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Your bass guitar knobs might be one of the last parts of your instrument you are thinking about. While they are not as vital to your playing as things like your strings, pickups, pots, or even the amp, they still play a significant role in your playing.
Why? Because if you have a busted knob or one that just is not functioning right, you might not even be able to adjust your tone or volume levels. Often, if you are having an issue with volume and tone level adjustment, it is actually something wrong with the pots, but sometimes it can be the knobs themselves.
Or maybe nothing is wrong with the knobs, but they are filthy underneath them, and you need to clean them. Or, perhaps, you are ready for an appearance change. In either situation, the old knobs must be removed to put the new ones on or cleaned underneath them.
So how do we remove old bass knobs safely so we don’t damage the knobs or the finish on the bass?
Sometimes bass knobs will easily pop off just by pulling up on them. Other times, they will be stuck on tight and need more force to be removed. In This case, wrapping a cloth or old shirt under and around the knob and pulling it up will get them to come off.
Let’s take a more detailed look below at why you might want to remove the knobs in the first place and how to remove bass guitar knobs safely and effectively.
Why Remove Bass Guitar Knobs?
Why would we want to remove bass guitar knobs in the first place? Knobs are the connection between you and the electronics that allow you to play the bass. Without functioning knobs, you might be unable to adjust your volume and tone levels. So while they might not be as essential as other components, they are still necessary for a smooth playing experience.
A quick note here is that bass and guitar knobs are not a universal size. There are short and long shaft pots, split-coil options, etc. So make sure when buying new knobs that you purchase the correct sizing and specifications. While even the higher-quality ones aren’t costly, you don’t want to get the wrong size.
As I briefly mentioned in the intro, there are a few reasons why you might need to remove them, so let’s take a closer look at these reasons.
Reason #1: They Are Damaged
Bass guitar knobs will be made of plastic, wood, or metal, like the other components on your bass guitar. Over time and lots of playing, these can eventually get worn out since you always interact with this area of your bass.
If a knob is cracked or loose, it can seriously impact your playing, as you might not be able to adjust your volume and tone levels at all.
Reason #2: Bass Needs To Be Cleaned
Even if you leave your bass alone on a stand or up on a wall, it will get dirty. A fine layer of dust will soon develop whether you play a lot or not. If you play a lot, even if it is just in your own home, it will get even dirtier, from the strings to underneath the knobs.
Regular cleaning and maintenance are essential to increase your gear’s longevity, including the knobs on your bass guitar and the pots they are connected to. In order to adequately clean your bass, removing the knobs must be done so you can clean underneath where dirt and grime tend to collect.
Reason #3: Appearance Upgrade
The last reason, often the most common for removing knobs, is a cosmetic upgrade. Maybe the stock knobs that came with your bass don’t look how you want them to. Maybe you want to change from plastic to metal or vice versa. Whatever the reason, removing and replacing old knobs is a quick and cheap way to upgrade how your bass looks.
How To Remove Bass Guitar Knobs
Now onto the most important piece of the puzzle; how to actually remove the knobs from your bass guitar. Thankfully, removing the knobs is typically super easy and something most players can do at home. There are a few things I will send my bass to the shop to do, like re-fretting or swapping out pickups, but removing the knobs is always something I have done at home.
Protecting the bass’s finish is the most important consideration when removing the knobs. Many electric guitars and some basses have pickguards designed to protect the finish from the pick, but many guitars and basses don’t have this. This means that when you are removing the knobs from basses without pickguards, it is important that you don’t scratch the finish.
Let’s dive into how you can remove the knobs from your bass guitar.
Method #1: Without Any Materials
The first way to remove a know is simply by pulling it off. Some knobs can come right off by simply pulling on them. Often, you will need to apply some pressure on the bass as you pull to gain some leverage.
Be sure to pull straight up, as it not only makes removing the knob easier but also makes it less likely that you will damage it in the process. If the knob is super loose and comes off with little to no effort, that might be a good indication that it is time to replace the knob, as it is likely worn down or might not be the correct size.
Method #2: Using A Cloth Or Shirt
This is by far my favorite method for removing bass knobs. It is the same principle as method one, but it adds the benefit of increased leverage from the cloth or shirt. This method also helps protect the finish as you aren’t using anything that can damage it. This method is perfect for the bass knobs that are secure and require a bit more force than just pulling them off.
It might take a few attempts to get a good grip, depending on how tight the knob is and which type of knob it is. Like method one, you will want to create some leverage by holding down the bass and pulling straight up again.
The short video below is done on an electric guitar, but the concept is the same.
Method #3: Using Guitar Picks (Or Other Implement)
I have seen many videos where flathead screwdrivers, files, or other flat objects are used to remove the knobs. This is okay to do, especially if there is a pickguard, but I prefer to use something that will potentially cause less damage, like a couple of guitar picks, if the knobs are really stuck on there, as the round edge is less likely to scratch the finish.
Another method I have seen is to use a spoon instead of a file, screwdriver, or knife. However, I would still use a cloth or old t-shirt between the spoon (or whatever you use) and the bass, especially if there is no pickguard.
This concept works well because the guitar picks, spoon, or whatever implement you choose acts as a lever, so you can use substantially less force to get the knob off the bass. However, while this method works well, it is the method that will have the highest risk of damaging your bass.
If you use guitar picks, you will need to use two picks that are as thick as possible and still fit under the knob. The video below (starting at 1:42) shows how to do this with the guitar picks. Again, it is performed on an electric guitar, but the concept is the same.
One issue with guitar picks is that with certain knob designs (or if the knobs are on too tightly), you might be unable to create enough leverage to get them off. However, I think it is worth trying, as the guitar picks are a lot less likely to cause damage to the bass itself.
If you decide to use this method, be extremely cautious and take your time, as any slight slip might damage the pickguard, finish, or even the knob itself, especially if it is of cheaper material. This is especially true if using a screwdriver, spoon, etc.
Again, I don’t particularly like this method as there is a higher risk of damaging your bass or the knobs, so I would only use this as a last resort and make sure to use a cloth between the implement and the bass, especially if you don’t have a pickguard.
There you have it! Three reasons you might want to remove the knobs on your bass guitar and three methods to do this.
Again, I want to stress to be careful using method three, and in my opinion, avoid using this method if you can, unless you don’t care about the finish of your bass.
Until next time, stay creative and keep on playing!
Hi everyone! I have been involved with music most of my life, beginning in grade school with the trumpet. I am a largely self-taught multi-instrumentalist (drums, guitar, bass, and starting the piano and violin). I currently play drums in two bands and write and produce many genres of music in my home recording studio. I am also an avid guitar and drum collector.