Wiring pickups into even the most basic hardware setup can be a simple or a convoluted, complex task, depending on whether you know the basics or not.

In this article, we will explore all the essentials of pickup wiring and the most common mistakes you should avoid, so let's start.

Wire Types

The first thing guitarists should understand is that single-coil and humbucker pickups have different connectivity wires.

These may come as cloth-insulated wires, "shielded" (and often braided to ensure optimal durability), and multi-conductor styles.

Insulated wires are typically individual and have exposed tips so that you always know where the start and finish leads are no matter how messy the internal architecture is. Braided wires usually have tips on all except ground wires while conductor-style wires all run through a single cable with all tips coming from the end.

Single-Coil & Humbucker Wiring Colors

Most single-coil pickups have two wires, often colored in black and yellow while humbuckers normally have at least five - black, white, gray (bare), red, and teal (sometimes green).

Single-coil pickups only have “hot” (initial power source) and "ground" (return path) while humbuckers and dual-coil pickups have additional wires that can be used to connect them in parallel or series.

The color of each wire represents a different use, but each manufacturer has a different color code. For example, the "hot" wire in Fender pickups is colored green; it's black in Mojotone and Suhr pickups, and red in Bareknuckle pickups. So it is always better to learn the code before wiring or use a meter to gauge each wire.

Wiring Diagrams

Before you start connecting the wires of your pickups between each other and the remaining hardware such as caps and pots, you should first select a wiring diagram suitable for your particular guitar model.

Each type of guitar can be wired in many different ways depending on whether you’re using single coils, dual coils, or a combination of both.

The internal architecture of each guitar model is different, so it's important to carefully examine diagrams if the scheme can be translated to your particular case.

When connecting your pickups to volume and tone pots and the pickup selector switch, strive to have the lines never intertwine. It's usually smart to even use longer pushback wires if you need to run a longer line around the most obvious paths if the lugs of pots are hard to reach directly.

Introducing & Wiring Capacitors

Most modern-day guitars already have capacitors sitting between tone and volume control potentiometers. This is sometimes considered an "optional" piece of hardware, but since most players prefer clean, controllable tones with steady decay, you may want to introduce a cap if one isn't already in your guitar.

There are as many ways to link volume and tone pots with a capacitor as there are lugs on each side. The most popular method is to route the lowermost lugs of each pot to the cap so that the output is unobstructed. Alternatively, you can link the topmost lug of the volume to the lowermost lug of the tone for a vintage-esque sound.