Fig. 1. Wiring diagram for 3-way operation of the Chopper T Bridge pickup. Diagram courtesy
In last month’s column, we began
exploring options for installing
a humbucker pickup in a Fender
Esquire. Our first stop was DiMarzio’s
Chopper T Bridge pickup, and we
had so much to discuss about this unit
that it required a second installment.
(As I mentioned before, I usually don’t
recommend specific brands or models
of pickups, nor do I get paid by any
companies for endorsements. I’m making
an exception simply because this
particular pickup works so well for me
and my customers that I want to share
this information with you.)
Let’s resume where we left off, which
is describing the pickup’s three modes:
1. Standard humbucking with both
coils wired in series. In this mode, the
Chopper T offers warm, vintage humbucker
tones that are absolutely free of any hum
and noise. The sounds are a nice mix of a
classic late-’50s Gibson PAF humbucker and
a Gibson mini-humbucker, yet there’s no
doubt you’re hearing a Telecaster bridge pickup.
The Chopper offers nice attack, bloom,
and overtones, but it can get really loud as
well and drive your amp into saturation. If I
were playing in an oldies or Top 40 band, I
wouldn’t need any other humbucker tone.
2. Both coils wired in parallel. Still absolutely
free of hum and noise but without
any humbucker attitude. It sounds like a
very good, raw P-90 single-coil pickup—
warm and chunky with a good dose of
midrange. This mode is ideal for single-coil
solos. The Chopper’s parallel mode sounds
totally different from the full humbucker
mode and noticeably different from the
3. Split mode with one coil shut down.
This yields a real Telecaster bridge singlecoil
tone with tons of twang, spank, and
sparkle—ideal for chicken pickin’ and all the
other country stuff. I really wish some standard
single-coil pickups would sound this
good. We’ve even had customers demand
we install this pickup to run permanently as
a single-coil in split mode! This is the only
pickup I know of that can do this.
So what do you need to set up this wiring?
Only a DiMarzio Chopper T Bridge
pickup (model DP384). You can reuse
your existing two 250k Ω pots and the
3-way pickup selector switch. I’ve had good
experiences using dual 250k pots with this
pickup because excessive brightness isn’t
a problem in this configuration. Another
really good combination is a 250k volume
pot, plus a 500k tone pot to get the best
of both worlds. Two 500k pots sound too
bright to my ears, but of course, you can
experiment. Some customers are using 300k
pots with good results.
Note that the color codes shown in the
diagram are only valid for this DiMarzio
model. If you use a different pickup, make
sure that you use the correct colors at all
connections. There are a lot of color transfer
charts available on the internet, and for a
specific pickup you can also find such information
on the manufacturer’s webpage.
Besides the four individual wires, there’s
also a bare wire coming out of the pickup’s
cable. This one has to be soldered to
ground, no matter which ground spot you
are using. Be sure the bare wire is not inadvertently
touching any other spots.
Ready to install the pickup? Heat up
your soldering iron and let’s proceed. Here
is the switching matrix for the wiring
shown in Fig. 1:
Switching position #1. In this rear position,
the pickup’s two coils are wired in parallel
for a fat, hum-free, P-90-like tone.
Switching position #2. In the middle position,
one of the two coils is deactivated.
This “coil-split mode” yields a real singlecoil
sound with all the pros and cons of
true single-coil operation.
Switching position #3. In the front position,
the pickup’s two coils are wired in series, as
with standard humbuckers. This mode delivers
a full and loud humbucker tone.
In all three switching positions, both controls
are always active, so you can use your
volume and your tone pot to fine-tune the
sound. In addition to trying different potentiometer
values, you can experiment with the
value and type of tone cap to further customize
this wiring—something we’ve done a lot
at the shop. Try a 0.022 μF tone cap—it’s a
good compromise for all three modes.
Next month, we’ll continue exploring
the humbucker topic by combining the this
column’s mods with a flexible wiring scheme.
The result provides nine different tones from a
single pickup, and we’re using this wiring concept
in one of our custom Esquire-style models.
So stay tuned and 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.