Nashville Telecaster Fralin Pickups

The Nashville Tele Problem

Last Updated: October 18th, 2021

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 Strats’ pickup coil direction and magnetic orientation, we will be out of phase 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:

When adding a Fralin Strat middle in between a Fralin Tele Set, this is what will happen:

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 (Manager, Fralin Pickups)

👋 I'm Tyler Delsack, the Manager of Fralin Pickups. Along with managing the shop and working on this Website, I run my own website to provide free Jazz Guitar lessons.


26 Comments

  1. Mitchell Webersays

    Would you recommend replacing one of the pickups with a single coil sized humbucker or P-90? I thought it may be a cool mod, but which pickup would you replace? Would the middle be a good location?

    1. Sure! I don’t see why not. The Bridge position might be a good place to get some thicker tones and more bite out of.

  2. John Schancksays

    I have pro 2 telecaster and have all ready up graded the pickups to Fralin stock pickups and would like to make it in to a Nashville telecaster can you suggest a proper middle pick up to do this.

    1. Hey John, the Vintage Hot will be the perfect companion for our Stock Tele (Now re-named Vintage Hot Tele). Also, check out this article here regarding adding a middle pickup to a Tele set: The Nashville Tele Problem

  3. Chris Suttonsays

    I am interested in a set of your pickups to go into my Nashville Tele?

    1. Give us a call or email us at [email protected] if you need help deciding! We’re happy to help talk through your tone to help you find the perfect set.

  4. Does Gerherd #1 solution work ? ok then. 2nd comment; yes don’t wish to destroy or alter the original sound; even leaving the humbucker alone by itself ; on the 5 way is also an option. . can you switch in all 3 or; will it hum ? or again; in phase with the next to have the middle and next the same polarity

    Did Gerherd plan work ? switch in middle alone and mid/neck can be switched ?

  5. Gerhardsays

    just get a middle pickup with the same polarity/orientation as the neck pickup. then wire your bridge pickup to the middle of your 5 way. 2 an 4 position work as planned.

  6. Does it get more complicated with a humbucker pickup in the middle? Or can it work? I love the sound of my existing Tele pickups and to replace them would defeat the purpose.

  7. Charles Smithsays

    I bought a Nashville tele a few months ago because like the out of phase Strat sound but very disappointed. Like dead sounding lack of power. Any ideas>

    1. Tyler Delsacksays

      It sounds like someone installed a middle Strat pickup in between two Tele Pickups causing one out of phase tone as described in the article above. Do all pickups have lack of power? That would indicate that there’s something else wrong with your guitar, and it’s worth taking to a luthier to check out.

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