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Monday, October 26, 2015

Rewiring My Strat

Well, it seems like every other year or so, I do a rewiring job on my strat for some reason or other.

Several years ago I made a trade and got this nice black Mexican Fender Strat in the deal. The first modification I decided to make was to change the pickguard from the white one it came with, to a molten metal looking one, and to add a push pull switch to the neck pickup so I could get all seven positions (N, M, B, NM, MB, NB and NMB). That wasn't good enough for me, so being a Brian May fan for a long time, I decided to wire my strat to be like his Red Special.

My philosophy on picking the pickups went something like this. I like Eric Clapton, and he tends to play mostly with the middle pickup on. So I decided to put a vintage noiseless in the middle. I also like Stevie Ray Vaughn's lead, and read that he played mostly in the neck position. So I got one of the pickups from his reissue strat (a Texas Special). I figured with those vintage sounding pickups, I could probably get a pretty good Jimi Hendrix Little Wing sound in the NM out of phase position. And I really liked (at the time) the bridge pickup that came with the Mexican Strat.

Over the last 10 years or so, the bridge pickup has lost it's appeal to me. I think it needs something a little warmer and less shrill. Also, with the MB in phase and in series it used to sound a lot like Brian May with the right amp settings. Now that I have a Fender Mustang modeling amp, it is easier than ever to get the Brian May sound. So my four favorite guitarists' sounds are within reach. I really like John Mayer's sound now, but he wasn't as popular when I first started working on this guitar. In addition, I like Johnny Lang's sound, a fat sounding Tele. Well, with the Neck and Bridge pickup in series in phase, I could get a reasonable facsimile to that sound as well. 

This arrangement suited me very well for quite a long time, but I did notice that there were some redundant selections, and some dead spots. This year, I had a series of problems, first one of my toggle switches broke, leaving the neck pickup permanently on, and then as I was repairing that switch, one of my push pull knobs broke as well. I also had a problem with my Texas Special when I tried to put a new cover on it, one of the wires caught on a tiny bit of solder that somehow worked it's way up in there as I was working on something else, and the coil was damaged. I ended up scraping my beloved Texas Special pickup.

So I have decided to start over, but thought that it would make a good blog topic. I am replacing my Texas Special, probably with another Texas Special or a Tex-Mex pickup, since I got the guitar in Texas, I think it only fitting! I did the unthinkable and added a couple magnets to the bottom of the Mexican pickup, and it does sound hotter, but also more shrill. I will probably replace it with a Seymour Duncan split rails and coil split the pickup.

And finally, there was the awesome NMB in series powerhouse that sounded a bit like a Les Paul humbucking sound (at least to my ears). 

So here is the wiring diagram that I have been working on. Notice that I have included Adrian Legg's safety circuit in case an amp ever goes live on me. I had this in the original design, so I thought I'd include it for you.

I also eliminated the bridge phase switch, it seemed redundant, and was part of the dead spot issue I was having. I don't really see the need for it. If you have two pickups, only one needs to go out of phase. BM can go out of phase with a phase switch on the M, and BN can go out of phase (for that country tele sound) with the neck phase switch. I think there might have been a NMB setting that I'm losing, but I never used it much that way anyway.

So I'll post pics as I go along, but here is the wiring diagram.

God bless,

Willy