Les Paul 3 Pickup Alternative Wiring

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.


7 thoughts on “Les Paul 3 Pickup Alternative Wiring

  1. Thanks for sharing the diagram… I have the same guitar and this is exactly what i want to do with the wiring. Plus… i want to upgrade the pickups… I was thinking on putting the classic Gibson Burstbuckers for the vintage sound and put an SD Blackout Active Pickup for the middle for the metal high output… Or the other way around… Active pickups for Bridge and Neck and a burstbucker on the middle…
    However i have now idea if this would work or how could it sound which is most important… But i guess this could give the the versatility to jump from classic rock to metal and mix…
    Now my question is… do you have any advise, do you think this would work?

    • Thanks for getting in tough. I’m glad you liked the schematic.

      Whilst I’ve never done it, I’m sure you could wire up active and passive pups in the same axe. the issue you’ll have is that the volume and tone controls will be very different values for passive compared to active. so the only way you could do it would be to have 1vol and 1 tone for passive, and 1 vol and 1 tone for active pickups. then use a switch (maybe a push/pull pot) to switch the guitar output jack from active to passive pickup outputs. then your stock 3 way selector would be used for switching the neck to bridge (which would be either passive or active).

      If I’m honest, that does sound like it would be a real pain in the ass to get working well, but if you really want to do it, have fun and let me know how you get on… hey if it works I’d even offer to do a plog post about it as like an interview thing with you… but I’ll need a schem of some sort from you just to illustrate it all.

  2. Thanks for your input, its greatly appreciated. Just to make a long story short, yesterday I went to the Guitar Center in SF, CA. and we had a very interesting conversation with some of the people that works there about the Pros and Cons that take to do such modification in a LP guitar… I’m gonna have to quote you on this… “It will be a real pain in the ass to get it working well”. So now I have a new plan… I decided to go all “Passive” with the pickups, so I’ll try to get a set of Gibson’s Burstbukers Pro for the Bridge and Neck, and for the Mid i’ll use a Seymour Duncan Distortion Humbucker or an Ivader.
    This way i can still play around between classic, metal and mix them without dealing with all the trouble.

    The only thing i think i might add to the formula is a push pull pot for each Humbucker, But I’ll let you know whenever my project is ready how it sounds. Thanks again and any advise is more than welcome.

    • Sounds like a good plan. do as much of the wiring and soldering with the push/pull pots beofre you fit them to the guitar. it’ll be easier that way. also make sure you get quality pots and wiring as otherwise you’re compromising all your hhard work and the cost of the pickups πŸ™‚

  3. I Sure Will Rowbi, It’s funny that I’ve had Couple of electric guitars (Fender Strat and Ibanez Gio) over the last 10 years and I never did any work on them nor invested a peni on improvements. However now that i got this Gibson LP I want to pimp it all the way!!! so I’ll make sure to get the best components and do my best with the wiring πŸ˜€
    Thanks again for your advise πŸ˜€

  4. I had a couple of Burstbucker Pro V’s laying around from a pickup swap I had done on another guitar and asked my luthier to route out a black Gibson LP Studio for a 3rd pickup and put these two in neck and center (taking a router to a Les Paul was not something I was going to try to do myself). He called me after finding this diagram online and asked if I wanted to try it and I gave him the green light. The range of tones that I can get out of this guitar with this wiring scheme is amazing, almost limitless, best of all the Gibsons that I own. Thanks for the post.

Comments are closed.