The modern 4-way Telecaster wiring is a variation on the traditional version created by Fender. Their 4-way Telecaster wiring mod, otherwise known as the Telecaster series wiring is a way of linking the two Telecaster pickups in series rather than in parallel to give a louder, more meaty sound.
The modification adds to the standard neck-middle (in parallel) – bridge configuration with a series-linked option to give a warmer, fuller tone. Great for solos.
With the standard parallel middle position, both hot input wires of the pickups are connected, as are their outputs. The signal reaches the output jack at the same time. This tends to allow the high frequencies to arrive at the output jack with very little internal resistance effect from the coil wires, giving the telecaster its bright, sparkling sound.
In a series middle position configuration, the hot input of one pickup is connected to the output of the other. These two pickups now share a single hot input wire and a single output ground wire. The resulting impedance is very high in comparison to the parallel configuration. The treble frequencies however are reduced due to the increased resistance resulting from the long wire length. This gives the series-linked pickups a prominent mid-range and low-frequency bias compared to the parallel wiring.
The traditional way of wiring this circuit is to use a 4-way lever switch and to add the series function after the neck position. So the pickup configurations would now run like this:
Position 1: Bridge
Position 2: Neck and Bridge in parallel
Position 3: Neck
Position 4: Neck and Bridge in series
While this particular configuration has been the standard way to implement the 4-way telecaster mod for decades, there is a very useable alternative.
Modern 4-way Telecaster Wiring
The Modern 4-way Telecaster wiring alternative is very similar, but it flips the series and neck positions around so that the two ‘middle’ positions are now next to each other and the neck position is at the end of the switch.
When playing, this is a bit more logical. If you want to quickly switch to the neck pickup, it’s simply a case of knocking the switch fully forward, just like on any other 3 way telecaster selector switch. It also makes the series/parallel middle positions act like a ‘half power’ and ‘full power’ version of the middle option.
The modern 4-way telecaster wiring is a very straightforward mod to do and it is totally invisible from the outside of your guitar. Totally reversible if you end up not liking it.
While both of these wiring options work really well for a pair of single coils, Telecasters as well as a lot of other guitars fall into the problem of mixing pickups within the same instrument. This is only really a problem when the guitar has a master volume and master tone control. There is a compromise. One of the pickups is not seeing the correct resistance rating of pot that is was designed for. This can have a big affect on the resultant sound produced.
It is possible, with both of these schematics, to add a parallel resistor onto the switch to work with the volume pot only when the switch is in a certain position. We’ll dive more in-depth into this topic in another blog post, but the diagram below gives you a good idea of how this can be used. The P90 in the neck should really see a 500K pot, while the single coil should see a 250K pot. With the use of the parallel resistor, the resulting volume pot resistance value can be changed toy almost half. Allowing the correct values to be seen by each pickup when needed.
If you’re interested in the Modern 4-way Telecaster Wiring mod as a kit, please visit our sister site, PCJ Custom Guitars where you can purchase either wiring option in either kit form or as a fully assembled loom.