Control Configurations

Guitars can have their controls arranged any number of different ways, but they tend to fall into just a handful of specific configurations.  This isn't a very scientific taxonomy.  It doesn't look very closely at heritage, which is actually the basis of many taxonomies, but I think it's a good summary of the most common designs, and is thus a useful way to consider approaches for designing (or modifying) your own instrument.




Traditional Strat - Most classic Strats (whether made by Fender or knock-offs) have this configuration.
Controls: 3 knobs by the pickup selector.

Examples: Nearly all Strats, and even some superStrats with an extra pot.


SuperStrat - Almost certainly the most ubiquitous configuration today.  Simplifies things to 1 vol/1 tone and the selector.
Controls: 2 knobs by the pickup selector.

Examples: Ibanez and Jacksons, Steinbergers, Telecasters (sort of), the Gibson Nighthawk, and even the Teuffel Birdfish, although that looks very different. 
Modern PRS guitars too, only the blade switch is between the pots rather than the pots together and switch elsewhere.  However, PRS guitars from the '90s and '00s had a rotary switch, so their controls looked like three pots and no pickup selector.

SuperStrat togglers - A variation of the above: The pickup selector was traded out for on/off switches.
Controls: 2 knobs plus individual pickup on/off switches.

Examples: Brian May's "Red Special", lots of superStrats, Hohner Steinberger guitars.


The Gibson quadrant - This is the familiar configuration of 1 vol/1 tone control for each of the two humbuckers, plus the selector on the upper bout.
Controls: 4 pots and a switch somewhere else, almost always the upper bout, though occasionally on the lower.

Examples: Les Pauls, most Gibson hollowbodies such as the ES-295, even the Fender 72 Tele Custom.


Minimized Gibsons - This is just one less pot than usual, although it's still not a Strat.
Controls: 3 pots and the selector.

Examples: Explorer and Flying V, though in other respects these really belong in the groups above and below, respectively.

Clumped - All the controls together in one area.
Controls: 4 pots, switch, possibly the jack, and even extras like a Varitone or pickup balancer.

Examples: SG, ES-335 (and most derivatives such as the 355, etc.), Rickenbackers, BC Rich Mockingbird, Danelectro U2, the Parker Fly, the Moog guitar, and others.

Scattered - Controls all over!  There's something on both bouts in addition to the usual assortment below the bridge.
Controls: Two or three pots below, plus one on the lower bout, and one or two switches above (Numbers depend on the presence of a tone switch vs. a tone knob).  Occasionally a silent switch too, but that's rare.  Even rarer are those with extra controls relating to stereo wiring.

Examples: Nearly every model of Gretsch, plus one-offs like the Gibson Chet Atkins Country Gentleman.  A variation on this might be some other hollowbodies such as some Gibson models that move the pickup selector switch to the lower bout.

Stripped down - As few controls as possible.
Controls: One vol pot, no tone, and a pickup selector or other switch such as a ser/par toggle.

Examples: Gretsch 6120 Hot Rod, Gretsch 6131my I, several EVH-preferred guitars/signature models: Ernie Ball/Music Man Axis, some versions of the Wolfgang, several of his custom creations and Kramers such as the Frankenstrat and 5150.

Jazzy
- Controls are on (or even under) the pickguard.  There's so need for a pickup selector since there's only one pickup.
Controls: One vol and tone for the one pickup.

Examples: D'Angelico New Yorkers, Eastman hollowbodies, Gretsch 400JV Synchromatic.


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