Stratocaster with Ser/Par blenders

This page covers two related but independent modifications: a series blender and a parallel blender.  You can have either or both of these.

Note: This is a different concept than is covered on the page on blenders.  This mod blends two sounds, but a stacked potentiometer is not required.




The Parallel Blender
By turning the potentiometer, this dials in the bridge or neck pickup to combinations when it isn't otherwise selected.  This allows you to have all three pickups on at the same time or the bridge and neck, which sounds like a Telecaster.
 
5-way output with the Parallel selected:
  • Neck (+ Bridge)
  • Neck + Mid (+ Bridge)
  • Mid
  • (Neck +) Mid + Bridge
  • (Neck +) Bridge
Note: This is very similar to the add-in switch.  The difference is that the switch adds in only one pickup to the output, whereas this approach (whether accomplished with a switch or a potentiometer) is a two-way connection.  In other words, both the neck and bridge pickups would be added to the mix when this is turned on, no matter what other pickups were selected with the original 5-way switch.  The add-in approach only adds a specific pickup into the combinations where it isn't present.

The Series Blender
Control: Push-pull pot under the middle (tone) knob.

Function: This is accomplished though a potentiometer instead of a switch.  Normally all combinations of pickups in a Strat are in parallel.  However, series combinations give an altogether different sound, much more like a Les Paul.  In this case, this option allows the middle pickup to be combined in series with either of the other two.
 
5-way output with the Series fully selected:
  • Neck + Mid in series
  • Mid
  • Mid
  • Mid
  • Bridge + Mid in series


The Big Picture

The basic "stock" Strat only allows only 5 combinations of pickups.

 
Stock
  • Neck
  • Neck + Mid
  • Mid
  • Mid + Bridge
  • Bridge
The configuration in this guitar allows 12 more combinations in addition to the five above:
 
with the series blender on:
  • Neck + Mid in series
  • Bridge + Mid in series
and...
with the parallel blender on:
  • Neck + Bridge
  • Neck + Mid + Bridge
and...
with the series blender and parallel blender on:
  • Neck + Bridge in parallel combined with Mid in series




About the schematic
The configuration pictured above has only one volume knob and the two tone knobs are replaced with a series blender (middle knob; black wires) and a parallel blender (bottom right; purple wires).

Different pickups will have different color codes for the wires.  Most colors above were chosen arbitrarily.  In this diagram, the gray wires go to ground except for the ground wires for the pickups, all of which combine to go to the series blender.  Wherever you see a ground symbol next to a potentiometer, the wire should be grounded to the metal on the back of the pot.  After that, all of the grounds should all go to one point to avoid ground loops.  For the sake of simplicity, the string ground is not pictured in this diagram (but you absolutely need to connect it!).  See the "All About Grounding" page to learn more.

Note: The image above is larger than displayed.  If you wish to print it, save it and resize as desired to take advantage of the actual resolution.

Components pictured:
  • 3 single coil pickups
  • 3 pots 250k Ohms (these need not be push-pull as they are not required)
  • standard 5-way switch
  • Output jack
  • UPDATE: A big thanks to Dimi for catching my error.  I had forgotten to draw in the light green lines on this schematic, without which these mods don't work!

Alternatively...
An alternate way of acquiring these combinations is to change them from blenders to switches.  By employing some push-pull pots, you could configure this such that you switch on the combinations and retain your tone knobs.

Personally, I found that the parallel combinations are such that they work best when switched ("all or nothing") into place, while the series combinations work best with a potentiometer to allow you to blend in exactly the level you desire.

I did exactly this on my Black Strat (v.2.0), and you can compare its schematic to the one above.


The ideas on this page were based on a design by the Electron Times.  Obviously, I elaborated on the original concept quite a bit.





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