Here’s a workaround to get a similar configuration without having a third pickup. Plus, this serious tone weapon can be integrated into any given Telecaster wiring.
Hello and welcome back to Mod Garage. After writing the column about the Brent Mason Telecaster wiring in October 2021, I received a lot of requests from you about a more practical and non-invasive version of it. Well, you asked, and the Mod Garage delivers.
A lot of people don’t want to route an additional hole into their Telecasters to add a third pickup in the middle position, which is a massive task. I totally understand this, so let’s see what can be done instead, and let’s add some more tonal flexibility, which was another common request after that article.
The good news is a lot can be done. We touched on this multiple times in past columns: mimicking Stratocaster in-between tones with a Telecaster without having a middle pickup using half-out-of-phase wiring, for example. Some time ago we explored the Bill Lawrence way of doing this (“Mod Garage: The Bill Lawrence 5-Way Telecaster Circuit”) and the Jerry Donahue Telecaster wiring as well (“Decoding Jerry Donahue’s 5-Way Telecaster Wiring”). These two columns are great starting points to read about the basics of half-out-of-phase wiring and what it does.
In general, there’s nothing wrong with using these two wirings the way they are. But our goal is to get a little bit closer to the Brent Mason Telecaster wiring, plus add more tonal flexibility. Brent Mason’s wiring is straightforward—basically it’s a normal Telecaster wiring with an added middle pickup that has its own volume pot. Mason’s Telecaster is loaded with three humbucker pickups for trouble-free performance regarding hum and noise in both studio and live situations. But it doesn’t have any additional switching for splitting the individual humbuckers, so there are a lot more sounds under the hood to discover. If you need them or not ... well, it’s all up to you. The basic setup works well for Brent, and he can get his signature sounds in any given situation, but it’s not a crime to want more flexibility.
A lot of people don’t want to route an additional hole into their Telecasters to add a third pickup in the middle position, which is a massive task.
The basic plan for today looks like this:
1. Swap both pickups on your Telecaster for the correct Brent Mason models.
2. Add a triple-sound switch to each of the two pickups.
I will show you how to do this in a way you can integrate into any given Telecaster wiring, but to get the most out of it, I recommend combining it with the Jerry Donahue wiring. This way, you will receive an ultra-flexible Telecaster wiring that can also cover basic Stratocaster in-between tones.
Let’s start with the pickups. Brent uses Seymour Duncan pickups. If you want to get as close as possible you should use the following models:
- Bridge position: Vintage Stack Tele STK-T3b, which is a vintage-flavored, traditional-sounding humbucker with 4-conductor wiring.
- Neck position: Vintage Mini Humbucker, built-in 180 degrees flipped, so the open pole pieces are facing the bridge rather than the neck for more high-end and clarity in the tone. The pickup also sports a 4-conductor wiring.
If your Telecaster has the traditional vintage routing under the hood, the cavity for the neck pickup must be enlarged to make the mini humbucker fit, which can be a downside if you want to plug ’n’ play. If enlarging the routing is not an option for you, there are numerous humbuckers on the market that will fit into the routing, such as the Seymour Duncan Hot Rails and Vintage Stack Tele neck pickups. Almost every pickup manufacturer has such a pickup in its portfolio, so there are plenty of options.
Choosing a Stratocaster neck pickup will result in the same problem: They won’t fit into the standard vintage neck routing of a Telecaster.
Rig Rundown: Brent Mason It’s impossible to overstate Brent Mason’s impact on country and, arguably, even rock guitar. Over the course of his more-than-35-year career, Mason has perf...
If you have a full humbucker routing under the hood, which you can find on a lot of newer Telecaster models, you’re good to go the easy way, but keep in mind that you’ll have to enlarge the hole in the pickguard as well. Don’t forget to build it in 180 degrees flipped, like on Brent’s Telecaster, to get closer to his trademark sounds.
Changing the bridge pickup should be a no-brainer: It’s an easy 1:1 swap.
For adding the two triple-sound switches, you’ll need two DPDT on-on-on mini toggle switches. You can’t use push-pull or push-push pots for this because they’re only available as on-on or on-off versions, so the third switching position is absent. But on common Telecaster control plates, it’s no problem to place two of these switches between the two pots and you don’t need Reiki hands to operate them. But again, two holes must be drilled, so it’s not an easy mod if you want to make it look good on the control plate, straight in one line.
With the switches, each of the pickups will have three operation modes and tones:
- Full humbucker (both coils in series)
- Real single-coil split (one coil shut down to ground)
- Single-coil-esque tone (both coils in parallel)
This, combined with the second pickup plus all the features of the Jerry Donahue wiring, results in a lot of different tones. While the humbucker and single-coil-esque tones are free of hum and noise, the real single-coil split mode will also behave like a real single-coil, picking up all kinds of hum and noises.
This switching was made popular by the DiMarzio company under the name “dual sound,” which I think is confusing because it’s a triple-sound switch, not a dual one.
The good thing is that this switching is placed directly after the pickup, so in layman’s terms this means: The four wires from the humbucker are connected to the switch but only two wires are going out of the switch (hot + ground), so it’s super easy to add this feature to any given wiring.
You simply solder the hot output of the switch to the spot where usually the hot wire of the pickup is connected and solder the ground coming from the switch where the ground wire of the pickup is usually connected, and you’re done. So, it’s absolutely independent from the wiring that’s coming after the switch, and you can transfer it to any given guitar.
You can’t use push-pull or push-push pots for this because they’re only available as on-on or on-off versions, so the third switching position is absent.
Now, let’s focus on the bridge pickup to demonstrate the wiring on the switch, as seen in Fig. 1. Please note the jumper wire on the switch and don’t forget to solder it. The middle position of the switch is the real single-coil split. With the toggle up, it’s full humbucker, and the toggle down is the hum-free single-coil-esque tone. I used the Seymour Duncan color code for this because we’re talking about Seymour Duncan pickups. If you want to use pickups from a different company, you’ll have to transfer the color code using one of the many transfer charts online.
The wiring of the neck humbucker is exactly the same: the bare ground wire of both pickups always goes to ground. After wiring both pickups to their mini toggle switches, you only have to connect four wires before you’re done. The hot output of the neck pickup switch goes to the spot where usually the hot wire of the neck pickup is connected to and the hot output of the bridge pickup switch to where the hot wire of the bridge pickup is connected to. Likewise, the ground output of the neck pickup switch goes to the spot where usually the ground wire of the neck pickup is connected, and the ground output of the bridge pickup switch goes where the ground wire of the bridge pickup is usually connected.
Congratulations, you’re done! This is a good alternative to the original Brent Mason wiring, and it adds many more possible tones and variations. Especially in tandem with the Jerry Donahue wiring, this is a serious tone weapon with an almost unlimited number of sounds.
That’s it for now. Next month we’ll continue with another guitar mod, so stay tuned. Until then ... keep on modding!
- First Look: Fender Brent Mason Telecaster - Premier Guitar ›
- Rig Rundown: Brent Mason  ›
- The Telecaster Mod Guide - Premier Guitar ›
- DIY Stratocaster Preamp Mod ›
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more!
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.
Dunable announce new Minotaur model featuring Grover Rotomatic Keystone tuners.
The Minotaur's DNA is rooted in their classic Moonflower model, which Dunable discontinued in 2017. However, they have long since wanted to create a fresh take on a carved top guitar design, and various attempts to rework the Moonflower led them to a brand new concept with the Minotuar.
Dunable's goal is to give the player a guitar that plays fast and smooth, sounds amazing, and gives maximum physical ergonomic comfort. The Minotaur's soft and meticulous contours, simple and effective control layout, and 25.5" scale length are designed to easily meet this criteria.
- 25.5" scale length
- Dual Humbucker
- one volume, one tone, push pull for coil splitting
- Grover Rotomatic Keystone tuners
- Grover Tune O Matic bridge with brass Kluson top-mount tailpiece
- jumbo nickel frets
- 12" fretboard radius
This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
Adding to the company’s line of premium-quality effects pedals, Missing Link Audio has unleashed the new AC/Overdrive pedal. This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal – the only Angus & Malcom all-in-one stompbox on the market – brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
The AC/OD layout has three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone. That user-friendly format is perfect for quickly getting your ideal tone, and it also offers a ton of versatility. MLA’s new AC/OD absolutely nails the Angus tone from the days of “High Voltage” to "Back in Black”. You can also easily dial inMalcom with the turn of a knob. The pedal covers a broad range of sonic terrain, from boost to hot overdrive to complete tube-like saturation. The pedal is designed to leave on all the time and is very touch responsive. You can get everything from fat rhythm tones to a perfect lead tone just by using your guitar’s volume knob and your right-hand attack.
- Three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone
- Die-cast aluminum cases for gig-worthy durability
- Limited lifetime warranty
- True bypass on/off switch
- 9-volt DC input
- Made in the USA