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I haven't posted here in a while, but if anyone is into strat-type guitars, I've been playing with the wiring of mine and gotten some interesting things out of it, so I'd like to list a few simple wiring changes that lead to drastic changes (usually improvements, sometimes just ways to get weird new tones) that can be done to a guitar with three single-coil pickups.
Fair warning, these mods do require soldering, but most of it is pretty simple and doesn't have to be pretty to work. I managed to do the soldering on each of these changes is under fifteen minutes with minimal frustration.
A very simple thing you can do if you use the bridge pickup a lot and would like a tone control (stock wiring only uses a tone control on the neck and middle pickups) is to choose which pickup you want to trade with (usually the middle one, which ever one you don't use a lot), and on the pole of the pickup switch opposite the one the pickups are actually wired to, just swap the wire going out to the tone control from the middle tab to the last one.
Another thing to do is to change and add capacitors to change the sound. There is a capacitor in stock wiring shared between the two tone pots. If you can read the numbers on it and figure out how big it is (I could post a simple system for this if anyone is interested later), you just go to radio shack and find a different one and replace it. A smaller value capacitor will make the tone controls have a higher range, and a larger one will make them go lower.
Placing a very small capacitor between the middle and high tabs on the volume pot will essentially turn it into a bass cut control, leaving the high frequencies up as the bass goes down with the volume knob is turned down.
And finally, I wanted to totally change my pickup configuration to get some weird tones not normally heard out of strats, so here's what I did:
I wired the neck pickup backwards to put it out of phase with the other pickups.
Put the outgoing terminals of all the pickups on the bridge pickup tab on the selector. This keeps the bridge pickup on all the time, and the other pickups come on in normal combinations with only with the bridge always on. I could post a diagram if anyone is interested.
Next I plan to replace all the pots with push/pull switches to get everything back to fairly normal if I want. One will turn the bridge pickup off, one will switch the wiring on the neck pickup back around to normal, and one will take the low-cut effect off the volume knob.
If anybody thinks any of this is cool, I can post more detailed how-tos later tonight.
Anyone know how the addition of variable capacitors in place of the standard caps would affect the tone? Has anyone ever tried it?
Just wondering... - and while I'm asking, does anyone have a recommendation between linear or logarithmic var-caps for that purpose?
I think I might trip on down to the local parts store and perform a little surgery this weekend.
At 12/5/05 02:58 PM, jobelow wrote:
I wired the neck pickup backwards to put it out of phase with the other pickups.
Why would you want to do that?
If you use a varcap instead of a resistor pot, I would assume it would bleed out low end and act like a high pass filter, with the variation being the cutoff. Never tried it though, so that would just be an educated guess.
RE: wiring the neck pickup backwards... if I just used it with the mid pickup, it would probably cancel low end and make a real thin noise, which is pretty much useless, but using just the out-of-phase neck pickup and the straight bridge pickup, due to their spacing, it seems to cancel even harmonics, which makes kind of a weird hollow synthy sound. It still sounds like a guitar, and the sound is still fat, but it's definitely different. It has a unique ring to it I really like. It kinda reminds me of the tone used by the Japanese guitarist who plays the Super Mario Bros. themes. Especially with compression and some fuzz and my volume pot cutting some lows out.
ljcoffee: sorry, it's the middle of the night, I'm braindead and just off work, misread your post, and what I said made no sense to me upon rereading it. Let me try again.
varcaps instead of standard caps: for one, you'd have to do some drilling, since a regular cap is a small chiclet-looking component and a variable cap is a dial like a pot, but if you used one say in place of the cap on the tone pots, it would change the shelving frequency of the pot. Like if you tuned the varcap to a low capacitance, your tone pot would have a higher cutoff frequency and seem to turn farther up and not as far down, and if you used a high capacitance, it would bleed off frequencies above a lower frequency, so your tone pot would seem to go farther down and not as far up.
The way it works I'm pretty sure is the lower the capacitance, the shorter amount of time it takes the cap to charge and discharge, and when its used to bypass some of the output of a pot, frequencies near the frequency of the charge/discharge cycle are the ones that get sent through the cap to signal or ground. In a tone control, the cap bleeds off higher frequencies and sends them to ground. In a modified volume control like mine, the cap saves the highs that the pot would normally roll off and sends them to signal out, effectively bypassing the resistance of the volume pot.
At 12/6/05 02:36 AM, jobelow wrote: you'd have to do some drilling, since a regular cap is a small chiclet-looking component and a variable cap is a dial like a pot
Thanks - I'm very familiar with the components and drilling was the plan :) - I'm wondering though based on your description if I could slap another knob or three on the front plate that might act sort of like a wah-wah.
Or perhaps even throw together a bit of circuitry to get some really warped up sounds.
I love the idea of modding the pickups, or at least adding a few components along the way, to change the sound.
Great topic I think, if nothing else it made me think a little bit about possibilities.
If I make any mods on my end, I'll post the results.
Thos are all pretty common mods.
My current guitar had a coil tap switch for putting the bucker in and out of phase, but i removed it because I never used it.
However, this might interested you ;)
At the moment, I'm finishing off my scratchplate for my Ibanez Roadstar (essentially a strat rip-off), and I'm seriously considering making it modular. Ie, no pickup switch, just a bunch of jacks on the scratchplate which I can wire up with little patch leads so I can create any combination of in/out of phase pickups :)
I could also wire the pickups to different outputs and run them through different effects etc.
I'm thinking maybe a pretty low-resistance pot, like 100k or smaller, wired up like a tone control with a fairly small cap, say .005 uf, might sound a bit like a wah pedal. On some amps, my tones will pick up so much juice they start to wah already using a single coil bridge pickup, a 500k pot, and a 1000pf cap. Particularly my Sunn A212 with lots of high end and high end boost. But Sunns are pretty bright amps, at least the old ones. Last night I plugged my guitar straight into a 4-track and played through headphones and the sound was a bit different. The tone controls barely did anything at all, since a 4-track doesn't give the kind of high-end gain a good tube amp does I guess, but the neck and bridge single coils out of phase was actually giving me a chorus effect, and a pretty good one, especially when I played higher on the neck. There was a little bit of a double attack, and the tone was just fat, like a detuned pair of synth oscillators.
The other really useful piece of wiring I did that I like quite a bit was routing the middle and bridge pickups in series. You wouldn't believe how much hotter that is than the stock parallel circuit. Low end to the point of distortion in clean channels with moderate gain. Very bluesy, and with a touch of overdrive or compression, it got one hell of a crunch.