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When All Else Fails

It's certainly possible to butcher a guitar if you do one of the mods herein incorrectly. Here are some pictorial diagrams of a "stock" Stratocaster to help you recover if you get in over your head.

"Stock" Stratocaster wiring.

This is how most "standard" Stratocasters are wired. This diagram will work for any Stratocaster or copy that uses three single-coil (or untapped humbucking) pickups and a five-way selector switch, two tone controls, and a single volume control. Also see the article in the theory section on identifying switch contacts.

Modifications I've Performed

Here's the good stuff! I suggest you look over the available modifications and decide which might be most useful to you before beginning any modifications. Some modifications can be used together while some modifications preclude certain other modifications. These are modifications that I've prototyped and tested. While all work just as described, some are more useful than others...

Quieting the Beast

This will remove much of the hum from a Stratocaster guitar equipped with single-coil pickups. The principles are applicable to other guitars. I consider this modification essential for any guitar with single-coil pickups and all other modifications shown herein assume that this modification has been performed.

Quieting the Beast's Cousin – shielding a Tele

This will remove much of the hum from a Telecaster guitar equipped with single-coil pickups.  The principles are applicable to other guitars.  Photo-illustrated.

Shift your tone control's range

Shift the range of your tone control up or down. This barely qualifies as a "modification" as you are doing nothing but changing the value of an internal component.

Move the middle tone control to the bridge pickup

This changes the tone controls so that the middle tone knob works in the bridge and bridge/mid positions. This offers tone control in the bridge-only position, and significantly (IMHO) improves tone at the neck/middle position, at the cost of losing tone control in the middle-only position.

Setting a different range for each tone control

With this modification you move the range of one tone control without affecting the other. This modification is especially useful if you move the middle tone control to the bridge as described above.

Placing a high-pass capacitor on the volume control

If your guitar turns "muddy" with some amplifiers as the guitar's volume control is turned down this modification will set it right.

Individual pickup control

For switch freaks only! If you find yourself thinking your guitar would be perfect if it just had a couple of more shiny switches, this is the modification for you. Every pickup can be turned on or off, and set in or out of phase, independently for a total of 13 different pickup combinations.

The tone monster

Series/parallel selection and a lead/rhythm "quick-select" switch.

Humbucker switching

Discussion and instructions for several common four-wire humbucker switching modifications.

The Strat Lover's Strat

Okay, so you think a real Strat has three chunky single coil pickups, one volume knob, two tone knobs, one five-way switch and nothing else. You can still get some great new sounds while maintaining that stock appearance. This is one of my favorite Strat modifications.

The T-Riffic Guitar

This photo-illustrated Tele modification adds two new switch combinations without altering the appearance of the guitar.  The positions added are neck and bridge in series and neck and bridge in series and out of phase.  The modification can easily be adapted to other guitars that have two pickups.

The S-Tastic Guitar

This photo-illustrated Three-pickup wiring scheme implements the same switching as the T-Riffic two-pickup design – the middle pickup is moved to a separate volume control.  This is an extremely versatile design.

Double-Barrel Switching

This photo-illustrated Three-pickup wiring modification uses a pair of five position switches, one a standard two-pole switch and one a four-pole switch.  It gives all the standard pickup combinations plus four very useful new ones.

Modifications I've Designed but Haven't Prototyped

These are modifications that I designed at the request of others and I haven't tried them myself. As I haven't built them I can't swear to either their correctness or usefulness. In some cases the people I designed them for performed the modification and let me know how it went. In other cases I never heard from them again -- which goes a long way towards explaining why I no longer spend much time on designs for other people!

Separate volume controls for neck and bridge.

I designed this in response to an e-mail request.  I'm not certain how useful it would be. I've never prototyped it because for me it doesn't seem useful.  Note that multiple volume controls really should use multiple tone controls as well for best results (i.e. Les Paul style controls).

So you like the Lonestar Strat...

Another design in response to an e-mail request. This emulates the switching of a Lonestar Stratocaster as it was described to me. The interesting thing is that my design uses a stock Stratocaster five-way switch while I understand that Fender actually used a three or four pole switch for the Lonestar. The original requester built this and was happy with the results, I've included his report.

Update July 16, 2000: I've heard from others that the switching originally described to me was not complete.  Reportedly position three should combine the neck and bridge pickups and that does not occur with this circuit.

Update July 26, 2000: Dennis, who owns a 1999 LoneStar Strat, reports that the switching (and modification) are correct as originally described.

Modifications by Others

This section includes modifications that "everybody knows" and modifications that have been submitted to me by others. Note that I haven't prototyped those submitted by others unless otherwise stated. I've reviewed them looking for any obvious errors but I don't make any guarantees.

Quieting the Beast's Other Cousin – shielding a Bass

I sometimes get e-mail asking if shielding will help a bass.  The short answer is that shielding will help just about anything that isn't already well shielded.  In this article Phil D'Eon does a very nice job of shielding a Marcus Miller Signature Bass.  Phil was kind enough to document the process very well and share it with us through this PDF document he sent in.  Photo-illustrated.

Adding a "neck on" switch.

Add a switch to turn the neck pickup on in combination with whatever pickups are selected by the main switch. This is one of those modifications that is so common I won't even attempt to figure out who first performed it.

Adding a tone control to the bridge without affecting other positions.

This one came in an e-mail from Andrew Rogers. It's so elegant I wish I'd thought of it! If you like the stock tone in the neck/mid position but would like to have tone control on the bridge, take a look at this mod. I've never used it simply because I don't care for the stock tone controls at the neck/mid position so I usually move the middle tone control to the bridge.

Mike Richardson's Strat Wiring Designs.

This modification was sent to me by Mike Richardson.  It's a fairly complex modification, using a 5-position, 4-pole switch and a push/pull pot, but provides a number of interesting pickup combinations without altering the appearance of your guitar.  There are now several diagrams by Mike on this page, including a version of the 1980's "The Strat."

Franco's "The Five"

This modification was sent to me by one of our forum members, Franco of Portugal.  It uses a five-position, four-pole switch.

Various modifications submitted by forum member Hastings.

These modifications were provided by Hastings, a member of the forums.

A modification submitted by forum member "Random Hero."

This modification was submitted by Random Hero - I haven't had a chance to even exam the schematic so if you have questions you should contact him directly in the forums.

A modification submitted by Jeff Cites.

This modification was submitted by Jeff Cites - I haven't had a chance to even exam the schematic so if you have questions you should contact him directly.  Jeff submitted this modification as a very nicely done MS Word document which I merely converted to a PDF and posted in its entirety.  The PDF is fairly large (2.7M) so if you are on a dial up connection a bit of patience will be required.