Guitar Killswitch

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Introduction: Guitar Killswitch

About: Student, guitarist, tinkerer I've always loved tools and working with my hands. Coupled with a DIY spirit and intrinsic frugality, I try to bring you something new with each instructable.
Guitarists such as Tom Morello of RATM and Audioslave and Buckethead are known for their use of killswitch in their songs to add cool effects. Although killswitches are used infrequently, they are pretty cool to have on you're guitar, and they only cost about three bucks (depending on what you have) to install. In this instructable, you'll learn how to install a killswitch in your own Strat style guitar. Keep in mind that I also explain how to install a killswitch in all style guitars, however I show with pictures Strat style guitars.

A demonstration of my killswitch...I also demonstrate the "pop" that many of you have questions about.


Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any damages that may occur while modifying your guitar. This is merely a guide. If patience is utilized, then no damage will come.

Step 1: What Is a Killswitch?

For those of you that don't know what a guitar kill switch is, it's basically a momentary switch, that when pressed, stops signal from going out of the guitar and going into the amp. Basically, when the button is pressed, there is no noise. Les Paul players usually achieve this effect by setting one pickup's volume to zero, and switching back and forth between pickups, creating a stuttering effect. However, this cannot be done on a Strat., since there is only one volume potentiometer.

The basic concept of my killswitch design is to create a circuit in which the output signal can reach the ground. When the circuit is completed (by pressing the switch), there no sound is heard.

IMPORTANT: Simply putting an on/off switch on the outgoing signal wire is VERY BAD. The resulting sound is that of when you unplug or plug your guitar in. That annoying buzz.
Source - http://www.stinkfoot.se/andreas/diy/mods/killswitch.htm

The popping sound is normal, due to the physics of the killswitch. Adding resistors and capacitors wont do anything. Source - http://alexplorer.net/guitar/mods/killswitch.html

Step 2: What You Need

You need:
1 SPST "Push to make" Momentary switch - I got mine at Radioshack for 3.20
Important: You must get a switch that is normally open (off), and when pushed, closes a circuit.

Wire - This should be about the same guage as the wire in your guitar, it doesn't have to be exact, but don't have a huge thick wire.

Solder & Soldering Iron - This project requires some simple soldering, nothing too complex. I learned to solder with this handy instructable.

Wire strippers

Screwdriver

Electric drill & drill bit (on the back of the momentary switch packet theres dimensions for the hole you should drill) - I'd recommend that the drill be corded, since cordless drills lack the power that corded drills have

Things that would be really helpful to have:
Helping hands: These things make this project 500 times easier, instead of duct taping wires to hold them in place, or asking somebody to help you, the Helping hands can hold them.

Step 3: Opening the Guitar

First, cut all of your strings off. Then unscrew all the screws holding the faceplate to the guitar.

Note: If you never took the faceplate off your guitar, the screws near the pickups and pickup selectors should not be unscrewed.

If you want, you can flip your faceplate upside down so that the components are showing. Be careful as there are 2 wires (one going to the output jack, and one grounded to the bridge) connected to other parts of the guitar, so don't yank too hard.

Step 4: Soldering Two Wires Onto Momentary Switch

You don't need to solder the wires together, I do because I'm afraid that braided wires might come loose and the switch would become broken easier.

Carefully take two wires, and strip both ends. Then solder one end of each wire to the two contacts on the switch. The order does not matter.

This is where the helping hands come in handy, if you don't have one, ask somebody to help you....or do like I did and tape everything to a table and solder.

Step 5: Drilling the Hole in the Faceplate

This is the point of no return for this project.

Now that you have your switch half completed, flip your faceplate so that the components are inside the guitar and chose an appropriate location for your killswitch on your faceplate. Using the appropriate size drill bit, drill a hole into your faceplate.

Test fit your switch to see if it can fit in. If it can, then mount the switch onto the faceplate by placing the nut included on the opposite side of the faceplate, and tightening it until the switch is secure.

Protip: Its better to chose a switch that needs only a hole to be drilled. The switch I bought needed a little notch, and I scratched my faceplate making that notch

Step 6: Soldering the Switch to the Volume Pot.

This part was pretty tricky for me, mainly because I was working by myself with nothing helping me to position the wires. Remember, you don't need to solder the wires, if you cannot solder. You can twist them on, however they might fall off with time.

I soldered one wire onto the middle contact on my volume pot. (output signal), and the other wire onto the actual volume pot itself (the volume pot was grounded)

For non-Strat guitars: Though the wiring for the pickups and all are different in Les Pauls and other style guitars, the basics for the killswitch are the same. Instead of soldering the killswitch onto the volume pot, on other guitars, simply trace the wire that goes into the output jack (in this case a gray wire) and inside the wire should be two smaller wires. Simply solder one wire thats attached to the killswitch onto one of the wires found in output jack, and solder the other wire attached to the killswitch to the other wire. One of the wires coming fro the output jack should not have a rubber casing, as it is the ground. Basically what you just did was create a potential bridge in which you can kill the signal with the press of a button.

Step 7: Making Space for the Killswitch on the Guitar Body.

This was the most annoying part. Since the area that you chose to place your killswitch will most likley not be hollow underneath, you must make it hollow. I hollowed my section by drilling a lot of holes, then connecting them. If you have a router, use it.

Step 8: Finishing Up

Now that you're almost done, put all the wires in the hollow spaces in your guitar and screw the faceplate back onto the guitar. Restring your guitar. Have fun.

Step 9: FAQ and Troubleshooting

So many questions come in, so I decided to make this section.

Question:Why isn't my killswitch working?
Answer:Many different possibilities. Maybe you spliced the wrong wire, remember, you want the output signal wire to be routed to the ground. If thats not it, then maybe you have the wrong switch. You want a normally open switch, otherwise known as normally off. Other possibilities might be the connections between the switch and the wires.

Question:Why do I get that popping sound when I use my killswitch?
Answer: Don't worry, you're killswitch isn't broken, you did everything right. The pop is normal. If you ever taken physics and learned about waves and stuff you might understand that cutting the signal results in a pop. This site helps explain more.This site helps explain more. This video also shows and explains the pop.


Question: Can you make a diagram for my Gibson SG or Les Paul?
Answer: Ive done it before, but if the demand is increasing I might just make a diagram and post it.

Question: What if I have no faceplate?
Answer: Drill the hole through the back of you guitar by unscrewing the back plates.

Question: Do I have to drill and solder?
Answer: No, I prefer a built in killswitch casue it looks neater and clean, but if you want to play around without damaging your guitar. Check out Super Cameramans instructable.

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    387 Comments

    one question, will this still work if I install a toggle switch, not a button?

    2 replies

    Yep! Just remember that the toggle switch has to be SPST. I actually installed a toggle switch on my guitar after this instructable, and it acts as a handy on/off switch.

    Hello! I like this! Could you make a diagram for a one pickup one tone and one volume setup please?

    Thanks for this instructable! As you say, I used a "normally closed" button, which was intented to break the signal wire: FAIL (I got that horrible "brummm"). Your suggestion hits the nail in the head. Cheers

    Great ible. Thanks for the idea

    I have been building guitars for awhile and the kill switch is a cool idea but I am experamenting on using a switch with an LED built in. I installed a bunch of them on my cry baby (after I installed a 2nd and 3rd inductors- Fasels, as well as moding the electronics and puting in a new bypass switch on the stomp button), but since a Strat usually dosn't have active pickups I had to add a 9 volt battery to power the LEDS. Should be cool mod to a kill switch. If all goes well I will post instructions and wiring diagram. Keep up the good work.

    2 replies

    Hey I actually found a place that sells some of these with LEDs built in,

    I got mine from Iron Age Guitar Accessories and installed it into my stratocaster.

    It's been working well for a couple of months now, feels amazingly crisp and there are no popping sounds to speak of.

    It's a bit pricey but it's definitely better than anything I've seen on the market.

    ks.png

    Thanks for the mention, we've actually added quite a few new models since. From black, to stainless steel & even vintage gold finishes.

    Lots of LED color options too!

    RG-PG.jpgKS-5.JPGPetilloGuitars.jpg

    I installed a killswitch today, but it only works in reverse. I only get signal through when I press the button, any ideas?

    1 reply

    Did you get a "push to make" switch? Its also referred to as a normally open switch (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Push_switch). If you wired the switch between your hot and ground and you only get signal when you push the button you may have the opposite switch.

    I have been experimenting with killswitches for about 20 years and have found a better alternative to the pushbutton momentary switch, at least for me it is better. The now-standard killswitches require an 'up-motion' to stay squarely on the beat, which is counter-intuitive. However, the advantage is that the 'normally on' switch is always at your immediate disposal...but I thirst for something better. A momentary sp3t (on)-on-(on) switch allows twice the action and simulates the familiar pick stroke, right on the meter. The only drawback is it must have a bypass switch installed nearby to activate/deactivate the circuit. In other words, another hole in the guitar. In previous years I just lived with that drawback and developed the technique of a smooth transition between a straight signal and my switch. The results are worth it :)

    However, I am re-visiting the issue and have developed an alternative, which I will divulge at a later date pending a patent process. The eventual goal is to ditch the tone pot and install my killswitch system in it's place, no drilling needed.

    For enjoyment purposes, here are some audio clips of my killswitch work over the years. Keep experimenting!!!

    Way cool! I've always wanted to make one of these!

    hey bro!! i have a kill switch but the problem is, my ampli got damage, i dont know why? its grounded!

    Thanks so much bro! The sound is sick!

    HEY AUTHOR OF THIS INSTRUCTABLE!! PLEASE LOOK HERE!! So do I solder one of the wires from the switch to the same contact on the volume pot that has the wire going to the input jack?? the one I have is a white wire. PLEASE RESPOND!!

    1 reply

    Yes, you need to intercept the outgoing signal. Sorry about the delay.

    what exact wire did you use?? i know nothing about wires and what kinds and such. can You tell me what brand and gauge etc.??

    WIll this mess up the tone of the guitar at all? Cause I'm about to do it.

    1 reply