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Need Some Special Wiring Ideas


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Im making a Les Paul type guitar with a cool pick configuration and switches and I need some help with what kind of wiring I might need. It will have two full sized humbuckeris in the bridge and neck and a mini humbucker in the middle. I would have two volumes, two tones, three miniswitches, and one big toggle switch in the top corner of the guitar. one out of the two tones would be connected to the neck and the middle pickup and the other just to the bridge, with the same type of setup for the two volume knobs. the big toggle switch would control the neck and bridge pickups like on a normal Les Paul. The first mini switch would turn the middle pickup on and off. the second mini switch would coil tap the bridge pickup and the third mini switch would coil tap the neck pickup. I know it sounds complicated but I nave to ask, does anyboby with more experience then me have any good ideas?

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Well...it's a plan...not sure what controls the volume of the middle pickup, but you might have to wire it to the neck volume control. Toggles are convenient, but you may consider using push pulls instead to keep it looking a bit more clean...you might consider a tone control that splits even to cut back on switching...


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I would rout a hole for a slider control plate in the area that they are on Jaguars, like in the area near the horn, then use On-On sliders for your three mini-switches, unless you're carving up the top. If you make it a consistent angle in the area the plate goes you could still do it though, or maybe even install it on the side of the guitar up near the main toggle. You might even use concentric pots on the Neck controls so that you can have separate controls for the middle, because they probably aren't going to have the same amount of output, unless you just want to set the pickup height to compensate for that. Mini-switches of any sort are going to be difficult to install on a Les Paul style guitar though, if you're rear routing everything. Just make sure that you measure everything more than once so that you don't drill through the top if you go that direction. Just some ideas.

What sort of mini humbucker are you thinking? I'm just curious. Do you mean a strat-sized humbucker or one of those gibson-style minibuckers? I love the sound of both, especially the gibson-style. It's not as weak as a single coil but it isn't overbearing or muddy like humbuckers can get on those clean parts. Middle position always sounds the best on smaller pickups anyways, lots of crunch and nice and balanced tone-wise, not overly trebly like the bridge or bassy like the neck.

Hmm, this is inspiring me to add some extra switches to my current build.

Edited by Keegan
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Yeah. And if you're just raising it to get it to the same output, you're going to have tons of crunch. Mmm.

Oh, I just realized that you might want it on a 250k pot, or wire in a 500k resistor in parallel with it and its volume control, because a 500k pot might be too bright for it. Another reason to use concentric pots or separate controls entirely if they don't make concentric 500/250 pots. I think I've seen some though. Let me know if you can't find the 500/250 stacked ones, I don't want to post any links without you asking and seem like I'm advertising anything.

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That would work, you'd just set the pickup height to balance the bridge and neck out. Or you could use 3 volumes and a master tone. It depends on how much independent control you need. You're going to probably at least need the separate controls for the middle, since it'll sound more different than the neck and bridge will from each other(assuming you use the same kind of pickups). To me, the most sensible control scheme would be 4 push-pulls: 1. Volume for neck, 500k, with pull for coil split; 2. Volume for middle, 250k, with pull for middle on; 3. Volume for bridge, 500k, with pull for coil split; 4. Master tone, 500k, with pull for middle-only output. If you'd rather have switches, you could do that instead of pulls. It'd be nice to have a way to have only the middle selected, though. The three volumes give you more control over blending, and the middle bypass would work whether you had the middle on or not.

I just suggested the switch plate because I'm a switch junkie, but now I'm thinking that might be kind of silly to try to do on a Les Paul.

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I think that I'm going to end up doing something like my original design with a bunch a push pots like you suggested. I could install a kill switch were the main toggle would be instead and wire the three minitoggles to turn the three pickups on and off. I'd wire the knobs like I said in my last post but with two push pots on the knobs controling the neck and bridge pickups to coil tap them. No coil tap on the middle though. That would be wierd.

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I think this is getting way too impractical...especially for a les paul and you relly need to step back and thik about what you are trying to achieve here...it sounds a little overboard...and I'm known to go overboard with wiring and am doing an LP at the moment!

There are also some limits to hardware or special or modified hardware potentially required...like a 3 way toggle for three pickups...very rare. LP pots often have to be long shaft and this limits the choices there too.

Also...there is some limit to how much help you can get on this kind of work...even with a diagram, the principles and what you are hoping to achieve and how practical in reality it is to use need to be considered. In particular because there is going to be problems and you will need to know how to identify and fix them as you are the one holding the soldering iron.

In designing the electronics you need to understand how the parts work and interact (especially if you are using individual LP style volume controls), the polarity and magnetics of the HB pickups (you can introduce all kinds of noise and phasing issues) and the mechanics of the various switches and pots. You will also need to understand that some things are possible, some are difficult and other things impossible...and an awful lot is impractical.

A quick browse through similar posts over a few pages or some searching will see how a lot of these things end up...or at least some more ideas of what you are getting yourself into.


To illustrate, I have a decent amount of experience and understanding and good soldering skills...I have a strat that has been incapacitated by incredibly complex switching, I did a diagram even, but the whole thing is so frustrating I went and built another guitar in the mean time.

I also have an LP in the works...the wiring is planned to be complex, but I may have to make alterations as things progress. There are also some less obvious ways of doing things that might be worth trying...but I have not tested them yet. For instance, there is a way of "splitting" an HB with separate tone controls...on 10 there is a cap that turns all the treble off of one coil only giving you a fat single coil sound, at about 8 it is normal HB and from 8-0 it is a normal tone control...all of which is humbucking unlike splitting.

Then...the separate volumes traditional on an LP...some people like them, others not so much. One thing is that the kill switch was "invented" with this kind of guitar...tun one pickup volume to ) and switch between pickups is the traditional way...I used to play an LP and used it a lot to easily turn off the guitar between songs. I now appreciate a master volume control within easy reach like a strat, likely I will be going in that direction and using theother control for a different function on mine.

An LP is not the best guitar to "test" ideas on...this is why most "hot rods" are strats and tele's. Putting to HB's and a mini HB on a 24 fret guitar can also be a problem for the player...there will be very little room between them and so picking can be a problem unless the middle pickup is lowered out of the way substantially. If you want that mini HB tone, sticking one in the middle might not get you there either...placement of the pickups matters a lot and with all those magnets next to each other and pulling at the strings there could be some problems as well.

A better or more innovative approach might be to consider three mini hb's...but then splitting them is rarely good. You would have though perhaps 7 HB basic combinations and could be achieved very cleanly and neat if you had a mind to do it. I, for instance, would probably go for a master volume and two tones for the outer pickups and a master volume no tone for the middle pickup...this way I could dial in as much of the middle pickup as I wanted and get 6-7 good solid sounds and playability. If wanting to get fancy, add phase switching with push pulls on the two tones maybe...

Kill switching si a little over done...most will get over it. I did some work on it this year...see some of the many kill switch threads) and some of it is misunderstood. A lot of push button versions are anti-intuitive in use...you tend to play the gaps between sounds...the ons instead of the offs...not hte greatest...


Anyway...I can't help noticing the many threads asking for help with this project...have you made a guitar before? A real Les Paul is not really a beginners guitar and an ambitious project even for an experienced builder. I don't mean to be rude, but in addition to the electronics there are finishing inlay and all manner of other threads that suggests that this guitar does not yet exist and makes me wonder if it ever will. By the time you have bought materials and sent it all over the place for different parts of the process, it will have cost a mint!

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I will have a mint to spend in about a year. It is the first guitar I have built for myself but it's not the first guitar I've actually built. I've built two other more simple guitars for a relative and a friend. The only thing I suck at are the inlays. I always mess up the inlays. And I cant do the finishing for my self becuase my house burnt down about a year and a half ago and I'm now living in an smaller house with no garage plus the nearest guitar anything to my house is at least a 2 and a half hour drive. This will however be my most interesting build. Oh and I already have the body blank and the necks on the way.

Edited by Serius13
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Well...perhaps consider simplifying it a little bit...lol...

here is a bad pic of the guitar I am supposed to be working on...a lot of projects not getting done...


(the colour is all wrong in this pic...it is actually a very yellow golden flame maple top...the lighting makes it look orange and the pic is out of focus!)

even though there is some complex wiring planned for this, I am trying to keep it looking as streamlined as possible and practical to play.

The plan is to have variable splitting on the tone controls, master volume and a master piezo that can be mixed into the electric sound. I may include phase switching and other options depending on if they sound any good with push pull switching...for instance, I may make an electric sound kill if the DIY piezo sounds any good...I also have a 25dB preamp that might also get a look in.

The problem with these kinds of things is that you need to plan for them, but you also need to plan for things being useless and to be able to ditch them.

The strat is an example of me going completely overboard because I built these switch pots...the result is huge switching power and a lot of wires...probably better to have left it fairly standard...I've been so frustrated with the wiring nightmare that I have left it hang on the wall to remind me that, just because you can do something, doesn't mean that you should!


Edited by psw
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See what I mean...I have a tendancy to go too far as well...but one should try and resist.

There is a thread started, but I stopped again for a bit...LINK

It all started because I built these switches...


At first, it was something that I thought would work as a single control for a sustainer without adding any visible switches to the guitar...there is a push pull (dpdt) for the harmonic function, a twist base for a 4pdt switch function and a drive control know all in one...sounds like a plan...

The I thought...hmmm...I should really make al three knobs like this so they match...

All of a sudden I had a guitar with 3x4pdt switches and 3xdpdt switches and effectively 3 HB pickups and a sustainer...plus a 4p5t super switch as well!

Even the chrisK circuit that provides series parallel and phase switching and a five way combination selector and intuitive interface (the five way goes into different modes of sounds) and having the diagram...yes...there are a lot of wires...add to that the sustainer which has it's whole other set of problems...there was still powerful switching left over!!! So...silly me sticks a piezo in the neck socket as well since I hid a battery in the back and have on board power for the sustainer...

See...this is where things just get silly and is to be avoided. You have to anticipate that there are going to be no end of poblems associated with something like this...and keep your eye on the result, not the "dream"...

A far more sensible approach was in my telecaster...even then I went through a few different wiring schemes and stuff...it was rewired about 3 times (plus mods) while building it. This was a far saner and more satisfactory approach to this kind of thing...

First I built the guitar up to playable condition as a basic 2 pickup guitar with three way and really spent some time with it for a bit. I then thought, what is this guitar missing? It lacked the strats inbetween funky phase settings...so I added a phase switch to the neck pickup to get another flavour...so that's 4 settings. This seemed to work out well. I could see that under the HB route there was a fair amount of room and I could even squeeze a battery in...so I started to think about these Modboard things, I thought a tremolo with buffer might be cool...however the thing once set up was noisy and seemed to have some faults including an unacceptable click, and after a very short while I realized that such effects are much better left on the floor...so it had to come out. I then got a "challenge" to build a stand alone sustainer and since I was already rewiring this thing for the third time...I thought that this would be a guitar that would best test the concept put to me, so I built and tested something...I could hardly take it off, so it became an integral part of the guitar, the phase switch went to a push pull pot and that is how the wiring evolved. Some would say I went to far with that!

The lesson, which I do find hard to learn from, is that you really need to be careful what you wish for, a guitar with just one great sound is going to be better than a lot of compromise combinations and require a pilots license to play. I have developed ways to make these things more "secret" but often this makes the internals even more complex. There are times where you do want to go crazy and that is a great way to learn...but a cheap guitar will get you there so that you can learn what is really a useful function and what gets in the way.

This LP has been sitting here for months while I try and rationalize it. It is supposed to be a sister to the telecaster, similar in some ways (kahler for instance) but complementary...to do what the tele doesn't do. So, a slinky low action and gibson sound with the ability to get some of the clarity of single coils, but without hum (I like my guitars quiet these days), simple layout and functionality...and because I play on my own a lot these days, I thought that "perhaps" I could add the piezo thing in under the tremolo and if it works keep it, if not loose it!

So...at least I am trying to relate the guitar to what it is used for and to make it to sound a particular way...but with 4 knobs and excess parts everywhere, the easiest thing would be to put in 4 push-pull pots and pretty soon it would be looking like my strat...even then there would be people asking where the sustainer is....hahahaha

Also...on an LP there are limits to the design, it was only really ever meant to do one thing really well, adding a trem bridge is sacrilege to many...thinking that some how you are going to get "fender" sounds from it is not going to happen!

My advice then is to keep it simple and to approach it from how do I get the guitar to do these things rather than how much can I get the guitar to do...an LP can be a great guitar, a real one was the only one I played for the longest time in all kinds of different situations, not quite as versatile as a strat IMHO and a bit like driving a rolls royce over a speed racer, but a fine playing and looking guitar in it's stock format. Something to consider anyway...as I say, sometimes you need to step back, or get the guitar up and running and add to it rather than build in subtractions before you even begin...


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