One of the main reasons players add switches to their guitars is to explore the tonal versatility offered by four-conductor humbuckers. First let’s take a quick look at a single-coil pickup.
Canada isn’t a country we normally associate with high-end guitars, although they should be. Godin have been making guitars in Quebec since the early 1970s, and have expanded to three factories in the region, as well as one in the northeastern US. Godin Guitars seems to be constantly coming up with new designs, from their retro Richmond…
Discussions about how to get “that” tone are usually centred around a particular genre. It’s easy to discuss rock, jazz, metal or country tones, because the genre itself carries an implication about a rough tonal ballpark. When we talk about rock, we immediately bring to mind various overdrive and distortion sounds. Jazz makes us think of that warm, articulate clean tone. Metal is all about crushing distortion, and country musicians can’t get enough twang.
Guitars can be made many ways these days. Some provide one or two sounds from the guitar itself, with nothing more than a pickup and a volume knob. Some players like a huge palate of sounds available at all times, covering the face of their guitar with switches and knobs. This article will explain both schools of thought as well as some ways to achieve those sounds without all those holes on your purty guitar’s top. Finally, I will explain what I like (and need) in a guitar’s control layout, and how I make it work for me.
If you’ve read the other two articles in the series, hopefully by now you’ve got a good understanding of the different ways we can wire P-Rails pickups. Let’s take a look at some of the more common configurations.
The three most-used modes for the P-Rails pickup are series humbucker, P-90 mode and rail mode. If these are the only three modes we want to use, the wiring is quite simple.
The P-Rails is one of Seymour Duncan’s most versatile pickups. It’s a humbucker, a P-90 and a single-coil rail pickup in one. However, to access all these sounds it’s necessary to do some more complicated wiring then you might do if you’re just putting a normal humbucker in your guitar – even if you’ve already wired a coil split before. The fact that some players go for a fourth sound – both coils wired in parallel – only adds to the potential for wiring confusion.
A brief summary: P-Rails are a special pickup design that incorporates two different pickup types: a P-90 and a rail single coil. The Triple Shot Mounting Ring incorporates two 2-position switches per ring, that allows either the P-90 alone, the single coil alone, both coils in parallel and both pickups in series, like a traditional humbucker. Combined with a 3-way pickup switch, that is a lot of sounds!
P-Rails are capable of some very diverse sounds, and Triple Shot Mounting Rings allow dozens of potential sounds available – even more if each pickup is wired to its own volume and tone controls. My particular guitar has a master volume and master tone as well as a 3-way switch.
In the last two articles we looked at switches, and then four-conductor humbuckers. This time round, we’re going to look at some new types of switch, and see how we can use those to access some more tones from a humbucker.