This article is part of our more extensive Guitar Builders’ Glossary of Terms.
A capacitor (also known as a “cap”), is an electronic component. It’s used in the guitar’s tone circuit to filter out high frequencies. When you turn the tone knob on your guitar you’re adjusting how much of the high frequency the capacitor in the circuit is filtering out.
A potentiometer, more commonly called a “pot”, is a variable resistor. Unlike a fixed resistor, a pot allows the resistance to be adjusted by turning the shaft. Pots are used for the volume and tone controls on a guitar. Although there are minor differences, think of a pot as being like the dimmer switch on a light.
A resistor is an electrical component used to reduce the flow of current in a circuit. A fixed-value resistor has a defined resistance that can’t be changed. Resistors are commonly found in guitar effects pedals. Although fixed resistors are occasionally used in a guitar’s circuitry, more commonly a variable resistor known as a “potentiometer” is used.
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