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

classicplayer

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609
There’s a lot of good info in here. I’ll add that, counterintuitively, I’ve found a good compressor to work well to balance the levels and pump the clean up a bit.

I'll also add that you're better off with the guitar's volume a little higher and picking lightly, than you are lowering it down so it's squeaky clean when you're heavy handed. That's how you enter the mud zone. Clean it up, and don't forget about picking dynamics, as you would with any clean sound.
I can attest to this through the experiments in different guitar volume setting with my Les Paul's neck pickup. I tried some of the tips mentioned so far. If I start @ -+8 I can achieve my ideal amp gain tone at about 10. If I roll back to 8, it is not much less volume and there still is a hint of breakup, but if I pick more lightly, my tone gets close to “clean”.....but not squeaky sparkling clean. If I I start between 6 to 7, my result is a darker clean and not distinct. If I tweak my amp to comp compensate, then roll up to crunch, it means I may be too loud for the room. This scenario will vary from guitar to guitar, so my results pertain only to me. The overall goal remains the same and that is to achieve a good useable drive and a clean tone just by using the guitar's volume and tone controls. The other variable is your own definition of clean. For many it will be an amp just slightly breaking up and borderline crunch. Others won't be happy with that and wonder what they are doing wrong.


classicplayer
 
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195
yup, compression is key - and this means power tube drive, so :
- high gain amps (mostly preamp distortion) in general don't clean up well.
A cranked Plexi or AC, on the other hand, make it easy as pie.
- you do NOT need a treble bleed (let's call it optional).
vintage guitars did not bleed...
the secret is in fact amazingly simple :
you do NOT dial in your amp with dimed guitar pots !
set up a solid clean / light crunch tone with the neck PU @ 6 / 6 (vol / tone). next dial in the bridge PU (on the guitar) to match the neck (you'll probably end up around 8 / 5 or thereabouts).
THIS will be your home base from now on. :idea
now you'll suddenly have a built-in boost (plus an optional treble boost) on the guitar, for fills, lead etc !
use your pots to fine tune as needed.
just remember to go back to your new homebase for rhythm.
many players like to add a very mild trebly boost / OD in front, for a 2nd, slightly more aggressive gain structure when needed, the workflow with the pots remains identical.

I used a Gibson style guitar with 2x vol / 2x tone as example, but the exact same principle works with any other guitar as well, you might need to use the pots a bit more when switching, that's all.

back in the 60s and 70s everybody worked that way, as pedals, master volumes and other toys had not fallen from the trees yet. :dunno

lol,
Rhino
This is wisdom. This is almost exactly what I was going to write so I’m glad I read your post first. The last thing you wanna do if you wanna play like this is dial in your tone with the volume and tone knob on 10. Besides why would you wanna trap yourself in a corner like that. I know at first it may be hard to do because you may be so used to dialing your tone one way but there are so many new tones you will find. And richer more dynamic tones. I couldn’t imagine going back to dialing in an amp that way again. With a great amp and guitar in the right hands you can sound like you have a slew of overdrive pedals just by using the guitar controls and your touch. I also recommend using underwound humbuckers like a paf. Single coils are outstanding for this type of playing but a Les Paul,SG or 335 with paf style pups can be very dynamic also. Volume is key too. You want the power section working but you don’t want the preamp overly compressed. I do find that vintage single channel NMV amps are ideal for this but there are some great boutique amps out there today with killer MV’s. But you will usually pay for them. Also don’t forget about your fingers. If you play the blues, classic rock or any type of playing that requires dynamics it’s almost imperative to learn this. And it’ll make you a much more soulful, emotive type player once you begin to master it
 

dirtandstones

Member
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1,072
How I do it when I’m in the position to need to do it: Put your guitar volume around 7 and tone somewhere around 7-max. This is your base setup on the guitar. Set your amp up clean with an EQ you like with the guitar in this configuration . Now, as you pump up the volume on your guitar to get more dirt/gain you just have to compensate for that brightness with your tone knob.
 

Tone_Terrific

Supporting Member
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31,462
If you want a distorted sound that's the same volume as your clean sound, it's not going to work.
This^ seems
Nat - the only difference between the heavy tone and the clean tone in that clip is the roll-off of the volume on my guitar. I would never make that claim if it weren't true. Not one setting on the amp was changed
The apparent level is quite similar in the clip.
How did that compare in real time in the room?
 

gigs

Member
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10,867
One of the problems that guy encounter is they get used to running the guitar volume wide open all of the time.
I usually run mine on 7 or 8. That gives me the option to go both up and down.

As far as your tone getting muddy, you need a bypass circuit to eliminate that issue.
Exactly. My guitar volume rarely goes over 8, no matter which guitar.
 

kafka

Member
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1,694
One of the problems that guy encounter is they get used to running the guitar volume wide open all of the time.
I usually run mine on 7 or 8. That gives me the option to go both up and down.

As far as your tone getting muddy, you need a bypass circuit to eliminate that issue.
This. I usually set up so most of my playing is in the 5-8 range. There's a lot of spit and grizzle when the guitar volume is on 10. If I were to set the amp so it tames this, then it would be too muddy if I got it down to 5 or lower. But if the amp is set up so it's right when the guitar is in the middle of the knob, then much more of it is useful.

An alternative is to get a volume knob on your guitar that goes to 11. Because if you're on 10 all the time, and that's the top, then where can you go? Nowhere.
 
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Mark Robinson

Gold Supporting Member
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8,305
If I’m allowed to play loud as shite, it works great. But with my required volume varying a lot. It’s just not my preference at all. I like two channels, one pretty clean pretty loud, one just a bit dirty, and I do work the volume either on the guitar or with a less darkening volume pedal. Then I affect the grit of either channel, with overdrive and compression, octave fuzz, and then I can deliver a nice variety of sounds, any of which can be tailored to specifically fit where needed. But of course I love volume and prefer it generally. But you have to get along, or run your own deafening show. There are many ways to be heard.
I have an AC30, it’s really easy to hear. I like to slave it off of an my equipped Marshall/Friedman. On its own it’s old school LAF.
 

Geetarpicker

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2,834
I’ll mention a few things I don’t think have been brought up here. On some humbucking guitars even though there may be some high end loss when you back the guitar down, IF you keep bringing the volume down even further the highs actually return. On my old Les Pauls the guitars are definitively bringhter on 3-4 vs 6-7 for example. This may be a side effect of 50s wiring, not sure there. That said, when running my Les Paul into a Trainwreck Express running MORE gain can actually help the clean tone. Why? Because then the volumes will be lowered even more for cleans, down further where the high end loss really doesn’t occur. This also makes treble bleeds not even needed at all.

Also the volume pots can IMHO make or break the ease of which one may be able to quickly dial up a clean tone. My favorite pots in this regard are vintage Centralab audio taper, like one finds in 50s and early 60s Gibson’s. They have a unique taper that is quite a bit different than most modern “audio taper” pots. The only modern pots I’ve found that come close to these are VIPots.

GK
 
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Geetarpicker

Member
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2,834
Here is a (rather old, sorry!) video where I demonstrate the clean to dirty range of a Les Paul into a Trainwreck Express. No treble bleed used, no pedals at all. Notice how the tone controls also nicely scoop the mids on the clean tones, further improving the cleanup ability of the amp. After the first min of the video skip further to the middle where I more fully demonstrate the clean to dirty range. GK

 
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9,012
tldr: It only really works in a cranked amp

.. with some ability for headroom. Very few bedroom amps I've heard do this well.

I find the sweet spot on the amp at a given volume with my guitar's volumes on 7 or so. At that point, if I'm digging in with the pick I'm getting some crunch, and if I'm picking light it's reasonably clean but usually still has some hair on it.

From there, if I roll back volume, to say 4 or 5, I'm lessening the compression, as @Tootone says, without trading off volume much at all -- plus, cleaner tones cut better was well, which helps. The sound will still not be perfectly clean, but it sure as hell will chime if you've got a decent amp and/or dial in breath with your treble.

The key to working it like this is having an amp with some headroom, and having a broad sweet-spot to play with (a narrow sweet-spot will go from grindy to anemic pretty quickly as you back off volume). The louder you can run your amp cleanish, the better this approach works.

This works better on the bridge than the neck pickup, for obvious reasons.

And the 800-lb gorilla in the room is picking technique. How hard or soft you pick, and where you pick, is a big part of this.
 

vortexxxx

Supporting Member
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10,020
I'm not a fan of treble bleeds as I can hear something almost like a texture in the sound. I wire most of my guitars using the 50s wiring method. It doesn't get muddy as you roll down the volume but there is a bit of interaction with the pots. It may be something you like or not. I use the interaction for more flexibility in sound.
Interestingly, I've only started playing this way this year. For example the 2 amps I was using most last were an Orange Dual Terror with upgraded transformers (more headroom). I don't always set the gain and volume to 10 but this is just an example. With 50s wiring, I can hear the guitar with the guitar's volume knob set to 1 1/2. That is my clean tone. It can actually sound loud because once you turn up to 10 on your guitar you are introducing compression and a different eq while it overdrives the preamp and power section.
Another amp I've been doing this with is my Mesa Mark V 90. It can be quite clean dimed on all of its channels while the guitar is at 1.5. Depending on the channel you get slight variations of what I described.
The first time I noticed this bigtime live was at a Black Sabbath concert. Tony Iommi rides the controls constantly and can get cleans like some of the instrumental interludes on the Sabbath albums by rolling down the volume. It was extremely noticeable as I had front row seats by Iommi and near me was the PA. He would only turn up his guitar to 10 for certain dramatic parts but it was very noticeable due to being so close to the PA, I would get blasted by the extra volume.
 

Lephty

Member
Messages
1,528
I never found the volume knob super useful for this purpose either, and I think it's because I always just used my amp (a DeVille, usually) as a clean "pedal platform," getting my overdrives from pedals. Seems to me that the volume knob thing really works when you're pushing an amp to where it breaks up naturally. Unfortunately I am not interested in playing that loud.

Interestingly, I've been playing through a Helix lately, and because I can crank up the "virtual" amps in the Helix for some breakup, I find that I can really get my tones to clean up when I back off the volume knob. In 35 years of playing, this is the first time I've really been able to make use of it. It's fantastic.
 
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Gibson Dog

Silver Supporting Member
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1,399
I've been playing like this since 1980 , for 15 years my rig was my 76' metal panel 50 watt (I think it's a 2204) > mxr distortion plus into either a boss od-1 or a maxon OD & that's it. I have never thought about it & have no idea what pots or caps or whatever are in any of my guitars. It has never been a problem to roll the volume back & have a great clean tone. It wasn't a Fender clean but it was close & clean enough. Now it's WAY easier get a DryBell Unit67, roll the volume back & kick that on = Fender cleans maybe even better than Fender cleans it's a lot more full sounding for Rock n' Roll IMO.
 
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9,012
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.
Drummers. I blame drummers.
 
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1,331
Thanks guys for all the responses. There is a wealth of information on this thread! I will certainly try dialing in my amp with the volume and tone rolled back a bit. Mainly, though, I’m looking forward to trying a treble bleed. After hearing some clips, it sounds exactly like what I’m looking for.
 




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