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Guitar & Bass Wiring Technics
Potentiometers Switches Jacks Pickups Schematic Symbols



Potentiometers

The following is a diagram of how a Volume Pot works.

Look at the arrowhead in the above pot. It represents the volume. The further away from ground the pot is turned, the louder the volume. Turning to ground sends the signal to ground and therefore kills the volume. Usually one of the outside legs are used as an input. The middle is constant and makes the best output. However, in some wiring situations the middle will be used as input and one of the outside terminals as output. In most cases, one of the outside terminals needs to be grounded to kill the signal.

Note: - Depending on which side of the pot you ground will depend on which way the pot turns to shut off the signal.


Now let's look at how a Tone Pot works.

When wiring a Tone pot you are sending high frequencies to ground. When a tone pot is at full volume, you are actually hearing what is the signal at normal tone. When turning the tone control lower, you are taking out high end. So you are not boosting high end with it. You are actually taking out high end.

That's why the output is wired to ground via a capacitor. The input goes to the pickup hot wire. Usually, this is accomplished by wiring it to the same input leg on the volume pot as the pickup. Once again this is not a one way only solution. But it's probably the simplest to understand and it works.

Note: - The value of the capacitor will determine how drastic the high end cut will be.


Now let's look at a Complete 1 Pickup 1 Volume 1 Tone circuit.


Below is something slightly more advanced. It's a stacked blend pot. In the center both pickups are full output. Turning either way will reduce the output of one of the pickups while leaving the other full power.

 

2 Pickup Blend Pot Guitar Wiring

    Although there are several ways to use this pot the above wiring is the most basic way to blend 2 pickups.

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Switches

Gibson style 3-way Toggle Switch.

Switches also have inputs and outputs. Just remember that all a switch does is make contact between 2 points. When the contact is made between an input and the output the signal flows thru. The output poles are soldered together so that both sides are going into whatever the output is being fed to.

On a Gibson style 3-way toggle the middle position allows both inputs to contact the output. When toggled to either side it's disconnecting one of the inputs. So, the toggle position is opposite of the actual switch pole that's making contact.


Fender style 3-way & 5-way Switches.

There's basically 2 types of selector switch used in Strats and in other guitars that follow the 3 pickup design. There's the old standard (our favorite) Gold Contact type that comes in the american strats and the box type that comes in a lot of imports (Ibanez, Squire, Dean , etc.). Both do the same job but they look and are wired a little different. Take a look :

0 = common. This contact is always in contact and usually wired to the pot or output jack.
1 = bridge position.
2 = middle position.
3 = neck position.

The wiring is pretty staight forward. The "hot" leads from the pickups are connected to contacts 1, 2 or 3. The common is connected to the master volume input or directly to the output jack if the pickups connect to a pot before connecting to the switch.

One modification some players use is to give each pickup it's own volume and leave out the tone control. In this case, the pickups connect directly to the pot input and the output from the pot is connected to the relative position on the switch. In this case, the switch common would connect directly to the output jack.

Note : Wiring for the 5 way switch is the same as the 3 way.

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Jacks

The following is a diagram of how a Jack works.

    

    

    Jacks on guitars are usually either mono or stereo.   Most being mono. The jack is usually referred to as a female phone jack.The wiring is pretty simple and straight forward. The tip is the part that touches the pointy tip of the plug on the cord and is the hot signal or positive +. The ground or sheild is the part that touches the shaft of the plug and is the ground or negative -. On stereo jacks there are two tips. If you look at a stereo plug, there is a seperation on the shaft right below the tip. This is the part that touches the second signal on the plug. It can be used as a hot + to send out a signal to two seperate amplifiers are in the case of active pickups like the EMG it's used to collect voltage from the battery.


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Pickups

    Pickups generally come in two fashions. Single Coil and Dual Coil. Single Coil pickups are most often linked to Fender Stratocasters & Telecasters. Dual Coil (Humbucking) are most often linked to Gibson in guitars like the Les Paul and SG. There are a ton of brands using both models and Dimarzio even has a three coil pickup. In the last 20 or so years split coil humbuckers have become just as common as the standard humbucker.

Standard single and dual coil pickups have 1 hot and 1 ground. Split coil pickups have two leads, a hot, a ground and a shielded ground. Different mannufacturers use different color codes. It's best when possible to have the wiring sheet from the pickup manufacturer. Below is an example of each.


    The wiring goes like this.
Hot lead - to switch or pot input
Neg lead - to ground
Split leads - to tapping switch (usually)

Once again to use a split design pickup in full humbucking mode solder the two individual coil leads together. This leaves you with 1 hot, 1 negative and a ground sheild.

To see some wiring diagrams go to the schematics page.

Below are the Pickup Wiring Codes for the main manufacturers :

Large, easy to understand PDF version. Compliments of the good folks at Seymour Duncan:

Humbucker Wiring Code Chart


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Schematic Symbols

These are just some of the symbols associated with electronic schematics that directly associate themselves with guitar wiring. Most all of the wiring diagrams listed on this site will be in a format so that you won't have to learn to read schematics to understand. However, if you do want to start understanding schematics , this is a nice basic start.

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