Let’s talk about the Nashville Style Tele, what it is, how it is wired, and whether or not you can modify your Tele for Nashville Style wiring.
A Nashville Style Tele is just a Standard Telecaster with three pickups instead of two, and a five-way selector switch instead of a three-way selector switch. This Mod was created by Tele players looking to coax some Strat style tones out of their Telecaster while still retaining that crucial Neck + Bridge pickup combination not found on the Strat.
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The Seven-Sound Strat Modification is an easy mod that you can make to your guitar to give you more tone versatility, and despite its name, you can make this mod on any type of guitar that has three pickups and a five-way switch.
The five-way switch gives Strat players plenty of versatility in tone. Position 1 is the Bridge pickup, Position 2 is Bridge + Middle, Position 3 is just the Middle pickup, Position 4 is Middle + Neck, and Position 5 is Neck. What the five-way switch does not provide is a way to select the Bridge + Neck pickup, or a way to select all three pickups at once. This is exactly what the Seven-Sound Strat Mod (also sometimes referred to as the Gilmour mod) provides for us.
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Why a Mini Toggle Switch?
A humbucker pickup contains two coils, and with a simple modification we can use a switch to “shut off” one of the coils, causing it to sound and act like a single coil pickup. The choice to use a mini toggle switch is purely aesthetic; you can use absolutely any kind of switch that you want to but you will need to modify your guitar to hold it. A mini toggle requires drilling a hole that is less than 1/4 inch and takes up very little space once it is in place.
If you have the type of guitar that requires you to drill a hole through the wood, into the electronics compartment to add a toggle switch, then I recommend taking it to a pro, unless you really know what you are doing. If you’re lucky enough to have a Stratocaster or another type of guitar with those large pickguards that give you access to the electronics by removing them, then you can probably drill a small hole in the pickguard and add the toggle switch yourself if you are very careful and have the tools.
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Well, here we’ll talk about how to wire a humbucker pickup so that it can be split into a single coil pickup using a push-pull pot. 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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So we’ll start with the basics of guitar pickup wiring by examining what it means when guitar pickups are wired in-phase, out-of-phase, series, or parallel. The first thing we’ll need to do is understand a little about how our pickups are made and how they work.
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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 one that might require extensive experimenting before you’re able to get it 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 three-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 two 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 three-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 Les Paul three-way switch wiring, 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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So, then let’s go ahead and talk about setting up that five-way switch wiring in your Stratocaster. We covered the Telecaster and its three-way switch and one Tone control; now we’ll look at the Stratocaster, its five-way switch wiring, 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 as well, 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 refers to Telecaster three-way switch wiring, I am going to use all of the standard Fender Telecaster values in the diagram.
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