Wiring up a Telecaster three-way switch
The information in this article will apply to any similar three-way “Lever” switches that are used in many different Strat style guitars. The Gibson Les Paul and several other similar guitars use a three-way “Toggle” switch and that discussion will be in a different article. Since the title of this article is “How To Wire A Telecaster” I am going to use all of the standard Fender Telecaster values in the wiring diagram.
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For many people, the tone control itself is just a potentiometer (Volume knob) with a capacitor attached to it. When the tone control is turned all the way up, the tone is at its brightest, and as you turn the knob down (off), the tone darkens (i.e., high frequencies get rolled off). What might not be generally known is that the other components, especially any other volume and tone controls, will also affect the tone, so their values must be considered. Also, your tone is YOUR TONE, so unless you are trying to restore a collector guitar to original specs, it’s better not to just blindly follow guidelines and rules and call it a day. Instead, use your ears and this guide to get the best tone from your guitar. So, with that said, let’s begin with the components.
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Effect pedals are a great way to change up or enhance your sound. You can get almost any sound you can think up, somewhere in a pedal. You can do anything from adding a slap-back echo to turning your guitar into a synth. Their small size and relatively inexpensive price allows players to get several types of pedals and string them together on a pedal-board, or several of the same type and swap them out. Many vintage pedals are collected and can sell for thousands of dollars. Right now we’re going to take a look at overdrive pedals in particular, and of those we want the ones that won’t break the bank. Each pedal on this list costs less than $100, looks and sounds great, is high-quality and durable, and will deliver all of the overdrive crunch that you need. We’ll look at, and discuss a few vintage pedals that have more than proven themselves, and we’ll also take a look at a few of the more modern ones on the market today to see how the technology is changing, and determine if they sound as good, or better, than the old pedals.
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We’re going to talk about simple volume control wiring, but before we start to solder anything let’s go over a few things. First, let’s talk about the volume potentiometer itself, and what value we should use.
There are many values in circulation but the most common ones are a 250k volume pot and a 500k volume pot. Generally speaking, a 250k pot is used for single coil pickups and a 500k pot for Humbucking pickups. When a Volume pot of any value is added to the circuit, high frequencies are lost because of the way the circuit works; i.e., the lower the value of the pot the more high end frequencies get rolled off, even when the volume knob is all the way up. The higher the value, the higher the resistance, and more resistance prevents frequencies from “leaking out,” which leads to a brighter tone.
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For many of us, the overdrive that is built into our amplifier, even if it is a good one, can become stale and restrictive over time, thus leaving you looking for something more. An overdrive pedal can be the perfect solution. Pedals are usually much cheaper than a new amplifier, and much less bulky. There are so many overdrive pedals available that it won’t be too hard to find one or more that you like, thereby leaving you free to create for yourself a truly custom sound that is unique to you. Right now we’re going to look at some of the best guitar overdrive pedals available out there, and we’ll talk about why they are so great, and also what makes them that way. We’re going to take a look at vintage designs as well as modern overdrive pedals, to see how things have changed, and how they have remained the same. These are all going to be Overdrive pedals, so we will probably see a few tube emulators, and pedals designed to sound like an amp naturally breaking up. You’ll get some good crunch and even distortion out of many of these pedals, but these are not Fuzz pedals or Metal distortion pedals; those are for another time.
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The Fender Telecaster is actually a great guitar for Rock. The twangy sound fattens up nicely when run through some overdrive or a fuzz pedal. Even though many people consider the Telecaster to be a country guitar many great Rock players, including Jeff Beck, Mike Campbell, John 5, Richie Kotzen, Alex Lifeson, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, and Bruce Springsteen often use a Tele. One way that you might be able to help your Telecaster deliver a more Rock tone is to change the pickups, and that is what we’re going to talk about right now. Here are some really high-quality pickups that were designed for Rock and for the great gain that they produce. So that means that we’ll be looking at humbucker pickups which will allow us to run through overdrive or fuzz while keeping inherent noise to a minimum. We’ll be looking at pickups that fit into the bridge position of a Tele without having to modify the guitar, taking into account the slanted nature of the Tele bridge pickup. If you’re looking to get a heavier rock sound out of your Tele, this list should help you narrow down the choices.
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Fuzz pedals are often a great substitute for other solid state, and sometimes even tube-driven, overdrives and distortions. Fuzz was actually the first solid state distortion available to guitar players and it has been around long enough to have a vintage sound to it, as well as a long list of big name users. Fuzz is usually created with either germanium or silicon fuzz-based transistors. The germanium-based fuzz boxes produce a warmer sound, more like a tube amp, and you can also change the fuzz level by adjusting your guitar’s volume. Germanium-based fuzz boxes are affected by the environment and can sound differently on warm and cold days. A silicon-based fuzz pedal will sound brighter and sharper, and since silicon transistors are cheaper than germanium, the pedals are usually cheaper as well.The level of fuzz is not affected by the guitar’s volume knob and silicon is much less susceptible to the environment. Both types of distortion are capable of going from just a hint of fuzz to massive levels of tone-changing fuzz at any volume level. Right now we look at the best of the best so you can see which one is right for you.
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Perhaps your guitar tone is getting stale, or perhaps it never sounded that good to begin with. Well, before you buy a new one, review this post and put some thought into upgrading your pickups instead. If you play Rock or Metal through a Stratocaster then this information should be especially useful to you. In making our selections, we looked at a number of things. For example, since Rock guitar players are probably going to use a lot of overdrive and distortion, they’ll need a high output pickup capable of delivering a lot of voltage to the amplifier, to push the preamp harder for a better sounding overdrive. But, lots of overdrive and distortion can also be very noisy, especially in a Strat, with its stock single coil pickups. So, because noise is a serious issue, it’s probably best to use a humbucking pickup. For those who don’t know, a humbucking pickup is two coils working together to cancel out noise and just leave the pure guitar signal, in much the same way a balanced XLR mic cable does. Because a humbucker is two coils, we need those that can fit into a single coil space. Of course, all of the other things that you might look for in a pickup — such as even, clear tone across all strings — are still important. So, all that said, here are what we consider to be some strong candidates for the best Rock pickups for the Strat.
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The combo amp is pretty standard equipment for guitarists of every music genre and skill level. Their compact and rugged design, and often reasonable purchase price are sure to keep the combo amps going strong well into the future. In this post we will concentrate on combo amps made to play rock and heavy rock. Of course we want the clean sounds to be clear and lush, but the gain, crunch, and distortion are going to be very important elements to this discussion because of their emphasis in this style of music. The music in this genre also often switches from a clean tone to a heavy distortion and then back again sometimes several times in a single song, and at a moment’s notice. This means that we are probably going to be looking for a two-channel amp (one clean, one distorted), preferably with the ability to switch channels using a footswitch. Because most people would probably agree that tubes sound better than solid state even in a modern rock context, these amps will all be tube amps.
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Many people think of the Fender Telecaster as a country or rock guitar but the Tele is actually quite good for playing the blues. Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Albert Lee, and many other great blues players played a Telecaster. The combination of the biting, gritty, bridge pickup mixed with the warm, smooth tone of the neck pickup really work together to create the perfect instrument for playing the blues. Right now, we’re going to talk about swapping out the bridge pickup on the Tele for an aftermarket pickup specifically designed with the blues guitarist in mind. We’ll discuss the differences between each, and what makes them great for creating a blues tone. The pickups in the bridge position of the Tele are known to be pretty twangy so in this post we will likely be looking to fatten up the sound just a bit. Continue reading “What are the Best Telecaster Bridge Pickups for Blues?”