Pickups

Opinions/Suggestions from strat guys

1

I know this is likely not the ideal place to post this, but this is the forum I know best, so here goes.

A bit of background: For years, I avoided Stratocasters. My first good guitar was a '75 hardtail strat, which I sold in the '90s. I was the second owner. I got this weird idea that strats were generic--every other player I saw had one, and it was the height of the SRV wannabe era. I haven't owned a strat for the 20 years. Last year, a friend loaned me his Custom Shop N.O.S '56 strat, and I fell in love. It sounds great, and it may be the most comfortable guitar I've ever played. So, now I'm on a bit of a strat kick.

I bought that '56 strat from my friend, and it has custom shop pickups in it, with "50's" wiring, which means no tone control on the bridge pickup, and no RWRP on the middle pickup, so no hum cancelling in #2 or #4 position.

What I want to do is this: swap out the middle pickup (which I never use) for a RWRP pickup and rewire the guitar with a master tone and master volume using a "blender pot." I've bought a period-appropriate gold anodized guard (the strat is white blonde) and will wire it up, to leave the original guard and electronics as unmolested as possible.

What will I "lose," in terms of tone, if anything, from doing this? I really like how the guitar sounds now, but I would like a bit of control over the tone of that bridge pickup from time to time.

Thoughts?

2

The tone control will make the bridge pickup a little bit fatter sounding, and that's about it.

3

The tone control will make the bridge pickup a little bit fatter sounding, and that's about it.

– WB

Thanks, Walter. A slighter fatter bridge pickup might not be such a bad thing. As I said, I never use the middle pickup anyway (unless in combination). I use the neck probably 80% of the time, and the bridge the other 20%.

I'm glad I got over my strat aversion--I was missing out!

4

so you're taking the middle pickup out? That's exactly what I did on my strat. I had an anodized pickguard made with just two pickups (expensive, but it looks great), and I have it wired with a four way switch, bridge/both parallel/neck/both series, with a volume control for both pickups, and a master tone.

5

Hey--I never thought of that. I was going to use a RWRP middle as kind of a "dummy" so that I could hum-cancel in #2 or #4. But I like your idea better!

Got a picture of that guitar?

6

so you're taking the middle pickup out? That's exactly what I did on my strat. I had an anodized pickguard made with just two pickups (expensive, but it looks great), and I have it wired with a four way switch, bridge/both parallel/neck/both series, with a volume control for both pickups, and a master tone.

– WB

At that point, just buy a tele LOL.

OP: if you are still going to use 2 & 4 positions, the RWRP will indeed hum cancel. However, there will be a SLIGHT increase in high end... very slight. Alot of people don't notice it, but some of us can hear it. May not matter to you, but it does matter to some.

Here's a video showing the difference:

7

I’ve never known Teles and Strats to sound much alike LOL.

8

I’ve never known Teles and Strats to sound much alike LOL.

– Proteus

I'll bet a 2-pickup strat would sound alot more like a tele than you think. Of course, the pickups ARE different: the tele neck is covered and the tele bridge is larger. But the pickup positions are roughly the same.

Besides, I was HALF-joking, hence the "LOL"

Qualifier: I own a tele with a Texas Special neck pickup and a strat with a Texas Special neck pickup. The bridge pickups are apples vs oranges, as my strat has a HB bridge.

9

Just get a rio grande fat magnet pickup if the still make them and put it in the bridge and leave the middle pickup in. Get a five-day switch for the pickups so you can have the neck and middle combo at least. I disagree though with the assessment that a two-pickup strat will sound like a tele. It won't. It will sound like a strat with a neck pickup and a bridge pickup.

10

Here's my two pickup strat with lipsticks.

11

I'll bet a 2-pickup strat would sound alot more like a tele than you think.

Bet all you want, it doesn't sound anything like a telecaster. A strat neck pickup has longer magnets than a tele neck and has "that" strat tone you can't from a tele, and a tele lead pickup is a lot fatter sounding than a strat's.

Also, the floating "suspended on string tension and springs" bridge in a strat makes for a good deal of the sound of a stratocaster. And a tele doesn't have a whammy bar, of course, which is another argument for getting a strat, for me.

12

Go Gretsch! Well, they're not actually Gretsch, but Filtertron-style pickups in a standard humbucker size. The switch is a standard three-way with a master volume and two tones.

13

I'm another player who seldom uses a Strat middle pickup on its own. So on my more 'normal' Strat I flipped the middle and bridge pickups on the pickguard — didn't touch the wiring. From front to back I now have neck, neck+bridge, bridge (with tone control), middle+bridge, and finally middle (no tone control, but I seldom go there).

14

+1 on the Rio Grande single coils, they're fantastic. I've got a Muy Grande tele bridge, and it's been in there for at least 20 years.

15

I'll bet a 2-pickup strat would sound alot more like a tele than you think.

Bet all you want, it doesn't sound anything like a telecaster. A strat neck pickup has longer magnets than a tele neck and has "that" strat tone you can't from a tele, and a tele lead pickup is a lot fatter sounding than a strat's.

Also, the floating "suspended on string tension and springs" bridge in a strat makes for a good deal of the sound of a stratocaster. And a tele doesn't have a whammy bar, of course, which is another argument for getting a strat, for me.

– WB

To me, there's no point in that. 2 & 4 is WHY you get a strat, for the most part.

Yes, the strat neck pickup does sound a little different than the tele neck pickup. I actually prefer the tele neck pickup. But if a guitar doesn't have 2 & 4, it's not even a strat to me.

16

well, you know, each their own. Even on the 3 pickup strats I've had, I avoided 2+4 like the plague,and put three-way switches in them, I don't like that sound.

My strat heroes are Roland Janes, Ike Turner, Otis Rush, Dick Dale, Sonny Curtis, Pee Wee Crayton, René Hall, Hank Marvin, Jimmie Vaughan, and I like Hendrix's neck pickup tones a lot too. So no 2+4 for me!

17

I like 2+4 for Normal playing, and the Neck for Slide.

18

i seldom use 2 & 4. i'm usually a bridge or middle guy.

19

On my Strat before I changed out the bridge pickup to a TV Jones Power'tron I had it wired so the first knob was the volume for the bridge and neck pickups connected to a 3 way switch just like a Telecaster, the middle knob was the volume for the middle pickup which was connected directly to it and the third knob was the master tone. The middle pickup was RWRP and I was able to blend in as much of it as I wanted to utilizing the second knob. If I didn't want it at all I would turn down the volume. The great thing about this wiring is it allows the bridge and neck to be on at the same time and it also allows all 3 pickups to be on at the same time. This is called Memphis wiring because some session guitar players in Memphis in the 1950s wired their Strats this way.

Now I have a Power'tron in the bridge hooked up to a 1 meg pot on the first volume. I moved the bridge pickup to the middle and have it wired to the 3 way switch with the neck pickup connected to the second knob which is the volume for these two pickups. The third knob is still the master tone. Both the second and third knobs are 250K pots.

20

Thanks, for the picture, WB. That is a fine-looking guitar--mine is also the white blonde finish. The gold anodized guard looks sharp on there!

BuddyHollywood, that is the wiring scheme I had in mind. Lindy Fralin calls it "blender" wiring, but that is what I was thinking about. Although Walter now has me thinking about a two pickup strat...

**

21

Take the magnets out of the middle pickup, reverse the leads, and connect it to it's own volume pot. Then you can bring it in to cancel hum as needed. 50's Strats only had 3 position switches, so just wire it like a regualr 2 pickup guitar.

22

well, you know, each their own. Even on the 3 pickup strats I've had, I avoided 2+4 like the plague,and put three-way switches in them, I don't like that sound.

My strat heroes are Roland Janes, Ike Turner, Otis Rush, Dick Dale, Sonny Curtis, Pee Wee Crayton, René Hall, Hank Marvin, Jimmie Vaughan, and I like Hendrix's neck pickup tones a lot too. So no 2+4 for me!

– WB

Well there you go.

See, for me, the guys I like are more Albert Collins, Steve Cropper, Guthrie Trapp, Jim Campilongo, (and a bunch of other tele guys), Stax (which was usually Cropper)...

For strat stuff, SRV and EJ are probably my biggest 2 guys... and SRV's use of 2 & 4 is why I bothered buying a strat at all. I LOVE the neck and middle positions so much on my tele, I don't feel the need for anything else. but the tele can't do 2 & 4.

I know the Jerry Donahue tele is wired somehow, with caps and stuff, to "approximate" the sound of "in-between" on a strat... it must be position 2 (bridge and middle) since obviously the tele bridge pickup is involved. But Pos. 4 (neck and middle)... that's 90% of why I bought strat (well, that and mine is an HSS, so I can rock heavy with the bridge if I want... throwback to my hard rock days)

23

Take the magnets out of the middle pickup, reverse the leads, and connect it to it's own volume pot. Then you can bring it in to cancel hum as needed. 50's Strats only had 3 position switches, so just wire it like a regualr 2 pickup guitar.

– Billy Zoom

That's interesting. If one doesn't want to kill the looks would it work if I put a ceramic pu with a bar magnet underneath in the middle position and simply remove this magnet?

24

Dave k has a good idea. Neck/bridge is a great sound on a strat. Switch the neck or bridge with the middle depending on which "in between" sound you want to be left with. I prefer N/M over B/M. Or...listen to Anson Funderberg and discover the wonders of the middle pickup. I have 2 guitars that ONLY have a middle pickup!

25

I have a Strat with a set of Lollar Blackface pickups. I switched the wiring scheme replacing one of the tone pots with a blender pot from Callaham. So, now I have master volume, master tone and the blender. With the blender control in full clockwise position I get "standard" Strat pickup selections with a five way switch:

  • Bridge
  • Bridge & Middle
  • Middle
  • Neck & Middle
  • Neck

With the blender control at full counter clockwise I get the following pickup selections:

  • Bridge & Neck
  • All three pickups
  • Middle
  • All three pickups
  • Bridge & Neck

It's a simple mod that offers two new and usable tones.


Register Sign in to join the conversation