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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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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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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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. So, with that in mind, let’s talk about some of the best Rock Telecaster bridge pickups around.
The ones that we’ve listed here are of very high quality, and they 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 its bridge pickup. So, if you’re looking to get a heavier rock sound, this list of the best Rock Telecaster bridge pickups should help you narrow down your choices.
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Telecasters are great… probably my favorite guitar of all. But when your Tele is stock, chances are that it came loaded with vintage style pickups. Depending on your rig and your style of playing, this may translate to noise (i.e. the dreaded 60-cycle hum), or in the case of the bridge pickup, a somewhat brittle tone, and few options. Here is a list of areas to think through before you make your final decision on your next Telecaster bridge pickup upgrade.
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Although Telecaster bridge pickups are best known for their famous “twang,” more and more, guitarists are looking to coax an increased array of sounds out of their instrument. If you need to extend what your Telecaster can do, should consider upgrading your bridge and neck pickups. Even if you simply want to improve the quality of your existing sound, an upgrade is usually the best bet. Below are links for the best Telecaster bridge pickups on the market. Which one is right for you depends mostly on your needs as well as taste.
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If you are embarking on a project that involves upgrading or building a Tele, these links might help you to find some of the Telecaster guitar parts you need. All of these companies offer some pretty good stuff at fairly reasonable prices. Warmoth, for example, is probably best and offers the most options for bodies and necks, but of course, they are the most expensive. In each case, though, be sure to explore all the options for Telecaster guitar parts that the company offers, and don’t be afraid to call them if you have any questions before you place your order.
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This is a celebration of my favorite guitar pickups. The title may seem a bit much, but it is true; these pickups absolutely changed my playing style as well as my tone. I am a bit of a pickup nut. At one point I owned over 100 different pickups, but had only about a dozen or so in a guitar. This is a pretty clear indication of obsessive compulsive disorder. But, at the same time, there are many worse ways of spending one’s time and money.
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Judging by the number of articles related to the Fender Telecaster in this site, anyone can guess that I am a big fan of this guitar. In some ways, the Telecaster is for me, the perfect guitar; it looks right, it feels right, and it sounds right. But out of the box, this guitar might not be equipped for exactly what you had in mind and you may want to consider a few Telecaster modifications. For example, some want more muscle in the bridge pickup, some want more beef in the neck pickup, some want a speedier neck, some want… well, you get the picture. Fortunately, most Telecaster modifications are fairly painless. You can take the modifications to various levels and in some cases, you might want to enlist the help of a qualified guitar technician. So, that said, just use your best judgment.
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Nowadays, between digital modeling and overall great engineering, you can make virtually any guitar sound like just about any other guitar. Except, you cannot make any guitar really sound like a Telecaster. You can try, but it will never really quite smell right. But if you’re thinking about upgrading your Tele neck pickup, you’ll find many great-sounding, affordable models. Here’s a sampling of some of the best Telecaster neck pickups.
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