Fun with Push/Pull Pots:
SERIES & PHASE TRICKS for Teles and Strats!

updated 11/18/05


THEORY:

Almost all electric guitars with more than one pickup produced today use parallel wiring - in other words, both pickups have their own path to ground and path to the "hot" output, interupted or connected through the pickup selector switch.

In a series setup, the hot output of one pickup is the other pickups' path to ground - so the signal must flow through both pickups, one after the other - in series. This usually produces a louder, fatter tone - just what your average Telecaster needs, on occasion - but it works on any two pickup guitar - or two pickups of a three pickup guitar...Cool!

Fender makes a lovely four-position switch for the Telecaster now, with complete instructions, available for $15-$20. If you're wiring a Tele, you might want to consider that.

OR... I'll tell you how to wire a push-pull pot - about $10 where fine guitar parts are sold - to give you a selectable series output for two pups.  As you will see, you could also use any DP/DT switch - $2.99 at Radio Shack - if you weren't adverse to holes in your axe...!

And there's my scheme for the SuperSwitch to give any stock-style two-pup Tele FIVE TONES - click here to check it out! You keep the three stock tones, PLUS series and series out of phase! No extra controls, no new holes, nothing else to buy - it just replace your old three-way pup selector with a SuperSwitch five-way!

NOTE #1: On your Tele with its METAL neck pickup cover, when the pups are in series OR the neck pup is phase-reversed, you will want to "un-ground/re-ground" the metal cover. This is necessary because with MOST metal covered pickups, like Tele neck pups (or humbuckers), the cover USUALLY has continuity with the ground lead from the pickup, and that means that in certain pickup combos, the metal cover is actually is on the "hot" side of the signal. It's an easy fix on a Tele NECK pup - to "un-ground/re-ground" your Tele neck pup's metal cover, all you have to do is run a new wire from the control cavity to the neck pup's rout. Solder the end in the control cavity to any ground. At the neck pup end, cut the existing jumper that goes from the cover to the neck pup's ground lead, and solder the new wire you have just run to the cover, where that jumper was attached (NOT to the pup's ground lead). Illustrated instructions HERE.

When done correctly, if you now check it with a meter, the neck pup's cover will have continuity with the guitar's ground no matter what pup combo you select. Fender has addressed this with their new three-conductor Tele neck pup, which already has an independent ground/shield lead to the cover. Gibson "vintage-style" humbuckers and P90s, with their braided shield leads, pose a more complex problem - E-mail me for help on those axes...

NOTE #2: Three wire pups? MOST COMMONLY, two of the three leads are twisted together and soldered to ground. You will have to determine which lead of the two that go to ground is actually the coil’s “-” lead, and which is the ground/shield lead. The easiest way to do this is to unsolder them from ground and separate them. With a multimeter set in the 20k ohm range, touch one probe to the pickup’s “+” lead, and then try the other probe on each of the other leads. The pickup’s “-” lead should show you the impedance reading for the pickup – typically between 6k and 8k for Teles and Strats. The ground/shield lead will show “open” – no resistance, no continuity. Solder the ground/shield lead back to ground, and solder the pup’s “-” lead to the switch as instructed for each mod.


NEW 11/1/2003 - The DRAWINGS page!
Click here if you have a Gibson-style guitar for some drawings to help you do my favorite mods...

Here's a link to my latest page to wire yer Gibson or Epiphone Les Paul to get the Jimmy Page mod tones.


The SWITCH:

As I said, I used a push-pull pot - if you haven't seen one, it's a potentiometer with a special shaft that runs all the way through it, attached to switch on the bottom. You pull the shaft to switch the switch. These are a neat deal, have been around since at least the late sixties/early seventies, and I've used them for coil-taps on humbuckers and for out-of-phase switches on many guitars over the last thirty years.

I USUALLY replaced my tone pot with the push-pull - you could replace your volume pot, if you prefer, it makes no difference - you simply wire the pot-side stuff of the p/p to match the pot you replace.

The switch is on the bottom of the pot, and has lugs that I will label A-F :

S
h
a
f
t
[the pot itself]

A        D

B        E

C        F

... where, when you pull the switch the connection changes from B-C to B-A, and E-F to E-D.
Use your meter's continuity setting to confirm your switch works the same way.
The "middle" lugs (B & E) are the constant, the "outside" lugs ( A & C, D & F) are the connections you switch between.


The texts reflects the conventional pickup numbering, ie,
1-2-3 is neck-both-bridge, or 1-2-3-4-5 is neck-n&m-middle-m&b-bridge.

The exercises start with a Tele wired as a STOCK Fender Tele.


APPLICATION - THE EXERCISES:


PROJECT ONE - TWO PUPS IN SERIES
see NOTE #1 above

1. Run a lead from the neck pup's HOT lug on the three-way to p/p LUG "A" - leave the neck's HOT lead on the three-way.
2. Move the bridge pup's HOT lead to LUG "C" and run a lead from LUG "B" back to the three-way to the lug where you just reemoved the bridge pup's HOT lead.
3. Solder a jumper between LUG "C" and LUG "D"
4. Move the neck pup's negative lead to LUG "E"
5. Solder a jumper from LUG "F" to ground.

Here's a color drawing you can download and print...

Here's what happens:

When the switch is "normal" - (continuity between E-F) - the ground from the neck pickup goes to ground, and the jumper from the bridge pickup goes nowhere - you get normal  tones.

When the switch is "pulled" - (E-D) - the coil "-" lead from the neck pup is LIFTED from ground, and instead connected to the hot lead from the bridge pup - they're in series!

IF you followed my drawing, you'll see that I also am rerouting the bridge and neck hot leads - pull the switch, and the neck hot goes to both sides of the 3-way pup selector. You'll hear both pickups in series no matter where your THREE-way pup selector is - it overrides the 3-way so you can instantly pop back and forth from ANY stock tone to the series mod.


PROJECT TWO - SERIES/OUT OF PHASE
see NOTE #1 above

Did you ever hear one of those "out of phase" setups? Neat tone, kinda like a wah-wah pedal rocked half-way, nice and thin... but no power. They always sounded like they cut the strength of the signal in about half to me.

Well, here's a way to get that horrible, bright and nasal tone WITHOUT the big loss in gain!

If you wire a switch so that it gives you the two pickups out of phase but IN SERIES, the gain/loss thang with the power/tone seems to just about even out! You just have to do a bit more soldering than with the (above) mod, but it's a whole new tone... It's VERY Albert King-ish...

Here's how:

1. Move the neck pup's HOT lead from the three-way to LUG "E".
2. Solder a jumper from the "A" lug to the "F" lug, and run a lead to the pup selector switch's lug where you just removed the neck pup's HOT lead.
3. Move the neck pup's negative lead to LUG "B"
4. Solder a jumper from LUG "C" to ground.
5. Run a lead from LUG "D" to the bridge pup's hot lead on the thee-way - leave the bridge pup's HOT soldered to the three-way

Here's a color drawing you can download and print...


Here's what happens:

When the switch is "normal" - (continuity between B-C and E-F) - the ground from the neck pickup goes to ground, the hot lead goes to the pup selector, and the jumper from the bridge pickup goes nowhere - you get normal Tele tones.

When the switch is "pulled" - (continuity A-B and D-E) - The coil "-" lead of the neck pup is LIFTED from ground and goes to the pickup selector, and the hot lead from the neck pup becomes the path to ground, but through the bridge pup - they're out of phase and in series!

You'll hear this out of phase/series tone ONLY when you select the neck position (1) on your THREE-way pup selector.
WHEN THE SWITCH IS (pulled) SET FOR SERIES/OUT OF PHASE, your normal THREE-way pup selector switch will work like this:

Position 3: Same ol' same ol', bridge pup only...
Position 2: The "hot" lead of the neck pup has continuity with the "ground" lead of the neck pup, effectivly "shunting" its output...
so you only hear the bridge pup, again.
Position 1: The output of the two pickups in series/out of phase.

So, with the switch pulled, you lose the old #2 tone, both pups parallel - but push the p/p, and it's back.


But wait! There's more here,
something for you three-pup guys!



PROJECT THREE - TWO PUPS (OF THREE) IN SERIES
Get some FATTER tones from a Strat using a single push/pull switch!

Wire the switch like this:

1. Solder a jumper from LUG "A" to LUG "D" and on to the neck pup's hot lead on the pup selector switch
2. Move the the middle pup negative lead to LUG "B" lug.
3. Move the the bridge pup negative lead to LUG "E" lug.
4. Solder a jumper from LUG "C" to LUG "F" and on to ground

Here's a color drawing you can download and print...

What you get with this setup is that on your five-way pup selector, with the push/pull PULLED:

In positions ONE and TWO, the neck only and neck-and-middle, you get the NECK pup only.

In position THREE, middle only, you get the MIDDLE and NECK in SERIES. Fatter than a normal Strat parallel setup, but still plenty of "quack."

In position FOUR, middle and bridge, you get the BRIDGE and MID parallel and in SERIES with the NECK.
All three pups for some good quack, and creatively wired to make it nice and FAT.

In position FIVE, the bridge only, you get the BRIDGE and NECK in SERIES. Very "Gibson-y" tone.

It's an easy and effective way to get more tones out of your Strat!


PROJECT FOUR - ALL THREE SERIES
Here's another scheme, one that was inspired by the Danelectro "BLOW" switch.

Here's a way to wire a push/pull to give you ALL THREE in series, or the bridge and neck in series, depending on where the 5-way pup selector switch is. It has the BIGGEST, FATTEST tone available from three single-coils!

I wired it like this:
1. Solder a lead from the neck pup's hot lead on the pup selector switch to LUG "A"
2. Solder a lead from the bridge pup's hot lead on the pup selector switch to LUG "D"
3. Solder a jumper from the "C" lug to the "F" lug, and on to ground
4. Move the the bridge pup negative lead to LUG "B" lug.
5. Move the the middle pup negative lead to LUG "E" .

Here's a color drawing you can download and print...

Using a standard five-way Strat-type pup selector, with the push/pull switch pulled, here's what you get:

In positions ONE and TWO, the neck-only and neck-and-middle, you get the neck pup only.

In positions FOUR and FIVE, the bridge-only or bridge-and-middle,
you get the bridge and neck in series - VERY Gibson-y.

In position THREE, mid-only, you get all three pups in series.
Talk about yer FAT STRAT - THIS IS IT!
(Fat three-pup Tele, too...)

It's an easy and effective way to get the MAX FAT tone out of your Strat!


PROJECT FIVE - HUMBUCKER COIL-TAP IN A Fat Strat

Got a Strat with a four-wire humbucker in the bridge?


Instead of Fender's stock Fat Strat scheme, which usually makes the bridge humbucker "coil-shunt" in throw 4, let's use a push/pull to do the coil-shunt - and add a twist!

Wire the coil-tap lead to lug "B." Usually, for coil-shunt, you would wire the jumper from lug "A" back to the pup selector switch (or ground). BUT! If you connect the jumper from lug "A" to the input side of the volume control, then when you "pull" the volume control to throw the switch, a single-coil output from the bridge pickup appears in parallel to whatever else you've got coming from the five-way pup selector switch.

This way, push/pull switch off, you still get the standard five pup combos from the 5-way, with the bridge staying a humkbucker; and when you pull the switch ON, you get the "bridge-only" and "bridge-and-middle" combos on the 5-way with the bridge pup coil-shunt (single-coil). BUT, you can ALSO get all three pups (with bridge in coil-shunt) or the neck and bridge (again, bridge in coil-shunt)!

If you wired the coil-tap back to the bridge pup's lug on the five-way (or ground) - like almost everybody else does - you'd only have the choice of single-coil or humbucker tone in the "bridge" or "bridge and middle" selections on the five-way.
NO "all three" or "neck and bridge"...

My way, you get the "stock" tones, PLUS the two "extra" sounds.

What do you lose? Nothing! It's a win-win deal!


You definitely could use a two-way on/on DP/DT switch for these mods.
I just used a push-pull instead of a toggle to avoid new holes...



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