Posted by: worshipguitarguy | August 18, 2006

Your Guitar’s Tone and Volume Knobs

tone.jpgTwo of the most useful, but forgotten tone shaping tools you have as a guitarist are located right at your fingertips… literally.  They’re your tone and volume knobs, and if you don’t use them much, read on!

First, your guitar’s volume knob does more than evenly change your volume output… it also shapes your sound.  To understand how it works, grab your guitar, turn the volume knob all the way up, and give yourself some overdrive.  Now slowly turn the volume knob down and listen to what happens.  What you should notice is your tone will change… specifically, your overdriven sound will clean up.  Imagine the possibiliies!  For instance, you could back yourself down into a cleaner tone when in a song’s verse, then crank it back up for a driving chorus.  Next time you go to a concert where a great guitarist is playing, watch him or her.  Chances are they’ll be using their volume knob quite a bit within their set. 

Next come your tone knobs.  Leaving them full up can leave you sounding thin and shrill.  When setting up my tone knobs, I usually start with a clean amp sound and back them down a little…  taking some of the brittleness out of my sound.  I also use them to create specific tones for songs.  For example, if I turn the tone knob most of the way down, add analog delay, and my guitar becomes a pad instrument.  Doubled with wah, (See the “Using Wah as an Ambient Effect” article,) I can create some useful textural sounds.  (Turning your tone knob down is an essential part of creating some jazz guitar tones.)

Give it a try in your own playing, and tell me how it works out!



  1. I have a 2 tone 2 vol knob guitar… How can I tell what knob is what..?

  2. Hey Andy,

    I’m assuming your two tone and volume knobs have the same config as a Les Paul. Each set works on one of the pickups on your guitar. The top tone and volume knob is for your neck pickup, and the bottom is for your bridge. 🙂

  3. Hi!

    I own a Fender Stratocaster and i generally use my neck pickup tone knob to fatten up the tone by turning it all the way down.It is a great setup and i wouldnt like to lose this but i’ve decided to put on emg sa pickups along with a spc and an exg expander.Now I haven’t understood if the exg is a tone knob and whether it does what a normal tone knob does and im really anxious about this change.I just don’t get it;does it boost the lows and highs or does it reduce them as well?The site isn’t that helpful over this particular subject so i’d be gratefull if you helped a little here.Thanks

  4. Hey Jonzz, I’m not super familiar with the mod your talking about… hopefully someone with a little more experience can stop by and give some feedback!

  5. Hey worshipguitar guy,

    I’ve been looking on the internet for tips on how to fix the guitars volume knob when it comes loose.
    I have a Squier strat and I’ve taken the white panel off the front to find that the small silver underneath of the knob is unstuck from the bottom of the white panel. Any ideas on how to attach this back would be greatly appreciated!

  6. Hey Alan,

    Ya know, I’m still kind of a noob when it comes to guitar repair so you probably know as much as I do!

    What I have though is an awesome book at my house that goes through alot of the simple repairs of Strats, Teles, or LP’s. If you run down to your local bookstore, you’re bound to find one just like it. It’s been an awesome resource for me in learning how to do stuff like repairing volume knobs…

  7. Hi Gerry…
    great inputs on tones and layered overdrive..! Got a quick question: I can get good tones for my lead or fill in with my electric, but it seems like when it comes to play rhythm, the sound just goes away, it has no distinction at all, it blends with all other sound, especially from the keyboard/piano.
    I tried to crank up the sound with my little amp (15w), but it just doesn’t cut it.

    Any idea..?

    Thanks in advance,

  8. Hey alan, I’m not sure i understand your question fully but your volume knob comes up through the face of the guitar then through the stratch plate and then its held in place with a bolt! If you turn the guitar over and unscrew the back plate you’ll find all the eletronics and where the volume knob is pushed through. You should be able to work around what ever problem you have from there. It sounds to me like the bolt just needs tightening, could you try explaining again?

  9. hi all…

    i just wanna ask about my volume knob coz when i turn it down just a little, im having a lot of feedback…so i kinda turn it always up…and also my tone knob, its a push/pull tone knob and when im turning it down, it seems like it loses some of the hissing sound and i feel like it cuts off some of the natural harmonics…is it normal or maybe my knobs are broken???


  10. Hey Keith, not seeing your guitar I can’t be sure, but my rough guess is you have something wrong with the pots or wiring inside of your guitar. I haven’t seen problems like that, so it sounds like there’s something in your wiring… btw, what type of guitar is it?

  11. its an aria pro 2 magna series…thanks for the tip dude…but i kinda trade it into a BC Rich warlock just the other day so its ok now..thanks anyway dude..i really appreciate it…and this is a nice forum…btw, do you think that a dimebucker will be a good replacement pickup?? will i able to get that “Dimebag sounding Distortion”? thanks again

  12. Yeah, the big thing you need for that tone though is a Dimebag style amp… I think he played a Randall amp? Also, Hughes and Kettner, a modern Marshall, or a Mesa would give you that style of tone. The pickup would help though.

  13. Aight thanks for the info dude…ill save some money to buy that…thanks again dude…

  14. keith go for a new peavey bandit 112 favorite amp ever. i thnk betr n mesa boogie i playd and marshal nd krank nd line six nd valve king. reliable as the sun and cheap and loud and amp alone tone is breathtaking. 80w nd 100w wen u plug in diff cab. BEST TRANSTUBE EVER! i love that amp, google it, im posting on a psp.

  15. The volume knob on my Schecter recently pulled out of the pot and I can’t figure out how to get it back in and stay put… I was trying to see if it was an active/passive switch for my EMGs and the knob along with the pot shaft pulled clear out and slides right back in and works but it doesnt lock down in there. How do I fix it?

    • Damaged goods now. Replacement is necessary.

  16. Sup..Guitar..guy..

    I own a Epiphone SG 310..and i’ve watched some videos on youtube and the sounds waay different..Is it because of the Ampli? or is it because the Pickups and the Knobs?

  17. hey!

    I’ve been playing an Ibanez RG350 EX for a little over 2 years now and recently I noticed that when I turn my volume knob up or down, I’ll get random sound cut-outs. and if I have my volume turned up and jiggle the knob with even the slightest pressure, the sound will chop almost like a kill switch. Is there any way I can fix this?

    Thank you in advance!

    • You can try to clean the potentiometer with an appropriate electronics cleaner spray. It involves getting in position to apply the spray directly into the case of the control. It can ususally be done with a tube slupplied with the cleaner spray by pointing it down along the shaft where it goes into the housing. It can also be applied from the backside where the wire leads attach. IF cleaning doesn’t work, the potentiometer may need replaced. Check out your local guitar shop and ask questions. Most techs got it going on when it comes to this simple problem.

  18. Hey,
    I’ve got a Schecter Hellraiser C-7 and my tone/volume knobs can be pulled out. It’s not broken it’s supposed to do that. i’m just not sure what to do with them…?

    • Those are coil taps. Generally wired as to give you the tonal option of a single coil pickup. Occasionally wired to change phasing of the humbucker or to add a pickup combination… On a stock Schecter they are for coil tap.
      Gotta laugh at the thought of a “Hellraiser” being used for worship!

  19. hi i have a fender strat and i bought 3 speed knobs to put on my guitar but they didnt fit, i tried to use pliers to squeeze the pot because the middle is split and i ended breaking the tip off of it.. then i tried doing it to my other pots and i made the same mistake again….. so now, all three of my pots are broken and i cant play my guitar on an amplifier, what can i do now?

  20. hi i have a fender strat and i bought 3 speed knobs to put on my guitar but they didnt fit, i tried to use pliers to squeeze the pot because the middle is split and i ended breaking the tip off of it.. then i tried doing it to my other pots and i made the same mistake again….. so now, all three of my pots are broken and i cant play my guitar on an amplifier, what can i do now?..

  21. i wanna put a dimebucker on my strat does that mean i have to change my whole set of pots also?

  22. im kinda having a problem here.
    i have this BC Rich acrylic warlock and i wanna put some LED’s in it to light the whole thing up.
    BUT in order to do this it needs a on/off switch replacing the tone knob.
    do you know if the tone knob is used alot in rock/metal music, cuz ive never actually used it.

  23. i picked up my guitar and i hit my volume knob on my door,…. and it is now crooked what can i do to fix that?

  24. What if the volume knobs are turned more then they are supposed to?

  25. Can I use non-specific knobs or do they have to be the same brand?

  26. hey i have an ibenaz rg7321 and my tone knob is acting wierd. When i turn down my tone knob my sound turns off,its like having two volume knobs.What should i do to fix it or any suggestings what to do.

  27. All I can add to this topic is that from my own experience, if playing and sounding like a professional is important to you then you must learn to use the volume and tone knobs. It really made a difference in my recordings and boosted my overall sound to a quality I can be proud of.

  28. hi, my guitar has 2 tone knobs, when i turn first one i can hear the change however when i turn second one nothing happens. im not sure but i think its broken. anybody knows how to fix it or whats it for? (i have Williams WE-2009 some fender like guitar…)

    • It may be broken, however it may actually be hard to hear the difference.
      Typically one is considered a tonal knob. You will hear a larger difference while making adjustments.
      In most cases the second it more of “presence” knob. It will affect a different set of frequencies in the higher spectrum. It may not be as noticeable depending on the tonal knob setting.

  29. This might be helpful for LesPaul or similar guitar owners:

    I had tough time finding what button is for what. I own a Gergbennett AV6

  30. hi I have a bc rich warlock hobbs, 1 master volume, 1 tone knob, and a second volume knob is also general but I have not a clear Idea what is this for (is not for each pickup),… sounds like taking out the gain, but not sure,…

  31. hey worship guitar guy,
    i have a mt2 metalzone pedal and a pluto e20r amp i want the settings for the following songs november rain by guns n roses ,afterlife by avengedsevenfold, sweetchild o mine by GnR, sofar away by avenged sevenfold and tears dont fall by bullet for my valentine i know its too much but if u can help ill be really glad plzz i have my show on 26th of sep 2012 if u can tell me the settings plzzzzz reply as soon as possible plzzzzzzzzzzzzzz if possible plzz reply me on my email id thank you

    • I’m pretty sure that the tone settings you are referring to are the settings for your pedal and amplifier.
      The scope of the conversation here is limited to the volume, tone and presence knobs of most typical guitars.
      Sorry if no one can assist you with your question….

  32. I have a dean razorback , the one with a green button killswitch. Which one is volume , and I’m planning to imsteal EMG HZ pick up , anyone uses EMG HZ and when you imsteal it one once, one way was just use the volume knob comes with it and imsteal and other way is use both volum and tone knobs with the bridge pick up. So I don’t know which one old knob to take it off

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