If you have a humbucker in the bridge of your strat and want to get a traditional mid/bridge position sound, this mod is for you.
Hello and welcome back to “Mod Garage." The auto-split mod can help you avoid a common problem when using a humbucker together with the typical single-coil pickups in a Stratocaster. As you know, the H-S-S configuration (humbucker in the bridge position and two traditional single coils in the middle and neck positions) was introduced in the '80s with the superstrats, and is still very popular today. You can also find Strats with a H-S-H or even H-H-H configuration, but the H-S-S is still the most common.
Humbuckers usually have a lot more output compared to traditional Strat single-coil pickups—in other words, they're louder. As long as you use the bridge humbucker or the two single coils alone, everything is fine. The humbucker provides a hot output signal to easily drive your amp into saturation (which is exactly why it's there) and the middle and neck positions give you the traditional Strat sounds we all love so much, as well as the in-between position of middle and neck pickup together. The problem occurs when you use the bridge humbucker together with the middle pickup. Instead of the famous in-between sound we all know from our Dire Straits, Chris Rea and Eric Clapton records, you'll receive a loud tone, not much different from the bridge humbucker alone.
The solution for this is very simple: split the bridge humbucker to make it a single-coil pickup. For this, you need a humbucker with a four-conductor cable, so you have unlimited access to both coils, giving you the ability to shut one of them down. You can use a push/ pull or push/push pot for this, but a little 2PDT toggle switch works well, too. I'll stick with the basics for now, since I don´t want to turn this into a column about coil splitting. We'll do that in a future installment.
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.
A lot of humbuckers sound great when used as full humbuckers, but not very good when shutting down one of the coils. On the other hand, there are some that sound great when split (e.g. Seymour Duncan SH-3 “StagMag"), but not so powerful when used as a full humbucker. It´s always a compromise, and many players don´t need coil splitting, since the single-coil sounds are often not worth it. So, this is the point where the “auto-split" mod can help you.
Auto-split just means that when you have the 5-way switch in the middle/bridge position, you'll only be getting one coil of the bridge pickup, rather than the full humbucker. It's supposed to be closer to the traditional Strat “notch tone" than having the full bridge humbucker active. In the bridge position, you still have the full humbucker active, so this mod can give you the best of both worlds.
Let's Get Started
To start, you can download the standard Strat wiring scheme directly from the Seymour Duncan website to get a better understanding of the differences compared to the autosplit mod. Here's the Strat wiring with the auto-split mod performed:
As you can see, the black wire from the humbucker goes to the normal input lug for the bridge pickup, the red and white wires are soldered together to the lug of the output stage and green together with the bare wire are going to ground. Keep in mind that these are the colors Seymour Duncan uses for their humbuckers. Other companies use different colors, and you need a chart to translate those colors. For an overview, you can use the chart from Seymour Duncan: seymourduncan.com/support
For a deeper look, I highly recommend this one: guitarelectronics.com
If you're more experienced, you can also use a DMM to verify the colors, but a color chart is always a good starting point. For a better understanding, it's crucial to know what the colors mean and what they correspond to. Humbuckers have two coils, looking like two single-coil pickups in one package. The bottom coil is always the coil with the adjustable screws, and it's named “South." The coil on top is the one with the non-adjustable slugs and is called “North." Each coil has a start and an end. So, using the Seymour Duncan colors, we have:
Black = North Start (hot output) / White = North Finish / Red = South Start / Green = South Finish / bare wire = Ground
With this knowledge and the color charts above, it should be easy to do the autosplit mod with any given humbucker. We'll talk about this subject again, and of course dip in deeper, when we switch over to Les Paul, 335 and SG mods. That's it! I hope you find this mod useful, giving you the best of both worlds: powerful humbucker sounds from the bridge position side by side with the traditional Strat “notch tone" with the bridge and middle pickup together (aka the “in-between" position). 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. He hates short scales and Telecaster neck pickups, but loves twang. In his spare time he plays country, rockabilly, surf and Nashville styles in two bands, works as a studio musician for a local studio and writes for several guitar mags. He is also a hardcore DIY guy for guitars, amps and stompboxes and runs an extensive webpage (singlecoil.com) about these things.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.
Mystery Stocking is coming soon! Sign up for PG Perks below so you don't miss it.
Sign up for PG Perks on the form below to make sure you don't miss the launch announcement!
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
For part two of our crash course in harmony for bassists, we’re talkin’ triads.
As bass players, our job is often to indicate and support what is happening rhythmically and harmonically in the music we’re playing. And to do that, it’s important for us to understand the basics of tonality and how it works. In fact, every bass player must have a strong knowledge of harmony to do their job correctly. This month, we’ll continue last month’s harmony crash course with some more ways to brush up on your ear skills, in italics below, so you can do your low-end job effectively.
The basic building block of harmony is the dyad, which gives us our basic intervals. But the basic building block of tonality is the triad, a grouping of three or more tones (root, 3rd, and 5th) that give us the four chord qualities—major, minor, diminished, and augmented—which you’re probably already familiar with.
Just as with intervals, we should train our ears to recognize chord qualities instantly. Start with two qualities (major and minor). Once you can identify those two correctly about 95 percent of the time, add another. Keep going until you can identify all four qualities consistently.
Another great exercise is to take a melody (either major or minor) and convert it to the opposite quality. Start out with something you know well, like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” This may take a while at first, but the goal is to keep on doing these until you can convert most stuff on the fly instantly.
“This feeling of resolution, in some ways, is the whole point.”
Each chord quality has its own distinct sound, but major and minor are related, and both feel very grounded. Because of the 5th in each, our ears can easily hear which note in the chord is strongest (the root), which gives major and minor a sense of gravity. This feeling persists even if we change the order of the notes (invert the chord).
Have a friend or an app play inversions of major or minor triads. Find the root of each chord by singing it. Work towards being able to identify these triads in root position (root in the bass), first inversion (3rd in the bass), or second inversion (5th in the bass).
Pay attention to bass lines that land on a root, 3rd, or 5th on the first beat of the bar and then practice coming up with your own examples.
Diminished and augmented triads are much more ambiguous. Without a perfect fifth (diminished has a b5 and augmented has a #5), no tone in particular sounds strongest. Thus, both chords lack gravity. In fact, to most of us, every tone sounds equal, like being lost in the woods where every direction appears the same. Both seem to want to move towards something else more stable. When this occurs, it gives a sense of release, or resolution. This feeling of resolution, in some ways, is the whole point.
The top part of a dominant seventh or V7 chord is a diminished triad. For example, a C7 consists of the notes C–E–G–Bb. If you remove the C, we’re left with an E diminished triad. This is where the moving sound, or the desire to resolve, comes from. The important takeaway is that we’re making something very stable—a major chord—and making it less stable when we add the b7, because of the diminished sound, which in turn sets up the need to resolve.
Listening for V–I: On a guitar or keyboard play any major chord, then add a b7 (transforming I to V7) and try to hear where the progression “wants” to go next. Move to the new key (a fifth down) and repeat. After twelve V–I progressions you’ll arrive back at the original key.
The Dominant Gateway: On bass, try playing a walking bass pattern over the cycle of fifths, strategically using a b7 to move to the next key. This foreshadowing is a great voice-leading skill.
That's all for our crash course in harmony. If you take your time with these exercises, you should notice not only your ears improving, but your bass playing too!