My Custom Suhr Guitar Decision Making Journey (Part 3)

This is part 3 of a 4-part blog. You can read part 1 and 2 here: An Update On My New Suhr Lefty Modern Guitar and My All-Time Favorite Custom Suhr Modern

Every little decision is another step forward towards the birth of this guitar.

Finally having made up my mind that the guitar had to have a humbucker – single coil – humbucker (hsh) configuration, it was time to figure out which wiring configurations I wanted.

I figured: if I have spent THAT long to really make this the best possible guitar ever, and have gone through so many decisions up to where I was now with the vision of this guitar, I could as well go all out then, reach for the stars, and get an entirely custom designed pick up configuration as well then.

I decided that I wanted:

  1. Every possible Fender Stratocaster single coil sound
  2. Every possible Les Paul humbucker sounds
  3. Get as close as possible to the Telecaster sounds
  4. And get close to also getting the SG guitar sounds.
  5. 10 different pick up configurations, giving me a wide array of 10 different guitar sounds. (the way to do this is by having a 5-way pick up selector switch, with a push pull knob affecting all the 5 positions on the switch. This gives you 2 pick up configurations assigned to every setting of the selector switch, depending on the position of the tone knob being pulled up or pushed down)

Now: THAT was tough.

Again: many hours of research, which led me to come up with a the configuration I thought was going to get me very close to all the sounds I wanted.

I hand drew it out and sent my idea to Suhr.

hsh configurations

I felt very adamant about wanting THAT particular configuration in that particular order.
The reason why I felt strongly about wanting this specifically, is that the first 6 selector switch settings have exactly the very same 6 configurations as the Guthrie Govan Suhr.

(My current Guthrie Govan inspired Suhr Modern has a 5 way switch + push pull on the tone knob giving me a 6th pick up configuration/sound)
It was going to make it a lot easier for me to intuitively now where all the sounds are on my new suhr.

After a couple of days, I got news back that their team had studied it, and had concluded that this could not be done.

I was not sure if that meant that it literally really could not be done, or if they were simply reluctant to put in the time it was going to take to figure this out.
After all: they already had spent a lot of time communicating back and forth with me about a billion guitar making decisions.

I responded back, with a picture I had found on the Ibanez site. The graphic shows the pick up configuration on the signature Herman Li Ibanez guitars.

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Somehow, at this point some sort of misunderstanding happened.

I never intended to want the Herman Li pick up configuration in my new Suhr. I wanted my configuration to be what I had hand drawn.

I only emailed the people at Suhr Guitars this graphic of the Herman Li pick up combinations, to dispel their claim that it was not possible to have 10 different pick up sounds with an hsh and a 5-position selector switch.

However: a couple of days later, the amazing people at Suhr got back to me with the amazing news, that my request would be possible after all, and with this following pick up configuration chart:

Herman Li Pup Diagram

I studied it and something seemed off.
I compared it to my hand drawn chart, and it seemed like there were mistakes in the diagram.

Then I realized:
this diagram was a map of the Herman Li configuration which I had emailed merely as an example, NOT of the hand drawn configuration I had sent, which represented what I really wanted.

After lots of emailing back and forth, lots of deliberation and decision making, we finally came up with a compromise I am super happy with.

This following diagram shows the guitar pick up schematic I settled on.

It is actually also an improvement over the Herman Li pick up wiring.
When you compare both the above and the below diagrams, then you see that in the 4th position (of the pick up selector switch) of the Ibanez Herman Li model, P/P In (push pull knob in) and P/P Out both give the same pick up setting.
The Ibanez in other words gives 9 different configurations.

In the below custom wiring scheme, you can see that I get 2 different configurations in the 4th position, which gives me 10 different pick up sounds.

Vreny Suhr Modern hsh Configuration 5.30.13

This is going to be the best, most amazing guitar I ever owned or played.

(To be continued soon with Part 4 of this guitar building journal, The final part, including the ultimate spec sheet of my dream guitar)


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  1. Roberto Says:

    Hello, In the scheme of custom wiring, the bridge pickup does not work. I tried several times, but connecting wires: Black and ground together, white and green to ground, does not work. You have to connect the red and white together. # 2 will work the pickup at the bridge and not the # 1.

    January 31st, 2014 at 4:20 pm
  2. Robert Bastian Says:

    I love your custom wiring concept, looks like you covered just about all the bases in pickup configs. The guitar as a whole must be amazing. How is this working out for you now that you’ve played it for while? How is the noise in the single coil positions?

    I’m looking for a lightweight Strat-type guitar with a wide range of timbres. I just played an American Deluxe Strat HSS and it was very playable and versatile for the price. I’m weighing that versatility against the basic pro Suhr models which are closer to my budget.

    July 1st, 2014 at 5:23 pm
  3. ZOTZin Music Says:

    Yeah I love light guitars too. πŸ™‚

    I think the pro Suhr’s might actually be higher in quality than most Fender strats, even the Deluxe model. As with anything: important to do tons of research before buying and to try it all out as much as possible.

    My custom Suhr is truly amazing indeed. Best guitar I ever ever played or will ever play. it does anything I want it to do and then some. πŸ™‚ The noise in the single coils is exactly as you would expect from a single coil. Not louder than normal for a single coil. Te noise might actually be quieter, but I would really only know for sure that it is, if I would hook up my strat and compare the sound of my Suhr single coils to my strat pick ups. Would love to hear you play Robert. If you have YouTube videos or a website, by all means let me know!

    July 10th, 2014 at 12:21 pm
  4. Robert Bastian Says:

    Hi, really sorry I didn’t respond sooner–thanks for your reply! I played a bunch of Suhrs and Tom Andersons and bought a Rasmus Suhr Modern since I posted here.

    I used to be a violinist but had to stop performing due to injuries. I started picking up my old Ibanez Bob Weir model recently and found I could play it better than I thought and I’m really enjoying getting my guitar chops back. The Ibanez weighs a ton and isn’t balanced well, hence the search for a lighter, more ergonomic instrument. I also wanted a guitar with a wide tonal palette.

    One of the Andersons I played had an HSS & “Switcheroo” setup with options for of splitting / series / parllel. Really versatile but kind of fussy to deal with.

    I ended up buying the Rasmus for much less $ and I’m loving how it plays effortlessly! Also love the pickups but it just has standard wiring. I’m going to hold on to your wiring diagram and see if I can find someone local to do that or a similar mod for me. Maybe Suhr could also do it if I shipped it out.

    I don’t have any guitar music up anywhere right now. I do have a SoundCloud account with a few electronic music experiments if you’re at all interested:

    https://soundcloud.com/zaph0d-bx

    You really got a beautiful instrument. Maybe I’ll invest in a custom model someday but I’m really pleased with my Rasmus for now.

    August 10th, 2014 at 3:32 pm
  5. Vernon Chapman Says:

    Hi, just curious, from the diagrams above, how to tell what switch contacts are represented by positions 1 through 5? Thanks.

    July 14th, 2015 at 8:46 pm
  6. ZOTZin Music Says:

    Hi Roberto,
    I’m not sure why you’re not getting it to work. Make sure that you indeed use the 2nd (not the first) diagram, which is what the Suhr electronics people custom designed for me and that we ended up using in my guitar. It’s true that in the first diagram, there are only 9 possible settings/selections.

    July 14th, 2015 at 10:44 pm
  7. ZOTZin Music Says:

    Hi Vernon.

    I don’t know enough about electronics or about reading such flow charts myself to answer that question. The electronics experts at Suhr guitar charted out all my pick up and switching requests. It was a long process of back and forth communications and trials… but we made it work. They initially said that “what I wanted couldn’t be done”. πŸ™‚

    I was being really annoying with them, pushing and prodding… but somehow it paid off because the Suhr peeps did indeed end up finding ways to make all the wiring work. I’m getting 10 different pick up sounds covering a wide spectrum of guitar sounds.

    Sorry I can’t be of more help . The main thing that was of interest to me personally, is the listing in the upper right corner, showing the configurations I get. πŸ™‚ The actual chart/diagram showing how the wiring works and how to put it together, was of lesser interest to me personally since I don’t know enough about it all anyway to understand what everything on the chart means.

    I have a feeling that if I looked at the diagram long enough and did research, that I would be able to figure it all out… but playing guitar is so much more fun. πŸ™‚

    July 14th, 2015 at 11:15 pm
  8. Vernon Chapman Says:

    Thanks for your response… Guess I will try to ask Suhr, although, since I am not buying from them (except pickups) they probably won’t answer… Sigh…

    October 26th, 2015 at 2:01 pm