Many pro players swear by this tone circuit, and it indeed produces a different effect than the standard tone circuit we all know.
This month we're taking
a look at the Fender
Greasebucket tone circuit introduced
in 2005 on several guitars
in the Highway One series,
as well as in various Custom
Shop Stratocaster models. The
Greasebucket name (which is
a registered Fender trademark,
by the way) is my favorite when
it comes to Fender's habit of
choosing cheesy marketing
names for new products. But
don't let the Greasebucket name
fool you—your tone will get
cleaner with this modification,
not greasy and dirty. I tried to
find out who came up with this
name, but it seems that this
info is not documented, which
is another Fender habit that
began in the early '50s.
Here is what Fender says about the Greasebucket: “The Greasebucket tone circuit adds a new dimension to your tone, the effect is that when rolled down, the tone pot reduces the high frequencies, but does not add bass."
Okay, it sounds like this is worth trying out. In fact, many pro players swear by this tone circuit, and it indeed produces a different effect than the standard tone circuit we all know. But don't take the Fender description literally—a Strat's standard Tone control does not add bass frequencies. With passive electronics, you can't add anything that isn't already there—you can only reshape the tone by attenuating certain frequencies, which makes others sound more prominent. Removing highs makes lows more apparent (and vice versa), and that's exactly what we have here: The standard tone control rolls off some high frequencies (depending on the capacitance of the tone cap), making the bass frequencies more prominent.
In addition, the use of inductors (which is what a pickup behaves like in a guitar circuit) and capacitors can create resonant peaks and valleys, further coloring the overall tone. Some people like this interaction, others don't—it's purely subjective and a matter of personal taste.
Anyhow, the Greasebucket tone control is a cool way to roll off the highs and lows in your guitar while preventing your tone from getting muddy. This is especially helpful for creating sparkling clean tones, but it's also useful for overdriven sounds.
To convert your Strat's normal tone control to Greasebucket specs, you don't need much: 0.1 μF and 0.022 μF capacitors (Fender uses ceramic-disc versions), and a 1/4-watt 4.7 kΩ resistor (Fender uses the metal-film type). If you want to convert both your Strat's tone controls to Greasebucket specs, obviously you'll have to double these parts.
The mod itself is relatively easy. Simply unsolder your tone pot and then connect the new parts as shown in the diagram. (Note that the resistor is soldered in series with the 0.022 μF cap.) The rest of the Strat wiring, including the volume pot, stays standard.
Fender's Greasebucket circuit in all its glory. This wiring diagram comes courtesy of Seymour Duncan Pickups and is used with permission. Seymour Duncan and the stylized S are registered trademarks of Seymour Duncan Pickups.
This type of band-pass filter
only allows certain frequencies
to pass through, while others
are blocked. The standard tone
circuit in the Strat is called a
variable low-pass filter (aka a
“treble-cut filter"), which allows
only the low frequencies to pass
through while the high frequencies
get sent to ground via the
The Greasebucket's bandpass
filter is a combination
of a high-pass and a low-pass
filter. This circuit is designed
to cut high frequencies without
“adding" bass. Mostly it has
to do with that 4.7 kΩ resistor
wired in series with the
pot, which prevents the value
from reaching zero. You can
get a similar effect by simply
not turning the Strat's standard
tone control all the way
down. The additional cap on
the wiper of the Greasebucket
circuit complicates things a bit,
because together with the pickups,
it forms an RLC circuit
(a resonant circuit comprising
a resistor, an inductor, and a
capacitor), but that's outside
the scope of this column. But
the Greasebucket has its own
special sound, and I can only
encourage everyone to try it.
You'll be surprised at its flexibility
If you're adventurous, you
can personalize the Greasebucket
circuit with additional mods. For
example, you can try different
tone-cap values and materials.
The 0.022 μF cap connected to
the tone control is the standard
configuration we all know from
our Strat's tone control. But,
as we've discussed several times
in previous columns, there are
tons of alternatives. You can try
other values from 2200 pF up to
0.1 μF, and also different types
of new, used, or new-old-stock
(NOS) caps—such as metal
film, film, paper in oil, waxed
paper, and silver mica. Your
choices are virtually unlimited.
We'll discuss more Strat
mods—such as the Fender S-1
switching system—in the coming
months, so stay tuned.
Dirk Wacker lives in
Germany and is fascinated
by anything related to old
Fender guitars and amps.
He plays country, rockabilly,
and surf music in two
bands, works regularly as a
session musician for a local studio, and writes
for several guitar mags. He's also a hardcore
guitar and amp DIY-er who runs an extensive
website—singlecoil.com—on the subject.