Guitar Wiring Diploma Course

Posted on by Richard Irons

pickup change

Have you never opened a guitar before? Or perhaps you’ve just opened one for the first time, seen all those wires, and run screaming in confusion to the internet for help? Never fear. We have a set of posts you can read to get yourself up to speed in no time, starting completely from scratch.

Guitar Wiring 101
Start here if you have absolutely no idea how the wiring inside a guitar works. This article will get you up to speed with the principles behind guitar wiring, and then use those principles to show you how to wire up the most simple guitar circuit possible: a pickup, a jack, and no other switches or controls at all.

Guitar Wiring 102
Now we’ve got the basics down, let’s have a look at some simple modifiers to the circuit. This article first shows you how to add a “killswitch” to the guitar, then uses the lessons learned from that process to change that killswitch to a volume control instead. Finally, we’ll find out how capacitors are used in guitar circuits and install our first tone control.

Guitar Wiring 103
The vast majority of guitars use more than one pickup, and provide a switch that controls which pickup, or combination of pickups, is active at any one time. This article adds one more pickup to our circuit and shows how we can wire up a selector switch. We look at both toggle and blade style switches. This brings us to the point where we now know how to wire up a Telecaster in the standard way.

Guitar Wiring 104
Now that we know how to wire a Telecaster, it’s not a big step to get to the point where we can wire a Stratocaster or a Les Paul. This article shows how to do that, introducing the 5-way switch along the way.

Guitar Wiring Explored – Switches Part 1
Now that we’re comfortable with the basic wiring of a guitar, we can look at some of the more popular mods. This article introduces mini toggle switches and push/pull pots, and shows how we can use these to modify a Strat in such a way as to allow use to add the neck pickup to any selection. This expands the number of available pickup combinations to 7.

Guitar Wiring Explored – Humbucker Internals
In this article, we take a break from wiring pickups, switches and pots, and get to grips with the internal structure of a humbucker. This allows us to demystify four-conductor cable and understand how we can split coils or wire a humbucker in parallel instead of series.

Guitar Wiring Explored – Switches Part 2
In this article we look at a new kind of toggle switch – the “on/off/on” switch. Having understood that, we look at how we can use this switch to split a humbucker to either coil, or use it as a regular humbucker, all on the same switch.

Guitar Wiring Explored – Switches Part 3
Here, we look at the third and final kind of mini-toggle switch, the “on/on/on” switch. After showing how the connections are made within the switch, and seeing the two types that can be found, we look at two uses for the switch: firstly to create a series/split/parallel switch for a humbucker, and secondly to use the switch as a three-way pickup selector.

How Hum-Cancelling Works, Part 1
How Hum-Cancelling Works, Part 2
These two articles show us how me can manipulate coil winding direction, electrical phase, and magnetic polarity to achieve hum-cancellation between two coils. Having this knowledge allows us to create hum-cancelling combinations of coils over and above than just using humbuckers. A good example is using a RWRP pickup in the middle position of a Strat.

Guitar Wiring Explored – Introducing the Super Switch, Part 1
In the first part of this two-part article, we look at the original five-way switch and find it lacking for some uses. The 2-pole super-switch steps in to help, and we look at how we would go about wiring a Strat in the standard way using that switch. Once we’ve understood that, we go on to create an interesting alternate wiring scheme for a Strat that wouldn’t be possible with the standard 5-way.

Guitar Wiring Explored – Introducing the Super Switch, Part 2
Following on from the previous article, we look at the grand-daddy of all pickup selectors: the 4-pole super-switch. The possibilities with this switch are endless, and we scratch the surface by coming up with a wiring scheme for an HSH guitar that auto-splits the humbuckers in the 2 and 4 positions, and combines both humbuckers in the middle position.

Keep checking back – this page will be kept updated as new wiring articles are added!

 

Written on February 13, 2013, by Richard Irons

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  • you guys are smart

  • Luís P

    This. This right here is why SD rocks.

  • StevieSavage

    very useful and appreciated! But is there a way to download the whole series in one file please?

    • Addis Solis

      LOL don’t be so lazy !!

      • Walter Mrowczynski

        Is it really laziness if you want it for offline viewing?

  • Victoire

    Seymour Duncan, I LOVE U.

  • harrymallory

    You guys have the best articles. What Stevie said though. Id like to get the entire series.

  • Chris burns

    Got anything more advanced?

  • John Z. (Kraft)

    Awsome site , Products love the honesty and that “you can do it ” (here look how) Attitude . One of a kind Phenomenon !! Thank you .

  • ricky

    Ive installed a blackouts modular preamp in my ibanes s…… my ibanez has a switchcraft 3 position blade switch……… the instructions come with a standard lp style switch in the diagram…….. I need to know how to install the preamp with that switch?

  • matteo

    Very nice discussion. Now I’m pretty sure that the the tip, not the pickup hot, must be connected to the center of volume pot. The opposite would leave the jack open when volume is at minimum, generating the “open circuit noise”.
    So why some wiring diagrams reports the pickup hot connected to the center?

  • Greg Jaeger

    Thanks, I’ve had issues for years, now I can get them sorted!

  • Hobbit

    I love this serie. I’ve been “playing” with guitars for about 3 years (the tech side) and i find these posts a great way to gather all (or most) of knowlege in one place just to be able to look smth up really quickly.

  • Patrick Lucas

    Cannot load lessons…. shows a little yellow explosion.

  • mick jagstone

    I’m waiting for the Jimmy Page wiring vid.

  • Morley

    How about rotary switches? They’re being used more and more. I’m using a 6-way rotary in my current build.

  • Wiring diagrams for clearer vero lacking, especially by the action of the switches.

    Thanks for the information

  • Diogo Carreira

    Very useful. Today I gave life to a Strat, adding a SD lil´59 in the neck, a noiseless single coil in the middle and a SD hot rails in the bridge. I used a H-S-H diagram from SD website with one volume and one tone pots (500k Alpha pots). I will add a second tone pot later on with a push/pull pot to split the little humbuckers in single coils. The guitar sounds huge now!

  • Shadow_Reaper

    I learnt a lot by your posts. Thanks man!
    You should update this post with the last wiring posts you’ve been doing.

  • Migs Rañeses

    I don’t know where I should ask this, please tell me where, I recently bought a seymour duncan cool rails neck for my guitar. It’s working fine. I mae it split with a pushpul knob, unfortunately, the volume of the pickups drop to a significant amount when i split it. Is it also possible for me to split it and just use the outer coil of the pickup?

    • SeymourDuncanBlog

      Anytime a single coil-sized humbucker is split, a tiny coil is the one seeing the strings, so the volume is going to drop. You can split to the other coil, or set the switch to wire the pickup in parallel, which will keep it hum cancelling. However, splitting to the other coil in a neck position Cool Rails probably won’t be a big difference in sound since the coils are pretty close together and pretty small.

      • Migs Rañeses

        ok thank you so much! Unfortunately, it’s not as loud as the other single coils of my strat. I tried splitting to the other coil but doesn’t split. I followed the wiring diagram bit by bit. =( Thank you so much for responding right away. I’m a session musician here in our country and this is actually my first time to mod my guitar. Thank you so much!

        • SeymourDuncanBlog

          Yes, split sound probably won’t be as loud as the other singles. The Cool Rails is really like a single coil sized version of our Jazz humbucker, so if you are after a more single coil sound, you can try the Vintage Rails, which is more of a single coil sound in a humcancelling format. You can always move the Cool Rails to the bridge position as well.

          • Migs Rañeses

            oh ok! Thank you so much! I am very much enlightened!

  • Karl Schroeder

    You guys kick serious ass!!

  • BlueRocco

    I started building Guitars in 2000 and no matter WHAT I’m working on. THIS is the site I visit first, Even if it is just for confirmation of the information. Love your products and knowledge base.

  • Anthony Darrell

    Amazing articles, I had no idea how simple some of this was! I’m so glad I decided to read through all of this, you’ve officially saved my first guitar. Even saved me some money on installing my wonderful Jimi Hendrix pickups! Thank you for the help, and as always, I will always purchase SD’s when I upgrade my guitars