6 Ways To Wire Up A Tone Pot

6 Powerful Ways To Wire Up A Tone Pot

Last Updated: February 17th, 2021

There are many ways to wire up a tone pot, and it can be confusing deciding which one to choose. Different eras of wiring produce different tones, as Modern wiring sounds different from ’50s wiring.

We’ve wired up tone pots on our best-selling Telecaster Control Plates and Prewired Pickguards in many different ways. Today, we’re only going to focus on bridging the Tone Pot off of the Volume Pot, like a Telecaster® or Les Paul® (We’ll come back to the Stratocaster soon). Here’s a list of a few different Master Tone Pot variations, with easy-to-follow diagrams:

A REFRESHER:

As a refresher, a Tone Pot is nothing more than a regular pot with a Tone Cap soldered to it! The Tone Cap acts as a “high-cut” or “treble-cut” filter that only lets high frequencies pass through. The opposite leg of the Tone Cap connects to ground. So, the Tone Cap sends your high frequencies to the “trash bin” when you start turning your tone knob.

The value of your Tone Cap determines how many high frequencies get sent to the trash bin. Higher values allow more highs to ground, where lower values only skim the very top of your signal. Learn more about Tone Caps here:


STANDARD TONE POT WIRING:

Standard or modern wiring comes equipped on most guitars. It’s the most common wiring you’ll see installed on most modern production guitars and basses. See below for a few variations on the standard wiring:

Standard Tone Pot Wiring
Standard Wiring
Standard Telecaster Wiring - The Tone Cap goes from Lug 1 to the Middle Lug of the Tone Pot
Standard Telecaster Wiring – The Tone Cap goes from Lug 1 to the Middle Lug of the Tone Pot
Another Variation of Standard Wiring: The Tone cap can connects to ground where Lug 3 of the Volume Pot connects
Another Variation of Standard Wiring: The Tone cap can connects to ground where Lug 3 of the Volume Pot connects

’50s TONE POT WIRING:

As mentioned in our ’50s Wiring Article, wiring your tone cap in the ’50s style can keep your high frequencies consistent on your pickups while turning down your volume. However, turning down your Tone can affect your guitar’s volume. See below for a few variations on ’50s Wiring:

'50s Wiring involves the Tone Cap coming from the Output Lug on the Volume Pot
’50s Wiring involves the Tone Cap coming from the Output Lug on the Volume Pot
A variation of '50s Wiring uses a wire to connect Lug 2 from the Volume Pot to Lug 3 of the Tone Pot. The Tone Cap solders to its own Pot.
A variation of ’50s wiring uses a wire to connect Lug 2 from the Volume Pot to Lug 3 of the Tone Pot. The Tone Cap solders to its own Pot.

’60s TONE POT WIRING:

’60s wiring is almost identical to Modern Wiring, except one can expect a lesser signal to noise ratio. Here’s how to wire it up:

The First Variation of '60s Wiring - the middle Tone Lug connects to ground
The First Variation of ’60s Wiring – the middle Tone Lug connects to ground

We hope that this article serves as an easy-to-follow reference for anyone trying to wire up their tone pots differently. Experimenting with Tone Cap wiring is an easy way to unlock new tonal possibilities. We have a wide selection of Tone Caps available, so check them out and experiment!

Written By:

Tyler Delsack

I'm Tyler Delsack, the Manager of Fralin Pickups. Along with managing the shop and working on this Website, I run my own website to provide free Jazz Guitar lessons.

Author's Note: These blog posts are for educational and information purposes only. We do not offer custom wiring diagrams or wiring help or troubleshooting. For this, we recommend going to a local luthier or tech.

11 Comments

  1. +1 for a description of how the wiring affects tone. I see diagrams with caps wired between pots and caps soldered back to the same pot. There’s never an explanation of why? I’m starting to think tweakers just discovered that sound still came out the amp so left it and then other people copied it. Or there might be other reasons like – ‘it only fits through the f holes if i wire it like that’

  2. Great wiring diagrams, but i don’t understand how each one relates to the tone that one hears. Do the wiring changes change the volume ?

  3. A small correction: A guitar tone control is actually a low-pass filter, not a high-pass filter. A high-pass filter passes higher frequencies and sends the lower frequencies to ground. A tone control sends more and more of the high-frequency content to ground as you turn it counter-clockwise.

    It’s also worth noting that although “wiring your tone cap in the ’50s style can keep your high frequencies consistent on your pickups while turning down your volume,” you can also accomplish this with a simple treble-bleed mod, without the disadvantage of the ’50s style wiring.

    1. Hey Steve,

      Thoughtful answer, but I’m not sure I would agree. While it’s true that a Low Pass filter sends high frequencies to ground and lets low frequencies pass through, a tone cap is doing the opposite, it’s letting high frequencies pass through to ground and rejecting lower frequencies. I used the “Low Pass Filter” analogy for ease of explanation, but I guess it’s a bit confusing! Thanks again,

      Tyler

  4. Wow this is really good stuff! Very clear and easy to understand. I agree with a few of the previous folx about descriptions of how the tone and volume pot respond using the different wirings. I get lost in that tine soup so easily lol and have trouble working my way out of it. Thanks again!!

  5. Nice clear diagrams, but I would have liked a bit more explanation on how the tone circuit responds with the different wiring eg. does ‘60s wiring respond more closely to modern or 50s.
    Oddly I found variation 3 ( so called Black Rose wiring from Black Rose Custom Guitars) whilst electrically indentical to v. 1 sounded sweeter on my Les Paul, I did the test “ blind “ with the help of a friend and every time I could hear the difference between v.1 and v.3 ….. unexplainable ?

  6. I have the same questions as Jay (from the previous post).

    I just did the ’50s wiring and then the ’50s variation on my telecaster. The results seem identical to me.

  7. The first and third examples of Standard wiring seem really similar to the ’60s wiring; with the middle tone lug grounded and the output tone lug connected to the volume input lug. Is there a tonal difference between those three? I imagine the interaction between the volume and tone knobs would be similar if not the same for those, and the second example of the Standard – with the middle lug connected to volume – would be markedly different. As I understand it there isn’t much difference from placing the cap at different points, it’s more about which lugs are connected, no?

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