There are so many different ways to alter the sound of your guitar with switches.
These switches change the wiring of a pickup, on the fly, for a different tone on
the same pickup. The 5 way switch takes all the different pickups, switched or not,
and combines them for even more tone versatility. There are other kinds of switch
configurations other than those listed below, which are the basics. The internal
connections of the switches were also verified with a meter just to be sure.
This particular 5 way diagram shows the two sets of contacts on either side of the
switch. The schematic diagram represents the connections moving together at the
same time. Their is also five different positions as the switch moves from up to
This diagram of a 5 way switch shows the connection points of the switch in it's
five different settings. It also shows a pickup arrangement as an example that isn't
always a typical set up. In Fender's design the pickups are arranged neck, neck/middle,
middle, middle/bridge, and bridge. This pickup arrangement is used to make their
single coil pickups "noise cancel" in the combination settings.
This picture shows how the contacts of a toggle switch change according to it's position.
The following diagrams are how these switches can be used just as they are specified
by Seymour Duncan's wiring diagrams.
This is a very effective change in tone, giving a bluesy sound, but only when one
pickup is out of phase with another, or if the humbucker is out of phase with itself. As
an example with guitars requiring three pickups it is best to phase the pickup that
is the dominant one in the 5 way switching pattern. This allows the phase setting
to be used with two different pickup combinations.
Series Parallel is a great way to get the two distinct sounds of a pickup with the
flip of a switch. With a three position toggle switch the wiring is the same, but
the center position is also a single coil mode switch. This arrangement is explained
much deeper on the Intro to Wiring page.
When a single coil setting is used a humbucker can sound like a single coil, but
this may also introduce hum since it is no longer humbucking. Proper shielding and
grounding prevents the noise for the most part. Another way to cancel the hum is
to allow two single coils that are close together to be connected through a 5-way
switch, just like in a Fender. You will probably notice the extra real estate on
the switch. Each rail is independent from the other so you could hook up a whole
other pickup as well and wire it the same way. With this circuit a single pole double
throw switch could be used.
Last, but not least is the bypass switch which can be used in various ways. With
this particular diagram it is used as a selector switch. All kinds of special applications
can be done with wiring such as this, or even accomplish something different when
wired in a slightly different way.
This guitar modification is very useful. A typical volume control by itself will
roll the volume down, but chokes the high sounds out, and sounds somewhat muffled
when in use. The bypass capacitor allows the highs to freely pass by the volume
control. In this case when you turn the knob down you will lower the level of the
sound, but you will still hear the highs clearly. I have seen in most cases the
circuit is shown with a 100k ohm resistor, but the problem with that is when the
volume is turned all the way down, there is still sound due to the 100k ohm resistance
between the pickups and ground. You will not be able to turn your guitar all the
way down. How is that useful? I have found that the capacitor by itself proves to
be a necessity in most guitars , and will allow the guitar to be turned all the way
down. Try it if you want but from personal experience, the resistor is useless.