Neck Pickups and the Tone Knob


Recovering Procrastinator
Nov 22, 2021
So I’ve finally touched my tone knob. I avoided the thing for years, and I think I understand why some people go with single coils in the neck position now. Thanks to a tip from Mark Lettieri, you can warm up a single coil quite a bit, almost to the point where it’s in striking distance of a humbucker, except for the whole hum thing. That got me to thinking, what does a tone knob practically do for a neck humbucker, other than jazz it up? I wasn’t able to get my custom 24 to do anything inspiring with it. Wisdom appreciated!
To me, the tone knob and neck pickup can do two things: #1- get you a cool woman tone. B- Muddy things up incoherently.

I don't get the whole muddy jazz guitar thing. My favorite jazz players have bright, clear and articulate neck pickup sounds. Some are not too bright, but they aren't muddied by the tone control being turned down. YFMV (Your Favorites May Vary)
I tend to really like a single coil in the neck position. The guitar I play the most is an HSS configuration. I don't typically roll the tone back on them. I like the tone I get with it all the way up. If I wanted to thicken the tone up I would definitely roll it back. I also am not a fan of the typical size of capacitor used in most guitars that have single coil pickups in them. I usually change them to a .022. I find that much more musical. The higher values just make things sound like someone threw a heavy blanket over my amp. I love that PRS uses the .022 value stock. I find the PRS tone knobs to be the most useful of all of the brands of guitars I own.

I also don't tend to roll the tone back for a humbucker in the neck position. Honestly, my tone knob typically stays on 10, unless the overall tone of the guitar is brighter than I want it to be, which my new Studio has been in some of the playing situations that I have tested it out in so far. I have rolled that tone back to about 7 and it worked for all three pickups in those situations.