Checking pickups and capacitors

This is just a quick and simple post about measuring the K value of pickups and capacitance (uF) of capacitors in guitar circuits. It is not a full review but just a few thoughts on tone. I feel sometimes people only think about the pickups contributing to tone and not the rest of the electrical circuit. We guitar makers like to talk a lot about woods and tone etc. But the truth is these are electric guitars, so the electronics will have a major impact on the tone and sound of the guitars we make. Generally I use custom made pickups from ‘The Creamery’ in Manchester UK https://www.creamery-pickups.co.uk/ In this video I am using the Sonic 60’s as I am building a guitar which will have these in. The magnets used in the pickups be them Alnico 2, 3, 4, 5 or ceramic, impact the sound as do the winding of the pickups and the capacitors used in the electric circuit. Capacitance is measured in Farad (F) and usually given as uF though when measuring capacitance on a Multimeter, as in the video, it is set to Nano farad nF a factor of 1000. The smaller the value the brighter the tone , so 0.01 is dark whereas 0.04 would be bright. It is important to check these values before you solder up the circuitry, its a pain taking it all apart again.

Its also important to remember that usually when choosing volume and tone pots the K value is important for the tone too. As Humbucker are darker in tone than single coil pickups the 500K pots, which give a brighter tone, are use. As single coil pickups are bright the darker 250K pots are used. This combination ensure the sound is not dark and muffled or too bright in the latter case.

Hence for Single coil pickups i.e. Fender style, these are usually 250K pots whilst for Humbuckers Gibson style it’s 500K. But why not try 500K pots with single coils and use a darker capacitor i.e. 0.1uF ?? Testing the combination of pots, capacitors with different types of pickups allows you to create unique tonal ranges. Also, instead of buying standard pickups, speak to someone who makes them for a living and discuss your ideas with them ! you would be surprised how happy they would be 🙂

Published by Filip Solberg

Bespoke built custom guitars in the East Neuk of fife Scotland. We build high quality guitars to exact details of the customer. Pick ups, woods and all hardware are specifically chosen based on tone and play-ability required. We do not have any stock guitars these are built for order only.

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