Ultra Strat™ Mod

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Do you have a guitar with 3 single coils, sometimes referred to as a Strat™ type guitar? If you are thinking of replacing the pickups to get more sounds from your guitar, there is another, less costly solution. Try changing the guitar switching instead.

There are many switching modifications for 3 coil guitars. This particular switching arrangement offers a lot in return for relatively little work. Before you do this modification, let's look at what you will lose and what you will gain.

Disadvantages:
1) If your guitar is under warranty, doing any kind of unauthorized work will void it.

2) A few of the possible switch positions will produce no sounds at all. Some people do not like even the slightest possibility of a guitar going "dead" - especially on stage. Becoming familiar with the switching should completely eliminate this from occurring.
While the switch is set for "parallel" the "dead" switch settings are:
choosing any single coil and choosing Neck & Bridge.
This really isn't that bad because all 3 single coils can be chosen when the switch is set for "Series" and Neck & Bridge in parallel isn't humbucking.

Still, if you want a 3 pickup circuit that has no dead spots but is more difficult to wire, click here.

3) This will change the appearance of your guitar. In fact, the modification will look like this:
Basically, the five way switch gets removed, 5 small holes are drilled, then 5 small switches are installed.
The guitar's change in appearance isn't that drastic is it? In fact, some might even consider this an improvement. Of course it is your guitar and the choice is up to you.


Advantages:
1) The five switches required for this modification (2 DPDT and 3 SPST), are very easy to obtain and are inexpensive. Yes, you could even get these at Radio Shack™ or other electronic retailer and the cost would probably be about $20.

2) The guitar is switched from the exact same location. Unlike some guitar modifications which utilize switches mounted on the "pots", all 5 replacement switches are located precisely where the old switch was. Also, the five switches line up neatly and it is easy to see which option is being used. For example, you do not have to remember which "pot" controls, series, parallel, out of phase, etc.

3) You'll still get all five sounds you had from the old switching.
• Three Single Coil Sounds - Neck Middle Bridge.
• Neck & Middle in Parallel
• Middle & Bridge in Parallel.

4) You'll get the following new sounds:
• Neck & Middle in Series
• Middle & Bridge in Series
• Neck and Bridge in Series and Out of Phase
• All 3 pickups in Series
• Neck and Bridge in Series
• Middle Pickup In Parallel with Neck and Bridge in Series

If your guitar was made in the last 20 years or so, the chances are good that the middle pickup is reverse wound and has reverse polarity (RWRP). If that's the case you already had 2 "humbucking" positions - choice 2 & 4 on the old 5 way switch. Now you will have 3 more humbucking options. (These are the first 3 of the 6 listed). (You might be surprised by the "out of phase" choice being humbucking but 2 coils with identical windings and polarity become humbucking when they are wired out of phase).
Actually, you get more than the 6 new sounds listed if you include all the combinations that the phasing switch can produce. However, the neck and bridge in series out of phase is the best-sounding out-of-phase option but experiment all you like!!


Well here is my schematic for this switching:


A schematic is okay for seeing how a circuit works but a wiring diagram is much more helpful when you go to do the actual work:


To make it easier to read (and to follow):
• Wires from the pickups are drawn with thin lines.
• Wires from the switches and between the switches are drawn with thicker and darker lines.
• The connections have been numbered.
• If you choose not to have a phase switch, connect wire #5 and wire #6 directly to the SPST switch at positions 5 & 6. (This is the reason there is a dashed line around the phase switch).


How It Works

You do not have to know this, but in case you are curious, by redrawing the schematic and not showing the phase switch, the switching becomes a little easier to understand.

When the DPDT switch is in the series position, (middle terminals connected to the top terminals which are connected by a wire), the switching is easy to see. The only outputs for the pickups are the middle pickup "+" terminal and the bridge pickup "—" terminal. The switches are wired so that they shunt (actually "short-circuit") that particular pickup. So when you are turning one pickup "off" on your guitar, the switch is actually "on" and bypasses that pickup. This creates no problems when all pickups are in series.
Switching to parallel, the middle terminals are now connected to "—" and "+". The switches still function the same way. When you want neck and middle, the bridge pickup is "shorted" and the neck "minus" terminal goes directly to ground and its "plus terminal" goes directly to the "hot" (or '+') output. When you want bridge and middle, the neck pickup is "shorted" and the neck "minus" terminal goes directly to ground.
These are the only parallel combinations you can obtain. Why? If you wanted Neck and Bridge, you would flip the middle pickup switch "on" and do you see what happens? The middle pickup switch causes the ground and hot outputs to be connected together which results in the entire guitar turning "off" and no sound comes out. By the same reasoning, you can see why trying to choose single pickups when the switch is set for parallel will also have the same effect. (Luckily, you can get ALL 3 single coil choices when the switch is set for series).

In order to maximize the humbucking possibilities, the pickup that is reverse wired with reverse polarity (RWRP)should be on the "left" side of the circuit. Let's suppose the RWRP pickup was in the bridge? Then we would want to wire the guitar in this way:

In this way we could get neck and bridge (series and parallel), and middle and bridge (series and parallel) and all four would be humbucking.
As you can see this circuit is quite "flexible" in accommodating the kinds of switching that you want.




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