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Strat Wiring – simple mod

Strat Wiring must be the most modded wiring of all. It’s not that the original wiring isn’t great, there are just so many other possibilities. When I worked as a guitar repairer I re-wired a lot of Stratocasters. There are so many options, so many things that can be changed. A lot of players have their favourite versions of wiring up these fantastic guitars.

What I did find when I as modifying other peoples guitars is they would often come back to something close to standard wiring in the end. After trying multiple switching in every combination, series, parallel, coil tapping, humbuckers … it goes on, they often returned their Strat so something very close to the way Leo Fender originally did it back in 1954. There is a lot to be said in favour of simplicity.

Here I’m simply going to show you the standard way of wiring a Strat and add one simple and useful modification – that cheeky little red wire. I can’t recall ever being asked to remove this modification to a Strat’s wiring, there’s simply no disadvantage.

Here is the diagram using the colour code for my own single coil pickups.

Strat Wiring Diagram

Strat wiring plus simple tone mod
Strat Wiring

How Strat controls work

The heart of Stratocasters is the 5 way switch. Interestingly it wasn’t until 1977 that Fender fitted them as standard. Before that it was a 3 way switch and players had to ‘balance’ it between 2 positions to get that famous in between Strat tone. We’ve got it easy these days. Position 2 or 4 on a 5 way is such an iconic Stratocaster sound – you can spot it anywhere.

That sound with 2 pickups on is often incorrectly called ‘out of phase’ – here’s a blog explaining what it really is.

Here is a Stratocaster control plate. It looks straightforward but why are there 2 tone controls? Must be treble and bass yeah? Well no, it’s a bit more complicated than that. This is a passive system (no battery) so the tones just cut treble giving your sound less highs, they can’t boost bass. The middle knob marked tone is the control for the neck pickup and the end one for the middle pickup.

With the switch in the position shown the neck pickup is selected and the middle knob acts as a tone. If this 5 way switch was 2 clicks on it would select just the middle pickup and the end tone know would be engaged.So you can pre-set a tone setting for a pickup. I guess it was considered a step up from the Telecaster’s single tone control for the whole guitar.

Strat controls
Strat controls

That’s great but it means with a standard stratocaster there is no tone control for the bridge pickup. If ever there was a pickup that needed a bit less treble its the strat bridge pickup. If you refer back to the wiring diagram you can see a little red wire on the switch connecting 2 legs together. Adding that little wire with mean that the tone control for the middle pickup will also work for the bridge pickup.

It’s the simplest of all Strat Wiring mods but a very useful one and a good place to start if you’re new to experimenting with wiring.

What is SSS, HSS and HSH?

SSS – means 2 single coil pickups so a simply a standard Strat configuration.

HSS – That’s a Strat but with a humbucker (H) in the bridge position. The reason you might want a humbucker is for a fatter bridge pickup sound. Standard Strat bridge pickups can sound a bit weedy. All the Strat bridge pickups I make have a little bit more power to offset this but a humbucker may well suit you better anyway. This makes for a very versatile guitar but retaining the simplicity of the original design. On stage there is so much going on that complicated switching options can often work against you.

HSH – You’ve guessed it – there’s a humbucker in the neck and bridge positions. This is often used with coil tapping. The idea is to have both Gibson and Fender sounds in one guitar. Usually positions 1 and 5 of the switch will give either bridge or neck humbucker on their own. Positions 2, 3 and 4 will be combinations of the middle single coil pickup and the humbucker with 1 coil switched off (coil tapping) or series/parallel etc. There are so many options and combinations possible and some spectacularly complicated wiring to figure out to make it work.

For some of the more complicated wiring options the conventional 5 way switch just isn’t enough. There is a type of switch commonly called a ‘super switch’ that gives these extra options. It looks the same from the outside and is the same to operate but under the hood there’s a lot more going on. This switch allows you to wire up just about all the options imaginable. Maybe I’ll write more about them some other time.

Do I turn it all up full?

A lot of players do but I feel they’re missing out on a lot of tones. Try backing off the volume and tone to about 8 and setting the amp sound to that. It really is worth trying it. As you turn the volume down your sound looses a little treble. This can really smooth things out and give you an easier tone to work with. With your volume at 8 you also have somewhere to go if you need that bit extra for a big solo.

Now I’m at the end of this blog I realise there are a lot more diagrams to draw and a lot of wiring options to discuss. Not just for Strats, there are modifications that can be done on any guitar.

For more Strat stuff and a listen to my own Strat pickups here’s my YouTube Strat Pickup demo playlist.

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HS Strat Wiring

Here’s a suggested wiring diagram for a HS Strat.

I originally drew it up for Gabor from superfunawesimehappytime pedal show.

He has a green Strat with a Mr Glyns Tui neck pickup and a Cloud Nine bridge pickup that he’s been using for YouTube pedal demos.

HS Strat Wiring diagram

The format is:

1 Humbucker

2 Coil tap Humbucker

3 Humbucker and Neck

4 Coil tap Humbucker and Neck

5 Neck

The 470K Ohm resistor is there so that the humbucker ‘sees’ the volume pot as 500KOhm and the single coil ‘sees’ it as 250KOhm, clever eh.

Here is is in action:

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updated 4 September 2023

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HS Strat Wiring

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Pandora 3 way Esquire

Pandora 3 way Esquire specifications: Alnico V – 10.07 KOhm 4.4H, 7.28KOhm 2.3H, 5.49KOhm 1.15H

NZ$149 for NZ customers, if you’re overseas it’s GST free; NZ$129.57

The Pandora 3 way Esquire pickup took its inspiration from my desire to fix a problem.

'Pandora' 3 way Esquire Mr Glyns Pickups

I’ve never been happy with the switching options given on the Fender Esquire so I came up with a plan.

Rather than switch in some capacitors or switch out parts of the circuit and create sounds you can make anyway using the tone control, I thought it would be better to have a tapped pickup so the player could generate usable, ‘real’ tones.

It’s simply a case of ‘tapping’ into the winding at different points to obtain different strength pickups from the one coil.

This essentially gives the player 3 different pickups in one.

So in the middle position it’s an Esquire pickup, one way it’s less than that (I’m calling it ‘Gold Foil’ though it isn’t). The other way it’s more – my Cruel Mistress pickup. This gives 3 distinct tones going from jangly rhythm to fat lead without losing the distinctive Esquire/Telecaster character.

It makes use of the normal 3 way switch to achieve this.

Then, of course, I realised that the main use for this wouldn’t be in Fender Esquires but in single pickup builds. The single pickup movement is getting bigger and this is the perfect tool to give those guitars extra versatility while still using a single Tele style bridge pickup.

So the experiments and trials began, there’s a lot to test with this sort of pickup.

The ‘Cruel Mistress’ part was easy, it’s my best selling Telecaster pickup set. The middle position is based on a ’61 Esquire I once had the good fortune of getting to know. I was going for that clear, ringing bridge pickup tone we all know and love, a sound that stands out from a mix. I was so happy with how this pickup turned out that I have since made a Telecaster set from it – The Dutchess. The third position I’m calling ‘Gold Foil’ but I could have equally called it ‘Lipstick’. It’s a tone in the character of that style of pickup though technically is neither.

I sat on the design for quite a while (about a year) thinking that although I really liked it the idea might be a bit complicated.

Then on a whim I just posted on Instagram about it and received a huge response. It seemed players and builders liked the idea. So here it is, the Pandora 3 way Esquire.

Pandora 3 way Esquire sounds great with a 500KOhm volume pot or to get the most out of it I recommend this wiring diagram:

Pandora 3 way Esquire suggested wiring diagram

Pandora 3 way Esquirewiring diagram

The difference is that 1Meg pot (it’s usually 250KOhms) and those resistors. This enables each of the 3 pickup settings to ‘see’ the volume pot as a different value. It just emphasizes the good points of each setting, it’s subtle but it does make a difference.


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Modern Wiring – Les Paul

I like to support my customers as much as I can so here is my drawing of Gibson Modern Wiring – Les Paul.

The modern wiring is used in most Les Paul’s and it’s great for players wanting to roll off some treble when the guitar volume is turned down.

The difference between the modern and 50’s wiring is in how the tone capacitor is connected to the volume pot. It’s a very simple modification if you have 50’s wiring and are curious.

Modern Wiring – Les Paul diagram

Modern Wiring - Les Paul

An explanation

I’ve linked below to my 50’s wiring diagram so you can see the difference.

Another thing to remember is that you can actually use both wiring methods on the same guitar. It is possible, for instance, to use 50’s wiring for the neck pickup and modern for the bridge. That way the neck pickup would retain some clarity as you lower the volume. The bridge pickup (with the modern wiring) would loose a bit of high end with the volume down a bit and therefor smoothing off the treble. It just depends on what you’re trying to get out of your Les Paul. Then there’s capacitor choice, pot value, coil tap or series/parallel, or even out of phase – the list goes on. I will be writing more blogs to cover all that at some point.

It’s always important to remember that here is no right or wrong, despite what you may read on social media. It’s all just a matter of personal taste. These wiring differences are all subtle too, the place to start is with great pickups.

I’ve used my humbucker colour code.

Here’s my diagram for the 50’s style wiring

Here are some demos of my humbuckers

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updated 3 April 2023

Modern Wiring – Les Paul

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50s wiring

I like to support my customers as much as I can so here is my drawing of Gibson 50s wiring. Hopefully it will help you fit your new pickups.

The 50s wiring is great for players wanting to retain some treble when the guitar volume is turned down.

The difference between the 50’s and modern wiring is in how the tone capacitor is connected to the volume pot. It’s a very simple modification if you have modern wiring and are curious.

I recommend this wiring for my Integrity humbuckers –

50s wiring Les Paul by Mr Glyns Pickups

I’ve used my humbucker colour code.

There really is nothing wrong with modern wiring, having your tone darken as you turn down the volume can be very useful in some settings. So try both and see which suits you best.

It seems that all the cool kids and ‘experts’ on the internet are telling us it has to be 50s wiring or nothing but for anyone with a soldering iron it’s an easy mod and completely reversible so experiment for yourself. You may find you like 50’s for the neck pickup and modern for the bridge.

Here are some demos of my humbuckers

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Telecaster Wiring Diagram

I like to support my customers any way I can so here’s a Telecaster Wiring Diagram for a standard Telecaster to help you fit your set of Mr Glyns Pickups.

Telecaster Wiring Diagram

Telecaster Wiring Diagram. By Mr Glyns Pickups.
Tele Wiring Diagram

I’ve drawn this diagram using the colour code for Mr Glyn’s Pickups.

I use shielded cable for my Telecaster pickups so not only do they hum less but by swapping the red and white wires it’s easy to reverse their phase. That’s really useful if you want to use a 4 way switch to combine the two pickups in series as a humbucker.

This is the standard Telecaster Wiring Diagram – there are plenty of modifications you could make to change things a little.

Changing the capacitor to one of a lower value will lessen the effect of using the tone control. A .022 microfarad cap, for instance, will make the tone control more subtle to use but it’s not great if you like using the tone as a wah wah.

I like to use a treble bleed on my Tele to avoid treble loss when using the volume control – here’s some info about it

Here are my Telecaster Pickup demos:

Telecaster Wiring Diagram

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Series Parallel switch

You may have heard of Series Parallel wiring in guitars, here’s how to do it.

There are numerous ways to wire a humbucker. The standard way is in series, its the sound we all know, with that pushy lower mid tone.

Some players like to coil tap their humbucker to get the option of a thinner more Fender type tone. That is essentially switching one coil off.

A less well used way to thin the sound is with a series/parallel switch. A humbucker in parallel is more single coil like than in standard wiring, there’s less volume drop than coil tapping and it still hum cancels. I much prefer it.

So what is Series/Parallel all about?

The standard way of wiring a humbucker is in series. PAF’s are wired this way and it gives the traditional full sound with plenty of mids and bottom end. Its simply one coil following the other, the end of one coil connected to the beginning of the next.

Wiring a humbucker in parallel is quite a different sound. It’s much more similar to a single coil sound but the pickups is still hum cancelling. There is a drop in volume though not as much as with a coil tap (switching one coil off).

This humbucker wiring diagram shows how to do it with a push/pull switch. With the switch down and the humbucker is wired in series (normal), pull it up and it’s in parallel. The wiring colour code is for Mr Glyn’s Pickups (I use the same colours as Seymour Duncan).

Series Parallel diagram

Series Parallel switch for guitar pickups humbucker

Not such a hard diagram to follow is it. I’m not sure why this modification isn’t more popular. Maybe it’s a little harder to understand than coil tapping, maybe it’s because its a little more complicated to wire up. I certainly prefer it in my guitars to give an extra tonal option without taking anything away from the original sound.

It would be great if you could subscribe to this blog (below) so you don’t miss out on any other pickup related articles.

I’m going to be posting a few more wiring diagrams in the near future. Keep an eye on this blog or my social media:

Have a look at my YouTube channel

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Mr Glyns Pickups is a small business which means I can communicate with my customers one to one. I’m always happy to discuss your requirements, answer questions and give advice. I want to know about the guitars my pickups are going in, send me pictures, send me recordings.

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Series Parallel switch

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Treble Bleed – quick 101

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With a few models of my pickups I give a treble bleed. It makes such a difference to how the volume control works. They aren’t for everyone but it’s worth experimenting and finding out if it works for you.

Here’s the diagram:

Treble Bleed diagram. Mr Glyns Pickups

Pretty simple eh, it just straddles the ‘in’ and ‘out’ legs of the volume pot. Easy to fit, completely reversable and cheap – what’s not to like? Let’s take a deeper look.

A brief explanation of how a treble bleed circuit works and why you might need one

With some help from Sammy the dog

Here’s a more wordy explanation: 

You may have noticed that when you turn the volume control down on an electric guitar it not only gets quieter but also more muddy, some of the high frequencies are lost.

As the volume goes down so does the clarity. This can, of course, be useful. Quite often you’ll want to be able to take some sparkle off the sound especially with single coil pickups. But with humbuckers for many of us they just get too wooly and undefined as the volume goes down.
So here’s the solution, it’s cheap and simple, easy to fit and makes humbuckers so much more versatile without taking anything away from the full volume sound. I’m talking about treble bleed circuits.

What do capacitors do?

For our purposes all you need to know about capacitors (caps for short) is they allow treble frequencies to pass through them but block bass. The frequencies involved depend on the value of the cap. The details of how caps work can get very complicated but that’s all we need to know to understand what’s going on here. They’re more commonly used in tone circuits but that’s another story.
The volume control (potentiometer or pot) on an electric guitar looks like this:

volume pot. Mr Glyn's Pickups

It’s a fairly simple device, As you turn the volume down the resistance between the ‘in’ and ‘out’ leg increases. This makes it increasingly harder for the signal from your pickups to get through. Less signal means quieter. That’s what happens when you turn your volume down. It’s very simple and works well except for that treble loss. On some guitars a bit less treble can be a useful (Strats for me) but not always.
 Here’s the same thing with our cunning little circuit added:

Where do you put a treble bleed?

Guitar Treble Bleed

This one has the ‘Orange Drop’ treble bleed which has a resistor added to it. This resistor softens the treble as you turn down making the effect more subtle.

What does it sound like?

So as you turn down the volume and the the resistance increases there’s an alternative path for the signal – through the cap. But, as we know, the cap will only let treble through. This means your sound not only gets quieter but also thinner from the treble sneaking through the treble bleed.

As you turn the volume down you’re also turning the bass down. As a result you have a usable single coil (ish) sound when the volume is low. If you’re overdriving an amp the result is cleaning your sound up. So with a high gain amp and your volume at about 1/4 you get a bluesy breaking up sound , crank the volume on the guitar and you’re rocking.

Capacitor and resistor values

It really is something worth playing around with. There are a few variations on the circuit but the idea is the same. If you want a less subtle effect just use a 0.001micro farad cap on it’s own. To soften the effect add a 150KOhm resistor in parallel. These values are just common values, play around with them, these are cheap components.

On most of my guitars I prefer a simple treble bleed, no coil taps or series parallel. Just the volume control. This isn’t a mod to just automatically use on every guitar, I find with Strats I welcome some tone roll off. With a 2 volume control set up it may be worth treating the neck and bridge pickups differently.

Then there’s the matter of the 50’s wiring circuit in Les Pauls. With this wiring a treble bleed does very little. As the difference between the 50’s wiring and modern wiring is just in how the tone control is wired to the volume control it is possible to use both systems on the same guitar. With a Les Paul type set up the neck pickup could be wired with the ‘modern’ circuit with the addition of a treble bleed and the bridge to 50’s wiring.

There really are a lot of options here and a lot of experimenting to be done. It’s always worth remembering there really is no right or wrong way to do this despite what you might read on the internet. If you come up with anythis fantastic be sure to let me know.

So with a most models of my pickups I give you a bleed circuit or two. If I think it works with that pickup I’ll pop one or two in the box. I know a lot of manufacturers give sticker or a guitar pick for free with their pickups but I thought I’d give a more practical little gift. It’s great if you use it, quite a few of my customers have tried one for the first time and liked it but even if it isn’t your thing maybe you have a Mate who’d be interested.

If you have any ideas os subject matter for blog articles on pickup related topics please let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

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updated 28 August 2023