Axe Hacks: New Sounds For Your Electric Guitar Beginning From What Makes Them Tick

Creating music is a perfect hobby for anyone into hacking, and the amount of musical hacks and self-made instruments we come across here makes that supremely evident. It’s just a great match: you can either go full-on into engineering mode as music is in the end “just” applied physics, or simply ignore all of the theory and take an artistic approach by simply doing whatever feels right. The sweet spot is of course somewhere in between — a solid grasp of some music theory fundamentals won’t hurt, but too much overthinking eventually will.

The obvious choice to combine a favorite pastime like electronics or programming with creating music would be in the realm of electronic music, and as compelling as building synthesizers sounds, I’ll be going for the next best thing instead: the electric guitar. Despite its general popularity, the enormous potential that lies within the electric guitar is rarely fully utilized. Everyone seems to just focus on amp settings and effect pedals when looking for that special or unique sound, while the guitar itself is seen as this immutable object bestowed on us by the universe with all its predestined, magical characteristics. Toggle a pickup switch, and if we’re feeling extra perky, give that tone pot a little spin, that’s all there is to it.

The thing is, the guitar’s electrical setup — or wiring — in its stock form simply is as boring and generic as it can get. Sure, it’s a safe choice that does the job well enough, but there’s this entirely different world of tonal variety and individual controllability locked inside of it, and all it really takes is a screwdriver and soldering iron to release it. Plus, this might serve as an interesting application area to dive into simple analog electronics, so even if guitars aren’t your thing yet, maybe this will tickle your creativity bone. And if bass is more your thing, well, let me be ignorant and declare that a bass is just a longer guitar with thicker, lower-tuned strings, meaning everything that follows pretty much applies to bass as well, even if I talk about guitars.

However, in order to modify something, it helps to understand how it functions. So today, we’ll only focus on the basics of an electric guitar, i.e. what’s inside them and what defines and affects their tone. But don’t worry, once we have the fundamentals covered, we’ll be all settled to get to the juicy bits next time.

The Electric Guitar: Pickups and Potentiometers

Presumably everyone has seen an electric guitar and knows what they look like, but not everyone has necessarily played one or concerned themselves with how they actually work. To keep the physics simple, an electric guitar works by moving a ferromagnetic object — the strings — through a fixed magnetic field — the pickup — which generates an electrical signal from the strings’ vibrations — the actual sound — that is then routed through the volume and tone control to the guitar’s output plug. From here, the signal can then be amplified and modified into any shape and form imaginable, which is where the amp settings and effect pedals take over then.

Ukulele with piezo pickup
Piezo Pickup Heavy Metal Ukulele

The ferromagnetic part is crucial here, so in order to make this work, you’ll need steel strings, which is why you won’t find nylon strings on an electric guitar. Well, at least rarely, though there are other types of pickups than the magnetic pickup described here that aren’t relying on magnetic flux: optical pickups that use the same concept but pick up the string vibration as it moves through light, and piezo pickups that pick up the vibrations from the body the strings are attached to. The latter ones are usually found in bowed string instruments and acoustic guitars, but you can also get magnetic pickups specifically for a steel-string acoustic if need be.

So what’s a magnetic pickup then? Essentially, it’s a just a big inductor, typically in the mid to high single-digit Henries area, constructed from thousands of copper wire windings around a magnetic core. To add more focus to each string, round pole pieces are added that give them their typical look. Pole pieces are either made out of steel and are attached to a bar magnet on the bottom, or are rod magnets and the sole magnetic component. Sometimes they’re made as screws to adjust the height to each string individually, in other cases they’re of fixed same length (flat pole) or fixed variable length (staggered pole). Then there are also rail pickups that use a single metal blade instead of individual poles. If neither of that is visible, they’re simply covered.

Humbucker pickup closeup
Humbucker pickups showing the exposed copper wire, its bar magnet, and the pole pieces

The amount of copper wire windings, the wire’s gauge, and the magnetic material (usually ceramic or an Alnico alloy) and amount thereof all play with and against each other to define its output signal strength and frequency response — and with that, the sound it produces. The winding pattern itself will also have some impact, but since most pickups are machine made nowadays, it’s not as big of a variable as it used to be in the earlier days of hand-wound pickups, where imperfections gave each pickup its very own, unique character (and why there’s such a magical myth surrounding them).

As for the volume and tone control, the volume control is usually just a potentiometer with the pickup signal on one terminal, ground on the other, and the output signal on the wiper. Turn it to 10, and the wiper has the least resistance getting the full volume, turn it to 0, and the signal is discarded. The tone control on the other hand is another potentiometer that forms along with a capacitor (and of course the pickup itself) a variable low-pass filter, allowing us to cut off the higher frequencies and darken the sound on its way to the output jack.

That’s basically the gist of an electric guitar, but there’s obviously a bit more to in practice. After all, there’s thousands and thousands of different guitars out there, and that can’t be without a reason. But which one to choose?

A Guitar’s Character

SG and Superstrat
The object of desire, and the one that could never live up to it

Well, possibly the biggest factor in choosing a guitar is simply its looks. When I was 11 years old, I saw a Gibson SG in a paper catalogue my cousin had lying around, and it was love at first sight. In fact, the sole reason I started playing guitar was that specific guitar.

After playing acoustic for a few years and saving up enough to get an electric, the local store didn’t have any in my price range. I went for a second-hand Hohner ST Lynx Superstrat instead. A few years later I tried again, this time I got lucky and finally became the proud owner of the cheapest Epiphone copy there was, the G-310. Did it sound great? Eh, I’d say the Superstrat was definitely superior. But did it matter? Absolutely not! To me, it was the best guitar ever.

So albeit anecdotal, there’s little doubt that looks affect how you feel about a guitar, and tone may be secondary. Also, certain guitars are associated with certain genres, and the psychological impact of that can’t be neglected either. In the end, it’s all a matter of personal taste anyway, and all the theory about a guitar won’t be relevant if you simply don’t like it. It’s like fancy expensive wine, just because it’s good on paper doesn’t mean you’ll actually enjoy drinking it.

Sadly people tend way too often to mistake personal taste for a matter of right vs wrong, resulting in unreasonably passionate and fruitless arguments — but who am I to tell you this? We’ve all had our share of arguing about spaces versus tabs, vi versus emacs, or pineapple on pizza.

My point here is that music is highly subjective, and everyone will have to define for themselves what’s right or wrong, what sounds good and what doesn’t. That being said, this is still about modifying a guitar’s tone, so let’s take a look at the factors that will define the tone that we are going to alter later on.

On The Origin Of Tone

Let’s say we pluck the open A string on a regularly tuned guitar, which is an A2 with a fundamental frequency of 110 Hz. What happens is that the string vibrates with that fundamental frequency, along with numerous additional, overlapping multiples of it — so in this case 220 Hz, 330 Hz etc. — of varying amplitudes, known as harmonics or overtones.

Harmonics on a string visualized
The harmonics forming on a vibrating string. Original source: Wikipedia

Their exact mix and actual amplitudes will vary depending on the string tension and where you actually play, i.e. the location of your fingers or pick, and with what force.

The string tension relates to the string gauge as well as the guitar’s scale length, i.e. the length of the strings between the nut and bridge (or rather double the length from the nut to the 12th fret to account for slight variations in the length for intonation reasons). A longer scale length requires more tension to reach the same pitch compared to a shorter scale length, as do thicker strings compared to a thinner gauge, also affecting how high or low you can tune the guitar. Too little tension and the strings just end up wobbling without producing any useful tone, too much tension and something’s gonna snap — if you’re lucky it’ll only be the string and not the neck of the guitar.

String tension values of two different string gauges
String tensions stated for different gauges based on a 25.5″ scale length and standard tuning

How that wild mixture of harmonics is going to end up as our actual signal, and therefore tone, depends of course on our pickup’s properties that determine its frequency response.

A Closer Look At Pickups

As I said earlier, the combination of winding count, wire gauge, and magnetic material define the pickup’s frequency response and output signal strength. For example, a higher winding count tends to suppress the higher frequencies, resulting in a darker, “warmer” tone. This could be countered with a magnetic core material of higher flux density (Alnico II vs Alnico V or ceramic) to get a signal with the same voltage levels but less windings, which leads to the general idea that Alnico II pickups have a warmer tone compared to Alnico V.

Lowering the wire gauge (44 AWG vs 42 AWG for example) on the other hand will fit more windings into the same physical space, which also changes the total wire length, which changes both the signal strength and frequency response. So it really all interacts with each other, and the frequency response is rarely linear anyway. To no surprise, there’s an enormous selection of pickups out there as a result.

To keep the selection a bit less overwhelming, we can split them up a bit. The high-level category to distinguish them is whether they’re active or passive. It mainly defines if they require an external power supply to function, in which case active circuitry is added to filter and pre-amplify the signal. I’ll mostly ignore active pickups here, as adding active electronics feels a bit like cheating and we might as well just add entire effects straight to the guitar — not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’d actually be a great subject on its own.

Single coil and Humbucker pickup
Single coil bridge pickup and humbucker neck pickup on a Telecaster. (Note the slanted pickup discussed later.)

Active or passive, either way, pickups come in two main varieties: single coil and humbucker pickups. Single coils are pretty much what the name suggests: a single coil of copper windings around the magnet. Humbuckers on the other hand are constructed from two coils connected in series. Why that name? Because they buck the hum a single coil may pick up from interfering AC power supplies. To achieve that, the coils are wound in opposite directions and are facing opposite polarity of the magnet. That way, external interference is phase cancelled while the actual signal is added up — essentially like differential signaling.

But pickup properties are only one part of the equation.

Location, Location, Location

With the harmonics’ nodes and antinodes distributed along the string, each harmonic’s amplitude differs in every location, so the tone we actually end up with also depends where exactly the pickup is placed along the body. The most common locations are close to the bridge, close to the neck, and somewhere in the middle if there’s a third one — hence they’re named bridge, neck, and middle pickup respectively.

Overlapping harmonics with two sample pickup locations highlighted
The harmonics overlapped, highlighting the rough location of the neck (left) and bridge (right) pickups

As the graphic above shows, we’ll get the widest and simultaneously most consistent variety with a moderate fundamental frequency amplitude on the bridge pickup, making them generally sound brighter and sharper. The neck pickup on the other hand is a bit more complex with more emphasis on the fundamental frequency, resulting in an overall fuller, darker tone, with the occasional risk of turning it to mud.

Spectrum of the A string on a bridge pickup
Spectrum of the A string on a neck pickup

The variation is visible in the (unscientifically gathered) spectrum graphs, with some more variation in the neck pickup. The fourth harmonic is especially striking as the neck pickup is usually located right around the fourth harmonic’s node. Manufacturers usually account for these differences with dedicated pickups for each position, and mixing them up may yield interesting results.

A noteworthy special case are slanted pickups like the bridge pickup on a Stratocaster or Telecaster (as seen above), where the higher strings are picked up closer to the bridge, and the lower strings slightly further away, giving some brighter, clearer highs and deeper, alluring lows. That is unless you’re playing left-handed on a right-handed guitar, in which case you will have the exact opposite, and one reason why Jimi Hendrix had such a unique sound.

So the pickups and their locations have pretty much the biggest impact on a guitar’s sound, and there’s still plenty of details about them that I’ve left out so far. Don’t worry, we’ll get to them eventually, but for today, we’ll focus on the remaining major influence on the sound: the volume and tone controls.

But, But, What About…

If you followed any discussion on guitars, you’re probably wondering when I’ll talk about tonewood, i.e. how mahogany from southern Honduras planted during a new moon creates an entirely different tone in an electric guitar than mahogany from western El Salvador harvested on a Wednesday, along with everything else in that category: how different types of glues, finishes, and color pigments affect tone, how that classic paper-in-oil capacitor sound is superior to modern polyester, left vs right leg for bone nuts, and how twisting a piece of Billy Gibbons’ beard between the 4087th and 6142nd coil winding gives you that warm vintage tone™ (Poe’s Law may apply).

Guitar built from a microwave
Wood is overrated anyway. Source: Moose ON @ YouTube

Myriads of forum discussions, blog posts, and videos arguing whether and how any of that affects the tone or not are in existence, and years later we’re still none the wiser. So let’s be real, if something requires that much attention, intensive experimentation, and countless blind testing and comparisons in order to prove or disprove if something has any impact in the first place, and the main outcome of all that effort is just more people trying to confirm or disprove the results, there’s only one logical conclusion for the overall picture of it: it simply doesn’t matter.

“The guitarist should have gone with a maple body” said no one ever during a gig or while listening to an actual song. If you believe some specific wood, finish, or capacitor is superior to another, great, and if you don’t, also great. Whatever makes you happy is probably the right choice then. For all I know, hearing a difference or lack thereof might as well be genetic like soapy cilantro or funky asparagus — the discussions certainly are equally pleasant.

So let’s stick with the more relevant and interesting parts. Plus, it’s all passive component tolerances anyway.

Knob Fondling

As mentioned, the volume control is a potentiometer, and the tone control is a low-pass filter made from a potentiometer with a capacitor. The exact configuration depends on the guitar, though a single main volume and main tone control is probably the most common one. However, many Gibsons for example have a dedicated tone and volume control per pickup, while a Stratocaster has a main volume and a separate tone control for the neck and middle pickup with a shared capacitor. Others might ditch the tone knob altogether, and a bass oftentimes replaces a pickup switch in favor of dedicated volume controls for each pickup.

Whichever way they’re configured, the components’ values (for passive pickups) range typically between 250 kOhm and 1 MOhm for the potentiometers, and between 10 nF and 100 nF for the capacitors. Rule of thumb combinations for single coil pickups are 250 kOhm potentiometers and 47 nF capacitors, and 500 kOhm and 22 nF for humbuckers respectively.

Stock Telecaster wiring
Stock wiring of a Telecaster (clone)

Why that variation? Looking back at the pickup properties, more coil windings suppresses the higher frequencies, and since humbuckers consist of two coils in series, they naturally have a higher total winding count. As a result, single coils usually produce a brighter, snappier sound compared to humbuckers, which some might prefer and is the reason they exist despite their humming shortcomings. So the idea of different value combinations is to compensate for that: avoiding that a single coil becomes too shrill by cutting off the highs more drastically, while keeping the humbucker sound from becoming too muddy by cutting them off more gradually.

Of course, in reality, things are a little bit more complex. But the thing is, numbers won’t get you far here anyway, as pickup manufacturers aren’t too transparent about the details. They may state the DC resistance and what magnets are used, but that’s where it most of the time ends. You might get some rough treble, mids, and bass chart along with a relative output signal strength to compare between their pickup range, but nothing you could fill in any math formulas. Not that there would be much sense in that either though. For one, there’s plenty of other variables at play in wiring as a whole, and more importantly, numbers will hardly tell you what sounds good to you.

Custom Telecaster wiring
A slightly different wiring

Once again, it all boils down to personal taste, and trial-and-error experiments are the way to find out for sure. The good thing about it is that of all the components involved in shaping the tone of a guitar, the volume and tone controls are the easiest we can modify with a noticeable impact — and chances are we have everything we need for that lying around anyway. I mean, sure, you can open up the pickup and wind it up again differently to change the tone (and if that’s really your thing, you should probably let us know) or simply buy a new one. But sometimes, changing a capacitor or adding a resistor in the right place might be all it takes to sweeten up the tone to your liking.

Next Time

Now that we’ve covered the grounds for electric guitars and their tone, we’re all set to get started with some real-world tone modifications next time. We’ll look more into some ways to change the volume and tone control behavior, some alternative options for their use altogether, and how to get completely kinky with the pickup wiring.

In that sense, stay tuned — but not necessarily in EADGBE.

30 thoughts on “Axe Hacks: New Sounds For Your Electric Guitar Beginning From What Makes Them Tick

  1. In 1976, I added another tone control to my guitar. It was a copy of the existing tone control, but with an inductor instead of a capacitor. It formed a high-pass (low cut) filter and could be used to reduce the booming of the lower strings.

  2. I did some of my own research on this a couple years ago. The most interesting thing was the difference between Electric Guitars and Electric Violins. For electric violins there is very little care or concern of the material it’s made of. They are made of wood, metal, or resin or plastic. Until you end up at the very low end there is pretty much no concern of the material it is made of adversely affecting the sound quality.

    1. Yep. And that’s exactly why the wood-choice for a bass guitar actually matters more than for a normal guitar. But it matters even more than people think, because the neck is so much longer, and actually has a natural resonance frequency that is in range of the bass guitar’s tone frequencies. Causing ‘dead spots’ in the tone frequency, where the volume of one tone is being suppressed more than that of another tone due to the neck resonating with the frequency of the tone.

      The solution are either more wood in the neck (turning it into a club ;)), or using a denser wood, or very carefully picking that one neck which has a natural frequency in a tone that you never play anyway. Or using different kinds of wood in the neck, with different natural frequencies.

  3. Terrific topic! Looking forward to the rest of the series. Maybe covering some unusual switching circuits?
    I always wanted to try wiring up a micro-controller and some transistors in one of my electric guitars to see if I can implement a programmable, auto-switching mechanism.
    But then I remember the wise words of Zappa: “Shut up and play your guitar!”

  4. I think I am missing another explanation for why many guitars have active electronics. Magnets influence the string. And the stronger the magnet, the more the string is influenced, which affects the sustain. So having weaker magnets is a great thing. But then the signal becomes too weak; you can only wind so many wire around the magnets. So then you need to amplify the signal before sending it to the amplifier.

    Does this make sense?

    Because I am also thinking that the currents induced in the coil would also influence the magnets’ strength in some way because of electromagnetism.

    Probably a complex relationship, and there are probably sweet spots or sweet areas.

    1. One big advantage of active pickups is that their buffered output can be much lower impedance, while still having enough voltage swing to properly drive the input of a guitar amp.
      Passive pickups can actually be influenced significantly by things like the length and type of cable connecting them to the amplifier. Often the capacitance of a long cable will cause “tone suck”, which is basically just too much high frequency being bled to ground (through the cable’s parasitic capacitance) before it gets to the amp.
      An active pickup usually has a much lower impedance, so the parasitic loads from long cables become insignificant (The active pickups can overpower them).

      Also, the designer can use different coils that wouldn’t really work in a passive setup. I’ve built functioning pickups with a couple hundred turns of wire that have a very loud, bright sound that I can EQ as I like, without worrying about how the pickups’ inductances will interact with the pots,cables, and input stage of the amplifier. A conventional pickup needs several thousand turns of wire, and this might put some constraints on the design.

  5. I don’t play guitar, but have always seriously wondered how they actually work, and everything id ever seen on it was a fluff article.

    This was a really well done serious look at them- you’ve sated my curiosity in a way noone else ever has.

    Stupid question, only because I’ve never seen it done- what would the guitar sound like if the entire length of the strings had pickups underneath? Chaos? Fuzz? Nothing? Just curious.

    1. i think still have a few question about how overdrive works. i usually get something along the lines of “by pumping in extra energy you can make your strings sustain longer. ” but that never seems right. seems like it just enables a feedback loop in the amplifier and doesn’t actually send power to the guitar. so if there is a part 2 of this article id like to go into those aspects a bit more.

      1. Overdrive/distortion/fuzz/crunch – when you try to amplify a signal more than your tube/diodes/transistors/mosfets/op-amps/etc can handle without it clipping the signal and changing it from somewhat of a sine wave into something more or less square/trapezoid shaped. The signal is usually filtered before/after the clipping stage to further change the shape.

        1. ok that sounds a lot like what my crunch box can do. im using a modified cap’n’crunch, but with different op amps (i used a pair of opa705s instead of the dual audio opamps from the schematic) and rando pots from the junk heap since the schematic i used didnt really specify type or resistance. and its all built on strip board for that radio shack look and stuffed into a tin with a trio of 18650 cells in series. i also omitted the switch because why would i want to turn it off. i think it amplifies, clips and amplifies again. needless to say it sounds great and i can now play thrash riffs in their full grandeur.

          the overdrive button on my cheap practice amp just makes it sound like crap. i suppose if you wanted to play black metal it would work as it sounded like shit and could be toned toward the creepy. if i was more in the mood to play some celtic frost riffs i have the crunch box. incidentally for new players who want to learn to play metal, celtic frost is a good place to start, their riffs are simple and easy to learn.

      2. you’re making the signal bigger. If you decide how quiet defines the “end” of the sound, and then turn it up louder, that end will become later.

        Because the amplifier stage is “overdriven” it can’t cleanly amplify, so the signal will be clipped (more or less sharply depending on design), so what this does in relation to sustain is lets you turn up the quiet end part of the sound so you can hear it longer, while the early loud part of the sound just gets more squared off, instead of actually getting much louder.

        So, instead of getting a clean sound that starts loud and gets quiet, you get a sound that starts “dirty” and gets cleaner, and then eventually gets quiet (much later than a clean sound starting at the same volume)

  6. i dont mess with my guitar much, but when i do, im strictly analog. digital music is annoying. i got a stratt knockoff and so far the only mods ive done is a hot rail upgrade at the bridge pickup. i also built a crunch box. not a pedal because why would i want to turn it off? it even makes my shitty chinese made practice amp sound good.

  7. From Leo Fender on the guitar hasn’t changed at all. Two pots a cap and a switch. It’s high time modern tech get into the instrument, not on the floor or behind you. My guitar has only 2 strings, it’s slide played. Starting at the lithium battery and ending at the 100watt rated speaker, in between are a Digitech processor and amp. Most importantly is the self sustaining feedback amp and “put down” coil that drives the strings. With a coil pickup and put down it would squeal like hell. I tried a piezo pickup, I found out they give a weak thin tone that is essentially a half wave. Only with gobs of down pressure on the pickup and disc did I get linear sound. So I used a tiny electret mic in the bridge. Full range sound comes out. No coil to coil squeal. Portable Pink Floyd!

    Guitarists can’t figure how their cord gets all wound up in a mess. They turn and walk to the amp, then they complete the circle as they go back to a play presenting position. Don’t complete the circle, reverse the turn. The cord won’t get into a mess.

  8. I’ve been playing guitar for 30 years. And I’ve never seen a picture like “The harmonics overlapped, highlighting the rough location of the neck (left) and bridge (right) pickups” That is amazing. It actually makes sense in a way that I’ve never understood before.

  9. The first mod I made on my ’68 Telecaster was to install a phase switch between tone and volume knobs, so you can play the neck and bridge pickups together either in or out of phase. It’s the easiest thing you can do. A lot of newer guitars come equipped with one already.

    Bill Kirchen likes to flip over the control plate so the pickup selector is at the back and the tone control at the front because he uses the tone pot for a wah-wah effect.

    It would be nice to see a deep dive on Danny Gatton’s Holocaster, a modified Les Paul.

  10. There is a german PhD. thesis about the physics of the electric guitarre. It covers nearly everthing from base physics, pickups, materials, amplifier to psychoaccustics and speaker. The author Manfred Zollmer discuss nearly evrything on 1215 pages and proof his theories with a lot of actually measurements. He is an expert!

    There is lot of stuff about the influence of diffrent materials on the tone of an instrument. Long story short, it’s the pickups and electronics. There is no indication that the tree the body is made of has any say.

    For people not able to read german you find an english translation here:

  11. A lot of nonsense and I would wager it to be mostly in the comments by non-musicians. Starting with Jimi Hendrix and the coils position: it did not make any difference or contribute to his tone or sound in any way. Hendrix did all that with his style and technique which he invented. He used a couple effects and usually Marshall amps. The listener could tell if was playing a Fender or a Gibson but a better ear could tell somewhat when he played a Strat but that is also a best bet anyway. Effects on recordings in the studio were some simple tricks by the engineer that were something to do with the tape itself or the advent of overdubbing. Jimi is and will always be the best guitarist in the realm of rock music played on an electric instrument, nobody had come close to what he did and after that those that claim to be “as good as” forget they are only trying to copy what Hendrix already invented so “good as” should be better stated as “sound kinda like”. And a little known but always evident fact is that you can practice every day all day for years and 99% of those persons will never play well enough to cause anyone to stop and take notice let alone come close to being as good as anyone who is a household name in music. And a few of them play stock instruments and the ‘effects’ are their minds, their ear and their treatment of each note and how it is picked, fretted, bent, trilled, muted or left to sustain itself. Personally I can tell the difference in a few notes of the same tune if it Jimi or Stevie on Voodoo Child. Stevie gets close in style but to copy every Jimi Hendrix tune would be exhausting. Stevie’s tone and amp settings were all to imitate the sound Jimi created or invented if you will. SRV would not have been known without Jimi’s influence on him. Stevie had his own style and was fast on the fretboard with his own style of composition but it still was Jimi that affected him and many others. Truly good music is played from the heart..
    The greatest players of guitar needed no effects and the pups could here or there or upside down and underwound your jaw would still drop. The great Johnny Smith was giving guitar lessons at 11 years of age and didn’t even own a guitar!
    An ‘orange drop” capacitor is laughable for someone to even refer to a cap like it was a magic spell that makes your strumming or lick spewage suddenly tolerable. Just use quality parts and pay attention to your soldering and never overheat a pot and never use a soldering gun. And ceramic magnets suck.
    The “stock” Tele wiring photo appears more like a Tele with an active pickup hence the snap together connectors yet a cheap switch. The pots for passive are 250k while active pickups would be 25k but the pickups are not shown so the photo even being shown as an example is not even complete so not really an example now is it?!
    Last but not least- I can build a copy of Strat and it will sound and play like a 1954 Strat but the parts will cost around $500 and I use any good aftermarket neck and the body from a block of wood. or I can go to a pawnshop tomorrow and buy a Squire Strat for 50 bucks (the neck WILL warp in a year or so) and Jack Pearson could play it and make it sound like a 1000 dollar axe.

    1. Well, sure, “just be a world-class guitar player and fuck all else” is also an option, I guess, but I thought diving into wiring modifications would be a fun alternative to that.

      Those are indeed passive pickups though, it was some cheap DIY kit that had the electronics pre-soldered with those connectors. I was curious about their stock sound so I kept one around in its original state. The other wiring picture is from a modified version of the same kit, so the pictures were mainly meant to compare how the same controls could have an entirely different inner working – kinda as a teaser for where I’m going with this.

    2. the way hendrix played was rather unorthodox. he had his strings on in reverse order and played the guitar backwards. even though somone as famous as he was could have had a custom lefty guitar made. he probibly got used to it starting out when he didnt have much and didnt want to switch up later on. he also has a jazz background which hold oneupsmanship and improvisation as essential values. that probibly did more to affect his sound than his oddball guitar configuration.

    1. Plywood sounds like a rather unpleasant material to carve electric guitars from though, especially on a larger scale. So if it didn’t matter, they’d probably be just made from whatever wood types are well available, easy to work with, and durable enough without getting too heavy.

  12. in the 1950s amps were all monaural, so a monaural electric guitar made sense, the 1950s have been over since 1959, 61 years ago the world went stereo.
    The multiple pick ups on electric guitars, if routed through separate amps, produce real stereo, its embarrassing how primitive and unimaginative people are when t it comes to music.
    Most people have tribalistic phobias against any form of advance, bizarrely music is the most intimidating of any field to most people, when in reality it is very easy.

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