How many times do you change clothes during the day? Two? Three? Oven? I tested this on myself recently. Waking up, I put on my flannel nightgown and pants, that’s one. After a morning shower, I put on the clothes that are appropriate for the day, either to go out to meetings or to be in front of the computer all day, there are two. As the day winds down, I can switch to “yard work” mode, go for a walk, or do some form of exercise, which requires another change, that’s three.

Then, before dinner, another quick change to something comfortable for the night, usually sweatpants and a sweater: that’s four. Add a night for dining and you get one more change – that’s five! Changing clothes five times in the course of a day may, on the surface, seem a bit excessive, but the truth is that each change serves a specific and distinct purpose. You wouldn’t wear your robe and flannel pants to a business meeting; and your business meeting attire might not be the best choice for lounging around the house at night.

An electric guitar is very similar. He has the ability to “change clothes” through the use of a selector switch. And as in the example above, each change, or setting, can have a specific and distinct tonal purpose.

To understand the tonal options available with a pickup selector switch on an electric guitar, it’s first necessary to understand how the switch works and why.

The pickup selector switch is connected to the guitar’s pickups and gives the guitarist the ability to choose various pickup combinations at any one time. Each pickup combination produces a different tone that the guitarist may want to use for the particular song he is playing.

Although there are many types of pickup selector switches on a wide variety of electric guitars, a good understanding of the subject can be gained by taking a closer look at two of the most common guitar models on the market. These are the Gibson Les Paul and the Fender Stratocaster. Each of these two legendary guitar models has its own legion of loyal fans who uphold the merits of one over the other. Many guitarists see the tonal importance of each and insist on having both available for any situation. . In addition, there are countless guitar manufacturers that produce guitars that emulate one or the other of these two famous models.

The differences between the Stratocaster and the Les Paul are many and literally the subject of another discussion, so let’s take a look at the differences in pickup selector switches between the two.

The standard “Les Paul” type guitar is usually built with a two “humbucker” pickup configuration. In this configuration there is a “neck” pickup and a “bridge” pickup. A neck pickup is, as the name implies, the pickup that sits closest to the neck or fingerboard of the guitar. The neck produces a “darker” “full body” tone. The bridge pickup is, also as the name implies, the pickup that sits closest to the bridge of the guitar and produces a “brighter” or “thinner” tone. The selector switch on a Les Paul-style guitar is normally a three-position or “three-way” switch. The three combinations of pickup selections available with the three-way switch are as follows:

position 1 – Activates only the neck pickup

position 2 – Activate only the bridge pickup

position 3 – This center switch position activates a combination of the two pickups

The standard “Stratocaster” style guitar is typically built with a three “single coil” pickup configuration.

In this configuration there is also a neck pickup and a bridge pickup, but there is also a middle pickup.

The selector switch on a Stratocaster-style guitar is typically a five-position or “five-way” switch. The pickup selection combinations available with the five-way switch are as follows:

position 1 – Switch in the most down position activates only the bridge pickup

position 2 – The following position engages a combination of the bridge and middle pickups

position 3 – This middle position activates only the middle pickup itself

position 4 – This position engages a combination of the neck and middle pickups

position 5 – This position activates only the neck pickup

A neat trick on the Strat-style pickup selector switch is to set the switch to the “middle” position. It’s a bit hard to find, but by flipping the switch “between” positions 1 and 2, or positions 4 and 5, you can get an additional pair of “out of phase” tones. This is a technique made famous by Jimi Hendrix, and it essentially turns a five-way switch into a seven-way selector!

Whether playing a Les Paul-style, Strat-style, or one of the many other models on the market, the pickup selector switch gives the guitarist the ability to tonally “change clothes” on the fly. What selector position should I use? It depends. It’s really a matter of personal interpretation. Different songs call for different tones, and many times you will use different pickup combinations within the same song. The key is to play around with all the shades you have available and find the one that works best for you.

Some players get stuck in a rut and are comfortable keeping the pickup selector in the same position all the time. Don’t let it be you. Always keep in mind the tonal “change of clothes” available to you at the flick of a switch, and keep your playing fresh and interesting by “dressing up” or “dressing up” whenever you want. strikes!

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