Double Varitone: A Two-Headed Tone Control

I was kind of stoked about my latest wiring experiment: a “double Varitone” scheme I installed in my DIY “Kitschcaster.” I’ve written about these multi-capacitor tone switches a lot on this site, but this is the first time I’ve tried using a similar scheme to cut bass frequencies. The result is a lot like the G&Ls “PTB” circuit (covered here and at Premier Guitar), but with adjustable treble-cut and adjustable bass-cut.

The reason I say I was kind of stoked is, just as I was preparing this post, some fascinating marketing materials appeared in my comments queue. A manufacturer uploaded a barrage of marketing copy about his product, a prefab pickup-switching system. I visited the product site, and learned the most amazing thing: Unlike most of the stuff I write about here, his product can actually get you laid! No way can the double Varitone do that! Here’s how the product works:

Okay, here’s the original post from Th0mas:

Want Guitar Upgrades that give You Incredible pickup tones “to die for.”

We have high performance upgrades for your Stratocaster, Telecaster and other brands that will give you all of the pickup tones that are silently “hiding” in your electric guitar or bass. Now you can get more pickup tones from your stock instruments.

Recent customer comments:

* “Can’t put this guitar down, definitely different. I like it.”
* “Amazing tones from this switch! Love it!”
* “After installing this upgrade in my Stratocaster, I stayed up all night playing it.”

Here is what Merle Haggard’s guitarist Redd Volkaert says on his website at
(click his “Hot Links” choice to see his comments about AweSome-Guitars products)

What You Get

Our Easy-Install upgrade products Give You Amazing Tones Without Changing Your Pickups. This is like an artist finding several dozen more colors of paint to work with. After upgrading, your six strings will never sound the same.

Do you want the ultimate guitar with ALL the possible pickup tones you can get? Our upgrades will let you break out of “pickup tone prison” and Free You from those puny few pickup tones your instrument manufacturer gave you.

Now you can get a Grand Canyon Wide range of pickup tones on your upgraded guitar. You can get:
Blues, Jazz, Metal, Surf, intense Country Twang, Glass-Shattering pickup tones that will punch out windows at 30 paces…

as well as give you the Signature Sound of every Guitar God since the 1940s.

Stop sounding exactly like millions of wannabes. Get incredible pickup tones that NOBODY has ever heard before. Get unique Signature Tones that you own.

Our career-boosting high-performance Pickup Switch Upgrade™ products and electric guitars will give you the ultimate “Holy Crap” experience!

Check us out now. Get an edge with the greatest electric guitar and bass upgrades ever to be created in the last 100 years.

Wow — the greatest in 100 years? That’s impressive, since we didn’t even have electric guitar 100 years ago. Naturally I visited the site, where I encountered even more extraordinary details. (This is long, but it’s sooooo worth it.)


Incredible New Discovery: Your Hidden Pickup Tones May Have Seductive and Aphrodisiac Qualities

Detroit, Michigan, April 1, 2013

Here is a very exciting story that all guitar players (and builders) will find interesting.

Just released – A new discovery that finds many of the hidden pickup tones in your electric guitar appear to have a seductive and aphrodisiac-like effect on audience females.


Numerous customers of our Pickup Switch UpgradeTM products are reporting that all the previously hidden pickup tones – to which they now have access after their upgrade – appear to be exerting a noticeable seductive and aphrodisiac-like effect on the women in their audience. They say those extra new pickup tones are clearly having a noticeable and positive effect on the mood of many female patrons by making them more attentive as well as putting smiles on their faces.

We originally dismissed the initial customer reports about this observation as fanciful. But constantly increasing customer comments was compelling enough for us to take a much closer look at this effect.

This white paper is the result of this preliminary investigation. Although deliberately short, it contains a summary of these reports, looks at the reasons for this effect, and tells you how you can benefit from this incredible new discovery.


It is a scientific fact that color and sound can affect people both physically and emotionally. Regarding color, in 1979 professor Alexander Schauss conducted an experiment where subjects were gazing at a piece of cardboard painted with a certain shade of pink. This was found to physically weakened even strong men. Soon after publishing his findings, many day care centers, psychological wards and locker rooms of visiting football teams were painted with what became known as “drunk tank pink” – because it was also used on the holding cells by police stations where they put the drunks being held overnight.

Drunk tank pink is an example of the unexpected hidden influences – in this case color – that subtly shape the way we see, think, feel and act. The color red is another example of the influence of color. Red affects the part of the brain that responds to color by increasing heart rates and blood flow. This also reveals just how often our thoughts and actions are unknowingly hijacked by color and sound.

Likewise, the scientist community recognizes that music is a specialized language that can readily influence others. The right music can make you happy, angry, sad, and can produce many other emotions on demand.

Guys like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Luther Vandross, and numerous other singers have caused women to “swoon” with just with the tone of their voices. Although this is not a new observation, nobody has ever taken a closer look at exactly WHY these singers had this profound effect on women.

After guitarist George Ward upgraded an inexpensive Squier Stratocaster with one of our products he made a startling new discovery. He said that when he uses several of the “hidden” pickup tones that are not available using the stock 5-way switch – and when these pickup tones are used in a sentimental music context (e.g., Moonlight in Vermont vs. Jumping Jack Flash) – it has a romantically erotic and seductive effect on women. Further, they seem to be spellbound by this effect.

He noticed that before upgrading his guitar, the hallway outside his condo door had little traffic while playing his guitar. After the upgrade, there was a constant parade of women walking back and forth while he was using those hidden pickup tones combined with sentimental music.

Switching back to one of the factory stock tones caused the opposite gender foot traffic to dissipate. When he alternated several times (using the stock pickup tones, then using the hidden pickup tones) with the same result, he concluded that this effect is both repeatable and predictable. Based on this observation, George said, “This incredible upgrade has turned my guitar into a ‘chick magnet’.”

It seems that these hidden pickup tones can both grab attention as well as create a certain mood with women in the audience – a result that cannot be achieved with the factory stock guitar pickup tones. It’s like having a dog’s ears “go up” when they hear a certain sound that instantly grabs their attention.

It’s The Combination!

It appears that Mr. Ward has identified two of the three key components; sentimental music and hidden (i.e., different) pickup tones – body language is the third component – that when combined produces a subtle romantic and seductive mood that most factory stock guitar pickup tones cannot duplicate.

The common denominator of this effect involves using any one of the numerous hidden pickup tones. And when one of these hidden pickup tones are combined with a sentimental music context (i.e., Moonlight in Vermont Vs. Jumping Jack Flash), it appears to have a seductive and aphrodisiac-like influence on all of the women in the audience. This effect is something that anyone can easily verify and observe by using the right hidden pickup tones on their upgraded instrument along with any music with a sentimental flavor.

The Reason for This Difference

The obvious question to ask is, “Why don’t the factory ‘stock’ pickup tones also produce this effect?”

It turns out that over the last 40 years, the same boring three or five factory stock pickup tones have been used by virtually all of the manufacturers to offer the same tones as the competitors. These same pickup tones have been used for decades by millions of players. Even worse, everyone has heard these same dull pickup tones both on stage, as well as on the radio/CD/whatever for so long that they are no longer moved by them.

Since the early 1940s, all of the smart guitar gods (Les Paul, Neil Young, Jimmy Page, John Cipollina, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Carlos Santana and many others) heavily upgraded their guitars – with some of their instruments containing a “forest” of mini toggle switches. And they didn’t upgrade their guitars to look cool; they did it because it gave them a career boosting edge with unique and hidden pickup tones that no one else had – pickup tones that immediately put them on the fast track to fame.

The entire catalog of Les Paul’s musical instruments that were auctioned off after his passing contained no less than four hundred heavily modified electric guitar and bass instruments personally upgraded by him during his several decades long career. You have to know that he made these upgrades to give him a clear market edge with unique tones. There is lesson here for people who understand.

These guitar gods no doubt also noticed the subtle seductive effect these new tones had on the women in their audiences; an observation they understandably were not willing to readily share with others. By keeping this finding secret, they had a unique and exclusive advantage that turned audience females into fans and customers – getting a big edge on their competitors who were clueless about this benefit.

Even the smart female performers can benefit by having their band members upgrade their guitars and exploit this discovery to attract additional female fans in a way that they never thought possible.

Going Viral?

As everyone learns of this incredible new discovery – and the astonishing potential that these additional hidden pickup tones offer – it will change everything forever. And the changes this discovery brings will be something that smart electric guitar and bass manufacturers simply cannot afford to ignore.

As a guitarist, having access to several dozen new and unique pickup tones gives you an incredible edge in today’s fiercely competitive market. How can you stand out and be different if you have the exact same three or five anemic pickup tones as millions of wannabes? Put simply, you can’t!

Our incredible upgrade products give you access to ALL of the additional pickup tones that have been silently hiding in your instrument. You can combine these fresh new pickup tones with sentimental tunes to project an enhanced romantic mood – one that can give you new fans and paying customers.

Our Pickup Switch UpgradeTM products focus on what everyone else is overlooking:

  • Pioneering an easy-to-use, high-performance replacement of antiquated pickup switches
  • Offering a new 21st century pickup switch standard to benefit customers and manufacturers
  • Giving everyone access to more pure analog pickup tone power than any imitator can offer
  • Discovering that hidden pickup tones appear to have seductive aphrodisiac-like qualitiesOur insanely great products give all electric guitar players incredible new benefits. They will let you break out of your “Pickup Tone Prison” and find your unique signature sound. Now you can have an exciting impact on your audience by influencing them in a positive and profitable way. Our simple and innovative upgrade products put the control in the right place – at the end of your fingertips.

When you have access to more pickup tones, it’s like starting with a crayon box with only 8 colors and then getting a box with 128 colors to be more creative. Once you install our amazing upgrades, you simply cannot go back to your stock tones because all these new tones are like a “Tone Drug.” Our upgrade products give you access to all of those hidden pickup tones to transform your upgraded guitar into a chick magnet. This is truly an incredible leap forward for all guitar players and manufacturers.

More Supporting Evidence

Scientists acknowledge that music has a certain influence over our emotions and thoughts. Here is a general definition of sentimental.

sen·ti·men·tal [sen-tuh-men-tl] adjective

Expressive of or appealing to sentiment, especially the tender emotions and feelings, as love, pity, or nostalgia: a sentimental song.

In taking a close look at Frank Sinatra (aka: the chairman of the board), you can see that virtually EVERY hit song had a “sentimental context.” And that – plus the “tone” of his voice – was the secret to his success. Think I’m kidding? Here are some of his best songs. It is you decide if our upgrade products plus a sentimental music context has strong merit to put your flailing career into orbit.

A Foggy Day [In London Town]

All Or Nothing At All
All The Things You Are
All The Way
Angel Eyes
April In Paris
Autumn In New York
Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered
But Beautiful
But Not For Me
Dancing On The Ceiling
Darn That Dream
East Of The Sun
Easy To Love
Fly Me To The Moon
Fools Rush In
Getting Sentimental Over You
Ghost Of A Chance
Here’s That Rainy Day
How Do You Keep The Music Playing?
How High The Moon
Old Blue Eyes
I Concentrate On You
I Get A Kick Out Of You
I Won’t Danc
I’ll Get By
I’ll Never Smile Again
I’ll Take Manhattan
I’m A Fool To Want You
It Had To Be You
Lady is A Tramp
Moonlight In Vermont
More Than You Know
My Old Flame
New York, New York
Night And Day
One For My Baby
Polk-A-Dots And Moonbeams Stardust
Strangers In The Night
That’s Life
The Song Is You
What’s New
Where Or When
You Go To My Head
You’ve Changed

Although you can also create your own sentimental songs, some other “sentimental” songs include:

Moonlight In Vermont
My Foolish Heart
Our Love Is Here To Stay
Prisoner of Love
Moon River
Try A Little Tenderness

To get an idea of how some of these sentimental song standards sound on guitar, go to John Amato’s website at:

Do You Believe This?

Music is also used to influence the length of time that you stay in a mall. Stores that target older shoppers play “elevator” type music at a lower volume, while stores that target a younger age group will use more upbeat music played at a higher volume. This is deliberately done to enhance the likelihood that shoppers will stay and spend more money in that store. If music did not affect a person’s mood, they would either play the same music in every store, or would not play music at all.

During the Christmas season people listen to Christmas music at the mall. This helps them stay in that state of euphoria all month long and brings them back to happy memories of when they were children who still believed in the miracle of Santa Clause – singing songs of eggnog, mistletoe, candy canes, and snow – while deliberately increasing the likelihood of staying longer and spending more money.

Music is a complex acoustic and temporal structure that induces a large variety of emotional responses in listeners. Put simply, music can affect a person’s behavior and mood. Scientific investigations show that basic human emotions; such as adulation, happiness, anger, fear and sadness can be created by musical stimuli. This also reveals just how often our thoughts and actions are deliberately seized and taken over by others using subtle tone and color “cues” for manipulative and agenda-driven purpose. Now that you are aware, you also can use this insight to deliberately influence people in a subtle way.

Some Additional Facts

The ongoing erosion of the guitar’s dominant clout by new trend genres like dance, electronica, techno pop, rap and hip-hop is putting pressure on smarter guitar players to get a defining edge on everyone else. In addition, the influx of millions of new wannabe players is glutting an already crowded market.

In the last decade, the guitar and bass player market has become crowded with more players (and wannabes) than ever before. These are hard times, with everyone struggling with shrinking gigs, lower pay rates and fewer recording contracts. How can you stand out and be different if you have the exact same puny few three or five pickup tones as millions of other people?

To ensure your survival as a professional guitarist, you want something that makes you “different” in an increasingly crowded guitar player market. And now more than ever, you need to have something that will help you tower above the crowd to sound Better, Unique and Different. Don’t you agree?

Are you one of those really smart players who can see the value of standing out from everyone else and sounding Truly Unique?

A recent psychological study conducted by the University de Bretagne-Sud in France concluded that “Women are attracted to men with guitars.” Although this study is insightful, you also need to have the right upgrade products on your instrument to influence female audience attendees. Our Pickup Switch UpgradeTM products will give you this game-changing and attention-getting difference in spades.

Even the “F” company gives legitimacy to parallel/series pickup configurations with their S1 switch. But their switching system will only gives you no more than 10 pickup tones, and is unlike our high performance Pickup Switch UpgradeTM products that will give you all the pickup tones ever created.

Our upgrade products will give you performance that is light years ahead of any wimpy and obsolete “custom shop” instrument. So why would you want to upgrade your instruments with our products?

Put Simply: To get a HUGE edge in the already overcrowded and fiercely competitive player market.

A customer recently asked us which pickup tones are the ideal ones to use. We cannot give them a direct answer because everyone is using different pickups. In addition, pickup “tone” is a matter of personal preference that only you can define. You must upgrade your instrument and then experiment to see which specific tone(s) produce the desired effect.

Who We Are

AweSome Musical Instruments has a growing family of over 50 ultra high performance patented Pickup Switch UpgradeTM products that will give you access to all of the additional pickup tones that are silently hiding in your electric guitar or bass. These incredible products will let you upgrade almost 200 Fender electric guitar and bass models, as well as models of all other manufacturers, to give you up to 76 pure analog pickup tones from your stock instruments.

Your upgraded guitar will give you the sounds of all those guitar gods of every headliner group since the 1940s. Now you can have it all on one guitar: Blues, Jazz, Metal, Surf, Country and more.

These incredible 21st century upgrade products are proudly made in the U.S.A. – and they will give you amazing tones without changing your pickups.

Get more information about these amazing products at: ”Our products are the Swiss Army Knife of pickup tones.”

We’re not just light years ahead of everyone; we are completely in the next galaxy.

And now the first U.S. Company to offer 3D printed guitars.

(Permission is granted to distribute this document unaltered.)

Damn, was I impressed! I might have been skeptical, but you can’t argue with science. I have a few questions, though:

1. Does this present a potential problem for heterosexual female guitarists? Do they have to fend off a lot of unwanted attention from other women? I’m not saying that in an anti-lesbian way or anything. I just mean in case they’re not into other chicks.

2. Say I’m a guy who digs guys. Is there any trick that can make it work the other way? Maybe like a phase-reverse switch, or something? Does it work with transgendered women? What about ultra-feminine gay guys?

3. How about on a left-handed guitar? Will that lure only dominant women? What about a reverse-strung righty? (I don’t mean to split hairs here, but I’d by lying if I said I didn’t foresee potential complications.)

4. Any advice for metal and punk players who may not know the changes to “Moonlight in Vermont?” Do you need to play a complete chord-melody arrangement to achieve the desired effect? Or would it be enough if you just learned the melody from tab? Is it okay to use distortion? Can I still scoop my mids?

5. You emphasize that it’s the “hidden sounds” that produce the effect. In your experience, are some more effective than others, or are all the non-standard settings equally potent? (If a few are particularly useful, I can imagine a “light” version of your product, with fewer wiring permutations, but an emphasis on the most advantageous ones. You can use that idea if you like — no charge!)

6. Does it work with any sentimental music? Or just “Great American Songbook” numbers from the ’30s and ’40s? Have you tried it with sentimental non-jazz numbers, like “Beth” by Kiss, or Bobby Goldsboro’s “Watching Scotty Grow?” (I know both of those.)

7. What would happen if you made an impulse response of one of your “hidden” settings, and then ran a conventional tone through it so the spectrum matches your product? Is that a plausible workaround, or does it have to be analog?

8. How do dropped tunings affect the results? Do they attract chunkier chicks? How about when you play with a capo?

9. What effect does pickup height have? Is the effect stronger when the pickups are closer to the strings?

10. What about pickup output? Do pickups with a stronger magnetic pull exert, um, a stronger magnetic pull? (I’d assume so, but I figure it’s worth checking with an expert.)

11. What if my “target audience” doesn’t like sentimental music? Say she’s really into Throbbing Gristle and Sunn O))). Will it still work? Will it make her a jazz fan?

12. What happens after your invention becomes a hit? Will it still be possible to distinguish oneself after every other schmo has unlocked those “hidden” sounds? Will there be enough women to heed the call?

Wait, I almost forgot!

13. Some people online say you never really hear your guitar at its best until you put in $100 capacitors. Other people say all caps sound the same. So my question for you is: Do you know where I can buy some of those $100 caps?

I imagine you may have questions of your own, dear readers. Feel free to post them to comments.

Awesome as it is, a double Varitone is unlikely to improve your sex life.

Awesome as it is, a double Varitone is unlikely to improve your sex life.

42 comments to Double Varitone: A Two-Headed Tone Control

  • smgear

    Joe’s Double Varitone
    – Adds inches your tone
    – Extends solos by several minutes

  • NotSoFast

    Putting the capo anywhere above the 7th fret is statutory rape in 13 states. Isis has their capos at the 22nd fret on guitar’s so equipped.

  • Preston

    Delicious questions begging to be answered by the ‘ahem’ scientific community….

  • Oinkus

    Some world class insanity there ! The double varitone is pretty dern neat Joe , there are a lot of nice sounds in there. My only issue is I would find the so called “best” setting for me and just use that all the time. I have a tendency to stick with what pleases MY ear and use it to beat the dead horse eternally. Don’t have a Varitone or PTB in any of my guitars , that just makes me jealous!

  • I'd do anything to try it, but I can't find a $300 battery 🙁

  • JarJar Buttons

    “Moonlight in Vermont Vs. Jumping Jack Flash” is my new favorite song, sentimental or otherwise. I’m also thrilled–and very thankful–to learn that creating my own sentimental songs is permitted!

  • Bebah Palulah

    It’s kinda like full time woman-tone variations.

  • Bebah Palulah

    I was going to do everyone a favor and keep the pedantic putz remarks to myself, but… I guess I can’t help it.

    I presume you wired this like a PTB except without the adjustment pots, and the booster input hangs off the end of the bass cut cap? To my ears it sounds more resonant when the booster is not engaged. What does everyone else think?

  • Sebastian Enriquez

    How cool! I’ll be a rockstar AND a pornstar, what else can I ask? I’m going to do the best investment in my life.
    BTW, Joe, have you ever though about an active Varitone? Not only with cut but with boost.

  • soggybag

    I have been wanting to try the PTB but have had trouble finding the right pot. Joe to the rescue! I have two pole 5 position switch already. What cap values do you recommend?

    • joe

      For the bass pot, experiment with these values (in ascending value): .001µF, .0022µF, .0033µF, .0047µF, .0068µF, .01µF. And it’s nice to leave one slot empty, so you get a maximum-brightness, cap-bypass sound at one extreme.

  • soggybag

    Just taking a stab at figuring out what you have here. I’m guessing the Bass tone switch uses a 1M resistor and cap pair, in parallel, at each position. The switch is wired between the output and the signal coming off the treble tone control.

    Looking at the PTB tone circuit I’m looking at this as the PTB with the pot all the way up, but using you’re using a different value cap at position. With one position bypassing the whole thing.

    • joe

      Hiya Mitchell — happy holidays! Yes, you are exactly right. I think I used 4.7M resistors, but anything 1M or over should get the job done. Adding those resistors totally nixes the clicks. In fact, my funky homemade bass varitone is quieter than the nice ToneStyler. (Thanks to my PG pal Dirk Wacker for that idea.)

  • earache

    Should any girls I attract by this method be henceforth known as “pickup chicks”?

  • Matt Price

    I’m a little concerned that the section of the press release after picking up chicks is entitled “Going Viral.” I guess that’s the danger of the rock and roll lifestyle though.

  • Mixolyd

    Hey Joe: keep the awesome vids coming: your gospel is gradually seeping into my slow musical brain!

    Two thoughts:

    1. Could the bass cut be used to give an es335 style guitar the cutting clean sound necessary for certain styles of funk? I guess it would still lack a little for snap but could do a job.

    2. Have you thought about using the acoustic sound of a semi hollow, either via mic’ing or (crazy, I know) installing an acoustic pickup/mic combo? This would allow use of the deliciously funky, trebly acoustic sound of these guitars in loops and also allow for percussive thumping on the guitar itself to make drum loops. I reckon the sound could work great in lo-fi looping as a compliment to the humbucking tones. Maybe I should get my old sm58 out…

    • joe

      Hi Mixolyd — thanks a zillions for the nice words.

      1. Could the bass cut be used to give an es335 style guitar the cutting clean sound necessary for certain styles of funk? I guess it would still lack a little for snap but could do a job.

      Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! It’s PERFECT for that!

      2. Have you thought about using the acoustic sound of a semi hollow, either via mic’ing or (crazy, I know) installing an acoustic pickup/mic combo?

      Miking semi-acoustic guitars can sound awesome. I originally had a demo (using my Trini Lopez) on this site. Then I took it down to repurpose it for a magazine article. And then the magazine went under. And I can’t find the original. Argh!

      But it can work great. (And it’s not a new idea — check out, for example, Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing,” with its miked solidbody electric.) I’ve never tried mounting a pickup or pickup system designed for acoustic inside an electric. But it’s a super-interesting idea.

    • Early to mid Flaming Lips albums often featured a few mellow songs where it was pretty apparent that Wayne was miking his Harmony Rocket. I owned a Harmony H-76 at the time and could get the exact same sound. It would be neat to capture that through the amp, I agree! I once recorded a solo on a close miked solid body electric guitar (a Fender Lead II i believe), for the weakness and fragility of the tone. It was a very weepy song!

  • Martin B

    I wonder if Captain Beefheart’s Moonlight on Vermont would have the same effect? Not exactly sentimental, but the changes are a little easier…

  • Hofner59

    Thanks again for another fascinating post.

    I’ve been looking at your PTB post, and various Vari-Tone Youtube vids, as I have a Dean Colt on the way (ES-137-alike semi-hollow), which comes with a piezo bridge as standard.
    I’m not mad on the piezo tones from the demo vid, and am considering ‘re-purposing’ the hole for the mini-toggle switch for the piezo, with something which adds some versatility (volume for each pickup, conventional treble-cut tone, plus something else).

    Very interested in your response to the post about thinning out a 335 for funk tones – which would do this better – a bass-cut Varitone, or the PTB with a well-chosen cap value?

    All the best for the season,


    • joe

      Hi Hofner! Wow, great question! Obviously, the more caps, the greater the number of possible variations. But if I could only have a rotary-switch varitone or fixed-value toggles, I might go the latter route. Partly tha’st about how I use tone controls (i.e., in the same few ways over and over). Partly it’s because I don’t really like any of the available rotary switches (they feel clunky and aren’t exactly easy to manipulate quickly). Whereas the toggle arrangement gets you to your favorite sounds almost instantly. I’ve got a system like that on my Birdmaster guitar, but it wasn’t installed when I recorded this demo. (I’ve been meaning to demo the new system, but just haven’t gotten around to it.) However, it’s exactly as described in Project #3 in this Premier Guitar article.

  • Hofner59

    Thanks for your reply, Joe. I hadn’t really looked at mod 3 on the PG Article, which does offer the bonus of retaining the toggle switch that comes in that position in the standard guitar.

    The PG article recommends 0.0033 (332) and 0.0015 (152) mF values, which sit either side of the 0.0022 mF (222) cap you favoured with the 500K pot in the PTB demo.

    I’ll keep an eye out for a demo as you mention: as this is not a guitar where I can simply unscrew a cover or remove a loaded scratchplate to swap out a component (the whole loom has to come out…), I want to get the right cap values first time if possible – it’s either that or have:

    i) the single most useable ‘blendable value’ on a pot or
    ii) a wider range of values to choose from (say 152, 222 and 332, the three recommended for bass cuts in the PG article plus a ‘no-cut’ option),

    which takes us back to either the PTB or rotary switch options.

    Ultimately, it’s going to be a question of hearing something I like, and choosing that.

    All the best,


  • Benjamin

    Well, this whole varitone-gets-you-laid thing is good news, but in my experience, chicks dig guys who know how to solder, so with a DIY varitone, can I get multiple chicks?

    I’m already planning to try that down-tuning idea Joe, but what I want to know is if I use a varitone with a high-pass that drops out everything under 20k, will I attract a bunch of…umm…female dogs?

    As a side note, I played one of the Epi Wilshire Phant-o-matics in a shop the other day and I really dug the notch/bass cut varitone they put in there. It’s actually what brought me to Tonefiend today to check out all the varitone rantings.

    Also, I’m a straight dude, but thanks your for your consistent support and consideration of the LGBT+ community.

  • Kirk

    I have an Epi LP Baritone that I’d like to install your bass/treble cout mod into. What value caps would you suggest for use with the Baritone’s lower native frequencies?

  • Misa

    Hello mr Gore

    I write here for the first time. I am a pedal builder with over 5 years of experience behind me. Mostly i’ve done clones for myself and my friends, but i have also successfully sold lots of pedals.

    I’ve also modded all of my guitars with different mods.

    Today, for the first time i’ve tried varitone circuit. My caps range from 1nf to 560nf.

    And they only work when the tone pot is all the way down. There is no difference between 4 and 10. So i am thinking of using a 25 k pot. Maybe log would be the best choice here.

    Do you have any advice?

    ps my guitar is sg, 13-56 strings, tuned from B to B. Varitone is used on tone pot of neck pickup, which is Bill Lawrence S1. Tone pot is 500 k

  • Misa

    So i’ve actually fixed it. But in a different way.

    I’ve used a almost Lucille wiring. Pretty standard wiring, vol pot ( with treble bleed ( 0.022 uf, 100 k resistor ), tone pot ( with 0.03 uF ) and out of the middle lug of vol pot goes to vari tone, inductorless. Now this is a much more versatile instrument that it was before. Single coil neck pickup with vari tone and active emg 81 like in bridge position. Middle position of the pickup selector gives quite an interesting tone. Especially when tonebender mk2 is used. And i must say that i like big caps a lot. A lot. Jazzy sound can be achieved with 0.1 uF, but 0.56 uF gives almost precision bass sound. Really useful and interesting. I wonder how would 3.3 uF fare here … I couldn’t notice any difference between 0.001 uf and 0.01 uf. So i guess 0.00047 uF will take place of 0.001 uF.

    Next possible mod, if it can be called a mod, is to try and wire tone pot like Leo Fender did on G and L ASAT,

    Inspiration for Lucille type wiring came from great late King. And i have done it last night. I woke up this morning to find out that he has passed away. 🙁

  • Hi Joe,
    your blog is always inspiring me. Just one question: have you ever tried the Q-filter by Bill Lawrence? (
    I guess what it sounds like compared to the circuit you showed in this post.
    Best wishes.
    j a n

  • Scott

    I’m getting ready to rewire one of my strats and two of my teles and would like to try a bass cut mod.

    Long story why (they’re really good reasons though), but would it be possible to wire up a single cap to a push pull pot? I realize I would be limiting my options to one, but I figure if I experiment a bit and find the one I like best, that would be one more tonal option than I have now.

    I’m guessing I would just wire the cap across the top two terminals (the ones located just under the pot itself) like a volume bypass/treble boost mod.

    Lastly, what would be a good sized cap to start with and how would changing the value affect the the tone? Example: does a higher value cap cut more or less bass?

    Thanks in advance.

    • joe

      Yes, it works great! Picture the six lugs on the lower portion of a push/pull pot. The cap goes through the top two lugs. Output from the pickups connects to the left middle, and output to the output jack is the left middle lug. Solder a short jumper wire across the lower two lugs, and you’re set. If you want to reverse the push/pull action, just swap the cap and jumper locations.

  • Tony Triola


    I ran across your site while looking for passive tone control circuits to stick between an FM tuner and a power amp (yeah, I know, not a guitar application)…BUT…it brought to mind a mod I did to my es355 back in the early ’70s (I bought it new back in ’68).

    It has Varitione of course, but I never liked it, found it pretty much useless, so I had this idea to pull the humbuckers out, separate the leads from the main pickup part and the humbucking part, and install switches that would let me reverse the phase of the humbucker in relation to the main pickup.

    I did that to both pickups, cut the Varitone loose and ended up with an amazing combination of tonalities (still had the front/back/both pickup switch in the circuit along with the high-cut tone controls for each pickup.

    The phase switches are three-way because I also wanted the ability to phase one pickup against the other besides changing phases between the humbucker and main on each pickup.

    I did have to unsolder and drill out the pickup covers so that all the pole pieces were exposed to the strings along with drilling out the body for the two additional phase switches (so forget about resale value).

    The timberal changes are solely the result of adding and/or subtracting harmonics within and between pickups rather than cutting or boosting a range of already existing harmonics through tone controls.

    I doubt one could synthesize non existent harmonics to the degree mixing natural phase relationships between pickups accomplishes, just thought I pass it along in case you might want to experiment.


  • Tony Triola


    Yeah, I recorded with it. Back then, my brother bought a Teak 3340 four channel in-line deck along with 4 channels of DBX 160x for noise reduction (couldn’t afford Dolby), he is a keyboard guy and did most of the writing, I was just along for the ride as a sideman.

    Not to belabor the blog, I can see if he still has any of the tapes, but I imagine the print-through is probably horrendous by now – we recorded pretty hot for s/n reasons (as you can imagine, with all the track bouncing).

  • Tony Triola

    Here’s the basic idea, don’t be like me and wreck the resale value of a nice guitar doing this, try it out on a beater
    (but with good pickups…).

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




Click to upload a JPG

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.