How Does A Guitar Kill Switch Work & Who Uses One?


Let’s start with the basics. What is a kill-switch?

It’s a switch that momentarily mutes or “kills” the guitar signal while pressed,
And resumed the guitar’s normal operation when the button is released.

So a guitar kill switch can be used to create a staccato or tremolo-like effect,
And it works best when used rhythmically and in conjunction with your playing.

The stuttering effect can be used to accentuate certain notes before or after,
Or it can create a dead silence which can be equally as powerful.
Sometimes it’s as the jazz adage goes, “It’s the notes you don’t play that make the difference”.

 LED guitar kill-switch telecaster Iron Age Accessories

 

In More Technical Terms

So a guitar kill switch helps to add contrast & texture to your sound.
But what’s really going on when you press that button? Does it require a battery to operate?
A kill-switch generally doesn’t require a battery unless there’s an LED involved.

The switches we offer are all meant to work by grounding out your guitar signal right at the guitar’s input jack.
As soon as the signal goes in, it immediately exits & never completes its circuit.
Another way of putting it, is that our kill-switches are a sort of “wire jumper” that when pressed, they short out the guitar’s pickup signal.
But don’t worry, this is totally safe for your guitar & won’t harm its components.

 signature killswitch charles caswell

 

Before Guitar Kill Switches

We introduced our modern version of the LED kill-switch back in 2015, before it had become a more common guitar modification.
Prior to that, these types of switches were much more simple, less aesthetically pleasing, and generally overlooked.
Some people would build kill-switch boxes and attach them to their guitar, or they would simply employ an additional guitar pedal to their board.

Even before that, it was much more common to use a similar killswitch effect for those with two guitar pickups that had a separate volume.
One of the pickups would be turned up & the other pickup would have its volume turned all the way down,
then the guitarist would flip their pickup selector back and forth to create the “kill switch” effect.
This was especially common with Les Paul style guitars.
This method is a good alternative although not quite as agile as pressing a button and having both of your pickups turned on.

 guitar killswitch iron age guitar accessories

 

Notable Guitarists Who Use A Guitar Kill switch

One of the most famous guitarists to employ a switch like this is none other than Eddie Van Halen.
He had been known to use one on his own guitar & many of his Wolfgang line of guitars already come equipped with one.
eddie van halen wolfgang killswitch replica


Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine & Audioslave is also widely known to use a killswitch effect in his music as well as all sorts of other sonic experimentations.

Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead has also been known to use a killswitch on his signature Telecaster.

John 5 of Marylin Manson & Rob Zombie also uses a kill-switch and has one installed on his signature Telecaster guitars. Lots of Teles & Kill-switches!
steampunk telecaster guitar with led kill switch


Perhaps one of the most prominent users of a guitar kill switch is Buckethead.
You can hear him create sound-scapes & special effects that are out of this world!
Note-worthy tracks are "Soothsayer" & "Jordan" amongst many others.
If that doesn’t inspire you to try one out then maybe check out another extensive killswitch user below!


Last but not least, our friend Charles Caswell of Berried Alive also uses a kill-switch in his music.
Charles has made the kill-switch a staple in his songwriting and is constantly pushing the limits of what’s possible.
His work borders on technically insane & we are proud to also offer his signature guitar picks on our site as well as his signature switch.
You can find more Berried Alive stuff >here<

 

Overview

So there you have it! A kill-switch might not be for everyone but it certainly adds a new sonic layer to your playing techniques & repertoire.
Take a listen or give one a try, we have several listed below if you’re interested.

Some have LEDs or if bright lights aren’t your thing, we also have non-LED versions as well as mini switches that drop right into a potentiometer hole.
These mini switches are reversible if you want to remove the guitar mod at a later date so they’re not permanent, it’s your choice.

For information on how to install a guitar kill switch, check out our >Installation Page<
For frequently asked questions regarding killswitches, please see our >F.A.Q. Page<

Thanks for dropping by!
We hope you learned a thing or two about the elusive guitar kill switch.

Regards,
The Iron Age Team