Wire your Strat up like an early Gibson guitar for a whole new world of tone from your instrument
Hello and welcome back to “Mod Garage." This month you find a PG first here—as far as I know, this mod was never published anywhere else before, so we'll step into new territory today: using the famous Gibson '50s wiring on a Stratocaster!
The Gibson '50s wiring is sometimes also called “Vintage Wiring" or even “'50s Vintage Wiring," but it all means the same: the way Gibson wired up their electric guitars in the late 1950s, including the “Burst" Les Paul guitars as well as the SGs and 335s. It has been a hot topic on the forums in recent years, and there have been many myths and stories about this wiring method. It was forgotten for a very long time, but today it seems to be more popular than ever.
DISCLAIMER: Wiring diagram courtesy of Seymour Duncan Pickups and used by permission. Seymour Duncan and the stylized S are registered trademarks of Seymour Duncan Pickups, with which Premier Guitar magazine is not affiliated.
Electronically, there's nothing too out of the ordinary about this wiring; it simply connects the tone pot to the output of the volume pot (middle lug) instead of the input. All the late-fifties Gibson guitars were wired this way, but you can do this with every guitar—and this month we'll do it with our Strats. So what's the big deal, you ask? The '50s wiring will have two major effects on your tone:
First, the overall tone gets stronger and more transparent. It's difficult to describe, but perhaps saying it's more “in your face" would be a good way to describe it. Second, the typical treble loss that occurs when rolling back the volume is much less, and both the volume and tone controls react more smoothly and more evenly, without the typical hot spots. As a side effect, it's easier to clean up an overdriven amp by simply rolling back the volume on your guitar a bit. As always this is a matter of choice, but it's definitely worth a try. It's easy to do, requires no cosmetic changes, and it's easy to switch back to the standard wiring. We'll talk about this wiring again when we switch over to Les Paul and Telecaster mods.
So, before we heat up the soldering iron, let's have a closer look at the tonal effect of the '50s wiring. I'm sure you've heard about the magical tone of the late-fifties Burst Les Paul guitars; we all know this tone from our old records. Part of the magic is the '50s wiring, which makes the tone very transparent and more “direct." The guitar responds much better this way. Without this wiring, it's difficult to get the same bloom, meaning the notes open up after they've “left" the guitar. It's always difficult to describe such tonal flavors, so I suggest you give it a try and to see for youself if you love it or not.
The other effect has to with a problem we all know from our passive volume controls—the idiosyncrasy inherent in passive single-coil pickup systems like the Stratocaster: when you turn down the volume (even just a bit), the high end or treble loss is disproportionate. In other words, a small cut in volume creates a far greater loss in your guitar's treble response. You can get rid of this problem by installing a so-called treble bleed network—a combination of a capacitor and a resistor in parallel or in series—on your volume pots, but maybe the '50s wiring will make this unnecessary for you. This wiring will greatly decrease the treble loss compared to the standard wiring.
Let's get started
If you haven't done it yet, printing out the standard Stratocaster wiring diagram and placing it on your workbench is always a good start. This makes it easier to see and understand the differences in the modded schematics. You can download the standard wiring scheme directly from the Seymour Duncan website.
As you can see, we're only swapping two wires, marked red and green, and cutting the jumper wire normally connecting the two stages of our 5-way pickup selector switch. Remember, there's a jumper wire running from lug “A" of stage 1 to lug “A" of stage 2 on the switch, connecting both stages. This allows each pickup signal to exit from the same lug and connect to the volume pot. We do not want it for this mod, so it's important to cut this connection.
That's it! I hope you have fun experimenting with this wiring method. I know some serious professional guitarists who use the '50s wiring method in all of their guitars, so it should be worth a try for everyone. Stay tuned for more Strat mods coming next month. Until then, keep on modding!
Dirk Wacker lives in Germany and has been addicted to all kinds of guitars since the age of five. He is fascinated by anything that has something to do with old Fender guitars and amps. In his spare time he plays country, rockabilly, surf and Nashville styles in two bands, works part-time as a studio musician for a local studio and writes for several guitar mags. He is also a confessing hardcore DIY guy for guitars, amps and stompboxes, and runs an extensive webpage (singlecoil.com) about these things.
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
Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.
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
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.