“Nashville” Tele Wiring . . . in a Strat?!

What do you get when you cross . . .

I’ve been coveting one of those “Nashville-Style” Telecasters — you know, the hot-rodded, three-pickup versions popularized by Nashville session superhero Brent Mason, and now a regular Fender production model.

Then it dawned on me: Since some of Mongrel Strats I’ve been playing with have strong Tele tendencies, why not flip the equation? Instead of a Tele that acts like a Strat, why not a Strat that thinks it’s a Tele?

The Fender version replaces the usual Tele 3-way switch with a 5-way, as shown in this wiring diagram, though many players prefer to keep the 3-way switch and add the middle pickup via a blend knob, as in this other wiring diagram.

I took the latter approach, and I am flipping out over all the new tones it unlocks. Check out this little video demo:

The disadvantage of the blend-knob version is, you no longer have access to the sound of the middle pickup alone. (As if I care — it’s the most boring sound on a Strat!) One the other hand, you get the splendid sound of the outer pickups together — something you can’t obtain on a standard Strat. Better still, you can adjust the amount of middle pickup added to the combined settings, unlocking many cool shadings unavailable on a conventional Strat. You can also dial in the sound of all three pickups together, another combo unattainable on regular Strat. (Generally, this setting doesn’t do much for me, though I love it when using a Tele-caster style bridge pickup, like the Seymour Duncan Twang Banger I have in this guitar. (The neck pickup is a Duncan SSL-1. The middle pickup is also an SSL-1, but reverse-wound, reverse-polarity version.) All that in exchange for sacrificing middle pickup alone? Such a deal!

Aside from the sounds, I dig the concept of this wiring scheme. Now I think of the “out of phase” sounds not as pickup-selector positions, but as a character accessible at all times. With the middle knob turned left, you get sharp, crisp Tele/Strat tones. As you rotate it to the right, the colors get softer, prettier, and more diffuse. As I mention in the video, it reminds me of the focus and aperture controls on a high-end camera. It makes me think differently and play differently — and those are almost always good things. 🙂

16 comments to “Nashville” Tele Wiring . . . in a Strat?!

  • Sam Geese

    Hey Joe
    Another great article and demo.
    I was wondering what that component is on both the 3-way and the 5-way switches.

  • joe

    Thanks, Sam!

    Do you mean, what switches do I use? I’m really into the Schaller Megaswitches, available from Stew Mac. 

    • Sam Geese

      Actually, what I meant was; if you look in both the wiring diagrams, you see some sort of component (resistor, diode,ect) soldered to lugs on the switches.  Just wondering what those might be.

  • I made a tele/Les Paul hybrid using the Megaswitch. I don’t have an option to blend the middle pickup, and only use it in the 2 and 4 positions.


  • el reclusa

    Hmmmm… wired my lone Strat with a blend pot to mix neck & bridge pups, but I’m intrigued by the idea of the blend adding in middle instead. Could be cool…

    • joe

      Well, it’s a fairly easy mod. And the good part is, it requires no new parts — just some switching around.

  • David Fung

    Love the sound of this guitar, and really love your riffing on this.  The outer pickup tone is great, and I really like the tones with the bypass middle pickup rolled in when the tone is down.  Two interesting questions- how do you wind a pickup to encourage the Tele squawk?  Is it less low end?  I thought the boingy tone was coming from the big Tele bridge plate distorting the magnetic field

    Also, wouldn’t you rather use the RW/RP pickup at the neck?  Then it will hum cancel with the bridge pickup (or at least partial do so if they don’t match electrically).

    Another brilliant and cool schematic! 

    • joe

      Thanks for the nice stuff you said, David! 🙂

      Yeah, I love the outer pickup tone too. There are a lot of way to get that. One of the easiest is install the Strat Megaswitch that simply replaces the position #3 with outer pickups together. 

      I believe the Twang Banger — and other pickups of its type — rely on a metal bottom plate similar to the ones on Tele bridge pickups. And the more I play it, the more I think twang and squawk aren’t quite the right words to describe it. To me it’s a metallic clang, like an iron gate slamming shut. 

  • Sergio

    Joe this wiring seems to be what i was searching for a very long time , outer pickup position is really interesting and that tone control is very effective . I’ve just a few questions : if i put the middle pickup volume all the way up , can I still obtain the hum-cancelling effect typical of 2-4 position in a regular Strat wiring?And what about putting the middle pickup volume at half or less?
    Oh , just one more thing : you’re amazing !

  • My main gigging guitar has an HSH configuration allied to a 5-way switch. The bridge is a PAF-style pickup, wired to an on-on-on switch that gives parallel/single/series sounds; the neck is a fantastic Seymour Duncan P-Rails, wired as suggested to give the rail/P90/humbucker sounds.  Once I’d installed these, it struck me that there are some great tones to be had from the ‘outer’ positions, as so ably demonstrated by Joe in his video.  I therefore wired the tone control up on a push-push switch, so it stills functions as a tone control should, but the switch engages the bridge pickup regardless of where the 5-way is set.  Obviously, in positions 1-3 this makes no difference to the sound, but position 4 gives you all pickups on, and position 5 gives you neck and bridge. Dial in the three sounds that each of the humbuckers can produce, then add in the middle single coil, and you have 31 possible combinations. Of course, some are just subtle variations on a theme, but the outer sounds are fantastic. It’s ideal because I play in an Elvis band, so I need twang, and then in a rock band where I need grunt; thanks to these wiring mods, this one guitar has it all covered.

  • Oinkus

    Didn’t the Stellacaster just come up recently ? Let me find and scan the schematic I got for that thing just for fun. My HM Strat has been heavily modded , now it is HSH Anderson pups and it has  Floyd Rose instead of the kahler. But the one thing I really use alot is the blend knob in the last spot it really opens up some great sounds and allows you to focus the pickups any way you might like. Very cool Joe we like it alot ! :stupid:

  • Oinkus

    Ok try this one?

  • JH

    Wow! that guitar sounds great!

    • joe

      Thanks, JH! Your words mean more than you might imagine, since that is, in fact, the first guitar I’ve ever assembled myself from scratch. Sure, it’s just a “parts Strat” of the sort any experienced builder could slap together in an hour. But it was pretty nerve-wracking for me! 🙂

  • Oinkus

    Makes a million times better since you did it yourself !

  • JTCM

    A couple quick questions. Could you put in a 4 way switch, allowing you to get both the outer pickups in series, without changing anything else? Also, you mentioned that this setup doesn’t let you get the middle pickup by itself. For those few of us that like the middle pickup sound (we do exist), could we add a push/pull that turns the outer pickups off? Or just turn the main volume knob to 0 and turn the middle pickup blend knob all the way up? Just wondering.