Are Guitar Volume And Tone Pots The Same?


When it comes to volume and tone pots, there is a lot of confusion about what they do.

That’s because the terms are used interchangeably all the time, even though they actually refer to two different things. The distinction between tone pots and volume pots is whether or not there is a capacitor attached. Because a potentiometer is a resistor, adding a cap between the pot and ground transforms it into an EQ.

In this article, I’ll go over what guitar pots do, how to tell which one you have on your guitar and where you typically find them.

First off – What is a potentiometer?

A pot is short for a potentiometer.

A potentiometer is a resistor that has three terminals.

The resistance between each terminal is different, which makes it a great way to adjust the volume of an audio signal – because you’re essentially turning down/up the amount of voltage passing through.

The value isn’t always 100%, or 50%, or 75%. Different pots have different resistances.

You’ll typically see two to three different types of pots on electric guitars.

The first is a volume pot which simply controls how loud your signal will be after it comes out of your pickups and gets passed through everything else before hitting the amp or coming out directly into some kind of recording device.

The second is a tone pot, which is usually attached to the volume pot.

The tone control comes after the pickup and before the output of your guitar so it will affect how your signal sounds as well as its loudness.

In addition to this, there’s also a third type called an Alpha Pot that some guitars have.

It’s used to control the pickup selector, but it is essentially just a regular pot that has three terminals instead of two and gets attached in a different way.

The tone pot is always going to have a capacitor attached to the ground with its middle terminal connected straight through from one end of the resistor all the way down into the ground at some point.

The tone pot will also have a wire coming from it that goes to the output of your guitar, and either another wire or a ground going from its third terminal into the switch itself which determines whether you get normal volume/tone control when in one position and just straight-through signal in the other with no effects in between.

The volume pot will be exactly the same as a tone pot, but it won’t have anything attached to its third terminal.

Guitar volume and tone pots: how do they work?

When you turn down the volume, you’re essentially turning down your output.

The tone control works by changing how much signal is sent to the ground from various points along the guitar’s wiring circuit, which changes the frequency response of the audio signal being passed through it.

By adding a capacitor between one terminal and ground on each pot – whether they are attached to the volume or tone pot – you create an EQ (Equalization).

The capacitor acts as a block to certain frequencies, and by blocking those frequencies you change the resulting signals’ mathematical relationship.

For example: if your volume pot has no cap attached, it will allow all frequencies through with very little resistance (depending on the value of the resistor).

If you attach a .005uF capacitor – which is a very small value – it will have the effect of dampening frequencies above the cutoff point.

By changing how much signal is sent to the ground at different points, you change which frequencies are attenuated and by how much.

This allows for fine-tuning your sound without having any noticeable volume drop while adjusting tone with your guitar’s volume control.

What is the difference between A and B pots?

The difference between A and B pots is that the resistance across terminals A-B varies depending on how far you turn it.

A pot’s value always increases as you move towards terminal C, but its ratio of increase will change depending on which type of potentiometer it is – whether it be linear or audio taper.

What are some common mistakes when using potentiometers?

Some common errors are to forget that the volume control affects not only your overall signal but also the tone of what you’re playing.

If you lower your volume while leaving your tone untouched, it will make anything below a certain threshold inaudible.

This can be useful for pushing gain into your amp or effects, but it also means that anything not played at high volume can be difficult to hear clearly – especially clean parts.

Another common mistake is forgetting about the cap between one terminal and ground on either potentiometer type which will affect how much signal gets passed through from point A-B instead of just cutting all frequencies above a certain point.

A third error is to use a linear pot for the volume and an audio taper one on tone, which will make it difficult to get a gradual increase or decrease in your overall sound – instead of having a sudden jump from silence up to full blast or vice versa without moving any knobs after a certain threshold.

What are some common uses for a volume and tone pot?

Some of the most common uses are creating an in-line effects loop between your guitar’s output and input, splitting your signal to feed multiple amps or separate ones when recording with split outputs from one instrument using it as both a push-pull switch on a pickup selector or phase switch.

What is a push-pull switch?

A push-pull switch allows you to change the phase of your signal in order to achieve humbucker and single coil sounds from one pickup.

One side will have a north polarity magnetic charge, while the other has south – causing them to cancel each other out when combined unless you split them with a phase switch.

How does signal splitting work?

Signal splitting works by using either half or full-volume pots to split your guitar’s output and feed it into two separate amps – which can be mono, stereo, or both in the case of an A/B box.

This allows you to use multiple speakers for a fuller sound and adjust each amp’s volume independently.

If you’re using a mono box, one speaker will play the left channel while the other plays only the right – giving you complete control over panning effects from either side to create an illusion of stereo space.


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