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Nighthawk Wiring-improved


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Hello everyone. Well, after three months of working in a new job, it seems I will be getting paid next month! Just the way it works when working fot the government. After moving from my house, I intend to save for my first guitar and one of the things I´d like to do is buy the hardware and electronics first. Well, I´m pretty clueless in all respects, but electronics most of all. So, I´d like your help and input on this one.

I´m thinking I´d like to make a versatile electronic setup, so I researched a bit on Nighthawk guitars, and it appeals to me, both sonically and visually, but I´d like to step it up a bit more. They use a mini HB on the neck position, a single coil in the middle and a slanted HB on the bridge. I´m not interested in the slanted part. They use a 5 position switch.

So...what I was thinking was the same pickup setup but I´d like it to be more versatile. I was planning to use a three way switch to control the bridge and neck, possibly with concentric pots for those, and use it as a standard LP setting. Then, I was thinking the middle coil could be used with an on/off switch or maybe just a volume to throw it in the mix. I´d like a basic setup of a three way, two concentric (possibly), one volume for middle, and whatever needed for some other useful sounds.

I´m still trying to understand (to no real avail) what "in series" and "in paralell" sounds are or what they actually sound like. Please, remember that here in Mexico it´s harder to get hold of good instruments or knowledgeable people. I have done google searches and the like, but it´s hard to get a hold of all the info. Maybe you could help me with this?

I saw the tutorial on a 12 position setup with three pickups, pretty much what I´d like. It uses two push pull pots and a 5 way. What I´d like from you guys are your opinions and if it´s possible to still use a three way, two concenctric for bridge and neck...some way to control the middle coil (even if it´s just volume) and if you could help me to understand how to achieve other useful positions. I know it is ambitious for a first build, but I find that it´s really something I´d like to try.

I hope I´m being clear. The thing is that I don´t have it all to clear myself, so please, take it away! I saw some guitars with a 5 way in the upper bout and while that´s not my ideal solution, I might use it if that´s what would be best.

I had thought maybe there is a way to do this with a bit more switching and a push pull (switch also, right?)

Anything, really, anything will be most appreciated. I´d like to plan this part first, as I´m trying to buy all the parts before anything else.

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Hey there, I'm going to try and offer help as I can, but I'm not expert either.

As far as series/parallel go, humbuckers are wired in series, meaning that the output from one coil goes "into" the other, and the combination of the two of them go to the rest of the electronics. Parallel is associated with Strats, where their pickups are each sent to the electronics individually.

You get different effects when combining coils in different settings. So 2 coils in series is what you hear as the humbucker sound. The 2 and 4 settings on a Strat are the bridge and middle, or neck and middle pickups wired in parallel, if the middle pickup is RWRP. This is the "quack" sound that Strats are famous for. Single coils sound, clearly, like a single coil. Pickups wired in series are going to be louder and fatter, because you're essentially doubling the output by stacking the two coils. PRS uses two humbuckers, but their switches allow for different series/parallel coil options, without the need of an extra switch.

Hmm.... I think that's it, unless you're looking for something completely different that I totally missed.

The PRS statement above leads into my next point. I wonder if you could get by doing what you want to do as far as electronics go, with a simpler setup. I would make a bullet point list of what options/combinations you would most like to have. The concentric pot idea is expensive ($30 US for each complete setup, as far as I know), but it's a good idea if you want to keep the number of separate pots to a minimum.

I see an issue with the setup you described. What will happen to the middle position in your three-way switch, if you don't have the position like the traditional Gibson? Will it be a dead spot, a killswitch? Or maybe you just didn't elaborate enough about it.

I don't see any issue with having separate controls for just the middle switch. After all, a lot of guitars have a separate on/off switch for each pickup. What I want to know is, why would you only want to use the middle pickup some of the time? Me personally, I don't like middle pickups. But if you do, when would you most want to use it? In what situations? I would write those down and add them to the list as well.

For the 12-position switch setup, there is no way to use push/pull pots if you still want concentric pots. Just saying.

So when you look at the list you've written up, figure out if any of the StewMac custom switches would fit your needs:

The Megaswitches, and The SuperSwitch

The MegaSwitches offer interesting options, including automatic coil tapping and series/parallel setups. The SuperSwitch can be wired to get you pretty much any combination you choose. If you can narrow down the list of choices to 5 good picks for your 3 pickups, I might get a SS. Or if you only want the switch to be for your outer pickups and have the middle separate, then there's an option too.

I don't see anything difficult with getting a two-humbucker setup with a switch-full of combinations, and the ability to add the middle pickup as you choose. So you would have 2 concentric knobs and one switch for the humbuckers, and a mini-switch and volume for the middle pickup to add as you desire. (I hear some say that a P90 sounds great in the middle position. I haven't tried/heard myself, though)

It's definitely doable, but before settling on 2 switches and 5 knobs, I would want to see if there was a simpler way to do it.

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Thanks Xanthus, I think I´m getting a better picture now from what you said... So I´ll try to elaborate. My initial intention is to have a Les Paul, meaning the mini HB on the neck and full HB on the bridge. I thought of concentric as they would allow for tone and volume control for each, as ina standard Les Paul. When I had one, I used to preset those and just switch between them to get different tones as my amp had only one channel (Fender Blues Junior). That gave me flexibility and almost acted as having a switch between channels. Also, I used volumes more than most guitarist friends I have, for the same reason. I was thinking of that and throw the middle coil for more subtle flavoring. That´s when I started thinking of a volume dedicated for it. That gives me three pots.

Then I know that a usual and useful thing to do is to have the option of splitting the humbuckers´coils and allowing for more sounds. There´s where I lost my feet, so to speak. I know concentrics don´t function as push/pulls too, but is there a way to use the single coil´s volume pot as a switch in combination with another and get the split too?

Well, I´ll look into the switches you mention, as probably I will be buying some things from Stewmac. Would anyone be willing to share some useful positions for a simpler setup? Maybe doing a simpler circuit be more beneficial than trying to cram every possible sound and combination!

Edited by MexNoob
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My infamous "sustain-o-caster" along with the sustainer and other mods (that account for the two knobs and the switches behind the scratchplate) has a similar wiring scheme to what I think you are suggesting.

A gibson style 3 way operates the neck and bridge pickups. The three mini switches are phase switches for each of the three pickups. The middle tone (second knob) is a volume control for the middle pickup. The phase switches (you would really only need two for the same effect) only make a sonic difference with pickups in combination.

So, in practice, you have a simple three way with master volume and tone. You can preset the phase switches so that the middle position is quite different. You can use the middle pickup as if it wer a tone, so in phase you can dial in various amounts of that cancelled dire straits kind of tone (positions 2 and 4 on a strat) or, if the middle phase switch is reversed, you get a thicker midrangy almost HB like tone.

This can provide all combinations one way or another, except the middle pickup alone.

I recently came across a diagram for a three pickup les Paul that uses a conventional 3 way (good for adding a pickup) but a volume for the middle pickup in a similar way. It was wired I believe so that if you turned down the other pickups you could also get the middle alone. This was in "The Guitar Player Repair Guide" I believe from Dan Erlwine.

For the ultimate choice in wiring diagrams and options, check out DGB Studio...they have 205 variations on a twin HB set up alone!

Also...guitar nuts 2 forum is the forum for wiring ideas and questions with some schematics and knowledgable people to advise you.

Also...some original nighthawks had a varitone BTW.

You need to keep in mind what is easy to use in practice and aesthetically pleasing, as well as versatility. Even complex wirings can be made practical if you want, but too many knobs can be a headache, switches are easier to use and to see where you are at. The guitar above has a lot of options, but in truth you simply set the switches to the desired effect wanted for the combined middle position of the three way and the effect of the middle pickup control. I used the mid pickup control as a second kind of tone control that mixed in cancellation or reinforcement effects to whatever position the selector was in.

Hope that gives you some ideas...


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Hi Pete, I was hoping you´d see the thread and chime in... Thanks for taking the time. That guitar looks amazing and quite frankly, a bit scary! You´ve given me a lot to think about and I´ll try my best to understand what you´ve written. Maybe I should have started with something quite more basic.

I´ll research on the Varitone, as of what I remember it can be a very useful option which I hadn´t considered. When speaking yesterday with my brother, who has a bit more understanding of electronics, I came up with an idea that maybe someone could point me to:

Is there a way to use a Varitone as a sort of guitar mode-selecting? I´ll explain myself. What I mean is if it´s possible say to select position 1 as a Les Paul setting, number 2 as a Strat, 3 as a sort of general jazzbox type of sound, etc. I saw such a Varitone on ebay but I had forgotten about it. I hope I´m making myself clearer with this.

P.S. By the way, could anyone point me to a sort of "Guitar electronics for dummies" book or article? Thanks a bunch!

Edited by MexNoob
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Ok...let`s see... I´m trying to figure this out. By "Les Paul type" I mean using the bridge and neck humbuckers with the three way. In the Nighthawk setting, I would also have a middle single coil, so I was thinking that a way to get a kind of Strat sound could be by tapping the HBs and having that middle coil. Now, what I read about Varitones is that they are better used with HBs and help to achieve more sounds, such as a jazzbox type, and even a single coil type.

How abut this idea? Three-way switch and another mini-switch which would control two basic wirings: "Les Paul type" being the two humbuckers, and a "Strat" setting which would tap the coils and enable the middle as well.

Could a push/pull be used to get the "out of phase" tone in the "Strat" setting? Also, if I only use a three-way instead of a 5-way could I wire it so I could get the most useful sounds in the strat?

Also, I read somewhere that you can wire a Varitone to a push/pull (I guess it would have to be another one) so you can dial in the amount of cut AND bypassing it, thereby allowing to have a preset on the Varitone that can be accesible just by pulling on the pot.

Am I making more sense, or am I just rambling?


Edited by MexNoob
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Sorry for posting twice in a row. I had forgotten about this site, but someone here pointed it to me a while ago. it seems interesting and would like your thoughts on it.

teye guitars-tones

They are a take on the Zemaitis guitars, but he claims that he can get almost any sound from them. I find it interesting to use a 5-way positioned where normally the Les Pauls have their 3-way. Certainly, I don´t think I´m dead set against that. BTW, what do you think that "weird filtering device" called a Master Mood Knob is( :D ). I´m guesing it could be sort of a Varitone switch.


Edited by MexNoob
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