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Resistive loading on electric guitar pickups? Can anyone help?


Active Member
Jan 9, 2019
OK, this isn't really a "hi-fi" related inquiry, but I feel like this is as good a place as any to ask. I have a 1989 Yamaha RGX 611J. It has a humbucker in the bridge and single coil in the neck position. The general guideline for guitar pickups is that for humbuckers (two coils wired in series) you want use 500k potentiometers for the volume and tone controls. For single-coil pickups, and pickups that are supposed to sound like single-coils (i.e. stacked humbuckers) you want want to use 250k potentiometers for the volume and tone controls. Of course there isn't a "right" way to do it (because the goal isn't to replicate a signal, but to generate a new one), but using 250k controls with humbucker generally results in a "darker" sound, and 500k controls with a single-coil pickup generally yields a sound that is too treble-y.

My guitar has one of each type of pickup, and a single master volume and master tone control. What would be the easiest way (preferably without adding extra holes to the guitar) to achieve the "ideal" resistive loading for each pickup? Right now I have a 330k control for the volume and a 500k control for the tone.

I was thinking of using 2 concentric/stacked potentiometers (one with a value of 500k x 2 and one with a value of 250k x 2) in order to have an individual volume/tone for each pickup. However, apparently that creates issues when using the middle position on the selector switch which engages both pickups. Other solutions I've seen involve wiring resistors in parallel or some magic like that.

I actually know nothing about electricity. It totally baffles me. Just the other day I wired up a guitar with 4P3T on-on-on switch and it honestly baffles me that it functions correctly. I followed the diagram exactly. The wires that would normally be connected to wire the pickup in series are grounded (as per the instructions), yet somehow I get what sounds like a pickup wired in series and I have no idea why. So yeah, I am totally clueless.

This is what passes for a "wiring diagram" among guitarists. It illustrates (more or less) how my guitar is currently wired.
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