What Do the Knobs On a Bass Guitar Do? (All You Need to Know)

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Some bass guitars come with two, while others have five or more knobs. It can be quite difficult, especially for beginners, to figure out exactly what they do. And that’s because these knobs are usually not labeled. 

So what exactly do the knobs on a bass guitar do?

The knobs on a bass guitar are used to control the overall volume of the bass guitar or blend the sounds from the bass pickups. Some bass guitars also have one or more tone control knobs to adjust the equalizer settings of the bass sound.

Do All Bass Guitars Have the Same Number of Knobs?

Before I talk about what exactly bass guitar knobs are and what they do, I need to set this fact straight. 

All bass guitars do not have the same number of knobs. Some bass guitars may come with only two knobs. Others may come with up to 5 knobs. The number of knobs a bass guitar may come with largely depends on the manufacturer. 

It depends on the guitar technology used to manufacture the particular bass guitar.

The number of knobs found on a bass guitar also depends on whether the bass guitar is passive or active. Bass guitars with active circuitry usually have more knobs than bass guitars with passive circuitry. 

Therefore, you should remember that the knobs in active and passive pickup bass guitars are not set up the same.

Bass Guitar Knobs

No matter the number of knobs you may see on a particular bass guitar, these knobs can be grouped into two main classes based on their primary function. These primary functions are tone control and volume control. All the knobs found on a bass guitar basically perform one out of these two primary functions.

Therefore, the most important thing to note is that every guitar comes with two main types of knobs. These are the volume control knobs and the tone control knobs. All the knobs on a bass guitar can be grouped under either of these two.

Volume Control Knob

A bass guitar volume control knob is used to select the guitar’s pickups. However, depending on the type of bass guitar, it may have either one master volume control knob for controlling all the pickups or individual volume control knobs for regulating each pickup. 

Just as I mentioned in my article titled “Rhythm vs Treble Pickup,” most guitars have two pickups. Therefore, a bass guitar may come with individual volume knobs for each pickup.

Most bass guitars come with two knobs that perform the role of volume control. These two knobs are the master volume knob and pickup blend knob

The master volume knob on a bass guitar is used to regulate the overall volume output of the guitar. It is used to adjust how loud you want your pickup to sound. However, some bass guitars with many knobs may have individual volume knobs for every pickup.

On the other hand, the pickup blend knob is used to blend the sound of the two pickups on the bass guitar. Usually, when it is turned full clockwise, you’ll only get the sound from the neck pickup. And when it is turned fully anticlockwise, you’ll only hear the sound from the bridge pickup.

When this knob is positioned in the middle, you get a 50/50 blend between the neck and bridge pickup.

Tone Control Knob

Every bass guitar has at least one tone knob. Bass guitars with simple layouts have only one tone control knob. However, some bass guitars have more than one tone knob. If a guitar has only one tone knob, this tone knob is referred to as the treble/high-end knob.

Apart from the treble/high-end knob, the two other tone knobs a bass guitar can have are a mid-range knob and a bass/low-end knob.

Just as the name depicts, the treble tone knob is used to adjust the treble or high-end sound of the guitar. 

When the bass guitar comes with two-tone control knobs, they are typically the treble and the bass knob. The treble knob controls the high and mid-range frequencies, while the bass knob controls the low frequencies. 

Bass guitars with three tone control knobs have a treble, mid-range, and bass knob.

In summary, the tone knobs of a bass guitar are used to adjust and customize the EQ of your tone. They enable you to have control over the sound frequencies produced by your bass guitar. For instance, three tone control knob bass guitars basically serve as a form of built-in 3-band equalizer that comes with bass guitars. 

However, many bass guitar players don’t use the tone control knobs. These bass players prefer to adjust the tone on the bass combo or amp instead of the guitar itself.

How To Use The Knobs On Bass Guitars

In order to get great tones from your bass guitar, it’s important to learn about these built-in knobs and how to make the most of them. that come with the bass. 

You can adjust these knobs to suit the song being played. Thus, to avoid getting an overly muddy sound, you need to use the knobs on your bass guitar correctly.

How To Use the Volume Knobs

Volume knobs on bass guitars are easy to operate like any volume knob on any electronic device. It’s used to either turn up or down the volume of your bass guitars.

As I mentioned earlier, bass guitars with only one volume knob control the entire volume of your instrument. And you use it to either increase or decrease the overall volume of your instrument.

On the other hand, bass guitars with two or more volume knobs allow you to mix or blend the volume of the individual pickups on the bass guitar. This gives you more flexibility on the tone you can achieve. 

All you have to do is simply tweak and experiment with the different volume knobs until you get the sound you like.

To further understand how the master volume control knob can be used, you should watch this video.

How To Use the Tone Knobs

For a bass guitar that has only one tone knob, this knob will control the treble frequency. To use this treble tone knob, you have to turn it up or down, depending on what you want. 

When you turn this knob up, you will get a bright sound with less low end or bass. And the bass will cut through the mix. This will make the bass guitar sound more audible within a band setting. 

Turning this knob down will result in a less intrusive tone that is darker and softer, having more depth. This video gives a great practical demonstration of what I am talking about.

The same principle applies to guitars with multiple tone control knobs, i.e., treble knob, bass knob, and mid-range knob. 

All you have to bear in mind is that the treble knob controls the treble frequencies; the bass knob controls the low frequencies, while the mid-range knob enables you to regulate frequencies between the low and high ranges.

Why Do Some Bass Guitars Have So Many Knobs?

Bass guitars that come with many knobs basically give you more control over the sound produced by your guitar. These bass guitars with many knobs enable you to have more influence over the tone and volume generated by your bass guitar than those with fewer knobs.

Some bass guitars have a single master volume meant for controlling all the guitar’s pickups. Apart from the master volume, other bass guitars may have additional or separate volume knobs for controlling each pickup. 

The bass guitars that come with separate volume knobs for controlling each pickup will enable you to adjust the sound to emphasize the pickups better.

The same can be said with bass guitars with many tone control tones. Bass guitars that have 2 to 3 tone knobs afford you greater control and degree of tone EQ customization.

Can You Replace Guitar Knobs When They Spoil?

Yes, you can replace guitar knobs when they spoil. There are lots of guitar knob replacements available. Thus, if your knob keeps coming off, you don’t need to worry much. You can easily find a replacement knob and fix them for your bass and fix it on.

There are three main types of knobs used on both the bass and electric guitars. And chances are that your damaged knob falls within one of these three categories.

The three main types of knobs are the Bell Knobs, Speed Knobs, and Domer Knobs (all on Amazon). One of these three different knobs will work perfectly with your bass guitar knobs.

However, if you find it difficult to get a new one for your guitar, you can simply wrap the post with some tape and then stick the knob back onto it. For knobs that are held on by screws, you can try tightening these screws to improve their hold on the knobs.


In summary, the knobs on bass guitars are grouped into two. These are volume control knobs and tone control knobs. The volume control knobs of bass guitars are used to turn up, mute, or blend their pickups. 

On the other hand, the tone control knobs help bassists to get great tone from their guitars. They are used to tune the sound produced by a bass guitar for it to suit the mood and genre of the song being played.