6 Ways To Wire Up A Tone Pot

6 Powerful Ways To Wire Up A Tone Pot

Last Updated: August 30th, 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 (Manager, Fralin Pickups)

👋 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.


19 Comments

  1. Jaymesays

    What does grounding the compositor to the 3rd volume lug do for the sound? I have a 1981 Fender bullet that’s wired this way and this way and when I turn the volume all the way down to 0 it cuts the volume off completely. I was just curious if it was wired this way? Or if there’s an issue I should troubleshoot.

  2. What if there’s a treble bleed between lugs 1 and 2 of volume and the tone pot has a capacitor on lug 2 to ground. Where do you connect the tone pot to volume pot?

    1. We recommend linking the tone pot off of the volume pot input lug, so lug 1.

  3. I currently acquired a ES5 switchmaster and the wiring is all messed up and changed and I can’t find any info on original switchmaster pot wiring, any idea what style of wiring they use? It’s from 1957 and the caps are all inside of the shielding can.

  4. Jake4545says

    Could you wire the 50s style so the cap goes between the vol middle lug and tone middle lug and then ground the tone lug 3 to the back of the pot? Would this reverse the taper of the pot?

  5. Is it possible to wire different caps to different pickups, i.e. a .047 to the bridge pickup and a .022 to the neck pickup? Can the cal be wired to the pickup lead instead of the potentiometer?

    1. You would need separate pots for that job. For instance, you would need a Neck tone pot and a Bridge tone pot.

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