Mod: Master Tone on a Stratocaster (and One Less Knob)

One thing that’s always bothered be about Stratocasters is the controls. The placement of the volume knob is annoying, for one. It gets in the way when I’m palm muting, and I bump it a lot. Maybe I have beefy hands, but wow do I hate that. The other control issue is the two tone knobs: one for the neck pickup and one for the middle. The pickup which needs toning down the most is the bridge; it’s like an icepick in my ears without it. Fender doesn’t see a problem with this, but they’re more about pleasing their connoisseur audience than the likes of me.

I found a good compromise: master volume, master tone. I can then remove the offending knob and place the other two further down. Wiring this up wasn’t too hard, but nowhere did I find a step-by-step. I did find a master tone wiring diagram from Duncan pickups, but that didn’t help me sort out the “how do I get there from here” problem.

While I’m planning on making a step by step video for this, for now the secret is basically (referring to the “master tone” diagram above):

  1. Remove all the wires going from the 5-way switch to your two tone controls. I simply desoldered them, and had a couple extra wires to hang on to.
  2. Carefully desolder the tone capacitor (cap) and set it aside. Most likely, there will be a lead from the cap to both tone potentiometers (pots); trim that out.
  3. Remove the wires connected to the bottom tone pot and then remove the pot itself.
  4. Attach the tone capacitor to the remaining tone pot (it will become your new master tone pot, see diagram).
  5. Attach a wire (one you removed will do) from your new master tone pot to your volume (there should already be a ground wire from this pot to your volume pot, see diagram)
  6. If you like, move your two remaining pots (master volume and master tone) down a hole to get them away from your bridge (and ham hands in my case).

As with any wiring mod, be careful! If you don’t know how to solder, YouTube is your friend. It’s not hard at all, but requires you to be very careful and have a steady hand (and ability to not burn the crap out of your fingers).

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About Dave Balmer

JavaScript guru, mobile app developer.

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