How To Modify a Telecaster Pickup For 4 Way Controls


Doctor of Teleocity
Dec 29, 2010
I looked around and didn't really see a step by step procedure for modifying a Telecaster pickup for 4 way controls. It's a simple job, but for someone doing this the first time out there are always questions. This is how I tackle it.

First, look at your pickup. If it already has three wires coming out of it, chances are you're already all set to install it. If you're ordering new pickups for a project, many manufacturers will do this mod for you at no cost. If your pickup has no cover, you don't need to do anything, just ignore the wire in your drawing that connects the pickup cover to the back of the volume pot.

If, however, you're dealing with a stock Telecaster pickup you'll need to do a little work. Here's a typical pickup:


There are three areas you're concerned with. Firstly, the two solder points indicated by the orange arrows. Put simply, you don't want to disturb those solder connections. There are a pair of hair-thin wires soldered to your pickup leads at those points. They are beyond fragile, keep your cutters and soldering iron away from them. The green arrow indicates the jumper you've probably already heard about. Clip that jumper with a small pair of wire cutters.


Now, decision time. Look at the modified pickup closely:


See the solder blob marked by the green arrow? That blob can be your friend, somebody has already found a place for you where solder will adhere. That blob is actually one of the tabs that holds the pickup cover to the flatwork. If you can solder fairly well, you can attach your new ground wire to that point. You don't want to burn the insulation of the two pickup wires where they emerge from the flatwork. Burning those wires could result in an inoperative pickup. Since the wires on this pickup are cloth and I can solder well I connected the new ground wire to this point:


If you are leery of your soldering skills, just attach your new ground to one of the other cover tabs:


If you go this route, remove the plating from the tab with a file or knife blade, and flow a tiny, smooth layer of solder on the cleaned tab. Solder your new ground wire to that solder-coated tab. Never use paste flux, including the so-called 'non-corrosive' fluxes on electronics! If your work is clean, and you're using enough heat you don't need additional flux.

That's pretty much it... the new ground wire gets soldered to the back of your volume pot.

Not all pickups look like this one, but this one is pretty typical. If your pickup has ceramic magnets, you probably won't have those handy cover tabs to solder to. No problem, the jumper is still there somewhere. Clip it the same way as I did on this one, and attach your new ground wire to the spot where the jumper is soldered to the side of the cover.
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Doctor of Teleocity
Apr 2, 2014
Phoenix, AZ
Thanks dsutton24, handy post. I did figure it out from random pieces of threads. I have two spare CVC neck pickups all done up this way--wish I had this when I started.

Ricky D.

Doctor of Teleocity
Oct 22, 2006
Marion, VA
Nice presentation. Thanks.

I've done a couple, but the instructions I followed were not as good as yours.