Turning down guitar volume pot for cleans... what am I missing??

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by WholeLottaGlove, Jun 10, 2019.

  1. Gemini2

    Gemini2 Member

    Aug 3, 2013
    South Florida
    I actually prefer to play with the volume knob on my guitar vs switching pedals on and off to achieve different degrees of gain. Sounds more natural and transitions better, at least for me. I've also noticed, like others already stated, you need to be up to volume to get the true effect. Also my guitars with vintage voiced single coils do the volume roll off better imo.
  2. Wee Jock

    Wee Jock Member

    Dec 19, 2018
    +1 for the treble bleed, otherwise as others say, you can get a clean tone by turning down the guitar volume but it’s not one you would want.

    Bizarrely, I use a treble bleed to stop my tone becoming too bright. I play mainly with the volume around 6/7 and turn it up when needed for solos or whatever. Without a treble bleed, the amp tone that’s perfect for 6/7 on the guitar becomes really bright when turned up to 10.
    BerkeleyJones likes this.
  3. Silent Sound

    Silent Sound Member

    Jun 8, 2012
    When you roll back the volume knob on the guitar, you're increasing the impedance of the guitar to the amp. That will make your tone darker, or more muddy, depending on your perspective. It's basically the equivalent of going from the high input to the low input on the amp. This is why I never control distortion with my guitar amp's volume knob. To me, the only time any guitar sounds it's best through any amp, is when the guitar is fully cranked. The only time I use my guitar's volume knob, is when I'm muting it or doing swells.

    Instead, what I do to back of the distortion and compression at the guitar level, is play quieter. Play softer and you don't get the impedance loading effects and you have better control over your dynamics. That way I can punch a single note while letting others softly ring out in the background.

    For some reason, guitarists tend to have a hard time playing at any other level than full. But just about every other musician (save for something like a harpsicord player), has to control the level of the output of their instrument by controlling the level of their input, and not relying on electronic knobs to do that work for you.
  4. PurpleJesus

    PurpleJesus Moderation is key Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jul 11, 2014
    The issue is if the amp has "room" to clean up. So, in other words, if you're using a really gained up amp like a JCM800, you're gonna have to keep the gain on the preamp down to a point that you can then roll the guitar volume back to get an actual 'clean' tone. Which may mean you no longer have as much gain as you'd like with the guitar on 10, so you may have to add a clean boost pedal to take you back up to that distortion level if you want to use guitar volume to get you to your cleans.

    Second thing is that it works better on single channel amps. Once it's all cooking and you roll back to clean that's as good as it gets. That's when everything is slightly compressing and trying like heck to not distort - those are the 'goods', imo, for clean tones.
    BerkeleyJones, guff, macmeda and 5 others like this.
  5. Miroslav L

    Miroslav L Member

    Jan 19, 2018
    Southern NY
    You're expecting it to be as clean as you get plugging into a clean channel...but that's not going to happen.
    It's not going to be that kind of "clean"...it's more like, you can "clean up" the crunch by rolling back a bit.

    I think the guys who can roll it way back, are probably already dealing with a brighter tone...and a lot of crunch, so the perception is a more cleaner sound. If you play it dark and just a little crunchy...then it may always sound dark and dull when you roll back.
    classicplayer likes this.
  6. Ryno1331

    Ryno1331 Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2017
    Set the amp up for neck pickup on 6 or 7. When you roll up the neck you can bring the tone down but usually not necessary. Then with the bridge take the tone down as needed.

    Also a good clear PAF or single coil that isn't too hot and 50s style wiring makes it even better.
    ProfRhino likes this.
  7. teofilrocks

    teofilrocks Supporting Member

    Oct 21, 2012
    Here's an example of a JCM800 2204 (modded) and how it "cleans" up.

    StompBoxBlues likes this.
  8. skronker

    skronker 2010/2013/2015 S.C. Champions

    Aug 6, 2008
    Aloha from Oahu, Hawaii
    the amp needs to be loud
    nobody using this method was recording or playing onstage at "bedroom" levels
  9. jamester

    jamester Silver Supporting Member

    Feb 13, 2010
    Baltimore, MD
    Key things for me:

    - Linear taper volume pot, much more range of volume/gain than audio taper
    - Treble bleed if necessary
    - Amp set for no more than light crunch, then boost and/or drive pedals to expand gain for solos or heavier parts

    You kind of have to tailor your setup for this type of playing, it's not as simple as setting up a heavy lead sound and then riding your volume knob for clean to crunch. Many possibilities, but it takes some experimenting to find what will work for you, and it's definitely not for everybody. Especially if you want a sparkly, squeaky clean sound...
    Rod likes this.
  10. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Supporting Member

    Dec 26, 2004
    The important thing is to get the right sound at the right level.
    Using pedals or channel switching is the solution.
    That's why they were developed.
    Don't fight it.
    If your range of sound needs to be wide, make it so.
    Thumpalumpacus and theRagman like this.
  11. Rod

    Rod Tone is Paramount Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2004
    Kittery, Maine
    The parallel resistor/capacitor treble bleed circuit on Seymour Duncan’s website is a good one. It cleans up nice, but you don’t lose all your bottom end... I put them in all my guitars.. it works well on the clean sounds or with overdrive pedals....at least for playing Bluesrock or rockin roll.... takes some experimenting as others have said.......
  12. unfunnyclown

    unfunnyclown Member

    Dec 6, 2011
    In my experience, this works with a non-master volume amp or an amp with the master volume cranked, meaning a small amp is practical for most uses. I set it so that when I’m on the middle position of my tele with volume and tone around 7, it just starts to break up when I hit the strings hard with a pick. That way I can play clean by backing off the volume further, softening my pick attack, or using my fingers. And, if I turn up the volume or change my pickup selection, I get a gain boost, though I might still need a clean boost pedal for saturated sustain. The only downside of this approach is that, because I am using the middle position as home base for setting EQ on the amp, the bridge pickup can sound too bright in some applications, but that is easily fixed by rolling off the tone. For reference, I use an Orange Tiny Terror, and it works very well. I’ve gotten the best results through a Dr. Z Z-Wreck, but I can’t afford one.
    guff, JackfromAK and PurpleJesus like this.
  13. Kevy_Metal

    Kevy_Metal Member

    Jun 5, 2017
    The Crunch
    This works for some people, not for others. It depends on my setup, but I was turned onto using my guitar volume for (gritty) cleans with I fell in love with Fuzz Face-type pedals. It also works nicely for darker-sounding rhythm work under vocals, that way I'm not overpowering the singer (or other instruments), and then I can crank the volume for louder, brighter tones.
  14. sah5150

    sah5150 Member

    May 5, 2008
    Here is a short clip I put together of one of my amps. PLEASE NOTE - the heavy guitar fades out completely before I rolled down my volume and played clean...

    Henning Bottle Rocket Heavy and Guitar Volume Rolloff Clean Clip

    Both the clean and the heavy were recorded with the same settings on the amp, I just turned the volume down on the guitar to get the clean. The amp is set for a super high gain tone...

    Guitar had OX4 PAF clones in it. Overall amp volume was quite low - definitely not cranked. Amp has multiple masters...

    Seems to me you can get perfectly clean sounds with just guitar volume rolloff...

    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
  15. MKB

    MKB Silver Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2009
    IME the real trick with the volume control\cleans is having pickups that have some high end chime and treble response. However you can get around this with the treble bleed. Another way to get around it is to put a preamp in the guitar; get the humbucker into a high impedance non-varying load and the tone can get more consistent.

    If you have to turn your volume down to say 1-2 to get cleans, you probably have the amp gain too high for this trick to work. Volume control cleans work best with lower gain amps turned very loud. Also many high gain amps have a lot of treble rolloff to smooth the overdrive, that rolloff can also cause muddy cleans.
  16. Old Possum

    Old Possum Member

    Mar 13, 2019
    I just go with more palm mute and used girly fingers to pick.
  17. Old Possum

    Old Possum Member

    Mar 13, 2019
    You think this the mic sound in this video?
  18. Atmospheric

    Atmospheric Member

    Dec 5, 2005
    Newberg, OR
    If playing single coils, a treble bypass cap is essential.

    One amp that worked exceedingly well for me in this regard was the Scream channel on a Groove Tubes Soul-O 75.

    Most clean tones on record aren't as clean as people think they are. I can't play brutally clean tones. I need something rounding out the plain strings.
  19. Occam

    Occam Silver Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2004
    Oakland, Ca
    This is what I did for years in my band. I used single channel Matamp’s on 10 and even with high output, AlNiCo Bareknuckle’s I had really nice, clear cleans. It’s definitely not for every amp especially if you’re not willing to really crank it. Hendrix seemed to make it work as does Buzz from the Melvins.
  20. Stone Driver

    Stone Driver Silver Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2007
    Washington, D.C.
    Lot of great posts here; being a "guitar volume rider" for a while now below has been what works best for me in this regards (many duplicative to prior posts):

    1) Amp must be overdriven to be able to roll back to clean tones; certain amps seem to work better at this than others
    2) If amp isn't overdriven, use a overdrive and/or fuzz pedal that responds well to guitar volume knob adjustments (Mad Professor Sky Blue OD, Roger Mayer Voodoo 1, Maxon SD-9, Effectrode Mercury Fuzz, etc)
    3) Have a treble bleed kit in guitar (not 100% necessary in my experience though)
    4) To maintain more equal volume levels when riding the guitar volume from "mean to clean", try running an overdrive pedal before a compressor into a amp set cleanish. The comp will boost the cleans to a level more equal to the pedal overdrive tones when wide open.
    J Ehlers likes this.

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