ProGuitarShop

One (Simple) Strat Mod to Rule Them All!

October 9, 2013

Last week we looked at a few ways to tweak your Tele, including a cool 4-way switch mod. This week we’re looking at the mighty Stratocaster, whose 3 single coil pickups allow for a myriad of switching/wiring options. Though a Strat already has a huge variety of tones available right out of the box (er, case?!)—with one simple tweak, you can greatly expand what your Strat is capable of sonically.

 

 

99% of you probably know this, but let’s quickly just address what is going on under the hood in your garden variety Stratocaster. The Strat was initially designed to use a 3-way switch that simply selected one of the three pickups at a time, but enquiring musicians figured out that if they lodged the switch just so in between settings, they could access two pickups at once. As with so many wonderful things in this life-- simply doing a little bit of hacking yielded wonderful results. Fender didn’t actually switch to using the 5-way switch as a standard feature until 1977-- but it has been the mainstay ever since and has a logical (if somewhat incomplete) switching system.

 

Here’s a diagram from Fender illustrating the pickup selection on your typical 5-way switch:

 

 

 

The 5-selector offers many choices, but the obvious option that is missing from this matrix is the ability to use the neck and bridge pickups together (Tele style!) as well as the ability to use all three pickups at once. The pickups are all there-- why not harness every possible pickup configuration and have it at your fingertips?!

 

That’s where the 7-Sound Strat mod comes into play.

 

And the amazing thing is that all you need is: an on/off switch. 

 

By installing a single-pole, single-throw (SPST) option into your strat’s wiring, you can essentially toggle to a second set of settings on your 5-way switch. This SPST switch could be a push/pull pot installed on one of your knobs (likely the volume knob) or a mini toggle switch installed somewhere on the pickguard where it’s easy to access yet hard to accidently activate. The nerdiest among us may have these components laying around the house, but for the rest of us, there are great companies like StewMac who have all the components you could ever hope for and great staff who really know their stuff.

 

The 7-Sound Strat mod matrix looks like this:

  

Switch Position

Pickup/Combination

With Switch Engaged

1

Bridge pickup

Bridge & Neck pickups

2

Bridge & Middle pickups

All three pickups

3

Middle pickup

Same

4

Middle & Neck pickups

Same

5

Neck pickups

Same

 

 

 

This mod is extremely simple and can easily be accomplished by all you electronics-maestros out there. For those of us who are a little on the shy side, this mod is a great jumping off point for beginners—there are countless tutorials and schematics available online to walk you through it, regardless of which style of switching option you select (mini toggle, push/pull pot, etc). For those of you who’d rather pay someone else to do it, your tech will be happy to have an easy task on the docket for a day. And lastly for those of you who actually get this mod done, regardless of who does it—congratulations on opening up your Strat to new sonic territories. While you might not nail the 'exact' Tele tone with your bridge/neck combination, you’ll still get a nice, well-defined, fat tone from position 1 (with the switch engaged) and a great rhythm tone out of position 2 (with the switch engaged) and will finally have a Strat that is living up to its FULL POTENTIAL. Happy switching, everyone!

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Jeff Shields says:

    Interestingly a standard feature on the dirt cheap Burns Cobra and other 3 pick up guitars in the various ranges.

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 8:01 am
  2. Thomas says:

    I don’t think I ever use the middle pickup alone… And 90 percent it’s neck or bridge. I only use the inbetween steps for funky stuff.

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 8:13 am
  3. Bernd says:

    I use a blend pot instead of the neck tone pot to dial in a certain amount of bridge pickup on positions 5+4. The leaving tone pot is wired as a master tone pot for all pickups. Works great and I didn’t have to drill any additional hole for the switch.

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 8:14 am
  4. {Phred} says:

    So where is the mod?

    That’s a really terrible article to state the result and not how to achieve. I guess Google is my friend.

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 8:20 am
  5. Doug says:

    G&L has this feature on their S-500 and Commanche models.  I immediately fell in love with it, as I’ve always considered the Strat’s Achilles heel to be the thin tone in postion one with just the bridge pickup.  The mini toggle creates instant FAT strat, and in the case of the S-500, waaaayyyy beefy Strat tone with all 3 MFDs engaged at once.

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 8:47 am
  6. Dan Hoagland says:

    I loaded the pickguard with a little 59, duckbucker(middle), and a JB jr(bridge).  I use a SPST to switch between single coil and humbucker mode. It made myStrat very versitile and it works our great for me. Of course as with everything, YMMV.

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 8:50 am
  7. Ed says:

    Yes, I’d like to know where the diagram for the mod is also.

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 9:04 am
  8. Rzzz says:

    Better than this, I have a mod on my 1968 Strat that allows me ALL pickup combinations, including in/out of phase (about 16 tones) - just by installing three little pickup selector switches, instead of the main one.  Gets some OUT sounds. I have had this for about 30 years.

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 9:20 am
  9. Pro-Steel Pickguards says:

    Just as easy - look good, change a custom strat with the coolest pickguard, a strat deserves a top shelf guard.

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 9:24 am
  10. Brian says:

    I don’t know if I can remember more then 4 selections whilst playing live (Tele Style), sounds like a recording guitar to me.

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 9:24 am
  11. wes says:

    How do you actually install the switch. Where do you solder the wires to?

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 9:26 am
  12. Surferbell says:

    Think Fender does this with the SH-1 switch.  I’m sure the schematic can be found online,  SH-1 switching…..

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 9:34 am
  13. Scott Fischer says:

    Carvin also uses this set-up on the bolt series for 7 sounds. But the ultimate set up is the Brian May system and variations of it with a slew of slide or mini switches allowing you to select your individual pickups, or almost any comination in parallel, series and out of phase. This gives dozens of sound combinations. But accessing them on stage during a gig can be slow and confusing to many. Sometimes simple is better. It depends on your needs.

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 9:41 am
  14. joe says:

    Here’s a link. There are many on the net. Very simple, popular mod.

    http://www.singlecoil.com/docs/7sound-strat.pdf

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 9:55 am
  15. Steve Dallman says:

    I’ve been rewiring Strats since the mid 70’s. This is old, old news. Another good one is to wire a switch (push pull, rotary, whatever) to put the middle and bridge in series, for a humbucker type of tone, with more mids and punch.

    I put together three parts Strats in the last year. One has four EMG select pickups, with two by the bridge with a switch to get the two pickups in series, or just one. I use an Artec EXP in all my guitars. Excellent tone module to get more sparkle, slightly boosted normal tone, or boosted mids. A lot of tone for under $20.

    My other Strat has three noiseless Duncan Strat pickups, with a Hot Rails in the bridge position with a series/parallel push/pull switch, and a Fishman Power Bridge with separate output, and the Artec EXP.

    My latest has two Jackson humbuckers with a GFS Neovin Strat pickup in the middle. The switching is three toggle switches, Each is series/off/parallel…and again with the Artec EXP.

    All have volume, master tone, and the Artec knob. I use the Artec knob for most tone changes.

    All three are incredibly versatile, and I wouldn’t trade any for any Strat, be it American, Custom Shop or Signature model. They all look great too with wonderful necks.

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 10:14 am
  16. josh G says:

    the easiest mod i have found is simply switching the bridge and middle pickup around in the pick guard. no rewiring neccasary. the switching is a little messed up, but i never used the mid and neck p/u together and it puts the slightly hotter bridge pickup further away from the bridge, making it louder. it also lets you have neck and bridge in the 4th position

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 10:34 am
  17. Tyler says:

    I have an American Deluxe strat - it does all this mod does plus 3 additional tones.

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 11:07 am
  18. Alan Veil says:

    My deluxe Strat had the S-1 switching system in it, & you could get 15 different combos using different series/parallel configurations, but the 1 configuration it didn’t allow was the ability to get the neck & bridge PU together. But all of these S-1 systems do not work the same. Even the people at Fender don’t know what is what, but they will send a diagram based on serial #. My Strat came w/those new N3 noiseless PUs, which connect using 3 wires, so the wiring diagram was very complex to me, as I don’t have any real experience w/electronic wiring. Anyway, I hated the sound of the N3 PUs—they were just weak sounding—pretty, but just too weak. I had a ‘bucker in the bridge which was okay, but I changed it all out & bought a pre-wired PG from D-Allen PUs w/a set of his “Johnny-Blade” Strat PUs (these were designed in collaboration w/ Nashville session guitarist Johnny Hiland, hence the name) with a push-push switch on the tone-knob to get the 7 PU configuration discussed in this article. The J-Blade PUs are simply amazing—not like other blade PUs I’ve heard, these are each handmade. They use ceramic magnets, and they yield a sound that’s very close to a single-coil when played clean, but w/extra “girth,” and when distortion is engaged, they turn N2 monsters w/as much power as a full-sized humbucker but w/more focus. I am very happy w/these PUs, but I found that they sound best when used separately or when used in the 2nd position (bridge & mid) while the neck plus bridge sound—well, it’s interesting, but I never use it. It causes a lot of the high-end to roll-off. So I think this mod might be good for bright single-coil PUs, but if you have humbuckers or mini-buckers, you may find that the neck-bridge combo is a little too dull sounding, depending on taste of course. I think this has to do with the distance between those 2 PUs, so there’s greater phase-cancellation maybe? IDK, I’m just relating my own experience. And no, I don’t work for David-Allen, but I’ve had Fralin Split-Blades & Seymour Duncan PUs & none have impressed me as much as these D-Allen “Johnny-Blades.” 5 or 7 amazing sounds are better than 15 so-so sounds, IMO. I also replaced the plastic knobs w/ some awesome chrome ones w/abalone-inlaid tops from Q-Parts & they really make my Strat look sweet! It’s just a shame that after spending $1600 on a guitar that I had to replace the PUs! I don’t know why Fender ever quit putting Lace Sensors in the Deluxe models. For $1600+ you should get some amazing PUs!

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 11:15 am
  19. Ray Tracy says:

    I have a 3-PU Les Paul I’d LOVE to do this with. That, of course, has 2 tone/2 Volume pots. Any idea how I’d wire that in?

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 11:27 am
  20. Tony says:

    I’ve always thought to achieve all possible pickup combinations it be more practical for each pickup to have it’s own mini toggle on/off switch

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 1:34 pm
  21. Roger. says:

    I do this for years on all of my three pickups guitars with only two three way switch.

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 2:05 pm
  22. Joe Foster says:

    There is a Fender players strat that has a mini push/push button between the 2 tone controls that can give you the 7 tones. Not sure if its still made .Had gold hardware and 21 frets. I’ll keep my 87 pewter strat.I replaced PUs with vintage noiseless.Kept 250 pots. Don’t like gold hardware.

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 2:05 pm
  23. Igor says:

    Here’s some link on wiring schematics:

    http://www.fralinpickups.com/wiring.asp
    http://www.seymourduncan.com/support/wiring-diagrams/ (a shitload od everything)
    http://www.glguitars.com/schematics/index2.asp

    I have a strat-like axe with S-S-H, all is done with push-push switches on the knobs, so there’s no extra switches, one splits the humbucker into a single coil and the other adds a neck to the bridge pickup. Also I do not have a volume-tone1-tone2, but have adopted the G&L system, so it’s volume-bass-treble. You can do anything to everything and the difference is VERY dramatic.

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 7:13 pm
  24. Erik says:

    I use a superswitch by StewMac plus an on/off toggle in one of my strats to get 9 different sounds:

    Toggle up is a combination of some tele and some humbucker style sounds:
    Pos.1: Neck
    Pos.2: Neck + mid in series (kind of neck humbucker)
    Pos.3: Neck + bridge in parallel (Tele style)
    Pos. 4: Bridge + mid in series (kind of bridge hb)
    Pos. 5: Bridge

    Toggle down gets some classic strat sounds:
    Pos.1: Neck + mid in parallel
    Pos.2: Mid
    Pos.3: All pickups in parallel
    Pos. 4: Mid
    Pos. 5: Bridge + mid in parallel

    For the moment this guitar is tuned in standard C to get some stoner sounds, and the humbucker settings work really great to me !!

    posted on October 9, 2013 at 10:22 pm
  25. Ken says:

    How do you wire this? Can you do a follow on article that shows how to do the 7 sound mod?

    posted on October 10, 2013 at 12:11 am
  26. Ken says:

    How do you wire the switch for the 7 sound mod?

    posted on October 10, 2013 at 12:12 am
  27. Stratopastor says:

    +1 on the blend mod. You wire the mid tone knob as the tone for the whole guitar (better use the 50s configuration, ie the tone knob works on the volume knob output (middle tag), not the input). Then wire the bridge tone knob as a simple variable resistor connecting the neck pu hot terminal to the bridge pu hot terminal. Now you use that knob to blend in the bridge when using the neck or vice versa. On switch position 2 or 4, that fades in the third pickup, so you can have them all at once. All 7 combinations with no new components and no visible changes.

    But…if you do this and like the new sounds, then in my opinion you’re best to go back in and replace the blend pot (250K) with a 1M;  250K isn’t quite enough resistance to prevent bleed-through when you don’t want any blending.

    posted on October 10, 2013 at 12:25 am
  28. Mdwak says:

    I too use the stew mac switch Stock, I lose the mid pup only but gain neck / Mid pups ( tele) Works really great with Fralins with the base plate on the bridge pup , Also it is a amazing clear piano like sound in the tele ( middle ) position , I always get great comment’s on that position when I use it and I use it a lot

    posted on October 10, 2013 at 12:37 am
  29. Ian says:

    I have a MIM Fat Strat with a humbucker in the bridge. I put a switch on the Bridge tone to convert the bucker to a single coil and one on the other tone to turn on the neck pickup.  No drilling required and instant extra sounds.

    posted on October 10, 2013 at 2:21 am
  30. Roylomm says:

    Modify the pots, 1 master volume, 1 master tone, 1 blend pot for the neck pickup for the bridge and all pickups on. Saves drilling holes on your scratch plate.

    http://www.fralinpickups.com/images/blendschem2.jpg

    posted on October 10, 2013 at 8:40 am
  31. Rick Polson says:

    http://www.deaf-eddie.net/index.html One switch to rule them ALL !

    posted on October 10, 2013 at 11:48 am
  32. Pro-Steel Pickguards says:

    That’s THE switch Rick !!  Seriously cool, it’s Tone-City.
    A simple rotary switch replacing one of your Tone pots (still got the 5 way) easily the best!

    I have 2 Strats with Deaf-Eddie’s switches… a S/S/S/ with his Chromocaster (16 tone pickup combos), and a H/S/S with a Fat-O-Caster (11 tone pickup combos)

    posted on October 10, 2013 at 12:07 pm
  33. will says:

    https://sites.google.com/site/phostenixwiringdiagrams/strats#Strat7-Way2     Here is the mod that Andy forgot. Too much time spent thinking up ‘worst 5’ lists for the fanboys to wet their panties fighting over.

    posted on October 12, 2013 at 9:12 am
  34. Coach Outlet Online says:
    posted on October 15, 2013 at 7:19 pm
  35. Rich says:

    Best Sounding Strat Mod: Remove your cord. Place it into a Les Paul.

    posted on October 17, 2013 at 5:50 pm
  36. Ruben says:

    Works like a charm PGS! I got my instruction from:

    http://www.singlecoil.com/docs/7sound-strat.pdf

    Thanks for this great idea!

    posted on October 21, 2013 at 11:15 pm
  37. Clay says:

    neck and bridge and all 3 is pretty cool.  But this is the ultimate way to wire a strat and it looks completely stock and provides you with a much better working and more useful tone control

    http://www.deaf-eddie.net/chromie.html

    something like 27 unique pickup combos by adding IN series combinations (bridge and middle in series is a noise cancelling humbucker) as well as in series out of phase and in paralell out of phase.  By replacing the two strat tone controls with one tone control you get a master tone control that allows you to control bridge tone- as well as not having interference between neck and middle tone controls (what a terrible design!)

    BEst of all in the first position of the chomacaster everything works completely stock.  a lot of people have no use for out of phase pickup combos, but in series out of phase with a big muff or other fuzz is absolutely bad ass

    posted on October 29, 2013 at 8:29 am
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