Noodlers vs. speed
How fast to do want to get to a given option? Are you willing to
fiddle with several toggles and knobs to get to the sounds you want or
do you want to just flip a switch? Take this example: Most
have a single pickup selector switch. On a standard Stratocaster,
that's a 5-way. The problem is it doesn't give you all seven
combinations of pickups. An alternate approach is to swap out the
5-way for three On/Off switches for the individual pickups. This
allows you to get any combination, but just to change between, say the
neck pickup and the bridge, you have to turn off one and turn off the
With a conventional 5-way, that's one step. It's a
Which is right for you?
Extremists vs. moderates.
I detail on this page, many options
can be addressed with either a switch or a potentiometer.
The difference is a switch is all-or-nothing whereas a pot allows a
all along the spectrum between the two possibilities. However, a
is usually a faster approach than twisting a pot all the way
That might sound like a moment out of your time, but a moment is an
if it causes you to miss a note in the middle of playing your
Another trade-off to think about.
James Bond vs. Star Trek.
the movies, 007 kept his gadgets hidden out of sight so no one ever
saw them coming. On Star Trek, there was no doubt you were
at the future from all the switches and knobs and gauges and blinky
Although which controls you use are addressed by the other concerns
here, you need to consider the aesthetic side of things as well.
You can often hide controls in plain sight through the use of push-pull
pots, but you can also modify a stock control to a different end (e.g.,
automatic coil taps in a 5-way switch). Similarly, you can always
substitute existing pots for those with a different purpose (e.g.,
the vol knob once was, you now have the EQ of a preamp). On the
hand, maybe you want your guitar to look like you're from outer
If so, go crazy with it and cover the thing with switches and knobs and
who knows what else.
Consolidated vs. distributed.
I describe many of the mods featured on this site in terms of
stand-alone controls (or at best with a push-pull pot), it is possible
to combine multiple options in a single component. In the example
of the 5-way switch vs. three separate toggles, you are performing
actions with one motion (i.e., turning off a pickup and turning on
However, you can use a more complicated component such as a four-pole
switch to switch coils off, on, in phase, out of phase, in series, in
etc. (see this page for
That's one extreme example, but there are other approaches that will
consolidate several options within one control rather than several.
One way streets vs.
Many guitars have built-in redundancies that achieve the same
For example, most classic Gretsch guitars have a volume knob in
to individual pickup volume controls. This allows rapid switching
between pre-set options, obviously, but it does make for a lot of
over the face of the guitar. Although it might take longer to get
what you want, a guitar like a Les Paul could theoretically forego its
pickup selector switch given that it already has volume knobs for each
pickup. Many bass guitars have always done this. In fact,
it's the exception to see a bass guitar with a pickup selector switch;
players usually use volume controls instead. Think in terms of
whether you can part with some things.