All aboard, mateys! Join our ship of fools as we sail the fiercest seas of guitar electronics: Yes, the legendary Jimmy Page wiring scheme. There will be NO QUARTER for pickup pussies!
Actually, there will be a great deal of quarter as we help each other with this cool but tricky project. I’ll be disembolwing the black Les Paul Custom I wrote about here. My hope is that many of you will join me on this voyage. We can troubleshoot together, share tips, and
commiserate after we’ve destroyed a bunch of nice guitars other things.
As you probably know, this complex wiring scheme transforms a standard Les Paul into an über-versatile tone machine with added series/parallel, phase-canceling, and split-coil options. It was the means by which Pagey reproduced the many Telecaster and Danectro parts from Zep’s studio albums when performing live.
We’ll cover the classic arrangement, with four push/pull pots. Then we’ll go a step further: If you add a pair of Seymour Duncan Triple Shot Mounting Rings to the mix, you get many more options than with the original scheme. Yes, we can all be bigger badasses than Pagey.
(FWIW, I’m less interested in cloning Page’s setup than in mastering the ins and outs of alternative humbucker wiring. So think of this as a chance to explore all available options, and refine a mod that works best for you.)
Here’s what you must have before setting sail:
You don’t need to have a Les Paul — but you do need a dual-humbucker guitar with two volume knobs and two tone knobs. You’ll probably get great results with a budget-priced Epiphone, especially if you upgrade the pickups. You can also do it with any number of inexpensive, used Les Paul knockoffs, like the Aria Pro II shown here.
You don’t need a particular brand or style of humbuckers, but they must both use four-connector wire. (It’s possible to hack pickups with single-connector wire, but you’re on your own there, matey — I can’t help.) For a Page-like sound, it helps to have vintage-voiced humbuckers. (I’ll be using a pair of Duncan ’59s with four-connector wire.) But you’ll probably get cool results with hotter-output pickups as well.
For the classic Page setup, you’ll need four 500K push/pull pots like these or these, which will set you back about $40US, not including the usual wire, solder, and tools. For the “Pagey Plus” option, you’ll need a pair of Triple Shot Mounting Rings (street price about $60US) but only two push-pull pots, for a total cost of about $80US. Be sure to determine whether your guitar requires regular-style pots, or the long-shaft pots of the type found in vintage Les Pauls.
This isn’t exactly a cheap project, but it’s definitely more manageable than a signed and aged Gibson Page signature model for $25,882.
The usual disclaimers apply: Don’t do stupid stuff. I can’t assume responsibility for the safety of you, your guitar, or your home. Heck, I can’t even assume responsibility for myself! And seriously, this probably isn’t a sensible first project for workbench n00bs. If you haven’t soldered or installed your own pickups before, please check out some of the beginner’s projects at Tonefiend DIY Club.
Anyone still here?
Good. Then click here to download the Pagey Project Pack, which includes wiring diagrams for both versions and a great article on Page wiring by Seymour Duncan pickup brainiac Scott Miller.
This is going to be a fun one. And when the
smoke has cleared work is done, you’ll either have an incredibly powerful musical instrument, or the lifelong right to declare, “Regular Les Paul wiring is plenty good for me, thanks!”
I’ll be posting photos and demos in the coming days. See you then!