What the .... is a Dark Tone?

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Staff member
May 14, 2012
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I have heard people refer to all mahogany guitars (hogs) as having a “dark tone”.

Now I’ve read the same thing re: capacitors of all things:

“The value of a tone cap defines the amount of “capacitance,” and as a general rule, the higher the capacitance, the darker the overall tone.

For example a .047uF cap (uF = Microfarad) would be darker sounding than a .022uF cap.

This is why many guitarists will choose a .047uF capacitor to pair with their brighter single coil pickups, and a .022uF to go with their slightly darker humbuckers.”


What does that mean?

I know what I mean by “bright”. To me a bright tone means higher frequency.

But if it relates to single versus double coil, then maybe it also means thin, or somewhat tinny?

And does a “dark” tone mean weighted more in lower frequencies?

And re double coils, perhaps fuller?

I honestly don’t know.
If you want to know more about it, here's a video using a capacitor decade to demonstrate the difference:

Here's a video I made to underline some rambling about tone pots, to show visually what a properly dimensioned cap does (flattening the resonance peak) and what it doesn't if the tone pot is used wisely (muffling the sound):

Right at the start of the video you can see what happens when I switch from coil-tapped to humbucker mode (the high side of the frequency range drops by a kilohertz or so) but everything else looks just the same, which is demonstrating why such a fancy graph is completely meaningless - the difference in sound (and output) is dramatic! :)
(The noise you hear in the video is not supposed to reflect that change, it's coming directly from the speaker I used to "inject" white noise into the pickup)

Finally, here's a really "dark" tone with the tone pot (likely) fully rolled back on the same type of guitar "seen" on the graph:

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