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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have no idea about how guitar electronics work and the terminology and the more i read the more confused i get.
So what i gathered so far is, i need 500k pots and i read the fender 5 way switch is good so im going for that unless i get better recommendations here.

Now what are some good pots that i wont need to change the pick guard hole, and will fit in the body?

Also i live in Germany so many products i find in other threads i cant find on thomann.de or musicstore.de.

Thanks in advance for any answers

221 Posts
Electronics can be confusing.
But at the end of the day it's just a circuit and it has to follow simple rules to work.

I'll try to break it down in a simplified way.

With most electronics, you have positive and negative.

In the case of guitars, we tend to refer to them as the hot (signal) and ground.

Hot is positive and ground is negative.

What we want to achieve is having the signal go out to the amp.

We manipulate the signal (tone or volume) by redirecting some of all of the signal to the ground.

100 percent of signal means full volume.

0 percent of signal means no volume.

Hopefully that makes sense so far.

221 Posts
For this post I'm going to give the absolute minimum, most basic set up.

1 pickup with no controls.

Let's say we have just 1 pickup, and in this case it's a single coil pickup with 2 wires.

A hot and a ground.
Most diagrams show white as hot and black as ground. Because I can not draw in white on my phone, red will be used on drawings.
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So in order to get this pickup to work, it need to be connected to something.

Here we introduce the output jack.
The output jack has a few legs that we can connect these cables to.

We want the hot and ground to connect to the legs of the jack.

Each jack is different, so using a multimeter for continuity helps, of having a diagram of the jack you bought works too.

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So using the diagram you have for your jack, you can just connect to ground to the - terminal, and the hot to the + terminal.

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Here you have three most basic design you can have on a guitar.

221 Posts
Moving on from there, it starts to get only slightly more complicated.

Let's say we want to control the volume.

Here we need to add a potentiometer (pot) in order to control the volume of the pickup.

A pot normally has 3 legs.
From left to right :
- Input A
- Output
- Input B

Here is a diagram of it.
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In this diagram you may notice there is a GRD ( ground) for one of the legs and a +5V on the opposite end.

I will explain that in a bit.

The only thing you really need to know right now is that the knob turns to either signal a or b, and the result of what is leaving the pot goes through the output middle.

Here is where we can start to control the circuit with the knob.

If it is making a connection with Signal A (ground) then volume is at 0 because 100 percent of the signal is being sent to the ground.

If we turn to signal B (the hot from the pickup, then the signal is passed to the output jack and you have volume.

Any where in between and you get a percentage of both results.

Ok. So how does this look?

Well, not as simple as the jack. However after 1 slight change, it's super simple.

The ground terminal is normally soldered to the back of the pot. This will ground the pot in a step sometimes called self grounding.

Here is a diagram.
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After the pot is grounded, the cables from the pickup is attached to the pot just like the jack.
Hot to hot,
Ground to ground.

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Only thing left to do is connect the pot to the jack.

You need a hot and ground again for this.

Ground attached to the top of the pot. Anywhere is fine but most just use the same point as where they attached everything else.

The hot goes out of the middle leg of the pot.

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Notice in this finished diagram the wires on the pot are different. Make sure you follow your diagram to get the legs on the pot correct.

There is also an additional wire we didn't cover called the bridge ground. This is just another ground wire and can attach to the top of the pot anywhere. This is here to ensure that any metal you can come in contact with is safe from shocking you.

Also notice that one of the legs is bent up to touch the back of the pot.

Some people do that instead of the extra wire like I drew in the example. This achieves the same thing and is done to ground the pot.

It is the same thing, and saves on like a cm of wire, I just drew it out to emphasise what is happening.

221 Posts
Moving on to the tone pot.. it adds 1 more step of complexity, but it's not too bad.

The volume pot is pretty much the same, so don't worry too much about any changes to what you learned about it so far.

To set up the Tone pot, the same basic ideas apply here.
3 legs, out side are signals and middle is output.

The difference however, is how we get the effect of tone control, depending on how we choose to wire it.

We attach a small item to this pot that helps assist in grounding part of the signal, but not all of the signal. (Changes the sound but not volume)

This item is a capacitor (or resistor) and has a million different types and values.
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I recommend using whatever the diagram you are copying says to just for simplicity.

There are also a million different ways to wire a tone knob, so I am just show a super simple one here to explain the basic concept.
Your diagram may be different, so just follow it and think about these basic ideas.

Like with the volume pot, the tone needs to be grounded.

An easy, and most common way to do this is use the capacitor as your wire.
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From here, we only need to take the output of the tone pot out to the volume. We are done with it!
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Leaving the other leg empty will allow for this Tone knob to pretty much always be off at 100%.

When you change the setting, the capacitor will affect the way the signal travels out of the tone pot.
In this case, the signal only changes the sound, either mids bass or treble is changed not the over all current.
Because the current level is not changed, neither is the volume.

The tone will connect to the same leg as the hot from the pickup in this example.

After that you connect the ground from the tone pot to the ground of the volume.
Every metal component added, adds 1 more ground wire back to the main grounded area. For us right now it's the volume pot.

Everything else stays the same from the previous example.

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221 Posts
From here, adding more pickups means you need to add a switch.

The switch will control what pickup is active, and what pickup (s) are being sent to gound.

For this example, I will just do a simple 3 way switch.

With a 3 way switch you get 3 options (hence the name)

You get either pickup 1 active on the 1 position, we can say leg 1 in the diagram.

Pickup 2 active on the 3rd position, we can say leg 2 in the diagram.

Or in the middle position, both pickups are active. You don't have to do anything fancy for it, the switch normally comes this way.

It works by allowing the signals from left and right legs to pass at the same time.

Any signal the switch is allowing to pass goes through the output leg.

Any signal the switch does not allow to pass is sent to the ground.

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So, how do you wire the pickups to this?

It's actually very simple by this point.

The hot wire from the pickup goes to either leg 1 or 2.

The new hot from the switch is sent to the same place the original hot from the single pickup layout would be.

I changed the color code here only slightly to illustrate this.

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After that the last thing to do is just make sure the switch and pickups are grounded.

To do this you ground the switch with a cable out the back, and then take the 2 ground cables for the pickups.

All 3 wires can be soldered to the back of the the volume pot in the same place. (grounding is very forgiving like that).

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At this point, the only thing that really changed is the hots from pickups are re routed through the switch instead of direct to the volume.

And the addition of more items means more ground wires meeting at the volume pot before being sent to the jack.

Here is an example circuit following these basic rules.
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It has a different switch, and 3 pickups, but everything is still setup the same way.

221 Posts
The only thing really missing here for you, which was part of your main question, is parts.

In general, a guitar with single coil pickups will need pots that are of a 250k resistance reading. (don't worry, that's how they are advertised so they are easy to find)

A guitar with Humbuckers, will need 500k pots.

For the type of pot (how it functions) Most people seem to prefer audio taper pots but linear work fine as well.

For the brand of pot
The most popular are CTS.
Others that seem to have gold reviews are Bourne, Alpha, or even what older MIJ Ibanez used to come with, Gotoh.

Of a these options, Gotoh is hardest to find and the most expensive.

The others are reasonably priced about the same.

You can however find cheaper options, and it will work, but may ware out faster.

As for the switch, just about any will due. But the fender one is pretty good.
It also depends on what you want the pickups to do.

I couldn't begin to tell you about capacitor brands, bit most people seem to go nuts over the "Gibson Orange Drops".

I hope this was of some use and helped explain the way a simple wiring for a guitar works.

My main advice, is to follow someone else's diagram, like the ones provided by Seymour Duncan's web site.

They have a huge collection of examples in every type of layout.

But this should help you at least understand how to follow most of their schematics.
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