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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Currently building a guitar with 3 single coils. Is there any reason not to have a tone pot for each pickup? Since I'm doing the drilling, I can configure pretty much any way I want to. Would like to have tone control on the bridge for sure. The knob layout would look like the Gibson four knob arrangement
 

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I guess it just depends on the control layout. I don't like controls too close together - it's harder to get at the right one in the heat of the moment.

I have a few different strat pickguards and all are wired for 1 tone control for the bridge pup and 1 tone control either for the middle/neck ganged or just the middle. I find the neck pup needs a tone control the least. So many things Leo just nailed out of the park, but that's one decision I still don't get. That bridge pup can be pretty 'picky'.
 

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Ideally, you'd want to disengage any tone controls for pickups you're not using at the time. That gets weird if one is using two pickups at once, though. They're both tied to the input of the volume pot, and would be bleeding treble through two paths instead of one.

So, I dunno. It would not be my own first choice.

On the other hand, the optimal tone cap value could be justifiably changed depending on what pickups are being used. I like a smaller value for the bridge pickup than for the neck. ( As I'm overly fond of repeating, I've never known anyone to deliberately select their bridge pickup because they wanted a dark muted sound.) That sort of change would not necessarily use three separate tone pots; merely a pickup selector that changed tone cap values depending on position. Depending on what sort of pickup switching you aim for, that might require a rotary switch. Alternatively the job could be done with a standard 5-way selector, master vol, master tone, and a 3-way toggle for tone-cap selection (dark - "round" - tone cancel).

Both Reverend and G&L have made good use of the "contour" control as a way to roll off bass. With VR1 below set to zero ohms, the circuit is identical to a conventional tone/vol circuit.

 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Ideally, you'd want to disengage any tone controls for pickups you're not using at the time. That gets weird if one is using two pickups at once, though. They're both tied to the input of the volume pot, and would be bleeding treble through two paths instead of one.
Thanks! I suspected there might be issues with a three tone setup - just wasn't sure what. Thanks for the expertise - I appreciate it
 

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Currently building a guitar with 3 single coils. Is there any reason not to have a tone pot for each pickup? Since I'm doing the drilling, I can configure pretty much any way I want to. Would like to have tone control on the bridge for sure. The knob layout would look like the Gibson four knob arrangement
If you're trying to get tone control on the bridge pickup there's some common mods:

Master Volume/Master Tone:
Strat w/ Single Master Tone Control

Master volume/Neck tone/mid+bridge tone
http://www.dimarzio.com/sites/default/files/diagrams/fsn&mbtone.pdf

Master volume, Neck tone/Bridge Tone (this diagram is originally drawn for single sized humbuckers in series, so it transfers fro single coils nicely)
http://www.dimarzio.com/sites/default/files/diagrams/3h_bridgetone.pdf
 

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I wired up an old Univox Strat with a 3-way pickup selector for neck-both-bridge, and a mini-toggle to engage/disengage the middle pickup. So, it is effectively a "Tele" with the toggle in the off position, and a Strat with it on. It still has the three knobs but the middle is for master tone and the pot closest to the output jack is for middle volume.

The thing to keep in mind with tone pots is that one is always bleeding highs to ground through the tone pot and cap. Ideally, the value of the pot and cap is such that the highs you bleed are above the range of what you want to keep (and can actually hear), although sometimes people like to soften the tone of particularly bright SC pickups by using values that bleed just a bit of audible top end. In effect, it's the same rationale that underlies use of lower-value pots for SC pickups: 250k pots load down the signal a little more than 500k or 1meg volume pots, removing some of the upper treble content that some players describe as sounding "brittle".

If one has several tone pots tied to the input of the master volume, then unless the tone pots are a higher value and the caps a lower value, one ends up bleeding essentially twice as much treble (for two tone pots), unless the selector switch only applies one tone pot at a time.

You can remediate that situation by using something like a 500k or 1meg tone pot to reduce overall treble loss when all tone controls are set to max bright. But then the challenge becomes one of nailing the ideal pot taper so that you don't have to turn down from 10 to 2 to achieve any sort of audible change in the tone. I think that's why so many players like the setup that Reverend/G&L uses. It provides a lot of tonal flexibility with only two controls, and doesn't require any batteries.
 

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Using small-value caps to restrict the bass content is something that may have broader use than many realize. F'rinstance, the Fender Jaguar included a "thin" switch that would either force all content to pass through a cap to roll off bass, or bypass the cap. The Jerry Donahue Telecaster mimics Strat sounds on an otherwise standard-looking two-pickup Tele (well, the neck pickup is a Strat pickup) by feeding the neck pickup through a cap in one of the N+B settings. I'm sure there are others I'm unaware of, conceivably on one of those delightful old European or Japanese monstrosities from the 1960s whose weight is 20% slide switches.
 
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