Telecaster with a secret MIDI system

One Fender Telecaster, one mission: The installation of a MIDI system to allow direct connection to Roland’s guitar synths. So far no problem. But the MIDI system must be invisible and the guitar must keep all it’s normal functionality. A mission for LeBirné.

The challenge with the Telecaster mods is always to find the space for additional electronic components. A circuit board, switches, an additional 13-pin output; it all wants to be squeezed into the instrument. With the Strat it is a lot easier to hide all this under the pick-guard, but the Tele leaves no space under its metal cover plate.

So I opted for the following procedure and components:


In this case I had only one choice for the pickup system; it had to be something from the Graph Tech Ghost range. They produce these brilliant piezo saddles and a great, little circuit board to go with them. Had I used the Roland GK-Kit-GT3 as I have shown on my kiddy’s Ibanez guitar then the pickup would be a visible component that doesn’t go nicely with a Telecaster bridge.


The piezo saddles come with individual cables to be connected to the circuit board. This requires drilling six holes into the bridge. To find the best position for the holes it is best to drill right underneath the saddle. So I marked the positions of the individual saddles when the guitar was in perfect intonation.

I was afraid of taking away too much wood from underneath the bridge. That could result into less sustain through loosing contact surface of the bridge with the guitar’s body. So I routed six notches for the cables of the piezos. And yes, fitting the bridge with the saddles on to the guitar is then a bit fiddly ;-)

By the way, the Graph Tech solution works also good with Telecasters that have vintage bridges.


As said before the electronics circuit board also comes from Graph Tech. They call it ‘hexpander’. The six cables of the piezos are connected to that board. And from there the then processed signal continues to the 13-pin output jack.

To create some space for the hexpander I routed a cavity under the pick-guard. I find this the perfect position for any added electronics on a Tele.


I integrated the 13-pin jack into the frame above the normal output jack. It’s another Graph Tech component. The jack is mounted on a small circuit board that connects to the main board with a ribbon cable.


Some MIDI controls can be sent directly from the guitar when using some optional controls:

  • MIDI volume potentiometer
  • program change switch for patch up/down (S1/S2)
  • 3 position mix switch: only synth, only guitar or both

To keep the MIDI system hidden I had to integrate some of the controls into the existing set of controls. My solution: Reduction! The tone control I converted to the MIDI volume control. Any other functionality I left to be controlled by foot switches.


All normal functionality of the Tele is still there. It works with any guitar amplifier and doesn’t need batteries. But connect it to a Roland guitar synthesiser and the whole thing changes. It’s hardly visible but this guitar can play trumpets and drums! That’s what I call fun!


In one of the above pictures there is a version with a stacked pot. In that Telecaster there is even another Graph Tech piggybacked circuit: The ‘acousti-phonic’. This utilises the piezos to create an acoustic guitar sound. The power supply comes from the 13-pin connection. Having this acoustic sound available without the 13-pin cable would require another routing in the guitar for a battery compartment.

Actually, more MIDI controls could be integrated without drilling any more holes. It would be possible to swap the pots for some stacked pots (i.e. guitar tone control and on top MIDI volume control) or push-pull pots (S1/S2).


Want to have your own guitar converted? Contact me:

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