Curved Pickups? (lipstick? 3" radius?)

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by CelloFingers, Apr 12, 2016.

  1. CelloFingers

    CelloFingers Member

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    I am looking to source (or create) a pickup that can be used for an instrument where the strings are not in such a flat plane (most guitars are at least 7" radius, modern being close to 20!). It will be for a cello, which has a radius of around 3"

    I am wondering if it is possible to create one that is curved so I do not need very tall pole pieces for the center strings (center pole pieces would need to be possibly 1.5 cm taller than the side pieces!). If this is the easiest way, where can I find longer pole pieces? I would like the idea of lipstick pickups better so that way I don't need to worry about string spacing and could use it for 4/5/6 stringed instruments of the same radius.

    Think of it like an ES175 archtop with that single pickup near the neck. Of course that can be flat because the guitar strings don't sit THAT high above it. I COULD just throw any lipstick under the strings and hope for the best, but I wouldn't have even string response. I know there are MandoCellos but they aren't bowed so the radius can be flatter.


    Any advice is greatly appreciated! Thanks!
     
  2. Silver Hand

    Silver Hand Member

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    Here's an idea:

    Blade style humbucker, but with the blade having a larger radius than usual. It wouldn't require any custom (aka expensive and/or time consuming) parts outside of shaping the steel blade to a 3" radius, which of course would require proper tools.
     
  3. Mpcoluv

    Mpcoluv Supporting Member

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    For an upright bass, I have seen two blade type strat pickups used. On pickup would sense the low 2 strings and another pickup would get the high two. Since they are only sensing two strings, the radius doesn't matter
     
  4. CelloFingers

    CelloFingers Member

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    Except I might want 5 strings on my cello, or 6, I haven't decided, or I might want to use it on different cellos if I can have a semi-permanent installation.

    This is very interesting, I will look into how blade pickups are constructed. Does the winding still go side to side, but instead of pole pieces it has plates? Are the blades magnetic (like an alnico plate)? This sounds like the best solution by far, other than a filtertron style pickup where all the poles are screws so they could be adjusted appropriately, but that leaves me with the issue of string spacing (and count).
     
  5. Da Geezer

    Da Geezer Supporting Member

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    Do cellos use metal strings?
     
  6. Mikhael

    Mikhael Member

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    P-bass split pickups. Just angle the two parts.
     
  7. CelloFingers

    CelloFingers Member

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    Yes, there are steel core strings wrapped with steel, or with nickel, silver or tungsten, and there are some synthetic core wrapped with alloys as well. If the core is not steel, but the ribbon wrap is, will that still work with a magnetic pickup? The feeling of steel strings with a bow is less pleasant, but if it's required, that's what I'll do.

    I watched a video of a guy prepping a blade pickup to be wound, and it looks like this is EXACTLY what I need. I'm just not sure I want to venture into making pickups! I tried to salvage some P Bass pickups once and made a mess of things, tiny wire everywhere. YIKES!
     
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  8. CelloFingers

    CelloFingers Member

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    That won't work for 5 strings, and it restricts my string spacing severely, I couldn't use a standard cello bridge width, so would need to learn new spacing (imagine fitting 8 strings onto a 6 string neck and then play fingerpicking. It would be kind of like that...)
     
  9. Da Geezer

    Da Geezer Supporting Member

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    Good!

    What is the string spacing? (In case I run across something that might work)

    G
     
  10. Silver Hand

    Silver Hand Member

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    Mojotone has parts for building both single coil sized blade pickups and humbucker sized blade pickups. The blade itself is steel, which is used to direct the magnetic field upward from a bar magnet running underneath the piece of steel. The winding goes around plastic bobbins that are pre-fit for their steel blades. They are essentially humbuckers but instead of using screws/slugs to direct the magnet's field, they use a solid bar.

    VERY tiny wire. Your biggest issue building your own pickup is probably going to come down to cost, and whether you want to spend the time and money it takes to build one pickup. Winding without a machine (you can even make one out of a sewing machine and calculator if you're crafty) you're probably going to spend 10 hours just winding the bobbins. A 59 Les Paul, for example, has two coils with 5,000 winds of 42 AWG wire each, so you have to wrap 10,000 times, and if you break the hair thin wire you need to solder that same hair thin wire back to the broken end and continue. Its not fun to do by hand, trust me! If you try it, make sure you have something to spin the bobbin while you guide wire.
     
  11. Guitarworks

    Guitarworks Member

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    I agree with this blade approach. If you had to custom fabricate it yourself, I would recommend finding a way to make a blade single coil and save money, time, work and materials. Since I presume you're not straight-jacking this cello into a Marshall or running it through a distortion pedal, I don't imagine 60 cycle hum will be a problem, and hence, not really require a hum-cancelling second coil.
     
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  12. Sweetfinger

    Sweetfinger Supporting Member

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    There are several ways to do it. Ultimately you'll have to figure out how many strings your instrument will have and go from there. Either 2 strings per coil or individual coils. You could wind an air coil and fold it.
     
  13. CelloFingers

    CelloFingers Member

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    I will find a pickup maker, probably, someone to make it for me, it should be an easy job, the only thing that will be non-standard will be the radius of the blade.

    And yes, I will either be straight-jacking it into a Marshall, or I will be running through a RAT. And then a univibe. And a slicer, auto-wah, delay, reverb, and then the Marshall!
     
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  14. CelloFingers

    CelloFingers Member

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    If the center of that bar is 1/2" taller than the edges, how does that affect the magnetic strength? Will it be significantly weaker in the center?
     
  15. Corinthian

    Corinthian Member

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    I had a conversation with Kent Armstrong about this many years ago...

    I was building an electric violin (long story, don't ask) and wanted a pickup for it. I originally wanted an electromagnetic pickup and he advised against it. The reason being electromagnetic pickups 'sense' the vertical (from the perspective of the pickup) motion of the string, but that movement is being heavily suppressed by the bow. We did brainstorm ideas like rotating the pickup but came up with nothing that would be practical. In the end the best solution, and the one that most electric string instrument makers opt for, was a piezo built into the bridge.
     
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  16. Silver Hand

    Silver Hand Member

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    I've never tried a 3" radius blade so I can't say for sure, but when adjusting screws up higher (closer to 1/16" -1/8") there isn't a significant drop in gauss readings on the higher screws.
     
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  17. CelloFingers

    CelloFingers Member

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    This makes some sense on a micro level but I don't think it has a real world problematic effect. I've used a bow on a strat and it makes bowed string sounds...

    That said, maybe you wanted it to sound like a violin?

    I realize that what I want is a fretless electric guitar with a 27.5" scale and 2.75" radius with a body shaped that won't restrict bowing angles.

    If such a thing already exists, cool. If not, I'm gonna make one ;-)
     
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  18. Corinthian

    Corinthian Member

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    It does make bowed sounds when you bow an electric guitar, but did you notice how much louder it got when you took the bow away and let the strings ring? Pizzicato parts will also be louder than bowed parts. You could probably alter your technique to compensate for these effects though if you were happy with it not respondi like an acoustic cello (or an electric guitar).

    You could maybe rotate a single coil pickup 90 degrees and put one under each string. That would also allow you to balance the volume of each string.
     
  19. CelloFingers

    CelloFingers Member

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    I've seen that done for other instruments (one pickup per string) but I'd like to keep this as simple as possible. Stupidly simple, like the telecaster. They went to make a guitar that could be louder and ended up with something that sounds totally different. I want a new thing that doesn't exist. I'm aware of the dynamic limitations, and my only concern is like you say when I let off the bow, it could get LOUDER instead of decaying as a string normally does. Of course I could use a compressor for that, but it does make an interesting problem.

    Then again the CR series of NS Design instruments have optional humbucker pickups (just pole pieces sticking up through the body) for the upright bass, and while I haven't played (or heard) one, I don't imagine they would sell them for $5k if it didn't work!

    I suppose a fretless baritone guitar tuned in 5ths would work too, I don't NEED to use a bow, but my muscle memory knows where notes are for 5ths tuning and I prefer fretless for some gliss and my vibrato technique. I feel that I'm starting to comprimise too much though. It would be nice to have the OPTION to use a bow, so a guitar with a smaller radius. Maybe it doesn't need to be 2.75", maybe it could be 5" (vintage fender had some 7" so 5 might not be too tough...) and shape the body like a Hofner Bass so I can get the bow in there when needed... Come to think of it, if a hofner bass could have a curved bridge (and still intonate well), that would probably do it for me...

    Any ideas to shoot off of that? I'm all ears!
     

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