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View Full Version : So is it true P90 pickups aren't good for heavy metal?


JoeNewbie
04-23-2011, 11:45 PM
I've always been against Les Paul Juniors. I thought they were cheap guitars for posers. Well, that's until I got my custom shop reissue...

It's brutal, it's thick, and whether I play it clean or with very heavy distortion, I get amazing results.

Now, I also play a P90 through an R4 Custom, and it just sounds terrible cranked up. The aggression is all gone and I sound like a confused jazz player. Bad... ;)

Is it "normal" that the P90 sounds so different in my guitars?

Are there any other Junior fans who use their instrument for the heavier end of the spectrum?

m@2
04-24-2011, 12:08 AM
i use a LP junior with one P90 (made by edwards) for fairly heavy music \m/ \m/

memiller
04-24-2011, 12:12 AM
P90's are excellent for heavier music. Good midrange cut, full low end, high output. What else could you want?

They don't sound good in every guitar, but no pickup does.

TattooedCarrot
04-24-2011, 01:09 AM
lvKjGnApeZE (http://youtu.be/lvKjGnApeZE)

Jim S
04-24-2011, 01:49 AM
It is not true.

vortexxxx
04-24-2011, 03:28 AM
Classic 70's Black Sabbath = P-90s

Stinky Kitty
04-24-2011, 04:15 AM
Any pickup can do metal if there is enough "goosage" coming from other avenues. Stick a decent distortion pedal in front of a P90 or play a low output P90 through a Soldano SLO and it will sound mighty fine.

JoeNewbie
04-24-2011, 09:29 AM
Any pickup can do metal if there is enough "goosage" coming from other avenues. Stick a decent distortion pedal in front of a P90 or play a low output P90 through a Soldano SLO and it will sound mighty fine.

I agree 95%... ;)

I have enough pedals around here to have a total processed and unnatural sound... But yet my RI Strat and RI Tele will only take a certain amount of distortion before I sound like Sonic Youth. My ES-175? Forget it. Same with the R4 Custom.

I love my Junior... ;)

theruley
04-24-2011, 09:31 AM
MLiD-Rp1E1Q&feature

tbonesullivan
04-24-2011, 11:08 AM
My Hamer p90 specials + mesa boogie DC-5 with the EQ on and in a V: pure metal mayhem. If you want more proof, just listen to some Mountain. Leslie west pulled out some of the raunchiest rock tones I've ever heard from his LP Jrs.

LocustXReign
04-24-2011, 11:30 AM
Not at all. It's always been my secret weapon.

Deathmonkey
04-24-2011, 11:48 AM
I think the only knock on P90s as a metal pickup is the hum, especially with super high gain amps. But if you can ignore or tame that, go nuts. Green Day and Stone Temple Pilots get great heavy tones from P90s. I dunno if they'd work for super-technical Death metal, but I'm sure someone could make em work.

Bobby D
04-24-2011, 11:58 AM
only "old guys" like P-90s (thread from last year) :munch

LocustXReign
04-24-2011, 02:07 PM
Proper death metal is all about amp specifics IMO, how you eq it, and a low tuning goes a long way. I've put an LP jr through a 5150, an Engl, and a few other sundry high gainers for fun, and it pulls it off just fine.

V-man
04-24-2011, 02:21 PM
Take this FWIW since it isnt a "true" A-B, but I did a Gibson V single-bucker project last year, and settled on the P-rail as the lone pickup, giving me 4 tonal options in one. The P90 setting is warm and syncs well with a clean channel or with a little TS-9 boost through a Marshall, but when the gain is up and the muting and harmonics ensue, it is thin and neutered for a tight metal sound. I almost always click over to the humbucker at this point. The only "metal" the p90 does for me is early Danzig, and even then, it depends.

TD Moyer
04-24-2011, 02:30 PM
I had Ilitch Chiliatchhi (inventor of the Suhr backplate system) "silence" my '56 Gibson Historic LP w/ P90s...absolutely amazing how quiet it is without messing with my tone at all.

Made it possible for me to crank my Paul through my Naylor amp loud as balls without the crazy noise & hum that was there before...

Back to the point - a good P90 guitar can do pretty much anything you want it to but all pickups are not created equal. I've owned a Collings 290 that should've been amazing but was so "polite" it was, well, boring. To contrast, I've owned my '56 for ages and also owned one of Elliot Easton's old custom shop Juniors - both of which have the best, growly, aggressive P90s I've ever heard. Damn the booteek pups, an old Gibby P90 will do it all.

Nico.
04-24-2011, 02:59 PM
Ok. I tried the new SG's with P90's, and not only are they bad for heavy metal. I don't think you can play with more than moderates amount of gain, period.

Compared to say my other pickups: Suhr Aldrich, BKP Rebel Yell, Mules, JB, etc the P90's are really terrible under lots of gain. They flub out like you wouldn't believe, no low end, no note separation, and huge amounts of noise.
Having said that they work beautifully for clean and lightly overdriven sounds.

CharlyG
04-24-2011, 03:06 PM
In my day, heavy metal was Mountain , Black Sabbath, etc.

P90s were used by them........

Mississippi Queen was done on a Paul Jr with a P90 in the bridge.

bluzkat
04-24-2011, 03:42 PM
only "old guys" like P-90s (thread from last year) :munch

That's cuz us 'old guys'... know *stuff*!! :p


:cool:

Halowords
04-24-2011, 04:02 PM
Would it depend on what you classify as "heavy metal?" Nothing against the Black Sabbath, Green Day, or Stone Temple Pilots examples, they may all be great examples of bands with nice P90's tones, I'm not sure any of those are what come to mind when I think "Heavy Metal." Black Sabbath and Stone Temple Pilots have a slightly driven Classic Rock sound, and Green Day is a Post Punk band turned pretty standard Rock band/love letter to John Lennon. Sure, you could use P90's for a "Metal" band, but might not be the best choice for something like Opeth, Slipknot, Meshuggah, or Neurosis. That said, I've read Isis used P90's to some extent.

Overall, there is some that I think humbuckers would be a better choice for, but Isis did some pretty heavy music (and some nice lower-gain melodic stuff) so there is some that I'm sure P90's would surprise people with. Still, I'm not buying Green Day or STP being very convincing arguments for the opinion that "P90's are great for Metal" and think there is a lot of metal where it would be a stretch for P90's to be considered the ideal first pickup choice.

-Cheers

V-man
04-24-2011, 04:08 PM
As above, awesome sounds, some of whom STILL reign as metal gods (i.e., Sabbath) but rules for metal shifted. With sledgehammer hits you can get away with a good aggressive fuzz, but fuzz is a no go for most metal. I imagine P90s apply similarly. Granted Adrian Smith used a strat, but the issue is whether the OP wants to "nail" metal tone/dynamics, or use less conventional stuff for his own sound.

CharlyG
04-24-2011, 04:46 PM
The definition of metal has changed over the years. When the term was first used, it was for Mountain, Sabbath Grand Funk, etc.

So you can say they are classic rock, but when classic rock was being played they were heavy metal. Classic Rock was more Wings, Moody Blues, Heart, Fleetwood Mac etc.

Trust me, I was there........... In fact check out this video at 3:36

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x6chChxzV0


THAT is metal (when it started). It is an aluminum guitar, and sound metallic!!

Halowords
04-24-2011, 05:21 PM
The definition of metal has changed over the years.

Yeah, there is a definite spectrum. Iron Maiden did their stuff on stock Stratocasters I believe, and early Metallica was largely done on a stock Gibson Flying V. So I'm sure there is a lot you can do with P-90's that you could call Metal. I'd still say they are probably less of an ideal fit for most Heavy Metal that wasn't really just the edgier extreme of straight-up Rock 'N Roll. There's nothing wrong with that just there are probably sounds/styles or areas within the spectrum that an appropriate output humbucker makes more sense. But if a P90 pushed to a certain level is your thing it can certainly fall within (or be used for) some Heavy Metal or Metal-ish sounds.

I can't imagine it would be the best choice for most of what I consider to be Metal that is not just more in line with more straight-forward Rock.

HyakuShiki
04-24-2011, 05:27 PM
As I recall, the metal band The Sword's guitarist plays with a Junior with a P-90.

paranoid70
04-24-2011, 08:55 PM
If you are trying to cover something like Slayer... maybe not. But if you are writing your own music, go nuts with the P90, I am sure it will sound great.

somedude
04-25-2011, 07:08 AM
I use an R6 Les Paul into a Dual Rectifier.

It does metal no problem. It's powerful and percussive with more clarity than most humbuckers. The only thing special I do is roll the tone knob down so that it's not feeding so much top end into the amp.

The "sledgehammer" effect in modern rhythm tones is produced by the cab/speakers and not the pickup.

The only drawback is the hum. I use a noise gate and bring a Les Paul Standard as a backup.

Sun Creature
04-25-2011, 07:30 AM
Listen to the Corrosion of Conformity song 'Albatross' the intro is a Les Paul with P90 neck on, sounds like a tugboat.

TattooedCarrot
04-25-2011, 12:11 PM
Listen to the Corrosion of Conformity song 'Albatross' the intro is a Les Paul with P90 neck on, sounds like a tugboat.
Really? I always thought Woody played SG's with Duncans.

somedude
04-25-2011, 12:53 PM
Really? I always thought Woody played SG's with Duncans.

He does.

In the example above it's Pepper who has the Les Paul. I'm not sure if it was actually used on the song or is a music video prop.

rKPicUnsPPg

Sun Creature
04-25-2011, 12:56 PM
No, he conformed it in an guitarworld article. He said it was a Goldtop P90 LP with the neck p'up on straight into his Mesa 50 Caliber +.

TattooedCarrot
04-25-2011, 12:57 PM
He does.

In the example above it's Pepper who has the Les Paul. I'm not sure if it was actually used on the song or is a music video prop.
Gotcha, and for some reason I was thinking of the solo intro to Wiseblood with the heavy Woody vibrato in the lead. In the Albatross video Pepper is playing what looks like a gold top LP with P90's.

chatsworth
04-25-2011, 12:58 PM
P-90s sound killer with alot of gain on em. They're some of the most rockin pickups around

Keyser Soze
04-25-2011, 01:07 PM
A P90 has a wider tonal range as compared to a humbucker. So it does have all the highs, lows, and mids already built in - whatever might be necessary to craft just about any given sound.

Iommi used P90s early on (and Sabbath is most definitely metal) but also used a treble boost, and most importantly he wasn't playing the bottom, that was all Geezer Butler. It is also important to consider that early metal didn't have nearly the levels of distortion that people tend to think is 'metal.' For the most part it was clean-to-crunchy, but damn loud. It really wasn't until bands like Judas Priest came along that metal got buzzy gainy.

You could, with enough signal processing and the right amp, make a P90 do what is necessary for some modern varieties of metal. Although I think you'd be hard pressed to do EVH style muting/dynamics a la Panama with the relatively low output signal of most P90s.) But where you are probably going to have major troubles is doing so while also controlling the noise level - especially in any sort of live setting.

tsar nicholas
04-25-2011, 01:07 PM
Greg Anderson [Goatsnake, Sunn0)))] uses a goldtop Les Paul with P-90s, and there aren't too many tones out there heavier than his, if you ask me.

Somedude is right about the punch coming from the amp as opposed to the pickups. I think that the P-90s give a ringing clarity that helps define notes when playing through a cranked amp.

DavidLM
04-25-2011, 01:42 PM
I remember an article on the making of one of Rob Zombie's albums. They said the goto guitar had a P-90. Some of that stuff is pretty heavy.

I will disagree with Keyser above. I don't think P-90's have a wider tonal range than HB's. I think P-90's are very mid-focused with more highs than HB's.

Best for metal, IMO, in order from least to best:
single coils
single coil size HB's
P-90's
PAF-type HB's
high output passive HB's and active EMG HB's

Most metal guys don't even mess around with anything but the last option, high output passive HB's and active EMG HB's, but experimentation is fun too.

somedude
04-25-2011, 03:14 PM
Best for metal, IMO, in order from least to best:
single coils
single coil size HB's
P-90's
PAF-type HB's
high output passive HB's and active EMG HB's

Most metal guys don't even mess around with anything but the last option, high output passive HB's and active EMG HB's, but experimentation is fun too.

If I want to thrash I find PAFs a little fat/slow. P90s have nearly the speed and percussiveness as the EMG 81, and they retain a little more "character" than the 81. I think they'd be way more popular if it wasn't for the noise.

DavidLM
04-25-2011, 04:07 PM
Good points, somedude.

And since good gates like the MXR Smart Gate and ISP Decimator exist, the noise should only deter the unadventurous.

I'm happy with a 498T HB for almost everything these days but have spent some time with P-90's. The P-90 is just rude - like no other. I can see their appeal.

raul
04-25-2011, 05:12 PM
ok, so if you wanna get Soundgarden heavy, Sabbath...stoner but not too metal but still loud rude and aggressive you can do it with a P90...geez, even Soundgarden used or uses Telecasters! with a noise gate of some sort, almost anything is possible...yes?

i love heavy music and the idea of clarity and heavy is important for me...so i think a Tele is a good idea. as with a P90 of course, different pickups but more clarity and get quite pissed off!

somedude
04-25-2011, 07:39 PM
I can do up to Lamb of God, which is about the most extreme I get in my playing.

Les Paul (P90) -> MXR Smart Gate -> Mark V (on Mark IV mode)