Nashville Telecaster Fralin Pickups

The Nashville Tele Problem

Nashville Telecasters are an interesting hybrid of two of the most popular guitar styles out there. Nashville Teles offer a Telecaster body and feel, and Stratocaster pickup layout. By adding a middle pickup in between the Neck and Bridge pickups of a Telecaster, you can get more of that traditional Strat ‘Quack’ out of your Telecaster.

Adding a Middle Pickup might seem like an easy modification to do, but be forewarned: it’s not that simple. There’s a problem with pickup polarity that I’m calling the “Nashville Tele Problem’. Single Coil pickups have two critical aspects to their pickup polarity: Coil Direction and Magnetic Orientation. For more information on this subject, check out our article on pickup polarity here.

The pickups in a Telecaster feature a standard wound Bridge, and a Reverse-Wound, Reverse-Polarity (RW/RP) Neck. See below for an illustration:

One can argue that these two pickups are in the best possible situation: they are In-Phase and Hum-Cancelling. For more information on how Humbuckers work, check out our article on that here.


The Nashville Tele Problem:

Now, let’s add a pickup in the middle of them. For a thought experiment, I’m just going to add a random polarity Strat pickup. Adding this pickup creates a new issue: We are out of phase in Position 4 (Middle & Neck). If we reverse the Strat’s pickup coil direction and magnetic orientation, we will be out-of-phase tone in Position 2 (Middle & Bridge). The idea here is that just ‘putting a pickup in between’ can cause a few issues.

As a reminder, reversing the coil direction of one pickup will make the pickup out of phase with another of the same magnetic orientation. To put it back in phase, you need to reverse the magnetic orientation as well. See below for an illustration:

Simply reversing the leads in the control cavity does not solve this issue. Doing so creates a few other issues: Single Coil pickups will have ‘Hot’ magnets and covers, and will hum and buzz when touched.


Best Case Scenario:

The best-case scenario is to have the same polarity as your Bridge or Neck. You will at least be in phase, but not hum canceling. Take a look at the illustration below – here we are putting in a standard polarity Reverse Middle Strat Pickup in between:

Keep in mind, there are players that actually like this setup. If you use one of our Blender Pots, you can still achieve Hum Cancelling in the Bridge and Neck. So, dealer’s choice!


The Real Solution:

The real solution to the Nashville Tele Problem involves reversing the phase of one of the Telecaster’s original pickups. If you made the Neck the same polarity as the Bridge, you could put a RW / RP pickup in between. You’ll then have Hum-Canceling and correct phase in the entire guitar.

To reverse the phase of one of your pickups, it will need to be wound and magnetized opposite of what it is currently. This operation is time-consuming and expensive, so it’s worth looking at purchasing a calibrated set of pickups instead.

At Fralin Pickups, we make customized sets for our customers all the time. It’s a lot easier to do it when we make the pickups, not reverse them after they are wound and magnetized. If you are looking at converting your Telecaster into a Nashville Tele, take a look at our Telecaster Pickups and Stratocaster Pickups. You can select a Set of Telecaster Pickups and a Single Strat pickup and use the ’Order Notes’ field on the checkout screen to request a Nashville Polarity. We will make them customized for you – free of charge.


Written By:

Tyler Delsack

Tyler Delsack is the Manager of Fralin Pickups and spends his time editing and maintaining the website, designing graphics and ads, and making pickups. He's powered by Jazz Guitar, Vietnamese Food, Hiking, and Beer.

Author's Note: These blog posts are for educational and information purposes only. We do not offer custom wiring diagrams or wiring help or troubleshooting. For this, we recommend going to a local luthier or tech.

13 Comments

  1. I have a Nashville Tele. Want to upgrade the stock pickups. Do mostly old RR and a bit of blues. What do you recommend for pickups and do you recommend any rewiring and or pot changes??

  2. Why not use a Strat bridge or neck pick up in the middle position?

    I am working on a Frankencaster build right now where the plan is to use a Telecaster bridge and pickup, a Stratocaster neck pickup in the center position and a Stratocaster middle pick up in the neck position on a mini strat. Would that work?

    For background, the person I’m building this for is stringing it for Nashville tuning ( the octave strings of a 12 string set ) and wants the option to swap the middle and neck pickups back to optimize for Tele style bridge + neck or strat style before he settles on which way to keep it. Also he wants to put a push pull phase reversal switch in there too. Maybe that might solve the problem?

  3. I’m looking to build a Nashville tele with B Bender wiring where position 3 is the classic neck/bridge tele sound. What’s the best configuration of pickups to keep all 5 positions in phase and hum cancelling? Thanks!

    1. Hey Alan,

      As long as all pickups are wired like a Strat, you’ll be able to get hum canceling in positions 2 & 4. Combining the Neck and Bridge will be in-phase, but not hum canceling.

      If you want a Hum Cancelling Neck & Bridge, one of your middle positions will be in phase, but not hum canceling. It’s really up to you.

  4. Oak makes a 6 way blade switch. this would make standard strat 5 positions .Plus Tele neck-bridge at either end of the throw of the switch. not hard to wire up at all.

    1. Polarity-wise, yes. Tele’s usually have pretty specific pickup routs though.

      Tyler

      1. Thanks Tyler! I’m looking to order a custom body from Warmoth with strat routing. Hybrid moreso than a Nashville Tele. This helps though. Thank you again!

  5. I bought a used Nashville Tele with Fralin SP43 pickups. While I have not spent much time with this guitar, I haven’t noticed any issues with the various pickup combinations and presume they were bought together as a set. I did find that the previous owner continued using the stock 250k controls, and so I changed the volume control to 500k, as recommended, and am very pleased with the results.

  6. I have a Nashville Tele. The solution to my probem: When I bought a tele bridge, tele neck, and strat middle from Fralin the customer service person who helped me made sure I got the right pickups! Great customer service! Thanks, Fralin! I love my pickups!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *