Discussing standard installation of the Strat 5-way switch
Part II: Standard Installation
Hello, and welcome back to “Mod Garage." After the basics from last month, we'll continue with some more details about the Stratocaster 5-way pickup selector switch. From countless emails I know one of the main problems when using a new switch is how to install it on the pickguard! This may sound funny, but it's true. You can rotate the switch 180 degrees and it will still fit the pickguard—so which is the correct orientation of the switch?
From an electrical point of view, it doesn't make any difference, because the switches are mirrored and will work in both configurations. All you have to do is to take care of how you wire it up, and that's it. In real life, the standard is to mount the open switches with the switch spring facing the edge of the pickguard, as shown in the pic to the right. There are also open switches without this spring, in which case the metal-framed side of the switch (showing the screws) is the one that should face the edge of the pickguard. Closed switches should be mounted with the soldering lugs facing the pots, so all connections are coming from this direction.
Now it's time to talk about the terminology, so we're all on the same page when talking about the individual lugs of the switch. In general, our switch has two rows, or “stages," with four soldering lugs each. Below, you can see the schematic of our standard open CRL switch with added terminology.
Stage 1 is also called the “input stage," while stage 2 is the “output stage." Each stage of the switch has three inputs (lugs 1, 2 and 3) and one output (lug A). In a nutshell, you should have hot wires from the pickups going into the switch at stage 1 (lugs 1, 2 and 3) and a hot wire that goes out of the switch at stage 2 (lug A) to the volume pot. From there, the signal goes to the tone pots and the output jack. Please have a look at the diagram below, showing you the standard Stratocaster wiring.
Notice the green connection (jumper wire) that connects both stages. This allows each pickup signal to exit out of the same lug, and connect to the volume pot. In theory, lug 1 of stage 2 would connect to the tone pot of the bridge pickup, but as you know, a standard Stratocaster offers no tone control for the bridge pickup. As you have seen, though, in one of our previous mods, you can connect this lug to lug 2 of stage 2, to route the tone control for the bridge pickup to the tone pot for the middle pickup, so you can control both pickups with one tone pot. I think you've got the idea, right?
As I said, it's not as hard as you might have expected, and I'm sure you've got the basics now. If you want to go deeper, I highly recommend you get yourself an open CRL switch and a DMM with an audible continuity testing function. You can connect one testing wire from the DMM to any lug of stage 1, flip the switch and see on stage 2 what happens there. This is a very fascinating procedure, and you can learn a lot from it.
Next month we'll talk about how to transfer this knowledge to any other 5-way switch before we start to do more mods. So stay tuned and 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 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
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
MLA Pedals AC/OD - Music & Demo by A. Barrero
Energy is in everything. Something came over me while playing historical instruments in the Martin Guitar Museum.
When I’m filming gear demo videos, I rarely know what I’m going to play. I just pick up whatever instrument I’m handed and try to feel where it wants to go. Sometimes I get no direction, but sometimes, gear is truly inspiring—like music or emotion falls right out. I find this true particularly with old guitars. You might feel some vibe attached to the instrument that affects what and how you play. I realize this sounds like a hippie/pseudo-spiritual platitude, but we’re living in amazing times. The Nobel Prize was just awarded to a trio of quantum physicists for their experiments with quantum entanglement, what Albert Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” Mainstream science now sounds like magic, so let’s suspend our disbelief for a minute and consider that there’s more to our world than what’s on the surface.
I recently spent a day filming a factory tour of Martin Guitars in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. After we wrapped, we discovered that Martin has this amazing museum that showcases more than 170 historic instruments. We decided to meet at the museum at 7:45 a.m. the next morning to film a few choice pieces before catching our flight in not-too-near Newark, New Jersey, that afternoon.
These were not ideal conditions for a performance. Neither my brain nor my fingers work well before 10 a.m., plus I hadn’t slept well the night before. Even so, we loaded into the museum, met the curators, set up the shoot, and began rolling by 8 a.m.
The first guitar was an 1834 gut string, perhaps the oldest Martin in existence. It was beautiful but had some tuning issues and did not project very well, so playing it felt more like work than music.
Next was a prewar D-45 worth over $500k. The strings were ancient with that rusty feel, like you’ll need a tetanus shot after playing it. I’m sure it sounded great, but I was tired and thinking more about making our flight than playing guitar. Wonderful instrument but uninspired performance on my end.
Then, I played a 1953 D-18 coined “Grandpa” by Kurt Cobain. I picked up the deeply sacred D-18, and my hands went to an A minor. This sounds like hype, but honestly, I closed my eyes and connected with a deep, beautiful sadness. The feeling was palpable as soon as you picked it up. This guitar pretty much played itself, leading me to a sad version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” I don’t know if it was any good, but I know I felt something deeply. That’s why I started playing guitar in the first place. I don’t have to play well to feel moved.
I later talked to the museum director, who told me the D-18 was given to Cobain by his 1991 girlfriend Mary Lou Lord. Cobain played it on tour before and after Nirvana’s Nevermind. It was returned to her after Cobain married. Shortly after that, Mary Lou loaned the guitar to Elliott Smith, who played it until his death.
When I’m sad, I make myself play guitar to feel better, because it usually works. This 70-year-old guitar spent a lot of time literally pressed up against the hearts and chests of two artists who were so tormented by their emotions that they ended their lives. That’s heavy. You can’t explain those feelings that make the hair stand up on your arm, or when you feel like crying for no reason … but hitting that A minor made me feel it.
We had to split for the airport, so Chris Kies and Perry Bean started packing up. As they did, I saw this cute little 1880 Martin 000 that belonged to Joan Baez. In the photo next to it, Joan looks like my mom in the ’60s. I asked the curator if I could play it, and Chris grabbed his phone to do a quick Insta video. I swear there was a happy vibe coming off this tiny guitar. It felt like watching my mom dance—like a warm hug I needed after Cobain’s D-18.
In Chinese culture, there is a superstition that antiques may hold evil spirits, and chi (energy) transfer can bring this negativity into your home. Feng shui is all about objects carrying good or bad chi. Here’s how I see it: All matter is made of atoms. Atoms contain energy. Ergo, everything contains energy, or, more aptly, everything is energy. Ever walk into a room and feel powerful emotion: joy, sadness, fear, tranquility? That’s energy. We all have felt energy coming from people, places, and things. But that’s what I love about old guitars: Their atoms spent the first few hundred years as a tree in the forest connected to nature. Then, they’re turned into an instrument that makes people happy or consoles them when they are sad. That’s the kind of chi I want around me.
The Saddest Martin Ever? A 1953 D-18 Owned by Kurt Cobain & Elliott Smith
Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.