Resistors and capacitors are essential pieces of modern guitar hardware, taming “unruly” guitar tones and allowing players to flexibly control how their instruments perform in various situations.

The most common reason why you’d want to place resistors and caps in your axe is to have them serve as “filters”; similar effects can be achieved with guitar pedals, but introducing these mods to the instrument is a more reliable, semi-permanent solution.

In this article, our experts will tell you all about resistor and capacitor wiring models, how they work, and what to do if you’re having issues with preset hardware, so let’s start from the top.

What is a Resistor?

Aptly named “resistors”, these hardware components resist electrical current and enable guitarists to specify exact amounts of flow allowed to pass through the bands.

Resistors typically come in 4-band or 5-band variants, which feature different values and tolerance levels. By restricting electrical flow, resistors determine the speed of “decay” - how quickly your tone rolls off when the tone pot is used.

More importantly, they prevent the loss of highs amid abrupt decay, allowing you to retain a full-bodied tone even as you switch between different pickup configurations, volume levels, and tonal settings.

Where to place resistors?

If you wish to preserve the natural highs your guitar is producing, the best way to route resistors is to wire them on the first two lugs of the tone potentiometer while the third lug goes to the ground.

This scenario assumes that you’ve already properly aligned the remaining hardware pieces (pickups and pots), as there are many ways and positions in which resistors can be placed based on your current hardware setup.

Another viable option, especially if you’re using a mix of humbuckers and single coils, is to have the first resistor log routed to the hot wire of the humbucker and the second lug to the ground.

Supposing that you’ve already bridged the humbucker and the single-coil pickups with wires leading to the selector switch and volume, this will allow you to have adequate resistance at any pickup position.

What is a Capacitor?

Capacitors are essentially filters that allow or prevent certain frequencies from passing to the preamp. By introducing caps into your guitar’s hardware setup, you’re eliminating the need for filter-oriented pedals and will benefit from a more consistent tone.

Caps come in varying strength values, but the universally accepted standard dictates that most setups require a . 022 µF capacitance. Anything higher would make your tone muddy while weaker caps would provide diminishing results to the point that the change would be barely noticeable.

Where to place caps?

Capacitors are typically placed as bridges between volume and tone potentiometers. In most cases, you will have to “unoccupied” lugs on both pots, and you can flexibly connect them to a cap to achieve different sounds.

The old-school way big bands of the ‘50s and ‘60s used to do it is to connect the top-most lug of the volume pot to a cap, which then goes to the lower-most lug of the tone pot.

A more modern method leaves the top-most lug of the volume pot free for the signal output and routes the lower-most lugs of volume and tone pots to a capacitor standing between them.