What is a Guitar Kill Switch?

Kill switches have been around for decades. Now, what is a guitar kill switch? It helps add contrast and texture to the sound that your guitar produces. Back in the day, kill switches were not so pleasing to look at, but today, you can choose from plenty of different types of switches.

A guitar kill switch can create a rhythmic or stutter effect. Its role is to turn the guitar signal on and off once you use the switch. It is great with guitars that have two separate volume controls as well as a pickup selector.

This article will talk about what and how you can use a kill switch. It will also talk about the different kill switches you can use for your guitar. Lastly, it will discuss the different ways you can install the kill switch.

Know What a Kill Switch Is and How to Use Them

Kill switch has been around for decades and used by legends like Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine. Now, the effect wasn’t contained in the circuit until recently. It is great for attaining the classic effect that you want to achieve when playing the guitar.

All you have to do is install the kill switch on your guitar. It is installed as a button, and once it’s depressed, it will send the signal to the ground rather than your output jack. Also, it can provide the same effect as toggling switch technique, which is easier to manipulate the format.

Kill switches are great to install in any electric guitar model. There are different kill switches that you can choose from, which will be talked about further in this article.

Using a Kill Switch: Know the Hows

Almost all electric guitars have two volume controls. A simple way to achieve the perfect effect that you want to achieve, all you have to do is to turn the volume completely down. Then, turn the other control all the way up.

The gain on the amp should be turned up. If you don’t have to ‘pick’ all the notes, you intend to play, and you don’t need to turn up the gain. Move the pickup selector up or down when you are not able to pick with the right hand. Doing this will result in great effect.

For you to get the kill switch effect, rapidly change the pickup selector with your right hand and fret with your left hand.

Guitar With the Two Volume Control

For you to add a kill switch on your guitar, you will need to modify it. You can have a trained guitar technician install the switch, but you can also do it yourself. If you plan to do it yourself, you can get a push-button kill switch installed on your guitar.

You can get a bucket head fashion button or arcade button style switches. Now, you can replace one of the current volume controls with a kill switch if you have two volume controls. It will stop your signal whenever you push the button.

Depending on your playing style, you can make an up-down motion of the pickup selector. It is similar to the picking motion. In this case, the arcade button switch is more accessible and easier to use.

Kill Switches: Different Types You Can Choose

The options are endless when it comes to killing switches. You have to think about how you want to use it and what will be most comfortable as well as intuitive for you to use. You can choose from a blade, lever switch, or simple push button switch.

You also have to consider how large you would like the switch and where you should install it. When you add a kill switch to existing electronics, you would need to drill a hole somewhere in your guitar. Now, if you do this, it will devalue your guitar, which is something that you might want to think about.

If you don’t want to modify your instrument permanently, you can just replace the existing controls with a kill switch. This would be your best choice without needing to drill holes in your guitar.

Here are some of the common types of kill switches that you can choose from:

  • Standard Toggle Switch
  • ‘Bat’ Style Toggle Switch
  • Metallic Push Button
  • Arcade Style Switch
  • Standard Gibson Style Toggle
  • Push Button With Integrated LED Light

Different Ways to Install Kill Switches

The Interruptive Kill Switch

The interruptive kill switch method will break the connection between your guitar signal and the output jack. In some guitar series, you would need to have the ‘always on’ monetary switch. You would need to take the hot wire off the output jack. Once that’s done, solder it to one side of the kill switch.

Then, run the wire from the other side and to the original wire on your output jack. Now, this method is possible, but it is not recommendable. It will interrupt the signal, which means it will disconnect the live ‘hot’ wire on your guitar.

Doing this will result in extreme noise, like when you are plugging a guitar cable into an amp. Not a very pleasant sound to hear, especially when you have audiences around.

The Shorting Kill Switch

The shorting kill switch will be between your guitar’s output signal and the ground. In this method, you would need to press or flip the switch. The guitar signal will be sent right to the ground. It is similar to rolling your volume knob all the way down, resulting in it being dead silent.

The best place to wire your kill switch in this method is right across the volume pot. This location is between the middle ‘wiper’ terminal and the ground. You can also wire a new kill switch across your output jack. It will provide the same result and an easier process to do.

The Popping Kill Switch

When you hear a popping noise when you activate your kill switch, take your value resistor and wire it directly across the two active terminals. This would be the usual solution to remove the popping sound that you hear.

You can use a tiny ¼ watt resistor and start with ten megs of resistance. Now, this is a super high option. If you still hear some pops, change the resistor to a lower one. Continue lowering the resistor until the pop gets quieter. It will then go away completely in the long run.

Make sure not to go below one meg since it can affect the output impedance of your guitar. There would still be a particular ‘pop’ present at this point, but your goal is to keep it as quiet as possible.

Remember, the more gain and distortion you have, and the less pronounced the pop will be.

Final Takeaway

Adding a kill switch can add contrast and texture to your sound. It will make your sound better and more appetizing to the ears. There are plenty of famous musicians that install kill switches on their guitars. There are plenty of ways to install it, and it’s up to you to decide what will work best.

Sourav Biswas

Music is my life and I love to play guitar so much. It's been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a musical family, and my parents were always supportive of my passion for music. I am also a freelance writer who has been writing for over 10 years. I have written for both online and offline publications, including Amazon and Medium.

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