Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The 2021 Guitar - In Search of the Guitar That Can Do It All

On any given Sunday, I play covers that call for a few different electric guitar styles. I like to get as close to the original sound as possible without the hassle of bringing three or four different guitars. (The Kemper mimics the sounds of multiple different amps, so that side of the equation is taken care of.) What if I could get all of those great sounds, the brightness and clarity of single coil pickups, the power and mid-range sweetness of humbuckers, in a single guitar? Here's my latest attempt.

At it's heart, this is a Telecaster inspired machine. The grit and cutting voice of a wound-hot Tele pickup has become one of my favorite sounds and the clarity and chiminess of a Tele bridge pickup gives the Tele a versatility that works for many styles. To the Tele foundation, I added a high output humbucker pickup and stuck it in the middle position. This is a bit unusual as most humbucker equipped guitars have two pickups, with higher output on the bridge pickup. Using the humbucker in this spot provides a sound that pushes the amp much harder than the other pickups while emphasizing the mid-range frequencies, just what is needed to round out the sonic versatility of this guitar.

Here's this new guitar in action, first the neck pickup, thin and chimey, then the the grittier middle humbucker pickup:

The controls for the guitar are standard modern tele controls: three way switch for the neck and bridge pickups (neck, both, bridge) with a single volume and tone control. To accomodate the additional middle pickup, I added a volume knob which can by pulled out to switch the coils into parallel, pushed down they are in series. There is a three-way toggle switch on the horn of the guitar which selects between the standard tele circuit, the middle humbucker only, or both. Using the two switches (tele blade switch, toggle on the horn) any combination of pickups can be selected. As an added bonus, the tone knob can also be pulled out to bypass the tone circuit, letting all of those glorious highs slip through.

This wiring diagram describes the full circuit for the guts of the guitar:

As for the look, I went for a somewhat aged 50s tele: Butterscotch blonde with a bit of relicing to show some where, especially around the lower bout where my elbow tends to run the body of the guitar.

Now for the detailed specs:

  • Body
    • Shape: Telecaster (traditional)
    • Wood: Alder
    • Finish: Nitrocellulose Laquer (Blonde undercoat, Butterscotch topcoat) then lightly reliced using high grit sandpaper. Covered with a final coat of Tru-oil.
    • Pickguard, solid black
    • Bridge: vintage brass sadles - compensated for improved intonation
  • Neck
    • Shape: Telecaster with Vintage/Modern truss rod access
    • Wood: Solid maple
    • Profile: Warmoth Boatneck
    • Radius: Warmoth compound radius (10"-16")
    • Frets: Stainless steel size 6150 (medium jumbo)
    • Finish: Tru-oil
    • Tuners: vintage style - string inserts in the top
  • Electronics
    • Pickups:
    • Pots: 250k push pull pots for tele volume and tone controls, 500k push pull pot for middle pickup volume control
    • Switches: Three way blade switch for tele controls, three way LP-style toggle switch for selecting between tele controls and middle pickup
    • Tone Capacitor: .022uF
    • Tone Bleed Circuits: .001uF capacitor with 150K-ohm 1/4-watt resistor in parallel. This is used on both volume knobs.

This was a fun build and is a blast to play. Is this the only guitar I'll be bringing to gigs? Only time will tell.