So, here we’ll talk about how to wire a humbucker pickup so that it can be split into a single coil pickup. For the split you need a four-wire humbucker; you cannot split a two-wire without first modifying the pickup itself. Each coil has a Hot and a Ground, and a determination must be made as to which is which before we get started.
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What does it mean when guitar pickups are wired in-phase, out-of-phase, series or parallel ?
To answer this question the first thing we’ll need to do is understand a little about how our pickup is made and how it works.
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The treble bleed circuit is one of the easiest mods that you can perform on your guitar, but it is also a mod that might require extensive experimenting before you’re able to it get perfect. The treble bleed is meant to preserve treble loss as you turn down the volume control on your guitar by creating a very simple high pass filter to counteract the high frequency loss inherent in the volume control. You will want to add this mod to your guitar if you feel that rolling off the volume causes your tone to change too dramatically, thus becoming muddy or dull.
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A reader asked about turning off one coil of the bridge humbucker in his Telecaster via the 3-way switch. What he proposed is:
1. Neck pickup
2. Neck + one humbucker coil
3. Both humbucker coils
While I guess the answer might be technically “yes,” I am going to say the answer is in reality: “no.”
The reason is that we do not use “both coils” in the Humbucker. We actually run one coil into the next coil, and it might be better to look at a Humbucker as a Single Figure 8 Coil instead of 2 separate Single Coils. We can “split” the Humbucker by running a (switchable) wire to Ground right where the one coil meets the other coil. This actually “shorts out” the second coil, it doesn’t shut it off. So, in order to split the pickup we need a path to Ground. The 3-way switch in a Telecaster is a “Hot Wire” that selects which of the Hot pickup leads to send to the Volume pot. There is no ground connection available and adding one will short out the entire guitar. Without a ground we cannot split the pickup.
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We’re going to take a look at wiring up a three-way toggle switch in a Gibson Les Paul style guitar, and because Gibson electronics are different than what we have been looking at so far, we’ll take a look at the rest of the circuit as well. We’ll look at the two humbuckers, the three-way switch, two Volume controls, two Tone controls, two capacitors, and the output jack.
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Let’s talk about wiring a five-way switch to your Stratocaster. We covered the Telecaster and its three-way switch and one Tone control; now we’ll look at the Stratocaster and its five-way switch and two Tone controls. Even though we’re talking about the Fender Strat and how it’s wired, the switch will work the same way in any guitar with one Volume and two Tone controls. If you are changing your switch it might also be a great time to check out the other components in your guitar to see if they are also due for an update. Be sure that you have high quality pots with the right values, and check the value of any capacitors as well. Check your Output Jack for wear as this is another very common part to wear out.
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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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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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