This page discusses basic electric
guitar wiring and alternative ideas. Wiring is shown as wiring diagrams
rather than schematics for the benefit of the novice. Attempts are
made to explain concepts in plain English.
Pickups & Phasing
Pickup phasing can be a mystery, especially when various manufacturers
use different default polarity, winding directions, and wire colors.
Remember, pickups (or two coils of any pickups) are in phase if one of
2 conditions exist:
1. The magnetic polarity and winding direction are the same for both
2. The magnetic polarity and winding direction of the 2 coils are BOTH
opposite from each other.
Out of phase pickups sound much brighter and weaker, but only when the
out of phase pickups are both active or selected. Some people find
this a useful sound, some don't. To keep both sounds at your fingertips,
check out my wiring diagrams for instructions
on how to get both sounds using a switch.
The following is a wonderful test for the phasing of coils.
PREP: Insure that the 2 coils you wish to test are active
using the guitar's switches.
Insure the volume and tone controls are at their
maximum setting (10).
Have a multimeter, a guitar cable, and a piece
of metal ready.
THE TEST: Plug the guitar cable into the guitar.
Attach the multimeter to the other end of the guitar cable using the
tip of the jack as the (+) and the shaft of the jack as the (-).
Larger alligator clips attached to the multimeter's probes make this job
easier. Set the multimeter to measure the smallest amount of DC Voltage
Place the piece of metal by the bridge. Without touching the
strings, move the piece of metal toward the first coil being tested.
As the piece of metal comes close to the coil, the meter will register
either a positive or negative voltage. As the piece of metal is passed
over and past the coil, it will register voltage in the opposite direction
(+ or -). Now repeat the process for the second coil. If the
meter registers voltage in the same directions, the pickups are in phase.
If the meter registers voltage in the opposite direction, the pickups are
out of phase.
NEAT: The same methods work for loudspeakers! Instead of
passing a piece of metal over a coil, hook the multimeter up to the speaker
wires or speaker terminals and gently push on the speaker cone. Then,
gently release the speaker cone. You'll notice the reaction of the
multimeter is the same as when you passed the piece of metal over and past
the pickup coil.
Fixing A Phasing Problem
This can be tricky. If a coil has 2 colored wires plus a bare
wire ground, all you have to do is reverse the colored wires. Do
not change the bare wire ground.
If the coil or pickup has a shielded wire with a braided ground (like
a guitar cable), you must reverse the wires where they are soldered to
the pickup. The shielded ground must always be attached to the metal
casing of the pickup (if there is one). For example, your coil or
pickup has a white wire, a black wire, and a plain braided ground, examine
the connections on the coil or pickup. If the white wire, for example,
is soldered to the braided ground and attached to the pickup coil wire
and the black wire is attached only to the pickup coil wire, you must unsolder
the black and white wires and switch them (attach the black wire to the
coil and braided ground, attach the white wire to the other coil wire connection).
Warning: Pickup coil wire is very delicate (about the size of
human hair). Be careful not to break this wire or you will rapidly
increase the difficulty of this project. If you are uncomfortable
attempting this project, please have a professional repair person do this