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Ever wondered what that switch on your guitar does?

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  • Ever wondered what that switch on your guitar does?

    Well, most of you are probably long-past that, but if you can remember back to when you were just starting out, you might have had some confusion about the various switches on guitars and exactly what they are supposed to do. It's for the beginners that I wrote up a basic guide on guitar switches. If you'd like to check it out, you can read it here. And as always, if anyone has any questions or comments, please feel free to post them here.
    **********

    "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."
    - George Carlin

    "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."
    - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

    "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."
    - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

  • #2
    Some older player told me, " Young guitarists finally grows up when the figure how to turn the tone knob left" .

    You can change a guitars tonal character by using a volume / tone knob. One can find how truly a pickups versatility is , when you use either tone / volume knobs.
    A few years ago, I wired up concentric ( stacked ) pots, added a Fender style 5 way switch on a H, H, H configuration on a Randy Rhoads / Jackson.
    Different pots and caps can make a world of a difference in guitar or bass.
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    How many guitarists does it take to screw in a lightbulb ? Five , one to screw it in , hit the switch and four to sit around bragging how much better they could have done it !!!! 😱👹😲

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    • #3
      I had this bad habit of taking apart everything my parents gave me. Guess it paid off because It turned it into a life long profession that pays well.

      Finding out what all those fancy knobs and switches did inside a guitar was actually a big let down when you see all that wondrous tinsel glitter on the exterior and cheap parts and ugly workmanship on the inside. You eventually learn guitar electronics are mostly leftover parts from the Telephone industry, the switches, the jacks and even the pickups themselves were robbed from early telephone receiver patents.

      My first decent electric was a Vox Apollo which was loaded with active electronics. I thought for sure that would be the future for guitars but who would know it would take another 30 years before active electronics would begin to gain some traction and they still haven't come close to full potential with all the advances in digital and recordings.

      All this tells you one thing. Guitars are for young talented artists who aren't very rich. Maybe its better not to know what's inside and simply learn to play the hell out of them. Having X-Ray vision being able to see what's inside doesn't make you a man of steel when it comes to playing and in fact can be a huge let down.

      I think for some players technical details are better left to the imagination. After all does knowing whether a switch flips or flops actually make the hands play the notes better?
      Last edited by WRGKMC; 03-14-2018, 07:33 AM.

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      • #4
        At least we moved away from the overly complex switching setups, remember those 80's B.C. Rich guitars with 3 or 4 mini-toggles in addition to the pickup switch?

        Guitarists seem to be happy with fairly simple instruments, and put the sound-changing complexity into their pedalboard.

        Finding out what all those fancy knobs and switches did inside a guitar was actually a big let down when you see all that wondrous tinsel glitter on the exterior and cheap parts and ugly workmanship on the inside
        Ha ha, absolutely. But remember, guitars are made on a production line, so for most there's no concern with making things "pretty" inside. It just has to FUNCTION properly. 95% of customers will never see inside their instrument, but for those that will, Gibson will sell you a $20 "Bumblebee" tone capacitor that's just a modern capacitor with a cosmetic cover to look like a vintage capacitor.
        This space left intentionally blank.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by AJ6stringsting View Post
          Some older player told me, " Young guitarists finally grows up when the figure how to turn the tone knob left" .
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          That reminds me of an old joke AJ.

          Do you know how to make a guitarist turn down?

          Put sheet music in front of them.
          **********

          "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."
          - George Carlin

          "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."
          - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

          "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."
          - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

          Comment


          • #6
            Decent article, but what of the beloved 6 way switch on the Gibson L6s? Or the 4 way switch on the Gibson EB3L bass, that should have been labled "mud, less mud, even less mud, extreme mud" (N, N+B, B, Both series)?
            My Music: www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=440762
            Some of my guitars: 64 or so Domino Beatle bass; 73 Ibanez 2398; 79 Epiphone Genesis; 79 Manoman; 99 Ric 330; 78 Gibson L6S; 95 Ibanez JS-700; 04 Samick Lasalle JZ3: 05 Ibanez AS73; 81 Paul Custom, 07 Gary Kramer Simulator T and about 50 others.

            Comment


            • #7
              That's cool Phil.

              I learned a bit about "switches" by watching this vid of Tak Matsumoto covering Gary Moore's "Sunset"

              I'm used to setting a p'up switch to fit a song and tend to leave it there.
              Watching Tak, a revered guitar player in Japan, and worldwide, it's great to see how much he uses the p'up selector for different tones throughout the song. Sometimes bridge, neck or both, and sometimes switching to the neck for playing higher up the neck and bridge for lower on the neck, etc. But I think it's a worthwhile tutorial in itself.

              Japan's "Favorite Son"

              video goes to live scene at 0:28

              A '57 Classic, MIJ from USA parts.
              HCEG Existentialism: I buy guitars, therefore, I am.
              Well Dick, it's got a good beat, and I could dance to it, so I give it a 10!
              I have opinions of my own,strong opinions but I don't always agree with them.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by badpenguin View Post
                Decent article, but what of the beloved 6 way switch on the Gibson L6s? Or the 4 way switch on the Gibson EB3L bass, that should have been labled "mud, less mud, even less mud, extreme mud" (N, N+B, B, Both series)?
                The L6S six-position rotary switch does the following:

                1. Both pickups in series.
                2. Neck pickup alone.
                3. Both pickups in parallel.
                4. Both pickups in parallel, out of phase, with a series capacitor on the neck pickup to weaken its bass response and give a fuller out of phase sound.
                5. Bridge pickup alone.
                6. Both pickups in series, out of phase.


                I did briefly mention rotary switches in the article, but it's a beginner's guide, and for the more esoteric stuff, I recommended that those beginners come here and ask all of you knowledgable experts.

                Thanks for checking out the article!
                **********

                "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."
                - George Carlin

                "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."
                - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

                "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."
                - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by GAS Man View Post
                  That's cool Phil.

                  I learned a bit about "switches" by watching this vid of Tak Matsumoto covering Gary Moore's "Sunset"

                  I'm used to setting a p'up switch to fit a song and tend to leave it there.
                  Watching Tak, a revered guitar player in Japan, and worldwide, it's great to see how much he uses the p'up selector for different tones throughout the song. Sometimes bridge, neck or both, and sometimes switching to the neck for playing higher up the neck and bridge for lower on the neck, etc. But I think it's a worthwhile tutorial in itself.
                  Great player - I really like his vibrato - it's not overblown at all.

                  I appreciate the switch switching too. It's especially useful on a guitar with dual controls like that Goldtop he's playing because you can set one pickup louder (or softer) as well as use different tone settings too. It really opens up different tonal options that you can literally get at the flip of a switch... but like you, far too often I just set mine in one position and leave it there for most of the song.

                  **********

                  "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."
                  - George Carlin

                  "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."
                  - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

                  "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."
                  - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

                  Comment

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