Mod #2: Nashville Strat
What it is: A Stratocaster version of “Nashville wiring,” a trick Telecaster mod popularized by Music City’s session cats. Some Tele players add a third pickup (plus a blend knob), expanding the range of combined-pickup tones. The same wiring performs brilliantly in a Strat—without the cost and hassle of installing a third pickup.
The benefits: Access to a stunning array of combined-pickups sounds, including the outer pickups together—a gorgeous color not available from conventional Strat wiring. Not only can you choose between four cool combined sounds, but you can also vary the blend for subtler effects than those of a traditional Strat’s 2 and 4 positions.
The costs: This mod requires a Tele-style 3-position pickup selector in lieu of a Strat’s usual 5-position switch. You also sacrifice the sound of the middle pickup alone. The middle knob becomes a pickup blend control, while the third knob serves as a global tone control.
How it sounds: Ex. 2 showcases an assortment of combined-pickup tones not available on a conventional Strat. (The demo guitar is a “parts” Strat with three lipstick-tube pickups. While their character differs from those of traditional Strat pickups, it’s a good representation of the range of available tones.) You also have access to the traditional position 1 and 5 tones.
Playing guitars wired this way changed how I view combined-pickup sounds. Whatever position the pickup selector is in, you always have access to the so-called “out of phase” sounds via the blend pot. The blend control becomes something like a camera’s aperture setting: In minimum position, sounds are direct and crisp. As you advance the knob, tones become softer, prettier, and more diffuse. I find this to be a more musical and intuitive approach to tone sculpting.
How it works: The neck and bridge pickup are wired as on a traditional Tele, with the pickup selector’s middle setting combining the two pickups. Meanwhile, the middle pickup is routed directly to the output jack, bypassing the tone and volume controls (Diagram 2).
That may seem counterintuitive: Wouldn’t you want the tone control to affect both pickups in combined-pickup settings? But it just seems to sound better this way. Rolling back the treble on combined-pickup tones tends to rob them of their cool phase-cancelled character. This way, tones still get darker/warmer when you dial back the treble, yet retain a nice airiness. Try it and see!