So I finally bought a Telecaster a little while back. They’re cool and all, but what I wanted wasn’t a stock Tele. What I wanted was a hybrid monster that looked like a Tele, but sounded like a monster all it’s own. Unfortunately, on a high gain amplifier, the stock Tele sounds noisy and terrible. It sounds super sweet and clean on a low gain setting, but that’s not where I spend most of my time.
Versatility was a key factor, and I wanted to be able to retain that signature Tele sound, but have more options. What I decided to do was replace the pickups and the controls with EMG active products.
First modification was the bridge pickup. I ordered a new bridge plate to accommodate a humbucker pickup instead of the single coil that it came with. I purchased the bridge plate, Schaller strap locks and a shiny new pick guard from Warmoth. I used a Dremel tool to route away enough wood to fit the humbucker pickup in the body. The pickup I chose was an EMG 81TW. This is unique in that it can be switched between humbucker and single coil operation. One of my favorite sounds on the Tele was the blending of the neck and bridge single coil pickups, and I wanted to be able to retain that.
Next up was more wood removal. I needed to make space for all the active controls in the control cavity. The push-pull pot used for volume and switching the bridge pickup mode is way deeper than any stock potentiometer. The header to connect the 81TW to the switch was also pretty wide. I had to drill out the hole between the bridge pickup cavity and the control cavity with a 3/8″ drill bit. What I was putting in place of the tone pot was just as large as the volume control. I never use the tone pot on guitars, so I decided to replace it with something useful. The EMG Afterburner. It’s a variable 0 to +20db gain booster. It’s also a push-pull design, so it takes up some extra room under the control plate.
With both push-pull pots, the pickup switch and the pickup bus in the control cavity, I didn’t have room for the battery. That had to be placed elsewhere. I routed out a cavity under the pick guard just above the control cavity to house the 9V battery.
And last but not least, I replaced the stock neck pickup with an EMG FTC. It’s a drop in replacement for the stock pickup, so no additional woodworking was necessary there. Put it all together under the hood of the new black pearloid pick guard, and you have one, unique guitar. I can get sounds ranging from tight, overdriven metal to smooth warm jazz tones.