Electric guitar wiring - watch that flying solder!

You can tackle electric guitar wiring if you have the inclination and the basic knowledge of wiring and soldering. It's not too difficult to work on the guts of an electric guitar.

Most people are naturally curious and take out plate that covers the electronics just to see what's what.

electric guitar wiring,stratocaster

Below is a list of common components that are in every electrified guitar that will, at least, demystify what turns a string pluck into an electronic sound.

  • Pickup(s)- wire wound magnets that turn mechanical sound into electronic sound. I won't get into pickup repair. That's out of the scope of this page. Anyway, I would just toss a bad pickup and buy a new one.
  • Volume and Tone controls (pots)- controls volume and tone of a particular pickup that its wired to.
  • Selector switch(es)- Used to control which (or both) pickup is being used.
  • Jack and Jack plate- where the plug from the amplifier goes.
  • Wiring harness- ties everything together.

Caution: Before you proceed- Do not do anything repair-wise to a vintage guitar. This could destroy its value. Take it to a professional luthier to have anything done to it.

This page is for the guy who wants to work on his electric guitar wiring to change pots or pickups on a guitar that's anything but a vintage or rare guitar.

Tools you need:

Wire cutters

Long nose pliers

Solder iron


Razor knife

For this lesson on electric guitar wiring, you may need a Phillips screwdriver, flat-blade screwdriver, an adjustable wrench, and some fine metal sandpaper

To change a scratchy pot or dead pickup:

  • Clean off your work space. You have to lay your guitar down.
  • Put down some old towels or blankets to protect the guitar body.
  • Plug in your soldering iron and put on stand to heat up.(keep it far enough away so you don't accidentally knock it over.)
  • If your working on a Strat-type guitar, you have to remove the strings.
  • Take out the screws holding the cover to the electronics and remove the cover. Be careful with a Strat-type guitar as the electronics are attached to the cover.
  • If your replacing a pot, loosen and remove the nut holding the pot in place.
  • For pickup replacement, remove the pickup ring (if the guitar has one), and take out the two screws holding the pickup to the body.
  • Be careful handling the parts, you don't want to tear or break any wires.
  • Have your reference ready. Don't rely on your memory. It didn't work for me!
  • Note where all the wires come and go. Sketch a diagram for later reference if your guitar differs from your reference.
  • Carefully touch the hot solder iron to the solder you want to melt. If the iron is at the correct temperature, the solder button will liquefy immediately and you can then carefully remove the wire.
  • Repeat the above step until all of the wires are disconnected from the part you are replacing.
  • Sand the spot you want to solder the new wire to. Do this very lightly, just enough to scuff the area.
  • Unspool some solder and touch the hot iron to the solder. This will melt a small amount that will wick onto the solder tip. Caution- Try not to breathe the fumes created!
  • Touch the hot tip to the part you are soldering along with the tip of the wire you want attached. Do this for only a moment, you don't want to overheat the part.
  • Repeat the above step until all of the wires are attached.
  • Plug your guitar into the amp to make sure the connections are attached properly.
  • Reverse the beginning steps and put everything back together.

Disclaimer: Be careful handling a hot solder iron and be aware of where's it's at. You don't want to burn yourself or burn down your house! Always make sure you unplug the iron when you are done.

In the near future, I will be adding pictures to the above steps. I know some people are visual (I am!) and I think they will be a tremendous help. Soldering can be a real pain sometimes. The iron doesn't heat up fast enough, the melted solder won't stick to the part, the wire pulls away, etc.

It will take practice, but if you take your time, you can get it done pretty quickly. Also beware of the flying, burning through your pants, hot drops of melted solder!

With a little bit of luck you can change pickups and repair electric guitar wiring any time you want!

For more wiring ideas check out Electric Guitar Info.com


Here are some diagrams of electric guitar wiring...

electric guitar wiring,stratocaster,fender

electric guitar wiring,telecaster,fender

electric guitar wiring,les paul,gibson

Check out my new blog for more information on electric guitars!

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