Fig. 1. This schematic shows how to wire a
tapped Telecaster bridge pickup into an Esquire.
Diagram courtesy of seymourduncan.com
For the last few issues, we’ve been investigating
the Fender Esquire and looking at
various ways to modify its stock wiring. Last
month, I showed you my personal version of
the Eldred Esquire wiring [“The ‘Luthercaster’
Esquire Wiring,” October 2012]. As you may
recall, it featured an additional stealth neck
pickup. This time around, let’s explore using a
tapped pickup in an Esquire.
As we’ve discussed in recent Esquire columns,
in a single-pickup guitar like a standard
Esquire, your modding possibilities are
somewhat limited, assuming you only want
to tinker with the wiring itself and the caps
and resistors. But if you install a tapped
pickup, you can produce multiple sounds
from one coil. Perfect for an Esquire!
So what is a tapped pickup? A tapped
pickup has a coil with two (or even more)
hot leads. These leads are placed at different
points in the winding to deliver a percentage
of the total wind. These different percentages
provide multiple output levels and tones.
As you may know, a standard single-coil
pickup has one winding with two terminal
points: one is the start, the other is the end.
When you connect such a pickup, you hear
the pickup’s full wind and maximum output.
A tapped single-coil pickup is easy to identify
because of its multiple hot output leads.
This has to be a minimum of two, but there
are pickups with three or more coil taps. In
layman’s terms, the full wind gets tapped on
its way to full output, with one lead going
to the outside for each tapping point. The
tapping points are not set in stone, so each
pickup maker can decide what he wants to
offer. With a dual-tap pickup it often makes
sense to provide 50 percent and 100 percent
of the full wind, but it can also be 70 percent
and 100 percent—or any other combination.
Tapping offers a wonderful opportunity
to mod your tone, so it makes sense
to compare what different pickup makers
offer in tapped Telecaster bridge pickups.
For example, both Seymour Duncan and
Klein Pickups make tapped pickups. Klein
in particular offers a wide range of tapped
pickups in all shapes and tonal shades.
Seymour Duncan uses a tapped pickup
in his own custom Telecaster. It’s a dual-tap
Telecaster/Esquire bridge pickup with two
hot leads, providing approximately 60 percent
and 100 percent of the full wind.
“I’d always wanted to have a Telecaster
or Esquire pickup that would give me two
tones and outputs,” says Duncan. “I
designed this version for a guitar I
made for Alan Dutton, Jeff Beck’s road
manager. Jeff heard it, used it on his
1989 album, Guitar Shop, and never
gave it back. I used this setup when
I played with Albert Collins, James
Burton, and Roy Buchanan, and they
always loved the tone.”
Seymour winds the Duncan
Tapped Telecaster lead pickup himself.
At 9.6k Ω, the pickup’s full output
gives extra volume and sustain, while
the tapped 6.1k Ω output is very traditional.
The latter sound is inspired
by Seymour’s favorite 1953 Telecaster.
Fig. 1 shows Seymour’s custom
wiring. Here’s the corresponding
Switching position #1. In this rear
position, the white hot lead (full output)
is routed through the volume and
tone controls to the output jack to
deliver the sound of the complete wind.
Switching position #2. This middle
position routes the yellow hot lead (tapped
output) through the volume and tone controls
to deliver classic vintage tones using
approximately 60 percent of the full wind.
Switching position #3. In this front
position, the middle position’s tapped yellow
hot lead is combined with a 0.022 μF
capacitor to create a bass-y preset. As with
the other two positions, the volume and
tone controls are in the circuit.
So what do you need to replicate this
switching? A tapped bridge pickup of your
choice, plus an additional capacitor. You
can reuse your current 250k pots and the
stock 3-way pickup selector switch.
Of course, you can experiment with
Seymour’s wiring. In his circuit, the tone
cap is still the Esquire’s standard 0.047 μF
capacitor, so this is one area where you can
try different values and change the type of
cap, as we’ve discussed in detail in many
Seymour prefers adding a 0.022 μF cap
for switching position #3. I assume he chose
this value because he wants a great preset
for overdriven tones. But to dial in the tone
you want, you can experiment with the
value of this cap. A lower value will result
in more high end because less treble bleeds
to ground, and vice versa. A good range to
tinker with is anything between 2200 pF up
to 0.022 μF. You can try ceramic, film/foil,
paper-in-oil, waxed paper, silver mica, styroflex,
or anything else you’d like. Seymour
prefers a standard film/foil cap here.
If you order a tapped pickup, you can
specify different outputs. For example, a
full wind of 13k Ω will sound very fat and
loud, and tappings at 9k Ω and 6k Ω will
respectively yield a juicy blues tone and a
traditional vintage tone. As you may imagine,
for a pickup with more tapped output
leads, you will need a rewired 3-way switch
for three taps, or a 5-way Strat switch for
four or even five taps.
A word of warning: Don’t try tapping a
pickup on your own—you’ll destroy it, for
sure! Coil tapping is a job for experienced
Next month, we’ll apply humbucker
tweaks to an Esquire, starting with the
“ultra flexible” Esquire wiring. Until then,
keep on modding!
Germany and is fascinated
by anything related to old
Fender guitars and amps.
He plays country, rockabilly,
and surf music in two
bands, works regularly as a
session musician for a local studio, and writes
for several guitar mags. He’s also a hardcore
guitar and amp DIY-er who runs an extensive
—on the subject.