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Strat Tone Nobs

matthew bryan

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Hello all,

I have a Mexican Strat that I have owned for years. It is my main guitar for all things electric. I have always left both tone nobs all the way up...or to say it another way at 10. Do most people cut these out of the circuit so they do not do anything, change them to something else, actually use them while playing, etc.... I guess I figures once I found my sound between the volume I am playing on the guitar and the various pedals, amp eq's, etc then I left well enough alone. But now am wondering if I am missing out on something.

Thanks for any info

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Most players leave tone knobs on ten...you will find all kinds of tone knob mods and stuff...but really very few people use them...in many ways they hark back to another era when the guitar was often used to simulate a bass guitar, a mellow jazz kind of sound or for effects like clapton's "woman tone" (tone control mostly down and generally gibsons). People like buchanan and gatton use tone controls as manual wha kind of things too!

However a very few players do use them...Jeff Beck is well known for using the guitars controls constantly while playing...worth a look on you tube to see the way he uses them. A good use of them it to turn down the tone on one pickup with the full treble on another...JB use this kind of thing to make harmonica like sounds some times.

Generally though, people leave them on ten. It is possible to remove them altogether which may make it even brighter, but on a strat that can be a little much so best to leave them in. The strat also has a quirk where the two tones are for middle and neck...many change the wiring so a tone is on the bridge pickup (I think JB does this also) so that the intense brightness of the bridge pickup can be dialed back a little.

hope that helps...


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I've never been happy with the standard tone control, and I've tried a few different things to get a little more utility out of it. I feel like the standard control cuts way too much high end, and that cutting highs is a pretty limited way to modify the tone. I can use the tone controls on my amp to do basically the same thing (I'm not one to ride the tone knob, though). On the other hand, changing the coil switching can drastically alter the tone in ways that are basically impossible otherwise, so I've been move more and more towards opening up more switching options at the expense of the standard tone control.

On my Tele-style guitar, I replaced the standard cap with a .01uF. This leaves more highs in the signal, and I find it much more useful. I also use push/pull pots on the volume and tone controls that let me select series/parallel and phase. These controls have a much more significant effect on the tone than the actual tone control.

On my beater guitar, I dispensed with the tone control entirely, replacing it with a 6P4T rotary switch that selects various coil switching options. Changing the coil switching can have a drastic effect on the voice of the instrument that simply cutting highs can't achieve. I've been toying with adding a tone control switch that either shunts a .01uF cap across the output or inserts a "cocked wah" circuit (ala Arlo West). For me a simple on/off tone switch has about 90% the utility of pot in a smaller, easier package.

My bass has a passive 2nd order band-reject filter centered in the upper mids in addition to a normal tone control. It's hooked up to a push/pull pot so it's either on or off, but I still find myself using the filter a lot more than the actual tone control.

The only guitar I have that has a totally standard tone control is my piezo-loaded RG, and I actually find it useful on that guitar. I use it to cut nearly all the highs out of the neck pickup, then blend in the piezos to give a pretty solid jazz-guitar sound.

Anyway, that's my take on tone controls.

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One mod I have done is to replace the tone pot with a varitone switch. It is a rotary switch that you use to select 5 different capacitors for various tonal cuts, plus one setting that is a true tone bypass. It is amazing what tones you can get out of the different cap settings. Some great jazzy sounds and mid scoops, and the true bypass is nice for the full tone of your pups.

The guy at Stan Hinesley Pickups (formerly HAS sound) has some very nice passive mods including a varitone: Click Here

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Stevie Ray Vaughan would constantly mess with his knobs. You can see it in a lot of his live performances on youtube or on DVD. I normally keep my ibanez at 8 or 7ish... I'm not sure, I roll it all the way up and then roll it back to the first knuckle on my pinky and that normally gets me full treb with enough bass to not destroy people's brains while on stage.

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