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Old 12-10-2008, 03:38 PM   #1
Invader Jim
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Post The Ultimate Guitar Wiring Thread

---The Ultimate Wiring Thread---

Read my first posts before asking a question. We are here to HELP you, not do it FOR you. All the info you need is on this page. Unlike 99% of 'Ultimate Thread' starters, I've been active in this thread since the beginning. As such, I have continually updated it with info from certain posts within this thread. This makes the size of the thread irrelevant. If it isn't on the first page, it probably isn't in this thread.

There are links on this page that actually teach you about this stuff (highlighted in red text below). If you learn about the components and how they interact, you can do this stuff for yourself and not have to rely on others.

Ice4600: This thread is for guidance, its not a request thread. You should do the searching since you're the one that benefits from it, not any of us. We're here to help you and give as much explanation as possible, but we don't do the work for you. If you have a diagram, by all means post it and we'll check it for you.

For links to many other great threads, check out the GB&C Central Hub.

I'm gonna keep this about guitar and bass wiring issues. Do not ask for pedal or amp schematics. We're not in that business. If you looked through these first posts and didn't find what you needed and you still have a question, feel free to post it!

It's my belief that if someone is looking for wiring diagrams, the first place they'd look is the website of some well-known manufacturer. Apparently, though, this isn't the case... So here are some helpful websites with plenty of wiring diagrams. I even linked directly to the page so you don't have to search the site.

Seymour Duncan

And here are some other sites that are just chock-full of useful info:
http://music-electronics-forum.com/...read.php?t=2114- This may help out if you have any noise issues you can't resolve.

http://www.audereaudio.com/FAQ_PUNoise.htm- This may help out if you have any noise issues you can't resolve.

http://www.audereaudio.com/FAQ_PUMag_Gnd.htm- This may help out if you have any noise issues you can't resolve.

http://guitarnuts2.proboards45.com/...lay&thread=3159- Mods to the Jimmy Page wiring scheme.

Stew-Mac Info on guitar parts and how they work.

http://www.jpbourgeois.org/guitar/microsbis.htm- Many really interesting passive wiring mods.

http://guitarelectronics.zoovy.com/...iringresources/- Wiring resources.

1728.org- Diagrams of unconventional wiring schemes and how some parts work. (Scroll down to "Electric Guitars")

Guitar Nucleus- Some schemes for a few individual guitars.

GuitarNuts- Lots of useful info.

And let's not forget Google.

COMING SOON: Give me ideas.

NOTICE: This thread is and shall remain a work in progress. If you see something that's not here and should be, tell me and I'll add it in. If you find broken images or dead links, PLEASE PM ME so I can fix them!

Special thanks go to (in no particular order):

For their help. Cheers, guys

Last edited by Invader Jim : 12-29-2014 at 08:27 PM.
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Old 12-10-2008, 03:40 PM   #2
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---Frequently Asked Questions---

Before you do any of the troubleshooting tips listed here, rule out the obvious: test different cables, guitars, and amps to see if the problem lies in these. Also be sure to check the batteries. If the problem persists, then keep reading.

I need to learn how to solder. Any tutorials?
The internet is loaded with soldering tutorials, tips, and tricks. All you have to do is expend some effort to find them. Here are a couple:

My guitar's output is really low or makes intermittent sound when I wiggle the jack or volume pot.
It could be one of several things. If it cuts in and out when you wiggle or turn the volume pot, then that pot is dead and needs to be replaced. If the same happens when you mess with the jack, then the jack is defective and should be replaced. Another cause, though less probable, is there's a component or wire shorting to a ground point, which includes any foil or shielding paint (called "Aquadag" or just "dag"), and is reducing or completely killing your signal. You might also just have crap soldering. A word about that...

You'd be surprised at how much bad soldering affects the performance of a circuit. If a solder joint is bad, then it has some resistance. Since these "resistors" are scattered all over, they make lots of series and parallel circuits with the other components. Bad soldering can also make accidental diodes. Diodes always have a forward voltage drop, meaning if the voltage is the wrong polarity or isn't high enough, they won't even pass any current. If it does pass current, the AC audio signal will be turned into a string of partially-rectified DC pulses, which can cause other problems.

All series circuits are voltage dividers, and the largest voltage is always found across the largest resistance. Wires have ultra-low resistance (but resistance nonetheless) and bad solder joints have far greater resistances. This means that those bad joints have far greater voltages across them than are in the actual wire so your signal doesn't go anywhere and is dropped across the resistance of the solder joint (re-read the first sentence of this paragraph).

I just rewired my guitar and now there is a loud, constant buzzing and when I touch metal the buzzing gets worse.
If this happens when you touch any metal part (that should be grounded), then you might have swapped the jack wires by accident. The lug connected to the inner circular part is the ground. The other lug is hot. If it only happens to individual metal parts (that should be grounded), then check to make sure you grounded the individual metal parts, rather than leaving them floating (unconnected) or accidentally connecting them to "hot" instead.

My guitar buzzes, but the buzzing stops/is reduced when I touch the strings or other (grounded) metal parts.
Relax, it's normal.
Are you sure?
YES. But if you think otherwise, read through this thread.

Can I mix active and passive pickups?
This is from EMG's website:

"It is possible to mix EMGs with passive pickups.
There are three possible wiring configurations; one is better than the other two.

1. Use the high impedance (250K-500K) volume and tone controls.
The problem is that the high impedance controls act more like a switch to the EMG's [either Full Volume or No Volume]. The passive pickups, however, will work fine.

If you have a guitar with two pickups and two volume pots, with a three-way switch, there is another alternative. Use the 25K pots for the EMG, and the 250K or 500k pots for the passive pickup. This way you can use one or the other with no adverse affects, but with the switch in the middle position the passive pickup will have reduced gain and response.

2. Use the low-impedance (25K) volume and tone controls provided with the EMG's.
The problem here is that the passive pickups will suffer a reduction in gain and loss of high-frequency response.

3. This is the best alternative. Install an EMG-PA-2 on the passive pickups. There are two benefits to doing this. With the trimpot on the PA-2, you can adjust the gain of the passive pickups to match the EMG's. The PA-2 acts as an impedance matching device so you can use the low-impedance EMG controls (25K) without affecting the tone of the passive pickups. You will also be able to use other EMG accessory circuits such as the SPC, RPC, EXB, EXG, etc. For this application, we recommend ordering the PA-2 without the switch for easy installation on the inside of a guitar."

What kind of wire should I use for wiring my guitar and where can I get it?
You don't need anything special. Smallbearelec.com and RadioShack sell spools of wire. Look for something around 20-24awg. 22awg is ideal. You can use shielded, solid core, or regular stranded wire. Obviously, shielded wire can help with noise. Solid core is easier to work with b/c you don't have to twist and tin it, but it can break inside the insulation if handled roughly.

I have an unknown pickup. How can I figure out which wires do what?
It's pretty easy. Say you have 4 wires; A, B, C, and D. Measure the resistance between all of them.

A+B= Infinite
A+C= Infinite
A+D= 6k
B+C= 6k
B+D= Infinite
C+D= Infinite

Then A and D are one coil. B and C are the other.

Now set the DMM to DC volts and get something magnetic, like a screwdriver. Lay it onto the pole pieces of, say, the North coil and move it around. If you get nothing on A and D, that means B and C are the North coil. A and D are the South. If the voltage goes negative, then swap the DMM probe connections. The wire on the red lead is hot for that coil.

Say you have only 3 wires; A, B, and C. Measure the resistance between all of them.

A+B= 12k
A+C= 6k
B+C= 6k

A and C are one coil and B and C are the other, meaning wire C is the tap because it is common to both coils.

When splitting the coils, the 'on' coil is determined by whether the tap is connected to the pickup's hot wire or ground wire; basically you're shorting out one of the coils. If the pickup ground and the tap are shorted, one coil remains on. If you short the pickup hot and tap, the other coil stays active. Use this info to make sure the pickups in your HSS or HSH configuration are in phase when selecting the single and humbucker/split humbucker. Wiring the tap to hot and the pickup's hot to ground will put the coils in parallel. Three-wire pickups can do everything that 4-wire pickups can do, except phase-reversal of the individual coils, which you wouldn't want anyway.

Figuring out which wires go to which coil is the same as with 4-wire.

I have an HH guitar with 2 volumes [and other stuff maybe] and one volume pot affects both pickups. WTF?
This is normal for LP style wiring. Try swapping the wires on the 2nd and 3rd lugs of each volume pot (looking at the pot from the front of the guitar). If that doesn't work, try changing the volumes to linear pots.

My volume or tone pot sounds scratchy or acts funny. Should I replace it?
Yes. A scratchy pot means it is either dirty or worn. Either way, it's a sign of a cheap or aging pot. It's best to replace it now before it causes problems down the road.

Do I have to have F-spaced pups for my tremolo bridge? Does pole piece spacing make a difference?
Not really, no. It's mostly about aesthetics, though I'm sure there are tone-chasers out there who would disagree with me.

Is it possible to convert a two-conductor pickup to 3- or 4-conductor?
Yes. Go here: http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/foru...d.php?t=1144316

More to come, when I think of more questions...

Last edited by Invader Jim : 05-06-2014 at 12:22 PM.
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Old 12-10-2008, 03:41 PM   #3
Invader Jim
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---How the parts work---

Here is a clipboard of switches, pickups, etc. that you can save to your computer and use to better illustrate your own diagrams, since most of you are quite MSPaint-challenged. :P


Here is how garden-variety switches work. An important note about toggle switches: when the lever is down the poles connect to the upper throws and vice-versa. So if the lever is pointing one direction, the poles connect the opposite throws. It's kind of counter-intuitive. If you are unsure, just use an ohm meter to see for sure.

Now I will be covering the switches that are mainly used in guitars:
-Strat-style 3- and 5-way lever switches (traditional and PCB versions)
-Les Paul-style 3-way skeleton switches
---Les Paul-style 3-way skeleton switches for 3-pickup guitars (coming soon)
-Rotary switches

Strat-style lever switches

This is the inside of a Strat-style PCB switch. They are classified as DP3T for 3-ways. I'm really not sure what the 5-ways are called. It isn't DP5T because they don't have 5 separate throws, but rather have 3 separate throws and bridge between adjacent terminals. Anyway, 3-ways and 5-ways are identical; 5-ways just have more detents.

The solid traces in the inner part of the switch are the poles. They are common to all the throws. The outer traces are the throws. The throws are connected to their respective poles via the leaves of the lever section (pictured at left).

In standard guitar wiring, the two poles are connected and sent on their way. That is how the tone pots get connected to their respective pickups (except master tones, which are paralleling the pickups via the volume pot). Note that the 2nd pole is not actually needed for the tone pots. You can get away with only using "half" the switch. Just wire the tones directly to the switch lugs of the pickups you want them to control. This frees up the other half of the switch for other wiring stuff, like auto-splitting humbuckers.


As you can see from the labels in the left pic, whichever trace is connected to the circuit on one side, the opposite trace is connected on the other side (as illustrated by the red line).

In the left pic the switch is selecting the bridge pickup and anything connected to the other pole, like a tone pot.

In the right pic we see a 5-way in the second position, where the bridge and middle pickups would be selected. Note that the pickups are in parallel.


This is a traditional Strat lever switch. On the left is a 3-way from about 1960 and on the right is a new 5-way. Notice how the older one is taller. The old switches will not fit into a "thin-bodied" guitar (like almost every Squier) without doing some routing. It took me an embarassingly long time to find out that a Squier body is slightly thinner than a Fender body. OK, so that's out of the way... I'm going to be referring to the 5-way from here on unless noted.


Examine the picture. You'll see that there's a contact that touches the rail of the wiper. That's the Common (pole) lug. The blade on the end of the rail is the wiper. Whichever lug(s) it touches is connected to the pole. It is shown in position 2 (mid+bridge). Note that the two lugs are in parallel. Here it is in position 5 (neck):


And here is the 3-way when caught between detents, for the 2 and 4 positions. You'll notice that the wiper on the 3-way is slightly narrower than on the 5-way, but it is still just wide enough to jumper both of these lugs:


Until about '77, Fender only used 3-ways in their Strats. You may have heard about people, like Hendrix, sticking toothpicks or matchsticks in the slot to hold the switch between detents to get these "new" sounds (which were out-of-phase*). Note that these positions weren't hum-canceling back then. Strats didn't use RWRP middle pickups until the implementation of 5-ways*

*Correct me if I'm wrong on these.

Other than these mechanical differences, they are exactly like the PCB switches. Here's a comparison diagram of the two switches.

Les Paul skeleton switches
Below are various LP-style 3-way toggle switches, also called skeleton switches due to their open construction. They are classified as SPDT on/on/on. These are used with two pickups to select one, both, or the other. They are used instead of Strat-style 3-way switches because they are smaller, easier to mount, and easier to wire. They are far less durable, however.

These are used with 2-pickup guitars:

This one is used for 3-pickup guitars:

The way they operate is very simple. A plastic peg connected to the lever moves a leaf off of the pole when moved in either extreme direction. The two leaves are always wanting to contact the poles due to their spring-action design, so when the lever is in the middle position the peg doesn't lift any leaves and they both connect to the pole. Note that the pickups are in parallel.

You probably noticed that there are two Pole lugs. This is because of the design of the switch. Wiring the Pole lugs together (as is done with guitar wiring) makes the switch a SPDT center-on switch. If you were to leave the Pole lugs separated, the switch becomes two SPST switches (A and B) controlled by one armature, where A is on while B is off, B is on while A is off, or A and B are both on; A and B can never both be off at the same time. Confusing, yeah?

These types of switches suffer from a major design flaw: they rely totally on the spring action of the leaves to operate properly. A common cause for the failure of a circuit that uses this switch is that the leaves' spring action has worn out so they are only making intermittent contact with the poles.

You can fix this quite easily; just put the lever in the middle position and bend the failing leaf back into contact with the pole. Test it with an ohm meter to see if the plastic peg still lifts the leaf. This should merely be considered a temporary fix, though. Getting a new switch is best. A great way to prevent the premature failure of this switch is to leave it in the middle position when you are not playing the guitar. This helps save the spring action of the leaves so they last that much longer.

Rotary switches (to be expanded on later)
This is a Rotary Switch:

Rotary switches come in many different sizes, and are classified like normal toggle switches with Poles and Throws. The Pole can be thought of as a common terminal. In any position, this terminal will always be connected to another terminal. Which terminal is is connected to is determined by the position and is called the Throw. So in position 1, throw 1 and the common terminal will be connected. In position 2, throw 2 and the common terminal will be connected, and so on.

This switch is a 4 Pole, 6 Throw, with 4 common terminals and each of those common terminals having 6 throws. These Poles are all separate and no connections are made between different poles. It can be thought of as 4 different 1 Pole 6 Throw switches if you like, but all controlled with one knob.

Here is a pinout of the 4P6T switch. CT stands for Common Terminal:

And the schematic version of one of the poles, for a better visual concept.

Also, let's cover Super Switches. A super switch is a 4P5T switch in a 5 way blade style. They work on the same basic throw and pole system as a rotary switch.

This is a Super Switch:


Some guitar tone controls and how they work

Coming soon: Potentiometers and Pickups

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Old 12-10-2008, 03:41 PM   #4
Invader Jim
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---Misc. Diagrams---

Anyone with severe noise problems could try reading through this thread.

Check out Some guitar tone controls and how they work for some interesting tone control circuits and mods.

Pin-out for the Ibanez VLX53 switches:

More Jimmy Page mods:

Common switch pin-outs:

A pin-out for Aria switches (compliments of stuartm65):

How to wire an effect circuit into your guitar:

A wiring diagram of an old Conrad something-or-other. Use this as inspiration or a reference.
2 pickups, 1 volume, 1 tone, treble shunt cap, 2 individual pickup switches, and a mute switch.

How to wire a DP6T rotary switch for 3 pickups to get all the standard 5-way lever switch settings (and in order!) plus the Neck and Bridge pickups for a Tele-style tone.
The numbers along the top are the positions and the numbers on the sides are the poles. The O's are the switch lugs.

Wiring that I saw in a home-made semi-hollow built c.1960. Use this as inspiration or a reference.
2 pickups, 2 volumes, 2 tones, 3-way blade switch. You may want to leave out the 33k resistors; they reduce the output.

A wiring diagram and circuit description for a Hofner 172. Use this as inspiration or a reference.
2 pickups, 2 volumes, Rhythm/Solo switch, Bass On switch, Treble On switch.

Last edited by Invader Jim : 01-07-2015 at 09:59 PM.
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Old 12-10-2008, 03:42 PM   #5
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Last edited by Invader Jim : 01-04-2015 at 09:03 PM.
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Old 12-10-2008, 03:43 PM   #6
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Last edited by Invader Jim : 06-28-2013 at 10:06 PM.
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Old 12-10-2008, 03:43 PM   #7
Mmm, yeah
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Due to a lack of space above and no one noticing this as a link. I (zakkwyldefan79) am hijacking Chuck's post so I can make this an image. Now maybe people will notice it.

A list of pickup wire color codes:

Fender Thinline Telecaster Deluxe
1983 Aria Pro II XX Deluxe Flying V
2007 S101 EGU34
1963 Kay Vanguard
1964 Kay Vanguard
AXL Badwater SRO
Hondo Strat
1974 Acoustic(brand) 134 4x10 combo
Epiphone Valve Jr.
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Old 12-10-2008, 03:45 PM   #8
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Reserved for myself, in case I have anything to bring to the table.

Edit: Also, great idea. This should be stickied.
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Old 12-10-2008, 03:47 PM   #10
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Errr are general wiring q's ok? I'll delete this if not. I got this:

off the lovely people at Irongear, but I don't know where to ground it, is just on the side of the pots ok?
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Old 12-10-2008, 03:53 PM   #11
Mmm, yeah
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Ultimate wiring thread maybe?

Fender Thinline Telecaster Deluxe
1983 Aria Pro II XX Deluxe Flying V
2007 S101 EGU34
1963 Kay Vanguard
1964 Kay Vanguard
AXL Badwater SRO
Hondo Strat
1974 Acoustic(brand) 134 4x10 combo
Epiphone Valve Jr.
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Old 12-10-2008, 04:00 PM   #12
Invader Jim
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Minibrowny: Wire it as-is and attatch a wire from the bridge to the case of a pot. Ground all pot casings to the sleeve of the jack.
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Old 12-10-2008, 04:02 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Invader Jim
Minibrowny: Wire it as-is and attatch a wire from the bridge to the case of a pot. Ground all pot casings to the sleeve of the jack.

Ahhhh thank you, I get it now I've never really understood them before. Cheers!

EDIT: Is it wired to the bridge on all guitars? I got a wraparound so would I just route out a small hole underneath and solder it to the bottom of the bridge?

Last edited by minibrowny : 12-10-2008 at 04:07 PM.
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Old 12-11-2008, 12:34 AM   #14
Invader Jim
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There should be a hole drilled into one of the shafts for the bridge post.

Protip: Editing a post doesn't bump the thread. Sorry for the late reply.
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Old 12-12-2008, 06:00 PM   #16
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wow! that last diagram on the 2nd post is crazy. Great idea too!

Quick question, if there was no single coil in that diagram, would the switch need to be adjusted in any way? would it need a three way switch??
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Old 12-12-2008, 07:14 PM   #17
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You could change it, or you could come up with funky things to do with it. I think you can wire a standard 5-way to auto-split two humbuckers. I'd have to sit down and think. I know you can auto-slpit the humbucker in a HSS guitar. Simple to do, too.
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Old 12-12-2008, 08:38 PM   #18
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Sweet thread, yeah I'm getting pretty tired of all the repetitive $hit. UG = your personal search engine *sigh*

Also this wont be stickied, no 'ultimate thread' will ever be, there are too many, it takes up too much room. Although an 'ultimate ultimate' thread would be good, as there is no index of all the unstickied threads like 18V, killswitch, pedal mod, etc and the current stickies are old and not updated by the mods.

Most wiring diagram threads could just be answered by going to the Seymour Duncan website, they have a ton of diagrams there, people just dont look...

Originally Posted by dogismycopilot
Absent Mind, words cant express how much i love you. Id bone you, oh yea.

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Absent Mind is, as usual, completely correct.

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Old 12-12-2008, 09:13 PM   #19
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I have a question that's just to satisfy my curiosity. It's more of an installation question than a wiring question, but I thought I'd ask here and save some space instead of making a relatively pointless thread about it.

On a Les Paul or something similiar, how do you ground to the bridge? I know there's some kind of shaft leading from the control cavity, but if I needed to reground to the bridge, how would I do that?

Seems like a kind of impossible task, as though that's something that'd get done before the maple cap was put on. This is just something that I think might be a problem if I ever try to repair my LP with a broken headstock.

Sorry if this isn't the place for this question, too.
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Old 12-12-2008, 09:41 PM   #20
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Reserved for my future diagrams I may find, and I did this to my guitar, by the way.

This is a pretty cool mod that makes your bridge and middle or middle and neck pickups sound like a humbucker, and they are noise-free too.
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