Wiring guitars: which features are important

My favorite electric guitar had no controls at all, though a volume pedal was handy. My second favorite had all kinds of weird multi-position selectors...

There's so many popular wiring options now...which do you find most valuable? This is for a guitar with 2 humbuckers.

1 humbucker coil taps (for lower output and lessinductance, more treble, switchable to high-output inductive metal screamers). Unfortunately not availalbe on the Alumitones I'm going to use. Still curious what you players out there think.
2 humbucker series/parallel switch (not between two pickups, between the two coils of one pickup). I think most humbuckers have their two internal coils in series.
3 phase-reverse switch for one pickup, so that the two pickups can be in phase or out of phase. This is a personal favorite because is makes pinch harmonics so easy and fun.
4 single-coil mode for humbucker, to turn off one coil of a humbucker and make kind of a single-coil (though of course the magnetic structure is still not like a single-coil).
5 Ability to control which coil is off and which is on when humbucker is in single-coil mode. Common compromise is a switch between the inner coils nearest each other versus the coils nearest bridge and neck. In single-pickup mode that allows you to select any single coil, but with both pickups on you can't have just the two coils (one in each pickup) nearest the bridge, nor just the two coils (one in each pickup) nearest the neck.
6 switch or knob to run bumbucker like a single-coil pickup for treble and mids, but like a humbucker for bass.
7 multi-position indented rotary selector. A friend's old ES 355 was interesting, but I won't get into wiring stereo guitars. I actually like having two "tone" pots, each with an associated multi-position rotary selector: One "treble-cut slope" pot and its knee selector, and one "bass-cut slope" knob with its knee selector. One thing I'm concerned about is how those knees may change with different pickup switch selections. More typical is a variety of bandpass filters on one rotary switch.

I've never had a switch for putting the two coils of a humbucker in series vs parallel, so I'm really curious about how that sounds. Not many pickups or guitars have that.

Similarly, I've never had a switch for putting two humbuckers in series vs parallel, so I'm really curious about how that sounds. Not many pickups or guitars have that either.

I'm starting to think I should wire up an off-guitar breadboard and try all these things first; but there's 4 wires from each pickup, and if I don't want to run 8 guitar cords I need 8 small flexible wires under 1 shield.
 
The only options I don't know much about are:

I've never had a switch for putting the two coils of a humbucker in series vs parallel, so I'm really curious about how that sounds. Not many pickups or guitars have that.

Similarly, I've never had a switch for putting two humbuckers in series vs parallel, so I'm really curious about how that sounds. Not many pickups or guitars have that either.

Guitar wiring is just so simple nobody reads posts on that subject anymore.
 
I've never had a switch for putting the two coils of a humbucker in series vs parallel, so I'm really curious about how that sounds. Not many pickups or guitars have that.
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Getting the pick ups out phase was found by accident on Fenders.
If you put the 3 way pickup switch between two settings it would put the pickups out of phase.

I prefer post processing my guitar with a Zoom effects pedal.
 

pilli

Member
2006-08-15 9:46 pm
I had installed a 4 pole multiple selector into a semihollow (two humbuckers).
I think it had 11 positions, and I must have used 7.
There were the obvious ones (bridge, neck, both, coil split)
and a couple of strange ones, like series and antiphase.

I don't remember all the different sounds anymore. They had a tendency to become a continuum from the thinnest (antiphase) to the fattest loudest (I think it was series).
Antiphase can give you a "different" sound, thin and acid.
The others are more predictable. I think that series was "louder and fatter" than parallel, in fact quite nice, but not "totally different".
I don't use very extreme effects, apart from reverb and some overdrive.

I have a strong preference for using the neck pickup by itself, so that gadget wasn't very useful for me, after all. That switch spent more time in the think and build than on the guitar itself...

But it was funny to try it.
I would get the eight cables out into a breadboard, as you said, and only build something final once you make up your mind. You can use a piece of computer network cable.




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After 40 years of playing with an infinite number of combinations on a multitude of guitars it all comes back to just using one pickup at a time. If it's a humbucker use it like a humbucker. If its a single coil use it as a single coil. Your distortion will be less mudded up and your clean will be cleaner.....
Forget about all the weird switching schemes. This is my experience. Like Nigel says post process the single pickup sound.
 
just using one pickup at a time. If it's a humbucker use it like a humbucker.

That would be far too limiting, having only two basic sounds. There are definitely times I want two out of phase for the way it makes pinch harmonics pop out and makes that type of plaing so expressive. And the power and balance of both in-phase. And hooking up a humbucker as a single-coil for HF and still bucking hum and real power at lower frequencies sounds like something I really want to try.

SO I guess my real question is about how coils in a pickup and pickups in a guitar sound in series versus parallel. And I guess I just have to find out for myself.
 
Your question was which features were most important, and that boils down to a matter of personal preferences. I mostly use my bridge pickup and rarely the neck pickup. SO a lot of things I don;t care about might still be important to you, if you like to use multiple pickups.

I don;t agree that simple pickups is limiting you to two basic sounds, any more than a chef is limited if he only has beef and chicken. There ar stilll millions od posibilities.

yes, do try various wiring arrangements to find what you like.
 
Your hands should be playing, leave switching to your feet.
Humbucker near bridge is plenty versatile with a DSP pedal.
Every extra pickup you don't need is dragging down sustain.

Keep it simple, else many tentacled madness surely awaits...
I'll give you an example:

There are interesting things you could do in frequency domain
with a single pickup per string, if you could totally buck each
from hearing its neighbor. I'd also want to know which fret was
in contact with each string.

For example: A guitar with all frets ergonomically spaced, rather
than spaced by logarithm. Arbitrarily defined droptunings, capos,
alternate tunings, non-western scales. Formant modeling rather
than synthesized tonal qualities to mock classic famous brands
and other layouts of pickups. Perfect tuning and intonation only
a button press and training sweep up the neck away. You could
have perfect tuning on the fly without a pre-training, but might
lose the ability to do bends, depending how smart the routines
were at determining your intent..

All very hard to do when the six strings are all pre-muddled by
a shared pickup. An arbitrary remapping of frequencies and for
any specific string and fret position would sound very wrong if
applied to another bleeding through the same channel.

Needless to say, I digress..
 
Last edited:

Tarzan

Member
2004-05-23 6:54 pm
Genk
My favorit settings? Don't remember. It's been 40+ years.
Probably the neck pu as I've been a great fan of the Spotnics.

But if you do the wiring, there are a few hints I can give.
Allthough it seems a lot of work; at the end it saves you a lot of time.

Make notes on how the wiring is done.
Then remove all the wiring on the pot's, switches and jack.
Clean up everything (remove excess solder and clean the pots inside and the switches.
And now that everything is removed; use copperfoil to cover the inside of your controll space.
Then mount the hardware in the guitar.
Solder a thick solid (1.5 mm) copper wire (clean it first with fine sandpaper) from pot to pot and all other metalic part that can be touched.
This way you make a ground wire.
Solder a wire from the ground bridge to the copperfoil. Do not use another mechanical way to connect the foil to the copperwire, it will make a bad contact sooner or later.
Then resolder the cables coming from the pickups to the switches, pot's etc according the schematic you like.
Connect the output jack.

Why the thick copper wire?
It is used a ground wire to solder the screens of your screened cables to. It is no longer needed to solder on the metal caps of the potmeters.
If you are not experienced enough and or do not have the right iron, you will end up with a lot of bad solder joints and even melted pots.
By using a coppper wire you an solder and solder and solder again and again...
No way you will damage your pots.

And because you made a drawing of your wiring; it's easy to find a problem after many years.
Leave the note in the guitar next to the controls.

Good luck and happy jamming.
 
On my les Paul Studio I made the following mods :

Variable coil tap (Autres circuits embarqués). Very useful on the neck humbucker to get cleaner sounds, but doesn't sound good on the bridge one. As I'm only using the extreme settings a switch would do the job aswell.

Humbucker series/parallel switch, great on the bridge pickup with distortion, produces a more edgy sound with a pronounced frequency peak. When turning the tone button all the way down it almost sounds like a blocked wha pedal (think "Money for Nothing"). The clean sound is also great with both humbuckers in parallel mode.

I hope this helps!
 
Thanks, at least somebody has tried humbucker coils in parallel versus series (as there's no vintage instruments I know of that have the individual coils in parallel).

There's no other way for an amplifier or any post-processing to get the same sound as having the two pickups out of phase, and though it's not a normal setting it's useful. My Hamer has a sub-mini DPDT mounted in the edge of the pickup ring with the cut-off shortened bat parallel to the guitar top. It's WONDERFUL! I never ever hit it accidentally because it's not sticking up, it's sticking out from the side of the ring. Yet whenever I want I slide my pinky toward the bridge or toward the neck to change phase of that pickup. The pickup companies should engineer similar features into their pickup mounts. The bridge pickup usually has a taller pickup ring, and I have the Schaller black cast metal pickup rings, so it might be possible to do that again, but its easier with thinner stamped sheetmetal pickup rings. Cast metal or cast plastic rings are stronger but their additional thickness leaves little space for the switch. I need a really teensie DPDT.

I agree that switches could do most of what I need better than knobs. I never make micro-adjustments of balancing the two volumes to get an exact mix of pickups. And I find it more problem than help for the volume to change when I switch pickups. So I only want one volume control. And I'm not interested in pre-sets, so I don't need individual tone controls.

The commercial product that
 
The commercial product that gives single-coil treble and humbucking bass (including cancelling 50 or 60 cycles hum) is a knob to mix between that and normal humbucker, but I'd prefer just a switch.

I don't find rotary selector switches convenient at all. I usually have to look to see where I'm at. Especially a vario-tone which uses caps and inductors to make a mid-peak; I'd rather have separate control of the turnover and rolloff knees.

The feature that lets humbuckers operate as single-coil for treble but humbuckers for bass would have to operate differently with coils in parallel versus series. So I'm inclined to be without the parallel-coils option.

Parallel coils: you say gives a 'money for nothing' sound like a stationary wah. I'd expect the inductance of series coils to cause a high-cut like the low-pass filter of a stationary wah; I think of 'money for nothing' sound as a strat quack bandpass.

A really hot neck humbucker has a useful sound but all that inductance cuts the treble, so indeed I'd expect that to benefit from coil-tapping to use only part of the windings on both coils. But I'm using Alumitones which have more output and less inductance, so they probably do everything well if untraditionally. In fact, I expect they'll exhibit less difference between series and parallel connection of the individual coils or between entire pickups. They're inherently less resonant and broader bandwidth.

I guess I'm answering my own questions about how I want it wired.