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Date: Mon, 8 Jan 1996 15:17:01 -0600
From: henr–(at)–
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The variatone switch used on Gibson ES 345s and 355s is a passive
tone filter that makes use of chokes and capacitors.
Currently the only production model that I know of is the B.B. King
Lucielle, which uses an updated version of the same type
of components. Between the two pickups is a large choke that is
wired back to the switch. The switch has several capacitors and
small chokes mounted to it. The system works as a subtractive
equalizer removing more bass as the switch is moved clockwise.
As for a schematic, one should be available from Gibson, as well
as the upgraded circuit. The new circuit looks like an
IC, and does actually quallify but is not a solid state device.

The B.B. King model is wired diferently from the 355. The 355’s
pickups are wired to the pickup selector switch then the variatone
switch and the output jack. Using a single amp with the stereo
version and a bridged stereo chord will cause the volume and tone
for both pickups to be active regardless of where the selector switch
is. This causes the guitar to be brighter sounding than a Les Paul.
The B.B. King model has the pickups wired to the variatone switch
and the output of the switch to the controls to the selector switch
to the two output jacks, one stereo one mono. This setup allows
the volume and tone contro;s to operate totally independent of
one another
even when the selector switch is set for both pickups.

When I bought my 1968 355 stereo, the pickups were out of
phase. I suspect this was done at the factory since all wiring was
original. To
correct this I turned magnet around on the lead pickup.

I hope this gives you some insight into the tone system works.

K. Henry


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The JT30 Page Popular links

I began collecting data about the microphones used by blue harp players before there was an internet. I began organizing it into in the late 1990s. I accumulated more stuff than I remember. This is some of it.

Street Theory

A Harp Player’s Guide to Music Theory

Learning Harp

Picking Up Blues Harp

A guide to learning to play Blues Harp

Microphone Information

Usenet Articles

Harp Amps

I've been collecting Harp Amps for a while. This is the old website. There is lots of information here. Here a coupld of links.

Harp Tab

A collection of songs and riffs that I’ve worked out over the years, plus some libraries of stuff I’ve converted to tablature. I’ve included most of the notes and instructions that helped me when I was learning to play blues harmonica.

Basic Riffs Simple harp tabs for songs Blues riffs and phrases.

Harp-L Archives 1992 to 2002


Harp Frequently Asked Questions