Not all guitars have control knobs, but they are most commonly found on electric guitars. The knobs are usually located beneath the strings, near to the guitar's bridge, on the front of the body. The number of control knobs on a guitar can range from none to as many as the instrument designer specifies, and some guitars commonly feature quite a large number of tone control knobs, as this can increase the level of control that a musician has over the sound produced.
If desired, it is possible to remove these control knobs, either to replace a broken one or to change the design and material for customisation purposes.
Using Control Knobs
The control knobs of a guitar contribute to the overall sound produced by the instrument and any amplifier that it is connected to. Different guitars have different amounts of control knobs, depending upon their design and the number of pickups present on the guitar. The knobs control one of two functions: volume or tone. The exact use of these knobs is detailed below.
This is self-explanatory: the volume control knob adjusts the level of volume produced by a guitar, and is quite commonly labelled from 1 to 10 around the cylinder. Simply adjusting the knob will increase or decrease the sound produced by a guitar. This is more noticeable when the guitar is hooked up to an amplifier, which vastly increases the sound capacity of a guitar. The amplifier also has control knobs that can adjust volume, tone, and distortion levels.
These adjust the tone of the sound produced by a guitar, also generally ranging through the 1 to 10 scale, as indicated on the knob itself. The tone knob links to the guitar's pickups and filters out the higher frequencies of the sound production when adjusted. This results in a deeper sound, leaning towards that of a bass guitar, when turned down to the lowest setting, and a high-pitched, tinny sound at the upper end of the scale. The volume knob enhances this effect.
The pickup switch, installed on many guitars that feature control knobs, is used to activate either a standalone pickup or sets of pickups on an electric guitar. It is mounted on the body, near to the base of the strings and the guitar's bridge.
Often, guitars may have four control knobs, though the general function will remain the same. Two will be for volume, and two will be for tone. The difference lies in that they are used to control the sound of separate pickups on the guitar, with a lever allowing switching between the pickups being controlled or the number of pickups being used. A guitar's pickups produce various sounds that differ based on factors such as the location of each one on the guitar's body and the type of pickup installed.
The Relevance of Pickups
A pickup harnesses the mechnical energy that is produced by the guitar string's vibrations, converting it into a form of electrical energy, which can then be amplified. The pitch of a guitar's strings can be changed by adjusting the instrument's tuners; however, it can also be changed by adjusting the tone via the tonal control knob. This effectively allows even greater control over the instrument's sound.
There are different types of pickups available with various benefits. Single pickups can be prone to picking up interference, which affects the quality of the sound produced. There are also versions known as humbucking pickups, which are multiple-coil in design, and can reduce the incidence of interference, thus producing a clearer sound.
Control Knob Design
Guitar control knobs can be purchased in a wide range of materials. These components are often crafted from materials including plated gold, silver, amber and hardened plastic. They are often marked with the number scale of 1 to 10 for ease of use, though some do not contain any markings.
Plastic control knobs are one of the cheaper materials used in the manufacture of these components. They are relatively inexpensive to install and are often found on lower-end models of guitar. Conversely, metal guitar knobs are more expensive and are less likely to fracture or become damaged if the guitar sustains any sizeable impact that may break a plastic knob. Another common material, amber, allows the knobs to be transparent or translucent in design.
Silver and gold control knobs are among the more expensive of these types of components, and may be part or wholly created by using plating, similar to how low-cost jewellery is created. Some guitars may even use ceramics to create the control knobs of a guitar, and other components such as the tuners, which are mounted on the instrument's headstock. The downside to these is that they can easily break if handled badly.
It is quite uncommon to see any kind of patterns or finishes on these components, as they are so small that they do not contribute a great deal to the guitar's overall appearance.
Pricing and Availability
The cost of control knobs is generally very low. Materials such as plastic and amber are often the cheapest, with only a very marginal increase for gold or silver plated knobs. It is not uncommon to expect to pay a single digit figure for a single control knob, and this applies to components bought new. Some used components could sell for even less. However, vintage guitar knobs are often the most expensive kinds and these are also more difficult to obtain.
The availability of control knobs is very good, and as such they can easily be found online or in high street musical instrument retailers.
Popular Manufacturers of Control Knobs
Some of the more popular and well-known guitar manufacturers produce these components individually as replacement parts or to allow greater customisation of an instrument by switching out the original parts supplied. These manufactures include Gibson, Fender, Ibanez, and Epiphone.
Finding Control Knobs on eBay
All item listings uploaded by sellers are filed into categories. At the time of creation, the seller is asked to stipulate the category to be listed in, so providing that sellers are careful in making their choices, it is extremely easy to find any product by searching in the correct section.
As control knobs are a guitar accessory, they are listed under the Guitars category. This can be found easily starting from the eBay homepage. First, click through the Sports & Leisure category in order to find the Musical Instruments section of eBay. From here, they should go on to choose the Guitars subcategory, which has many other subheadings for the easy location of electric guitars, bass guitars and guitar accessories for example. It is under these listings that the Accessories tab can be found. For even more refined results, click on Parts.
Once viewing the guitar accessories section, it is easy to filter results in order to find exactly what is being looked for. These filters can narrow listings by a range of specific preferences, including the price range and manufacturer, which includes big names in the guitar industry such as Fender, Gibson, and Ibanez.
Not all guitars are designed with control knobs. Acoustic guitars are particular models that are frequently designed without these as a feature. Electric guitars on the other hand, are common models on which such knobs can be found. Finding these control knobs on eBay couldn't be easier, as all products are conveniently categorised into specific areas. Control knobs are found under the Accessories category of the Guitars section of eBay. The results in any section can be filtered using the tags found down the left-hand side of the product category.