I am a semi-pro musician who plays primarily in the NY/Tri-State area with Moose and the Bulletproof Blues Band.
Our repertoire consists mainly of Chicago- and Texas-based electric blues, with some classic R&B thrown in.
I have had this same pickup configuration on a number of
Telecasters that I've owned, mostly because it gives me a lot of versatility for the music that I play. We have a wide range of songs that sometimes calls for different lead and rythm tones,
especially when we play as a trio. As much as I love the inherent sound of Telecasters, I usually need a little more fullness in the midrange, especially when playing rhythm
comps and fills. Most full-sized humbuckers are a little too full for me when combined with a Tele lead pickup, and take away some of the classic snap that Teles are so revered for.
The solution was a classic mini-humbucker, in this case taken from a '71 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe. It provides less output than a regular, full-sized
humbucker, which helps it balance nicely when combined with the Tele's lead pickup, or when switching between single pickup modes and thus avoiding drastic changes in output and EQ. The
mini-humbucker is also clearer in the high end than the full-sized ones, helping to retain the Tele's snap. Because of its single row of exposed adjustable pole screws, the mini-HB also provides
better high end response than most chrome covered classic Tele rhythm pickups, with the added warmth and girth of dual coils.
The CTS 250k audio taper pots also give me a great tonal range, in that I can roll off some
treble and get more of a jazzy and warmer sound with the advantage of the humbucker's midrange warmth, or crank the tone knob for bite.
Routing was very easy
for the mini-hb, and only required about 1/2" or wood removal at the bottom of the original single-coil rout. The width of the original rout perfectly matches the outer
dimensions of the mini-hb's mounting tabs, and likewise, the hole in a regular Tele pickguard perfectly matches the width of the mini-hb, so you're already starting with good guidelines for
routing. I've always preferred the look of a body-mounted neck pickup in a Tele, rather than that of a pickguard-mounted one with adjustment screws (which can also be very easily done
with the mini-hb), so I mounted the pickup to the body in the same manner as a regular Tele rhythm pickup, adding some futon foam underneath the pickup to keep it level, as they can
tend to tilt upwards or downwards once the pickguard is on.
The mini-hb came with standard single-conductor/braided wire, and I used this
wire as the absolute, in that if the two pickups were out-of-phase at first, it was the bridge pickup that would be wire reversed. Important note about this...a Tele lead pickup with a
metal base has a small conecting wire on the baseplate that connects it to the ground wire node. It is important to keep it this way regardless of how you wire the pickup, so the
best thing is to disconnect that small wire from the ground node and attach a separate wire that will run into the control cavity to be grounded at all times. This way, you can simply
switch the two wires on the lead pickup to get things phased right. It's not a good idea to reverse the connections on a single-conductor humbucker, as you will be sending the hot
signal through the chrome cover, making it succeptible to noise and interference. The same applies to the lead pickup's baseplate, hence the isolated wire mentioned earlier. Also,
once the braided wire is in the control cavity and the pickup is wired up, you should insulate the remaining slack of braided wire with electrical tape so that the metallic braided wire
insulation (which also acts as the ground wire) does not touch a hot part of your controls or switch, effectively shorting the circuit.
Below are 3 links to some MP3 sound samples (about 680K each) of the three pickup
positions on the
Tele. My first time recording myself ever, with no band...it was a bit painful! The backing track is the same for all three, taken from
the Danny Gatton Rhythm
Guitar HotLicks video. The lead guitar is my Tele straight into the '68 Deluxe Reverb that you see in the picture. No effects other
than the amp's
And from there on, you're ready to go. The MIM Fender 50's Tele is an extremely well-built guitar of pro-level quality, in terms of wood and construction. It makes a terrific and
inexpensive platform to try these types of mods, if you are okay with the vintage spec fingerboard radius and small frets.