The Guild S300 is one of the best Guitars ever built. My S300-SD used to be a S300-D. The playability was and is divine, the sound was not what I needed on stage with the Bluebirds.To get snappy sounds from the lower strings of my S300-D, I needed serious single coils. Tired of dragging one of my Strats or one of my beloved Fairytale Guitars in addition to a Humbucker Guitar along to most of my about 100 Live-Gigs every year – or listening to my Band leader’s complaints about the same old sound of the Guild, I was thinking about a modification of the S300. Shortly after that I read in Guitar Player Magazine (do they have ESP?) an article with wiring diagram about the Jimmy Page Les Paul and the special wiring/switching it had/has (“The mother of all wiring mods”) to achieve all the amazing different sounds that Jimmy Page used with Led Zeppelin. And I just had the feeling that this could be the perfect solution for my sound problems. Click here to see the pdf file of this Guitar Player Magazine article “shop talk” from the June 2008 issue with the wiring diagram.
And yes, it turned out to be just that: the perfect combination of hardware that puts every guitar sound ever invented at my fingertips. Each pickup is switchable as Single Coil/Humbucker with the volume push-pull pots. In addition to that the tone push-pull pots switch the pickups out of phase and in series. Four push pull pots are enough to do the trick and no drilling or irreversible modification is required.
So I sent an email to Seymour Duncan (where the article in Guitar Player actually originated), explained my plans and they recommended the SH-3 Stag Mag for vintage Stratocaster sound switchable to serious Humbucker sound.They also suggested to take two to match the output of the Pickups. So I bought two SH-3s, four push-pull pots and my friend Oscar Garcia (pictures) from Southgate offered to solder the project. And he did it perfectly. What a crazy amount of work.
But it was absolutely worth it. This guitar – in my possession since the mid 80’s – sounds just amazing. Anything from Tele-ish and Strat sounds to brutal Disco and fat Jazz (L5 like) sounds. The upgrade to the Seymour Duncan PUs did not hurt that much, considering – as we found out – that someone soldered a weird DiMarzio in the Neck position, replacing the original Guild pick up. Even though this S300-D should have had two DiMarzios in it instead of two Guild Pick ups originally, it was initially equipped with Guild Humbuckers. The GuitarTech who replaced the Guild PU with the unauthorized and strange sounding DiMarzio PU did this in the early 80’s and – for good measure – placed or forgot a condom (…this is a sample – not for sale…) in the rear compartment at the time. We replaced it with a current model without affecting the sound significantly.
What affected the sound significantly were the amazing Stag Mag SH-3 pickups. I was a bit afraid after I read a review from a “professional” on a website. It went a little bit like this: “Have a Gibson SG, put the SH-3 pickup in. Sound bad. The Humbucker sound is just like the Single Coil sound, just twice as loud. Took it off again…”
Let me put BS like this to sleep. The Single Coil sounds of the Seymour Duncan SH-3s (click on the picture to visit the website) are really vintage Strat sounding. Bell like, clear and clean and unforgivingly present. You can really hear the low strings defined and clear – just like a Strat (besides owning two Fender Stratocasters, I also played along to the video The last Waltz of The Band with Eric Clapton’s Strat soloing in the video. The Bridge Pickup SC sounds exactly like Eric’s sound (Bridge PU on his Strat). What more can you ask for?
The pickups are unbelievably clean and clear, piercing and when you think a note, it already rings out.
Here is an email from a fellow musician about this idea:
Just dropping a line to say thanks as I own a ’79 Guild Mahogany S-300 (Lefty) and, taking your advice, installed a set of Seymour Duncan Stag Mags (though I flipped upside down for lefty) and sounds amazing!
Instead of the Jimmy Page mod, I opted for an on-off-on toggle to split each coil individually as well as full HB. Because I flipped the pups due to the staggered poles, I wasn’t sure which SC would sound better so I chose to split each and now I have many more tone options to choose from! I play in a classic rock cover band and needed a strat option for my Guild as you did, and came across your mod.
Very happy with the results!
Thanks again and keep rockin’!