Learning about guitar wiring and electric guitar components can help you wire up your own guitars with ease. If you want to understand guitar wiring completely, stick around to the end. In this short guide, we cover the basics of electric guitar components, how they relate to each other, and more importantly – how you can understand guitar wiring as well as design your own wiring diagrams so your guitar sounds just the way you like it.
The information presented here can be tricky and intimidating, so we’ve broken this down into short, easy-to-understand sections. You can skip some sections or read in any order you want, but make sure to allocate some time to understand the theory involved.
Understanding Guitar Wiring
Chapter 1: Pickups and How They Work
If you’re embarking on a journey to fully understand guitar wiring, pickups are where you should start! Pickups are the heart of an electric guitar and these little guys make the instrument sound the way it does. There are a bunch of common pickup types like single-coil and humbucker, and they each possess a distinctive sound.
We will get into what a pickup is, and what magnetic properties and customizations you can do to a pickup to change the sound. You’ll also gain a good understanding of the pickup wiring, and whether you should actually make an upgrade over the current pickups you’ve got!
Chapter 2: Potentiometer
Pots, as they’re more commonly known among guitarists, are variable resistors that are used to control the tone of your guitar. Like pickups, pots also come in a bunch of shapes and sizes, and you’ll learn all about audio and linear taper pots, as well as learn what function a potentiometer does in guitar wiring. The section will also make you familiar with choosing the best potentiometer for a specific sound.
Chapter 3: Wiring a Volume Pot
Just learning about potentiometers is no good if you cannot wire them up in your guitar circuit, right? We build on what we have learned in Chapter 2 and talk about the wiring configurations you can try – we cover the fancy 50s-style wiring as well as the standard way to do it.
Chapter 4: Capacitor
The capacitor is another term that we frequently use within wiring diagrams. We will talk all about what capacitors are, how they work, what their values mean, and how a capacitor affects the tone and volume of an electric guitar. You will also learn about the types of capacitors, popular varieties in the market, and how you can use capacitors to get the desired tone on your instrument.
Chapter 5: Switches
Switches are simple yet powerful components that allow you to choose between wiring configurations, pickup selection, turning features on and off, and so on. We talk all about switches in this chapter, and you will get acquainted with the common types like toggle switches and blade switches. Wiring things correctly is also an important skill, so we also talk about some pitfalls and how to avoid them.
Chapter 6: Mini-Toggle Switch & Push-Pull Pot
Next, we delve into the exciting world of mini-toggle switches and push-pull pots; these switches offer more control and features than standard switches. Learning about these advanced switches will help you wrap your mind around concepts like coil splitting, phase reversal, and series/ parallel switching. This is where it’s fun and exciting, and you’ll learn about the tonal possibilities you can try out with your own guitar.
Chapter 7: Output Jack
Now that you’ve got a good grasp of the fundamentals, we talk a bit about output jacks. Output jacks are kind of like ports, these allow you to hook up your guitar to an amplifier or a workstation, and learning about different types of output jacks and their wiring configurations will help you repair a faulty jack. Plus, you will be familiar with doing any mods to the jack as well!
Chapter 8: Grounding & Shielding
Ever noticed that when guitarists play on stage, there’s a painful shrieking noise? You may have also come across this noise if you practice while hooking up your guitar to an amplifier. We talk about grounding and shielding in this chapter so you know the common practices to avoid noise and external interference.
Chapter 9: Impedance & Impedance Matching
In guitar wiring, impedance can make or break the sound of your electric guitar. It becomes especially important when you factor in other essential pieces of equipment like pedals and amplifiers. Matching impedance values can help you prevent many nasty issues early on, so we learn all about impedance matching and things you can do to maximize the quality of signal output from your signal chain.
Chapter 10: Sample Diagrams
Finally, equipped with the necessary knowledge, we dive deep into practical aspects of guitar wiring – we take a look at common guitar wiring diagrams to understand how components like capacitors, impedance, switches, and pickups work in context. If you follow along till this chapter, you will have a solid understanding of how the internals of a guitar work, and you will be able to customize your wiring setups as well as design custom wiring solutions for your guitar.
This is a short glossary of the terms you may come across while reading up diagrams on the internet. You don’t need to memorize it all – think of it as a handy reference for later, and look it up when you come across something confusing.
Understanding guitar wiring and making your own adjustments to an electronic circuit can take a lot of experimentation. It does take a lot of time and practice to get the hang of things, but once you cover the basics in our guide, you’ll be well on your way to confidently modding electric guitars as you see fit. If you’re interested in wiring diagrams, we do have some common wiring diagrams.