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Tele Three Pickup Mod


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I got this idea while shaving (no, not my head)...as long as I'm modding my telecaster, why not add a third pickup?

I've been wanting to add a P90--happen to have one here-- but I like the way a stock tele looks--and especially that lipstick. And I don't really want a P90 in the neck

So what about adding a P90 in the center? And then, so as not to disturb the look too much, how about a stealth pickup? Since the P90 has those great pole pieces, it should be easy enough to drill holes in the pick guard for them, that way I can get them close enough to the strings.

I don't necessarily need to combine pickups --so can I use the tele's stock three-position to switch for this mod, that is, assign a position for each pickup?

I've looked around guitarelectronics and guitarnuts, but couldn't find a diagram for this kind of mod--can anyone point me to one?

(I suppose another option would be to disconnect the neck pickup altogether, just leave it there for the look. hmm....

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You know what would be cool? Take the cover off the P90 and drill pole piece and screw holes in the pickguard. Kinda stealthy, but not so much.

That, sir, is exactly what I intend to do!

The pickguard is wood and pretty thick so I'd be able to groove that out and snuggle the pickup up pretty high. Plus the chrome of the polepieces will fit in really nicely with the overall tele chrome scheme...

As for the electronics, I think there's a second way that could be cool too --since I routed under the pickguard for a switch already, I could add a second switch there, which can work in conjunction with the existing switch for a few cool possibilities (especially combining the P90 with the bridge pickup...bet that'd RAWK

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I have three pickups in my American Deluxe, two standard Tele and one strat in the middle (all Vintage Noisless).

I don't really like the stock wiring. It uses a Strat 5 way with similar switching, and an extra mini-toggle to combine the bridge pickup with the front two positions (neck, neck/middle). It's a real pain to get the stock Tele positions easily - All the way back for Bridge... all the way forward for Neck, then keep it in Neck and flip the mini-toggle for neck/bridge.

I've been toying with an idea. Replace the 5-way with a 3-way and wire the two Tele pickups to it normally. Then replace the mini-toggle with an on-on-on type to give me:

1 primary switch plus middle pickup

2 primary switch only

3 middle pickup only

I'm thinking it would be more useful.

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the answer to your first question is yes, you can use the three way switch if you just want one pup on in each position.

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I thought of the five-way, yes. But I was hoping to make do with what I have here.

Right now I'm leaning toward using a mini-switch to choose between the neck pickup and the P90 (the Bridge will remain as it is, since that's where I'm usually playing anyway--the rest is just candy :D ).

There's room to install the mini-switch between the pots, right? I can use an on/off switch to choose between the two pickups. Or even an on/off/on switch to give me all three pickups...

I suppose if I really wanted to get funky wid it, I could install TWO mini-switches --maybe even on/off/on switches-- but the number of possible combinations boggles my mind...

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I thought of the five-way, yes. But I was hoping to make do with what I have here.

Right now I'm leaning toward using a mini-switch to choose between the neck pickup and the P90 (the Bridge will remain as it is, since that's where I'm usually playing anyway--the rest is just candy :D ).

There's room to install the mini-switch between the pots, right? I can use an on/off switch to choose between the two pickups. Or even an on/off/on switch to give me all three pickups...

I suppose if I really wanted to get funky wid it, I could install TWO mini-switches --maybe even on/off/on switches-- but the number of possible combinations boggles my mind...

Plenty of room for one mini switch between the pots - more would probably be

pushing it. The volume tone pots are usually installed facing each other and

there's wiring between there.

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But hey, since we CAN do it, we're going to find the most complicated and unelegant solution to blend a middle pickup with the bridge pickup on a Tele. Nevermind that Strats have had 5-ways for 35 years now.

One's man's meat is another man's girlfriend. I like the way those mini-switches look on guitars, makes 'em look like rocket ships... :D And I think it'll look awesome on the control plate.

I have a strat, it has a 5 way switch and I hate it--I keep knocking it into the next position --of course, that's mostly because of where it's positioned, but also because it's just too big.

I have a similar problem with the tele switch too. I suppose I'll get used to that and adjust my playing style accordingly one of these days (I'm still pretty new to both strats and teles, never had either before). Or just rip it out and install a couple more mini switches. :D

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At the risk of driving crafty there up the wall with yet more complicated and unelegant ideas, I'm wondering about placement alternatives for this "middle" pickup.

I've read through the Tillman articles, so I understand the reasoning behind going with the strat-style middle pickup placement.

But I'm just wondering if there are other 'sweet spots' I can consider--especially getting closer to the bridge, to keep the P90 bright and snarling?

For instance...the middle pickup on my strat is set at about 10cm from the bridge (i.e., the end of the saddle.

My preference, at least in terms of aesthetics, would be to set the pickup a little closer to the bridge--say at 8 or 9 cm. I'll need to keep the pickup hidden by the pickguard.

I'm not looking to get a strat sound here--I want me some of that aggressive P90 tone...(my next build is going to be a single P90 guitar anyway)

Another question: right now I have a copper shielding backing on the pickguard --should I keep that in place where the P90 will go (i.e., only cut holes for the pole pieces) or should I remove the shielding from over the entire pickup?

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But hey, since we CAN do it, we're going to find the most complicated and unelegant solution to blend a middle pickup with the bridge pickup on a Tele. Nevermind that Strats have had 5-ways for 35 years now.

Has it really been 35 years. My how time flies,,, :D

Then you realize the middle pickup on a strat occupying 3 out of the 5 positions is only an accident of Fender's use of a "make before break" 3 position switch that would only allow 3 official positions - one pickup per position. Sure you do.

Us Tele players... speaking for myself of course, would rather consider the middle pickup as an addition to the three selections we have had since roughly 1966. Not as something that should take up 3 of 5 positions and leaving us without the important position of neck/bridge pickup together. Aw... but I forgot... yall Strat players can't get that position - and of course you consider it unimportant... but only because ya can't get it.

The Strat does not define the use of a middle pickup. :D

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At the risk of driving crafty there up the wall

You're killin' me, idch :D

Actually, I think messing with the position of the P-90 in the mid is a good idea. You could just route a swimming pool in the neck/mid pickup area and play around with positioning the pickup without the pickguard installed before you settle on a final position.

Then you realize the middle pickup on a strat occupying 3 out of the 5 positions is only an accident of Fender's use of a "make before break" 3 position switch that would only allow 3 official positions - one pickup per position. Sure you do.

Um, yeah. All I know is that Leo never designed the switching scheme on the early Strats to have the modern 2 and 4 positions and most players would just set the switch "in-between" to get the quack. Leo never liked that sound, and that's probably why it took until CBS bought the company to finally get a five-way in there.

I'm not trying to bust on idch for wanting to use mini-switches, I'm just throwing in that there's no need to reinvent the wheel. If you like a certain control system, use it. I just think that a five-way and a push-pull to blend the bridge and the neck is a little more elegant.

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Personally, I hate the sound of the 2 and 4 positions on my strat (MIJ) --I just don't want to sound like Mark Knopfler...I'm more into the Pete Townsend thing these days...but my strat is my most solid player, so it's the one I use with the band...

Until I get this tele all set up the way I need it.

Crafty, your idea about the swimming pool route is a great one, I didn't think of that, but now it's obvious.

Not only that but it gives me the possibility of trying out different pups too--I have an old Mosrite Mark II pup here that I've never tried. Also have a couple of lipsticks that I picked up (erk) a while back...hmm....

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Personally, I hate the sound of the 2 and 4 positions on my strat

You know you could always replace the 5 way with a 3 way ...

Not only that but it gives me the possibility of trying out different pups too--I have an old Mosrite Mark II pup here that I've never tried. Also have a couple of lipsticks that I picked up (erk) a while back...hmm....

Hey, how about a Charlie Christian pickup in the middle? :D

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You know, I just took the P90 out of my Melody Maker and replaced it with an original Melody Maker pickup. And you know what? That thing rocks! Got a great edge to it. Don't know why I ever removed the original in the first place (waaaay back when)

But I think I'll go with the P90 in the tele --they just seem to go together well.

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Richard Thompson plays a custom Ferrington. It has a P90 in the neck, a Strat middle, and a Broadcaster in the bridge. No tone, but, a volume pot for each p'up. Looks like it also has a Strat style 5 way... don't know how that's wired.

My idea for a Tele: P90 neck, Tele bridge; reversed Tele controls (switch at the tail end); blender pot for the neck and bridge; a master volume pot. That master volume would be a push-pull pot. That switch would go to a reverse wound middle pickup, buried under the pickguard. Switch off, you get all the twang and growl of the single coils. Switch on, you get noise cancelling of a humbucker and a mellower sound... That's the theory, anyway.

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