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Silencing a crackly guitar volume control

One wouldn't expect a 50-year old potentiometer to be without a few crackles. But does a guitar used only for recording actually need a volume control?

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The volume control on my vintage Fender Stratocaster had become a little unreliable lately. When set to full, a slight nudge could cause the signal to cut out completely, with a loud crackle thrown in for good measure.

It's a fiddly business opening up a guitar so I put off looking into the issue for some time. Quite a long time in fact. But then out of the blue the urge took me to resolve the problem once and for all.

My first thought was simply to replace the potentiometer. That would be perfectly straightforward. But then I had a thought... I don't actually use the volume control. I always have it turned up full. The reasons for this are that I only use the guitar for recording, and turning down the volume on the instrument also seems to sap the life out of the tone. I prefer to get the sound I want from the controls on the amp.

So it would be an even easier solution just to wire the control out of circuit. And it would cost nothing!

So I did that and the result is perfect! The guitar sounds great and there is no cutting out or crackling.

But then I realized...

It isn't something I even think about, but ever since I started playing the electric guitar, I have been in the habit of turning the volume fully off when I put the guitar down. There is always the tendency for the instrument to feed back of its own accord and cause quite a commotion. And even apart from that, it is good studio practice not to have any sources of noise that you don't need.

But now of course I can't do that. I hadn't anticipated this because I didn't think the project all the way through.

Still, my guitar sounds great and doesn't crackle. And I can always reach over and turn down the amp.

For my next mod perhaps I'll replace the 3-position pick-up selector with a 5-way switch (which are commonly available in Strat style), and have one of the positions as an 'off' setting.

And I'll be careful to think the project all of the way through this time.

By David Mellor Sunday September 30, 2012
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