and the pickups are selected, or “open”, meaning the contacts are separated and the switch is nonconducting and that is the pickup selection that is “off”.

The circuit connector in the transition between on and off positions.  Could it be that one contact is not working correctly?  It is extremely rare that a problem occurs in “every” position of the 5 way switch.  That usually foretells a weak signal somewhere in the circuit. This may lead to the thought that the switch is bad. It could be weak or intermittent guitar signal somewhere in the circuit causing the switch to be questioned.

A weak or intermittent guitar signal in any electric guitar circuit can be caused by any one of the following:

1-Bad guitar cable

2-Ground wire loop or touching a hot wire

3-Output circuit jack can be loose or barely making contact breaking the ground

4-Cold solder joint

5-Poorly connected solder joint

6- Loose wire or wires

7-Poor solder connection to the switch,pickups, tone control, capacitor, and/or volume pots

8-Simply a bad switch

9-No good or very loose contact with the guitar output jack connector

  Common and most easily fixed problems. However it’s most likely just one of the above. Test and keep testing the circuit and you’ll find it

and learn in the process. A weak or intermittent guitar signal can be found quickly because the circuit is so small. If you have this problem or know anyone else with a similar issue, contact us!


Any of these can simulate a broken pickup, a broken switch, a bad pot etc.  Maybe the switch is fine after all. Take a look and tell me what you see.

Rick Mariner

Haywire Custom Guitars Inc.

Haywire Custom Shop


A weak or intermittent signal in an electric guitar circuit

If you have a weak or intermittent guitar signal contact us at Haywire Custom Guitars


About the Author:

Mr. Rick Mariner Owner and Founder and CEO of Haywire Custom Guitars Inc. He is a member of The Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans (A.S.I.A.) as well as a guitar player. Rick holds a bachelors degree from University of Md. and a Masters degree from George Washington University. Rick developed his exclusive 8 – Point “Gig- Ready” guitar process that allows for Custom Guitars that are “GIG-READY”. With Rick’s many years of development and guitar set-up experience, Haywire Guitar shop “Builds satisfied players… one Haywire guitar at a time”.

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