Vintage Versus Modern Telecaster Wiring

If you’re a Fender Telecaster diehard, you’re more than likely familiar with the two major accepted wiring schemes the main line of the instrument has seen during its life, known simply as Vintage (sometimes referred to as “Dark-Tone” or "Blackguard") and Modern wiring. If you didn’t know, these two wiring schemes represent a major turning point for the instrument and one of the few changes made during the CBS era that most players tend to agree as being a net positive. Sure, there have been subtle changes along the way, but the two mentioned in this article are the accepted standard when it comes to Vintage and Modern wiring schemes.


Vintage Telecaster Wiring 


Vintage Telecaster Wiring


From taking a look at the three positions, it becomes clear that these presets don’t lend themselves well to most Telecaster player’s playing style as there is no position for the bridge and neck combined, which has become a signature aspect of a Tele’s tone. Despite an increasingly growing demand for an alternative wiring scheme, Leo Fender stuck with this design throughout his tenure. Sure, there were players that liked the “Dark Tone” of the third position (Jazz players, for example), but most players didn’t have much use for it. This led to many players modifying their own Telecasters in order to add a position for the bridge and neck combo.



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A Move To Modern Wiring

It wasn’t until 1967 when Leo was no longer a consultant for the then CBS-owned company that things finally changed – although it wasn’t primarily because they wanted to make players happy. In order to cut costs and maximize profits, CBS decided to simplify the wiring scheme and reduce the number of capacitors used. This new design is what we now know as the Modern Telecaster wiring. As mentioned above, the specifics of this design continued to evolve, but the basics of this scheme can be seen in the diagram below.


Modern Telecaster Wiring


Not only does this wiring scheme allow for tonal control on all three positions, it finally allowed a bridge and neck combination straight from the factory, with no mods necessary. While CBS made the change in order to save money, it also happened to be a design that most players wanted, making it a benefit for both the company and consumers.


Telecaster Wiring Today

Hopefully, the information above has given you a better perspective on the major differences between Vintage and Modern schemes. Again, things continued to subtly change over the years, such as the potentiometer and capacitor values, but generally speaking, the overall wiring design has remained in use because of the versatility and tone it offers players. And while other wiring schemes have grown popular over the years – such as the Telecaster Four-Way Mod – Modern wiring has remained the most common Telecaster design, and for good reason.

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What wiring scheme do you prefer?

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