Any guitar would deliver inconsistent tonal performance without the right pots; without a selector switch, it would be impossible to adjust the pot’s resistance, meaning that you’d usually be stuck with one, probably unimpressive tone.

Fortunately, pots and switches work “behind the scenes” and require very little user knowledge to serve their intended purposes. Understanding how they’re wired may allow you to fix minute issues or even rearrange the pickup selection to better serve your needs.

In this article, we’ll provide you with a simple wiring diagram for guitar switches and potentiometers, as well as with insight into what to look for when approaching the matter.

What are guitar pots and switches?

Pots or potentiometers are variable resistors that are used in a broad range of electronic applications. In guitars, they allow users to adjust input resistance, thus enabling guitarists to change the instrument’s performance based on which pot is adjusted - volume, tone, or both.

Most modern guitars also feature capacitors, which further expand the capabilities of pots; with these hardware pieces involved, it becomes possible to shape the tone even further by attenuating or diminishing the input of certain frequencies.

Switches have the same function, regardless of where they are applied. In guitars, they typically form a bridge between the pickups, pots, and other pieces of hardware, allowing users to turn desired combinations on or off.

How to Wire a Guitar Switch

Before you can wire your pots, you should first route the wires of your pickups to the selector switch. This way, you can open or close the circuits of the pickups or pickup combinations you don’t need, and instead of hundreds of wire ends you only have a single “input” to direct to the potentiometers.

Switches comprise two components - the lugs, and the so-called “blade”. Lugs or terminals are slots where pickup wires should go, same as with pots. However, switches have two sides, and there are dozens of ways to route them to the terminals.

In classic Telecasters with two pickups, the bridge is typically connected to the second lug of side A while the neck is usually connected to the third lug of side B. Experiment with different variations until you’re satisfied with how they work.

How to Wire Guitar Pots

Guitar potentiometers typically feature three terminals, often called “lugs”. These lugs are essentially slots where external hardware can be connected via wires.

A resistance track is located within the pots; its ends are connected to the first and third lug, but there is still ample space for additional wires to be attached to these terminals.

With your pickups connected to the switch, you’ll need to connect the input wire to the closest lug on the pot; the central lug is the output wire that goes into the capacitor while the last lug goes to the ground. You can replace the positions of the first and second lug, but the furthermost terminal should always go to the ground.