Welcome to the first in a series of blogs where I will delve into the interesting – but sometimes confusing – world of re-wiring your guitar. I will try to explain in laymans terms, as well as going into a little technical details on various topics including general wiring maintenance, upgrades and mods. I will also point you in the right direction for other sites and blogs who cover the same topics, to ensure you have several places to source your information from (as it’s always good to have several supporting opinions before you start to work on your guitar). So dust off that guitar you never play (because the volume pot makes the guitar sound muddy when you turn the volume down), and dig out your soldering iron that’s not been used since you were in high school… As you’re in for an interesting ride on the rollercoaster of guitar electronics.
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Treble Bleed Mods
Lets start with explaining what a treble bleed (sometimes called treble bypass) mod actually does and why it’s needed:
On a standard guitar when you turn your guitar volume knob down, you will also notice that your guitar starts to sound less bright and more muddy (and more bassier) the further you turn the volume down. Some people like it and use it to great effect, while others are not so keen. The effect is also different with different guitars, as humbucker equipt guitars do not suffer as much as single coil guitars do. I am personally with the group of people who don’t like this, as I like my tone to be consistent and to have total control over it. i.e. if I want to turn the tone down I can do so with the guitars tone control, or with the EQ on my amp, or even by using my neck pickup. I want the volume control to just adjust volume and nothing else.
Every guitar and every ear is different so play your guitar, and listen to the effect your volume control has on your tone. If you like how it works then leave it alone, but if you find the volume control changes your tone too much for your taste then you may want to consider installing a treble bleed mod… If so read on.
So the treble bleed mod works by installing some components that allow the treble part of your signal to bypass the volume knob (hence the name treble bypass). Another way to explain that is to say the treble bleeds through the volume knob and isn’t stopped, hence the name ‘treble bleed mod’
If you want a little more of a techinical explanation here goes:
The volume pot (potentiometer) will have a resistance value usually 250K, 500K or 1Meg, but it will also have some capacitance as will all the wires in your guitar, and also your guitar cable (from your guitar to your amp). A simple type of low pass filter is just a resistor and a capacitor, and so as you turn down your volume you change the characteristics of this low pass filter into cutting some treble that you can actually hear is being cut. So using either a simple capacitor, or a capacior with an extra resistor you can allow the treble through without it being cut.
Ibanez vs Seymour Duncan vs Kinman
There are three popular bleed mod circuits that are most often talked about: One from each of Ibanez, Seymour Duncan and Kinman. I have previously used the Ibanez 330pF mod, and it works well on Ibanez and Les Paul guitars, but at very low volume settings (below half vol) the treble is actually effectively boosted compared to at full guitar volume. That said I usually play with the volume full or just a little less than full and that’s it. So for me it works well, costs only around 20p for the capacitor, and it’s very quick to retro fit or remove without any permanent mods or damage to the guitar. The other mod I’ve tried recently is the Kinman mod, and that works very well too. The parts needed will cost you a little more, at perhaps £1 to £2, but it’s still very little, and only takes a little longer to fit, but means the full volume range has a consistant treble. For that reason, over all I prefer the Kinman mod. The Seymour Duncan mod aparently works well too, but it actually can affect the volume pot taper, so I feel that’s not ideal.
Ibanez Treble Bleed Mod
Here’s the Ibanez schem, and usually Ibanes would use a 330pF ceramic disk capacitor (they don’t fit to all guitars, and aparently never fit bleed caps to the lower priced models). PRS sometimes use 180pF, but generally a 100-500pF cap can be used. either a ceramic disk or the slightly more expensive silver mica type of cap (often used for tone circuits in quality guitar amps). Some people even suggest trying higher values than that, but I would tend to trust what Ibanez and PRS fit to their guitars, and if you’ve got humbuckers and a 500K volume pot, I’d say this is a good choice for a simple mod.
Also check out my article on Ibanez pickup wiring so see some schematics with the treble bleed cap installed. One example is an RG1570 from a few years back:
Kinman Treble Bleed Mod
Chris Kinman was the pioneer for hum free single coil pickups (that still sounded great, and like SC pups). He’s also a generally very smart chap, and a perfectionist, so if he uses a certain type of circuit, you can be sure he’s made sure it works perfectly. His treble bleed mod is generally thought to be the best and most consistent way to do it, and I would agree.
It uses a 130K 0.25w resistor and a 0.0012uF (or 0.001uF/1nF/1000pF) 50/63v polyester capacitor in series. Of course you can use a higher wattage resistor or higher voltage capacitor, as those figures don’t matter so much, it’s the other values that matter. I also like to use Sprague orange drop caps, which are readily available in 0.001uF 100v specs.
Here’s a diagram straight from www.kinman.com
Seymour Duncan Treble Bleed Mod
This mod uses a 100K resistor in parallel with a 0.002uF capacitor. Those parts are very easy to get hold of, and are perhaps the easiesy to get hold of out of all these mods, as a 100K resistor is a very common electronic part, as is a 0.002uF cap (that’s 2nF or 2000pF, and a very common alternative is 2.2nF or 2200pF). Look for polyester film or ceramic capacitors in those values… BUT I feel this mod is less than ideal, so don’t be tempted just because the parts may already be in your tin/box of spare electronic parts, as the parts for the other 2 mods are still easy to get hold of from Maplin, Mouser or any other electronics parts supplier.
One of the main problems with this mod is that the 100K resistor is in parallel with the part of the volume pot that’s blocking the audio signal when your volume is turned right down. Because of this it will alter the taper of your volume control quite a lot and for that reason the Kinman mod is a better choice.
Further Reading and Warnings
Make sure you read the manufacturers instructions for your soldering iron before using. You MUST do this as using a soldering iron can be very dangerous because of the heat, spitting solder, and the poisonous fumes and residue the solder gives off when soldering and Touching it. But if in doubt, take your guitar and parts to a guitar tech who is qualified to do the work. Or talk to your local tech and ask them for the specific bleed mod that you want.
Have a read at this: Safe Soldering Guide
Also make sure you have a good working area for working on your guitar. This is to ptotect your guitar from damage (dropping tools on it, spitting solder, getting scratched, etc). Usually an old blanket or two can provide a soft surface to rest your guitar on, but make sure the weight of the guitar isn’t resting on the headstock (for those of you who have guitars with angled back headstocks and scratchplates to remove. Also you need to protect your guitar from soldering. Check this video to get some ideas: Seymour Duncan – Guide to installing a Strat pickup Obviously the usual applies, you carry out any mods discussed on this site totally at your own risk. If in doubt, get a qualified tech to do the work.