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Ever wondered what that switch on your guitar does?


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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.

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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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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?

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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.
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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. ;)

 

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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. :0

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

 

[video=youtube;0auUw19cgQg]

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Decent article' date=' 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)?[/quote']

 

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. :idea::)

 

Thanks for checking out the article!

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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. :0

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. :0

 

 

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Question from a complete newbie: can someone please tell me, what is the second smaller toggle switch used for on my Vester spirit deluxe guitar? There are two, the bigger 3 way switch, and a mini two way switch closer to pick guard. Can not find info on web elsewhere. An answer much appreciated!

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Question from a complete newbie: can someone please tell me' date=' what is the second smaller toggle switch used for on my Vester spirit deluxe guitar? There are two, the bigger 3 way switch, and a mini two way switch closer to pick guard. Can not find info on web elsewhere. An answer much appreciated! [/quote']

 

I've never even heard of Vester guitars before, and there's not a lot out there that shows up with an Internet search... from the one picture I saw, the Vester Spirit Deluxe looks like a 335 style semi-hollowbody, with dual humbucking pickups.

 

The larger switch is almost certainly a pickup selector, while the smaller one could be for any of a number of things - but most likely it is either a coil tap (turning one, or both of the double coil humbuckers into single coil pickup) or a phase invert switch. If there's a change in tone when you flip that switch while only one pickup or the other is selected, then it's probably a coil tap; if the sound doesn't change when you have only one pickup selected, but only changes when you use that switch when you have both pickups selected (in other words, only when the middle position is selected on the larger switch), then it's a phase switch.

 

 

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Vesters aren't that common here in the states, but from a quickie google moment, it looks like you have the 335 copy. I will assume that the switch is for coil taps. What that does is basically turn off half of the pickup, and makes it sound like a single coil. Play the guitar on the neck pickup, and then hit the switch. If it has a slightly brighter sound, and a bit less volume, then that's the purpose of the switch. If that doesn't work, try the same test on the bridge pickup.

 

And if again that doesn't make a difference, switch the big toggle to the middle position, and strum, then hit the little switch again. If the sound comes out a thinner and a bit more nasally sounding, then it's a phase switch. (basically reverses the polarity of one pickup, and takes the hot signal out of the ground, and makes the ground the hot wire.)

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[ATTACH=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","title":"encore wiring web.jpg","data-attachmentid":32468345}[/ATTACH]

I can't be a smug old timer here.

I thought I had my head around guitar switch wiring until I picked up an Encore "JHS-A7-2T". (I have to resolder the dry joint on the red)

 

I have a Westone with a similar 3 way and a push pull. but the Encore make s a far more complex set of six splits and combis from it.

It beat me. :)

 

[ATTACH=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","title":"encore smallhb.jpg","data-attachmentid":32468346}[/ATTACH]

 

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The craziest selector I have is on a PRS custom 22. I kept the 5 wat position rotary switch in it, as I heard it does give you the most tone options.

I can never remember where I have that switch parked.

 

Nice guitar all in all.

 

[ATTACH=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","title":"PRSCU22.JPG","data-attachmentid":32468359}[/ATTACH]

 

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I got a 59 Gretsch when I was 16 in '66: "Look at all those switches! and knobs? What do they do? Beats me..." No internet, info was hard to come by. Just left the two tone (?) switches in up. Now Roy Orbison had that melded Gretsch with Gibson neck & had 4 (FOUR!) switches where normal count was two.. Anyone know what those did?

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I got a 59 Gretsch when I was 16 in '66: "Look at all those switches! and knobs? What do they do? Beats me..." No internet' date=' info was hard to come by. Just left the two tone (?) switches in up. Now Roy Orbison had that melded Gretsch with Gibson neck & had 4 (FOUR!) switches where normal count was two.. Anyone know what those did?[/quote']

 

ah, the mysterious Orbison Black Falcon guitar

nobody knows for sure, but the most heaerd theory is that the four switches are the Gretsch Projectosonic stereo wiring, designed by Jimmy Webster. However, Orbison never played stereo ... The 1958 Gretsch White Falcon was the first to use the four switch option. Stereophonic sound was starting to gain popularity in the recording industry, and Gretsch wanted to be at the forefront of this new trend. Webster received a patent for his stereo pickup design, it's US Patent No. 2,964,985

 

[ATTACH=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","title":"Project-o-Sonic_hhpg47.jpg","data-attachmentid":32468569}[/ATTACH]

 

Orbison's Black Falcon is heavily modded Gretsch, the body appears to be from mid-1950's Chet Atkins model or a Country Club. most folks have commented it looks like a Gretsch Country Club, but some sources (including Roy Orbison Jr.) have stated the body is from a White Falcon. According to his road manager, the neck of Orbison's guitar got damaged (allegedly Orbison tried to remove the neck and destroyed the neck heel)and it was replaced with the neck of a Gibson super 400 before being refinished in black. During the process, they also sprayed over the Gibson logo and replaced the stock Filtertron pickups with 8 pole Sho-Bud steel guitar pickups. The four switches on Orbison’s guitar are evidence of the Gretsch Projectosonic stereo wiring. This may have been an afterthought or special order. The washers on the two lower switches are a different shape than the top switches. Perhaps Orbisonhad seen a stereo Gretsch and decided that would be a good option, but then again, he never played with a stereo set-up.

 

Roy Orbison said that when he was touring in Japan, the japanese were very interested in the guitar. He said that he loaned it to them so that they could study it. He then said something like, "I never did get the darn thing back". According to Roy Orbison Jr., the guitar was stolen after it was shipped to Japan to be copied. Around 1967/68, Guyatone released the SG22t model, it seems modelled after Orbison's Black Falcon, but it does not have the stereo wiring, it does have 8 pole pick-ups.

 

[ATTACH=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","title":"w74134030.1.jpg","data-attachmentid":32468570}[/ATTACH]

 

 

 

 

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I got a 59 Gretsch when I was 16 in '66: "Look at all those switches! and knobs? What do they do? Beats me..." No internet' date=' info was hard to come by. Just left the two tone (?) switches in up. Now Roy Orbison had that melded Gretsch with Gibson neck & had 4 (FOUR!) switches where normal count was two.. [b']Anyone[/b] know what those did?

 

I do know.

 

The switches are

The stereo design on the Country Club was achieved through "half" pickups.

 

Gretsch Projectosonic stereo wiring.

 

 

 

Although each pickup housing looked like a normal Gretsch humbucking pickups, the neck pickup only had the magnets and polepieces under the lower three strings and the bridge pickup was designed in a similar fashion with the magnets and polepieces under the first three strings. The "bridge" pickup was centered in the middle of the Country Club. . You use a stereo cable and 2 amps. The top part of a pick goes to one amp and the bottom part of the pick up goes to the a second amp.

 

I saw Roy in concert about 6 months before he passed.

Flawless 1-hour show. A comedian opened for him. I guess Roy was so good, nobody wanted to open for him, not even Elvis.

 

 

 

https://photobucket.com/gallery/user/setzersigns/media/bWVkaWFJZDoxODA0NTY1MA==/?ref=

[ATTACH=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","title":"GretschPOSPickupUnderside.jpg.540x540_q85_autocrop.jpg","data-attachmentid":32468650}[/ATTACH]

[ATTACH=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","title":"Gretsch%20White%20Falcon%20guitar%20(p1).jpg.540x540_q85_autocrop.jpg","data-attachmentid":32468651}[/ATTACH]

 

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