Gibson ‘50s wiring on a Stratocaster
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.
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.
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.
this wiring, it’s difficult to get the same bloom, As you can see, we’re only swapping two wires,
meaning the notes open up after they’ve “left” marked red and green, and cutting the jumper
the guitar. It’s always difficult to describe such wire normally connecting the two stages of our
tonal flavors, so I suggest you give it a try and 5-way pickup selector switch. Remember, there’s
to see for youself if you love it or not. 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.
The other effect has to with a problem we all
know from our passive volume controls—the
idiosyncracy 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.
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!
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
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.
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.