When I started out with playing guitar, I quickly realised that if you wanted great guitar tone, then stock pickups on anything but top model guitars were a weak link. I also struggled to find much information on specific pickups, and therefore deciding what pickups I should buy for my guitar was a hard choice.
Now I know a little more, and having advised friends on their choice of pickup, I thought I’d put that info out for others to find.
A friend asked me to fit a new bridge pickup to his Epiphone Les Paul Black Beauty, which has 3 humbuckers. I suggested a Seymour Duncan JB as it’s a very popular pickup that is higher output that stock, but will also clean up with a turned down guitar volume. With a 2 pickup Les Paul, you get a volume and tone control for each pickup, which is very versatile. With a 3 pickup Les Paul, the controls aren’t quite so versatile, as the middle pickup is switched with another pickup.
To get around this, I discovered a way to use a master tone control, and then the other 3 controls are a volume control for each pickup. Below is a schematic of how to wire all 3 pickups to have their own volume control. The pickup selector is for the bridge and neck pickup only and the middle pickup is then available all the time via its own volume control. So with the middle pickup volume control at 0 (middle pickup off), you have a stock Les Paul with 2 pickups. Then wne you need it, the middle pickup can be dialed in as much or as little as you like.