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Tone Control On Lefty Fenders

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by KingOlav, Mar 2, 2014.

  1. KingOlav


    Oct 1, 2011
    Good day, gents. I come to you today with confusion.

    A little backstory: I'm a lefty. I like Fenders. From 2005 to about 2013, I had a 2004 MiM Fender Jazz Bass. The tone control on it didn't work so well; it was either "on" or "off." No in-between; it was either at none or full, just with a tiny turn of the knob.

    I took it to my local music retail establishment and asked them if they could fix or replace it with a pot that actually works like a proper tone pot, and they said there was nothing to fix; that the lefties were "supposed to be this way." Huh. Well, seeing as it wasn't such a major impairment to my use of the J-Bass, I let it go.

    Fast forward a bit. After some soul-searching, I found the love of my life: the Standard American Fender Precision. It's wonderful, I love it, the neck is perfect--and the tone control does the same thing as on the J-Bass.

    My Questions
    1) If it is, indeed, true that lefty tone controls are "supposed to be like this," why? What's the difference? There aren't lefty bridges or lefty strings; why would there then be lefty tone controls? Like why wouldn't the volume knob also register either 0% or 100% in that case?

    2) Would it fix the problem if I replaced the pots myself with CTS ones? And could I use the capacitor that came in the P-Bass?

    Thanks for reading this, and if you can shed any light on the subject, I would greatly appreciate it. Have a fine day, good sirs.
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    They were blowing smoke, there is no such thing as a lefty tone control "supposed to be that way". You can fix the problem by choosing the correct value and taper of pot--it has nothing to do with the brand. Sure CTS are good, but even the crummiest cheap pot will work right if you pick the correct type.
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  4. southpaw723


    Oct 20, 2013
    I have a white '04 lefty mim jazz and I know what you mean. It's pretty much tone on or tone off.
  5. Lefty here playing for 30 years, and believe it or not there are such things as Lefty pots and Fender chooses to use their stock Righty pots for us (wired Lefty), the result of which is, "On/Off" operation and no in-between (for both Volume and Tone.)

    You see, most electric instrument pots are Audio tapers and not Linear tapers and one cannot simply wire the other lug when using Audio tapers. That trick will indeed will work using Linear tapers.

    I purposely have had to re-wire every Fender I purchased so that clockwise turning of the knobs will smoothly increase Volume and pass full Tone. This can be done using the stock Righty pots Fender ships with your bass. Break out your soldering tools and this operation should only cost you time and effort.

    Some manufacturers actually address this situation correctly out-of-the-box, like Carvin and Gibson (so that one need not re-wire or buy Lefty Audio tapers after spending significant cash on a brand new bass), but Fender not so much.

    Just one more thing against being Lefty, but no worries once you know the secret behind the issue.

  6. If you have a linear taper pot, get an audio taper pot. If you have an audio taper pot already, check to be sure that it is running in the correct direction for the way you have the bass wired. Sometimes left handed instruments are wired so that the controls work backwards. If that is that case, you have to have reverse audio taper pots, since the taper is not symmetrical.
  7. KingOlav


    Oct 1, 2011
    Thanks for your input everyone. I just checked, and I have audio taper pots, and I'm looking at the wires (thinking of just re-soldering them in reverse), but I don't know how I would change the wiring in order to get my desired effect. Can someone explain that to me please?
  8. The the pots wired normally, or in reverse?
  9. KingOlav


    Oct 1, 2011
    I think in reverse, since I have to turn the knobs counterclockwise to raise in value. So I think I'm trying for the reverse of that, so I would then turn the volume up (for example) by going clockwise.
  10. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2009
    to do it right, get a linear volume (smoother anyway, and it's the same in either direction) and a reverse-audio ("lefty pot") for the tone, then wire them lefty; you'll have smooth, "normal" operation from both controls.
  11. When one thinks of a traditional volume knob on a car radio or home stereo, the rotation to increase the volume is clockwise whether or not you turn the knob with your right or left hand.

    Fender has consistently done us Lefties wrong by flipping the "increase" rotation along with everything else that is typically flipped when making a left-handed instrument.

    Other manufacturers have correctly maintained the pot increase rotation as "clockwise" when making their left-handed models, but Fender continues to perpetuate this problem two-fold: first they wire the outer pot lugs in reverse, and then secondly, they compound things by doing this on stock Righty Audio taper pots (where the outer lugs are not reversible else they turn into On/Off switches.) It is a shame we pay $$$ for new Lefty Fenders in this condition.

    Even though Lefty, reverse-audio pots can be purchased, it is my opinion that turning pots counter-clockwise to increase is of the Devil and universal Righty pots should be used instead, wired using the standard, pro-clockwise, lug utilization. The benefit to this is that you can use the more readily available Righty pots, and that "clockwise" universally translates to louder. Additionally, having it this way will insure consistency with any other manufacturers' instruments you may purchase in the future.

    Again, this problem is completely fixable through various methods once you know what is causing it.

  12. Yeah, it's weird that a bass should have reversed controls, just because it's flipped around for left-handed use.
  13. RobbieK


    Jun 14, 2003
    I've wired heaps of lefty instruments with standard, clockwise-equals-louder, controls. But I'm right handed and if I try to turn off a tap with my left hand without thinking, I usually end up soaking myself, so I understand the issue!

    A couple of these should be fine.

    Although, now I think of it, taps and volume pots work the opposite to each other... :meh:
  14. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2009
    no good, those are for amps; they won't fit most guitar or bass knobs and are way too stiff-turning.

    it's a good question though, how many lefty players would prefer the knob rotation to be "lefty" as well?

    for guitars, especially strats where your hand is right on the knob and working it with your pinky is part of playing the thing, i'd think true lefty operation would be the way to go. for basses, which are more "set and forget"?

    i'm lefty myself but play righty, so i just don't know. i'm perfectly comfortable with "clockwise=more" on electronics in general, though.
  15. RobbieK


    Jun 14, 2003
    Sure most guitars these days have 6mm fluted shafts, but knobs for 1/4" shafts are still pretty easy to find, I have a drawer full of old ones!

    :confused: I've never heard anyone complain about excessive amounts of torque needed to shift a guitar knob. (Although I recently put a stepped attenuator in a parker fly because the owner kept brushing the volume control. It was too slack for her playing style.)

    Besides, this was the first that came up on an ebay search for "250KC potentiometer". I'm sure if you searched a little more you'd find one with a fluted shaft. The OP mentions a fender jazz so you don't really need a guitar specific pot with a long threaded portion.
  16. When replacing stock Fender pots, for me these industry-standard CTS pots (250K, solid shaft) are a no-brainer.

    On principle, should you not want to spend additional money after having purchased a new Lefty Fender bass, you can simply swap and re-solder the outer lug wiring on all the existing pots and the problem is solved.

  17. KingOlav


    Oct 1, 2011
    Thanks Charlie! I believe I'll do that.
  18. RobbieK


    Jun 14, 2003
    Not if they are audio (A) taper. Umm, no offence, but that's the whole point of this thread. Yes you can reverse the wiring on linear (B) taper pots, but these are no good for tone as the OP has discovered, and many also dislike their feel for volume.

    For a tone pot to work satisfactorily anti-clockwise you will need a reverse audio (C) taper pot.

    If you are really still struggling to find a 250KC pot, you can make one from two 16mm alfa pots and these are only 2-3 bucks. I posted a how-to on a stompbox forum several years ago when these were really impossible to find. I could dig around for the link, but I really think you'll find one on ebay or something. You could also try the stompbox enthusiasts parts places like Small Bear, as there's several famous and often cloned effects pedals that require reverse-log pots...
  19. ^^^

    On Lefty Fender basses, standard Audio taper pots are used and the lugs are incorrectly reversed wired by Fender causing the On/Off operation that started this thread.

    My advice to simply swap the outer lugs holds true in this instance, as the correct lug orientation will then be employed.
  20. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2009
    so you're in the "just let the knobs turn the wrong way as long as the sweep is right" camp?

    are you an actual lefty player? (as opposed to a lefty playing righty like me?)
  21. RobbieK


    Jun 14, 2003
    Oops, sorry mate, I misunderstood ya.

    I've come across a few lefty ibanez basses with linear pots for both tone and vol, and because the OP didn't mention the volume pot, I just assumed that is what is going on here. The vol sort of works with a slow sweep, but the tone more or less acts as the OP stated - like a switch. And of course reversing a linear pot won't change the sweep.

    But, yeah, if they are audio pots wired backwards then reversing them back to normal clockwise-for-louder/brighter will be fine. But surely even fender wouldn't be so stupid as to wire a log pot backwards...?

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