Here is something that I saw over at MLP that I think is worth reading and Knowing.
First, your volume controls do not just control your loudness, but also your level of distortion (‘gain’ or ‘overdrive’). If your guitar has modern wiring, lowering the volume will also reduce the available treble, as if you’d turned the tone down too. If you have 1950s wiring this effect is far less prominent.
Secondly, your tone control not only cuts your treble, it also reduces the amount of ‘space’ your guitar seems to take up in the mix. Turning your tone down can effectively pull you ‘back’ into the mix.
Enough basics. Here’s some pointers.
EQ Your Amp for the Neck
Most of the time you’ve probably set up your amp for a good tone from the bridge. Try this instead and see what happens.
1. Turn all your volumes and tones up to 10.
2. Select the neck pick up.
3. Adjust your amp so you get a good soloing tone for that pickup.
4. Switch to bridge. This will be too bright. Ice-pick through ear territory.
5. Tame bridge with tone control, until you’ve got a good soloing tone.
You now have your ‘boost’ sounds. Now turn the bridge vol down (about 75-80%), until you’ve got a good crunching rhythm sound. If you have modern wiring you may need to turn up the tone a little at this stage. You could now play the rhythm on the bridge, and switch to the neck for the solo.
Solo on Bridge, cleans on Neck
Turn up your bridge tone and vol. That’s your solo sound (ice pick and all). Turn your neck vol down to about 50%. If your amp is any good, that should be nearly clean. If you’ve got 1950s wiring, it won’t be muddy either. You may now play the intro to Since I’ve Been Lovin’ You on the neck pick up. Switch to bridge for the signature lick. Back to neck, or turn down bridge to 50-60%. For a more sensible bridge pick up sound, just turn the tone down a fraction to clip some of the hairs off it.
If your amp is good, it should be sensitive enough to clean up when you turn down, and also to clean up if you back off with your right hand an pick gently. Use both these effects to control your tone.
Leave your bridge in its rhythm setting, then switch to middle. Now turn down the neck to nearly nothing, then slowly turn it back up (to about 50%). Somewhere across this range you’ll hear three fairly distinct tones. It’ll start out sounding like the bridge on its own. Next, it will fill out (i.e. get some extra bass), and it might do this quite suddenly. This is a really useful sound for soloing, because it basically sounds like the bridge pickup, but it’s fuller and meatier without being in any way muddy. As you keep turning up the neck vol it will start to sound more like both pick ups. This can be sort of nasal, but quite good.
Once you get both pick ups to the same vol (~ 75%) you’ve got the classic middle sound. Many people find this a bit muddy, but if you EQd the amp for your neck pick up, you should be OK.
Before I forget again, there's one thing about the middle setting that I forgot to mention. It’s a lot easier to use than it sounds to describe it!
If you set your neck so it’s basically clean (~ 50%), and then set the bridge to about 75%, that will give you the sounds-like-the-bridge-pickup-but-fuller tone. As I said before, that’s a good rhythm or lead sound.
From that basic position, if you want to get a boost, all you have to do is adjust ONE volume control up to 100%. Either will work. If the bridge, you get the biting sound, if the neck you get the fuller sound. When you’ve finished, simply turn that volume back to where it was.