Guitar pots and caps are the heart of your guitar electronics. Potentiometers (pots) and capacitors (caps) are included with almost every guitar built. They are not understood as well as other components of a guitar. New pots and caps can improve the sound of your instrument.
Pots and caps are an integral part of your guitar’s electrical system. They are located inside of the control cavity of your instrument. They are there to make changes to tone and volume.
Change tone in your guitar
The potentiometer is there to raise and lower volume and change tone in the guitar pickups. In best case scenarios it’s usually a good idea to let a competent guitar tech change one or all of your pots for you when a problem arises. There are so many different pots it may be confusing to try and do it yourself. There are regular full-size pots, mini-pots, short-shaft pots, solid-shaft, long-shaft pots, split-shaft, push-pull pots, push-push pots with and without splines. As well there are 250k pots, 500k pots, 25k pots.
250k pots, 500k pots, 25k pots
500k pots are generally used for guitars with humbucker pickups they are found most commonly in Gibson Les Paul and PRS designs and any other guitars using passive humbuckers.
250k pots are used for single-coil pickups they are the most common with Fender, Ibanez, Music Man and other guitars using a passive single coil pickup. Active pickups such as EMG however use a 25k pot.
Guitar pots and caps used for tone controls when turned change the flow of higher frequency signals sending them to ground. This adds more of a bass sound or muffle to the sound. It takes away high trebly sounds that may interfere with a musical presentation. Sometimes you just want to mellow out your guitar a bit and drop some of the extreme highs. Seymour Duncan, an expert in guitar electronics, recommends using audio taper pots for tone and volume controls versus a linear taper. Audio pots are built for a more natural sound progression whether going up or down. The linear pot drops the sound too quickly sometimes and therefore not as easy to use for most guitar players.
There are a lot of guitar wiring configurations using guitar pots and caps. Pickup configurations, pickup styles, number of pickups and pots can be many, if not hundreds in guitars around the world. There are basic standard wiring configurations available online that work for guitars.
The number of a capacitor
The number of a capacitor indicates its value. The .022 cap will retain more highs than the .047 cap. It seems the sound guys at Seymour Duncan seem to prefer the .047 pot cap value, especially for a Telecaster. Strats generally use a .022 cap value.
A great source for guitar wiring diagrams is at the Seymour Duncan website. They provide accurate and useful diagrams for many different configurations of pots as well as pickup combinations for players to successfully locate the sounds they need. We are here for players when they are in need of advice regarding which pots will work for them. At Haywire Custom Guitars we can change, add repair and replace guitar pots and caps as required to get your best guitar sound for you! We’re musicians working for musicians and we work for you.