Stratocaster Direct-Through Mod
Hello and welcome back to “Mod Garage.”
This month’s mod is one of my favorites; I
have it in all the guitars I use on stage. I call it
the “Direct-Through” mod, but I´ve also seen
it as the “Solo Switch” or “Treble Boost”
mod. It all means the same: connecting the
pickup directly to the output jack! This isn’t
a new one. Fender did this way back in the
early ‘50s on the Esquire—a Telecaster with
only a bridge pickup. The 3-way pickup
selector switch on this guitar offered a direct-through routing of the pickup at position 1.
This adaption of the Esquire switching option
can be used on your Stratocasters and with
any pickup combination.
So what’s the benefit of this mod, you ask?
There are several. For one, it will enhance your
tonal palette. The pots of the volume and tone
controls add a good portion of load to the
system, especially the typical 3x250k pot configuration of a standard Strat. 500k or 1M pots
add less load, but the higher the resistance, the
less useful the taper in a pure passive system
like our Stratocaster—so this load will result in
less high end, less volume, and therefore a different tone. If you want to get an impression if
this mod is for you, simply solder the two leads
of the Strat pickup of your choice directly to
the output jack and play. What you hear now is
the “real” tone of the pickup. Compared to the
standard configuration, it’s noticeably different.
Direct-Through mod, the tone is noticeably
louder, so this can be the little extra volume kick
you need, to drive your amp into saturation for
a solo. It works perfectly together with overdrive
stompboxes as well. If you need two completely
different volumes out of your Strat, you can use
your volume pot to dial in the “normal” volume
level you need. With the direct-through switch
engaged, the volume pot is bypassed, and your
guitar is running full-throttle for a fat and loud
solo. This is the reason why this mod is sometimes described as a “Solo Switch” mod.
There are several ways to wire this one up on
a Strat. I’ll show you the way I think is best,
as well as being the easiest and fastest. The
5-way pickup selector switch will stay mostly
untouched, so you don’t have to worry about
its position while playing—simply choose the
pickup or combination of your choice and
engage the Direct-Through mod to route it
directly to the output jack. You’ll need a small
2PDT toggle switch or any push/pull or push/
push pot with a 2PDT switch.
Second, it offers a more trebly tone. Hard to
imagine, but some players really want more
treble out of a Strat! This mod will do the trick.
An example of this tone is the famous “James
Bond Theme.” Use the bridge pickup of your
Strat, engage the direct-through option, and
play as near as possible to the bridge. This is
also a suitable option for surf music and similar
playing styles—hence the reason this mod is
sometimes called the “Treble Boost” mod.
It can also provide for a solo boost. With the
Let’s Get Started
As always, in case you haven’t done this yet,
printing out the standard Stratocaster wiring
and placing it on your workbench is alwas a
good start. This way itś much easier for you
to see and understand the differences compared to the modded schematics. You can
download the standard wiring scheme directly
from the Seymour Duncan webpage. Next,
you need a 2PDT switching device. You can
drill a hole in the pickguard and install a small
toggle switch, or use a push/pull or push/push
pot with a 2PDT switch. Personally, I like the
additional toggle switch installed on the right
side of the 5-way pickup selector switch. Have
a look at the diagram below: we are breaking
the signal right after the 5-way switch, so this
mod is also an excellent way to examine how
different 5-way switches can influence overall
tone, if you’re interested. First, we have to
cut the jumper wire between the two stages
of the 5-way switch—that’s very important!
Afterwards, connect the switch as shown in the
diagram. Don’t forget the little jumper wire on
the bottom of the switch!
Alright, that’s it! I hope you’ll have fun experimenting with this mod to discover some new
sonic territory. Stay tuned for more Strat
mods coming next month. Until then...
keep on modding!
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.
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 www.singlecoil.com about these things.