This handy tool can be a guitarist’s best friend.
A digital multimeter (Photo 1) is the perfect tool for testing many components on a guitar or bass. We use them in the shop for testing pickups, output jacks, switches, and batteries, and you can also use them for testing cables and wiring harnesses. Best of all, you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a good multimeter. I still use the one I bought at Radio Shack 23 years ago, and such luthier supply companies as Allparts and Stewart-MacDonald have excellent multimeters designed for working on a guitar, priced from $25 to $35.
Let’s explore five ways to use a multimeter:
• Testing pickups (impedance and functionality).
• Mapping out a switch.
• Testing a guitar cable.
• Identifying the lugs on a TRS output jack.
• Checking battery life.
Testing pickups. On many occasions I’ve used a multimeter before buying a used pickup. I learned the importance of this the hard way when I bought a used pickup at a guitar show, only to discover it didn’t work when I got it home. If I’d brought a multimeter with me, I could have tested the pickup on the spot and saved some money.
It’s a simple process to test a pickup. Set the multimeter to the ohm setting and touch its red test lead to the pickup’s primary lead (hot) and touch the black test lead to the pickup’s ground wire.
If you’re testing a humbucker with four conductors, make sure that the wires are properly attached to each other. For example, before you try to measure the impedance on a Seymour Duncan humbucker (Photo 2), make sure that the red and white leads are connected to each other and isolated from any other connection, and the green and bare leads are also connected to each other. Touch the red test lead from the multimeter to the black wire—the pickup’s primary lead. Touch the multimeter’s black test lead to the green and bare ground wires on the pickup. This should give you an accurate impedance measurement.
To make sense of a particular model pickup’s reading, check with the manufacturer for its exact impedance. If the impedance measurement you take is significantly lower than the manufacturer’s rating, then you know there’s something wrong with the pickup.
A multimeter can tell you a lot about a pickup before you wire it up. For example, humbuckers typically measure at around 8k ohms for a vintage-style pickup to as much as 25k for a high-output pickup. The 16.25k reading we see in Photo 2 indicates this is a hot humbucker. Single-coil pickups can range from 6k (vintage) up to 16k (high-output).
Mapping out a switch. If you don’t have a diagram to follow, wiring a new switch can be frustrating. An easy way to save time when tackling a wiring project is to use your multimeter to map out the switch. Simply set your multimeter to the continuity setting, which is marked with a speaker or soundwave icon. This setting will produce an audible tone to let you know when a circuit is closed.
On a 3-way toggle switch, for example, touch either one of the side lugs with one of the test leads from the multimeter, then touch the middle lug—that’s typically the output—with the other test lead (Photo 3). If you hear a tone, then you know the switch is on in that position. If there’s no tone in that position, the switch is off.
It’s a similar process for a Strat-style 5-way blade switch (Photo 4). Touch the last lug on the switch—this will be the output lug—with one of the test leads from the multimeter. Then touch each of the other lugs with the other test lead and listen for the tone. By carefully working through each switch position, you’ll be able to locate its corresponding input lug. As you map a switch’s connections, draw a diagram so you’ll have something to refer to in the future.
Testing a guitar cable. Have you ever arrived at a gig or rehearsal only to find you have no signal? The worst part is not knowing where the problem lies. Is the amp blown? Does the guitar have a loose output jack? Chances are it’s the guitar cable—that’s the place to start troubleshooting. The good news is, it’s quick and easy to test your cable with a multimeter.
Set your multimeter to test continuity, then touch the tip of both cable plugs with the test leads (Photo 5). If you hear a solid tone, you have a connection. But don’t stop there: Move the cable around a little to see if it has a short, and test it again. If after shaking the cable and testing it several more times you continue to get a solid tone, you can assume the cable is good. However, if the test tone is intermittent you’ll know there’s a problem. You should also test the ground on the cable. Simply touch the shaft of both plugs with the test leads and listen for a solid tone.
Testing a TRS jack. The output jacks on passive guitars are pretty simple—they have one lug for the primary lead and one for the ground. However, output jacks for an active system have three lugs. Called a tip/ring/sleeve (TRS) jack, these are common in electric guitars with active pickups or onboard circuitry, and are found in most acoustic guitars equipped with an internal preamp. The tip is for the primary lead, the sleeve is for a battery switch that turns the battery on when a cable is plugged into it, and there’s also a ground to complete the circuit for the electronics.
Sometimes the lugs for the tip and sleeve are different lengths, which makes them easier to identify, but many TRS jacks have the same length lugs with no markings to let you know which one is for the battery and which one is for the primary lead. This can be problematic if you’re installing a new pickup system into an acoustic guitar, adding active electronics to a solidbody, or troubleshooting an existing setup. But once again, the multimeter makes it easy to sort this out.
First plug a guitar cable into the output jack and switch your multimeter to the continuity setting. Touch one of the test leads to the tip of the guitar cable’s exposed plug and touch the other test lead to one of the lugs on the TRS output jack (Photo 6). Listen for a tone to identify which lug makes the connection. The lug that gives you a tone while you’re touching the plug tip is where you’ll attach the primary lead from a pickup or preamp.
Next, while still touching the plug’s tip with the test lead, touch the other lug on the jack. There should be no tone. Keep your test lead on that lug and move the other test lead from the plug’s tip to its shaft. You should hear a tone. This identifies the lug you’re currently touching as the battery switch for the active electronics in your guitar.
Testing batteries. Given the amount of battery-operated gear most guitarists have in their rig, it can be a challenge to stay on top of available battery power. You don’t want to arrive at a gig with a dying battery in a stomp, but you certainly don’t want to swap out all the batteries in your gear before every show. Some may still have plenty of life in them, so why not do a battery check to get the facts? (Of course, once you reach a certain number of pedals, it makes economic and ecological sense to get a powered pedalboard and be done with batteries.)
In the early days of rock ’n’ roll, guitarists would test a 9-volt battery by touching its terminals to their tongues—not a very accurate (or sanitary) approach. If you received a mild shock, the battery was deemed gig-worthy. The best way to test a battery is with a multimeter. With it, you can test just about any type of battery: AA, 9-volt, lithium, or even a disc battery.
Set the multimeter to the DC V setting (and if your multimeter offers it, to the appropriate voltage range). Now touch the red test lead to the plus battery terminal and the black test lead to the minus terminal. The multimeter will display the battery’s voltage (Photo 7). If you’re testing a 9-volt battery and the display on the multimeter reads less than 9 volts, the battery is weak. If the battery measures 9 volts or more, you’re good to go.
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Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.