This mod bypasses the volume and tone controls and engages the bridge pickup with the push of a button

This month, we'll begin exploring some “factory stock" mods found on certain Fender models, starting with the “passing lane" mod. Fender started using this mod with a push/push button on the new 2010 American Deluxe HSS Strat, and advertises it as follows:

“The all-new 'passing lane' switch instantly routes your signal from any pickup position to the bridge position with the tone circuit bypassed, blasting overtones and volume straight into the Strat-o-sphere."

Well, I have to confess I really love Fender marketing and their tradition of using cheesy hot rod themes to sell their instruments. This mod is really cool for a humbucker/single/single (HSS) configuration, but it also works with any given pickup combination. This is not really a new or “Fender first" mod. John Suhr has used a similar “blower switch" on his guitars for several years, Yamaha equips some of their instruments with this feature, and you can find comparable mods on the Internet, often called “solo switch mods" or “lead mods." Currently, the circuit drawing is not available on the Fender website, but they're bound to add it soon. In the meantime, I'll show you how to add this circuit to your Stratocaster.

Wiring diagram courtesy of Seymour Duncan Pickups. Seymour Duncan and the

stylized S are registered trademarks of Seymour Duncan Pickups.

Getting Started

You don't need much for this mod, just a DPDT

(on/on) switch and some wire. As you probably

know, there are plenty of options for switching

devices. Besides a mini-toggle switch, you

can also use the round push/push button from

Fender, which is available through any authorized

Fender dealer. Alternatively, you can use

a push/pull or push/push pot. Either of these

lets you avoid drilling holes in your pickguard

and keeps your Strat looking completely stock.

Personally, I like the idea of the push/push button

and the location Fender chose for it. The

button is easy to reach and easy to operate—

perfect to hit when you want to wail.

In a nutshell, here's how it works: When the mod

is engaged, you bypass the Volume and Tone

controls, as well as the 5-way pickup selector

switch, and automatically engage the bridge

pickup. This works from any pickup-selector

position. The idea is to switch to solo mode with

the single push of a button.

For example, let's say

you're playing a rhythm

part using the neck

pickup and the volume

and tone controls

slightly rolled back for

a warmer tone. Then

you switch to the bridge

pickup—which is now

directly connected to

the output jack for maximum

volume and brightness—

to lay down a solo

part. To return to your

former rhythm mode,

you simply push the button

again. This naturally

works best with a HSS

configuration, but many

Strats equipped with

three single-coils have

a hotter bridge pickup, so this mod makes

sense for these guitars as well. It's like having

two presets you can toggle between by simply

pushing a button.

Those of you who read my column regularly

will notice this mod is very similar to the “direct

through" mod we talked about some months

ago. It too bypasses the Volume and Tone

controls, connecting the chosen pickup or

pickup combination directly to the output jack

for maximum volume and twang. There is one

difference: The “direct through" mod does

not bypass the 5-way pickup selector, so you

can route any pickup combination directly to

the output jack. In contrast, Fender's “passing

lane" mod bypasses the 5-way pickup selector

and automatically jumps to the bridge pickup.

From a technical point of view, bypassing all the

controls noticeably lowers the circuit's overall

load. It's like soldering the pickup wires directly

to the lugs of the guitar's output jack. This way,

you'll hear your pickup as never before, with full

volume and maximum high-end response.

Too Much?

Depending on your sonic taste, this mod may

yield too much treble. If so, you can tame the

tone by soldering a small capacitor in series with

the pickup to bring in more capacitance. (This

is what we did last month to simulate vintage

spiral guitar cords.) Try a value between 220pF

and 1000pF, depending on your taste and equipment.

I recommend adding an on/off switch for

this extra cap, otherwise it will always be active.

To start, print out the standard Stratocaster

wiring and put it on your workbench. This

makes it much easier for you to see and

understand the differences between the stock

and modded schematics. You can download

the standard wiring scheme from the

Seymour Duncan website ( The diagram

shown here is the standard Stratocaster wiring

enhanced with the “passing lane" mod.

All right, that's it! This mod is not difficult, yet

it's sonically powerful. Stay tuned for more

Strat mods in the coming months, including

a discussion about the good 'ol Fender TBX

tone control.

Dirk Wacker

Dirk Wacker lives in Germany and has been a guitar addict

since age 5. He is fascinated by anything related to old

Fender guitars and amps. He plays country, rockabilly,

and surf music in two bands, works regularly as a studio

musician, and writes for several guitar mags. He is also a

hardcore DIY-er for guitars, amps, and stompboxes, and he

runs an extensive webpage ( on the subject.

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