by Jeff McErlain

Are you getting the tones you want from your guitar?

Before you start laying out cash for pedals and pricey amps, be sure you know all the tonal variations available using just your hands and your guitar‘s onboard electronics. In this video tutorial, I’ll show you how you can start to get an idea of how broadly you can vary your sound depending on how you set your pickups, tone pots, and volume.

For example, you can change between a gainy sound a clean sound just by using your volume knob. You may also notice that the volume on 10 is a lot brighter than the volume on 6 — so, in the volume pot alone you’ve got the potential for some significant treble/bass variation. For me, the volume knob is a lot more usable and flexible than dealing with master/gain controls or dual-channel amps.

Watch the video below to learn how pickup selectors, volume, tone and picking technique can open up the tonal possibilities on your guitar. Just these few controls give way to so many tonal variations.

These ideas are demoed here using my Strat, but the same approaches can be used to similar effect on any electric guitar. The video goes by pretty fast but I hope you’ll get a lot out of it. For more details and explanations about tonal magic, check my latest set of guitar lessons in Kings Of Tone.

Jeff McErlain is a New York City based guitarist, songwriter, teacher and producer. He has contributed to Guitar Player Magazine, Guitar World and is the author of Modern Rock Techniques. He has taught at the National Guitar Workshop as well as the Bath International Guitar Festival. He was also the guitar instructor and musical consultant for the Warner Bros. movie August Rush. Click here to read his full bio.