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Do i need a reverse-wound neck pup?

Bandalero

Member
Messages
891
Hello All,

I've got a variety of decent Telecaster parts that I'd like to use in making a so-called Parts-caster, but I'd like to do something a bit different by adding the routing to the body for the installation of a middle pickup.

I have yet to purchase the middle pickup, so it can be ordered reverse-wound if need be, but my chief concern is the neck pickup. With a Strat-like (3-pickup) configuration like this, and a push-pull 7-way wiring scheme, should I be focusing on reverse wound/reverse polarity for either of the neck or middle pickups?

And lastly, is there a simple way that I can firmly determine whether my existing neck pickups are already reverse-wound? They are as follows:

'62 AVRI Tele (neck)
'07 Classic Player Baja "Twisted Tele" (neck)

Many thanks!
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
38,451
the first test is to hold the two pickups top-to-top; if they attract, then they're at least reverse polarity, which you need to get hum-canceling.

only then will reverse winding give you hum-canceling; if the winding isn't reversed, you could also flip the two wires. that'll work, but at the cost of making the pickup's magnets "hot", and really noisy if touched.

(reverse-wiring tele pickups is a bigger hassle, as the metal parts of the pickup also become hot, something that will not be good. you'd need to disconnect the bridge's bottom plate or the neck's cover, then run them separately to ground with their own wires.)

if you're doing the 7-way thing with adding N+B (a great sound) and all three (less great IMO), then you have to choose; if the middle and neck are both RWRP from the bridge, then M+B and N+B will hum-cancel, but N+M won't. go with a typical strat arrangement (reversed middle pickup only) and 2 & 4 will cancel hum, but N+B won't.

"all three" won't cancel hum no matter what you do, it's an odd number of coils.
 

SamBooka

Member
Messages
2,222
It is very simple to do.. just kinda hard to explain. Actually this is a good test if you are ever mixing parts regardless of if you are trying to ReverseWinding/ReversePolarity.

Do you have a) an ohmmeter and b) a compass ?

Assuming yes.

1) Hold a compass to the top of the bridge pickup. Either N or S on the compass should be drawn to it. Doesnt matter which but write it down (eg: Bridge = S)

2) Hold a compass to the neck pickup (see above). Note the results (Neck = N for example)

3)If they are the SAME then if you want to do RWRP your middle pickup will have to be the opposite of the neck and bridge (ie if neck/bridge have N at the top then your middles should be S at the top). But I digress.. we arent done yet.

4) take an ohm meter and measure the resistance of the bridge PU. alligator clips are recommended since you will need your hands free for other things. make sure the hot of the pickup is to the + and ground to the -. next take a screwdriver and let it get sucked into the magnet on the top of the bridge pu. While it is there look at the reading on the ohm meter. Lets pretend it says 7.5K. While looking at the ohmmeter quickly pull the screwdriver away. The reading might go up.. might go down (eg it might drop to 7.2k just for a couple of seconds then go back to 7.5K) Doenst matter. Just take note of wheter it jumped or dropped..

5) Ditto for the neck pickup. Same test.

So... if the neck pickup is South Up and the reading jumps AND the bridge is North Up and the reading jumps when you pull away your pickups are RWRP and enjoy the humfreeness that comes when both pu's are on at the same time.

If not you will have to figure out what you want for your middle pickup.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
38,451
+1, but i use the "DC volts" setting on the meter; the "drop" of the screwdriver will get a positive or negative voltage reading, while the "yank" will create the opposite polarity reading.

same idea though, and regardless of anything else, this tells you if the two pickups in question will sound right together.

(actually, these days i just hook them into my bench amp and hold a tuning fork over them; my turbo-tuner will display the fork's pitch as a half-circle of LED lights, and with two pickups of opposing output polarity, the half-circle will flip to the opposite side in the display.)
 

Bandalero

Member
Messages
891
Thanks guys.

Its going to take a minute or two for me to digest this entirely, and no, I'm afraid I don't have a compass of any kind, but I certainly have a multimeter. And I'm sure I have a magnet or two laying around too.

Anyway, in the meantime, is RWRP orientation of this type for the neck and middle pickups considered to be the way to go when installing three single-coil pickups like this (i.e., no humbucker)? And if so, I wonder why I see so many custom pickup winders that tend to discourage using RWRP?
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
38,451
...I wonder why I see so many custom pickup winders that tend to discourage using RWRP?
first i've heard of that!

some will argue a slight tonal difference with all the same polarity singles, but i dunno.

as for which ones to go RWRP from which other ones, it all depends on which pickup combos you see yourself wanting hum-canceling (knowing that you can get only two of the three possible pairings to cancel.)
 

Bandalero

Member
Messages
891
Walt,

You (and Sam) have been of great help here and I'm most grateful, but I have to admit to some lingering confusion. The neck pickup that I'd probably most like to use is a "Twisted Tele" from a Baja, and I've seen claims that its routinely shipped as RWRP by Fender, but I don't know how to go about confirming or dispelling that. Hence, my request for info on testing winding/polarity, etc.

Secondly, I have a custom-built (Strat-like) guitar with three custom-wound pickups (S/S/H), which is easily the nicest sounding guitar I own, and I'd love to copy its pickup arrangement to achieve the same quality of sound, particularly in the 4/5 (neck and neck + middle) positions, but according to its official specification sheet, its NECK pickup (not middle) is RWRP (?), which has me confused. This seems to fly in the face of what you've said here about how its the middle pickup that is typically RWRP in a standard Strat, so perhaps the spec sheet is a misprint. And of course, I won't know for certain either way, until I can physically test them, and apparently (from what's been said here already), that's not possible without fully removing the pickups in question from their respective guitar(s).

So anyway, that's kinda what I'm struggling to make sense of - which specific pickups should be RWRP (neck, bridge or both) and why? I'm definitely going to need to find a reliable way to test them all (i.e., purchase a compass?), but I guess I'm also going to have to think on it all some more in terms of optimal pickup selections.

Many thanx.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
38,451
it's even more confusing than that, because "RWRP" by itself doesn't mean much.

one pickup is just "reverse-wound" and/or "reverse-polarity" compared to another pickup.

one brand's "normal wind" pickup might be RWRP as compared to another brand's normal wind. or it might be reverse magnetic polarity but not reverse-wound.
 

Bandalero

Member
Messages
891
it's even more confusing than that, because "RWRP" by itself doesn't mean much.

one pickup is just "reverse-wound" and/or "reverse-polarity" compared to another pickup.

one brand's "normal wind" pickup might be RWRP as compared to another brand's normal wind. or it might be reverse magnetic polarity but not reverse-wound.
Uh-huh, grrrr-reat! That just helps out, plenty! Haaa! Now I'm really lost!
 

Bandalero

Member
Messages
891
. . . if you're doing the 7-way thing with adding N+B (a great sound) and all three (less great IMO), then you have to choose; if the middle and neck are both RWRP from the bridge, then M+B and N+B will hum-cancel, but N+M won't. go with a typical strat arrangement (reversed middle pickup only) and 2 & 4 will cancel hum, but N+B won't.

"all three" won't cancel hum no matter what you do, it's an odd number of coils.
The other thing that's still got me deeply confused is, if these are the only practical options, why are the custom-wound pickups on my boutique (strat-like) guitar (which sounds gorgeous), wound somewhat otherwise, as follows:

S-neck (RWRP)
S-middle
H-bridge

In other words, if the only two practical or typical options are making the neck AND bridge both RWRP, or making the middle pickup alone RWRP, why is my neck pickup on this boutique guitar the only one of three that is RWRP? Do you see the reason for my confusion?
 

SamBooka

Member
Messages
2,222
In the case above Neck or middle doesnt matter..

A RWRP + Humbucker doesnt have any real value (unless you are taping the hb)
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
38,451
The HB is not a factor in this; you can split it to one coil or the other, and one of the two will hum-cancel. With both coils on the humbucker won't cancel with a single coil anyway.

You've got a guitar with two single coils RWRP from each other, and also a humbucker.
 

Bandalero

Member
Messages
891
Thanks for the added clarification guys. That helps. From what I'm hearing here, if I choose either one of my existing (non-RWRP) Tele neck and Tele bridge pickups (Baja or '62 AVRI, respectively), and then simply order an RWRP middle (Strat) pickup, it sounds like I should be good-to-go.

There's only one remaining question that I can think of and its a fairly important one . . . what would occur (sonically speaking) if I were to install a non-RWRP Strat pickup in that middle (Tele) position, along with two non-RWRP (single-coil) neck and bridge pickups (i.e., -/-/-)? Would they sound significantly different (noisier or tonally) from a more balanced (+/-/- or -/+/-) approach?
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
38,451
there shouldn't be any tonal difference, RWRP coils are only about hum-cancelling in combination.
 

Bandalero

Member
Messages
891
there shouldn't be any tonal difference, RWRP coils are only about hum-cancelling in combination.
Walter,

Let me put the key question to you directly, if you were me, and you were building an all single-coil Parts-Caster like this with a non-RWRP neck and non-RWRP bridge, but you needed to buy a suitable Strat pickup for the middle, because you really liked the N+M and N+B options, would you order that middle pickup non-RWRP or would you insist on reverse wound/reverse polarity for that position?

Secondly, would you be concerned about overall balance if the neck and bridge were both somewhat under-wound (say 6.5-7.5k), but you had a notably hotter (9-10k) strat pup for the middle? In other words, if I end up with something hotter in the middle, can I hope to achieve reasonable balance using nothing more than pickup height adjustment? Or do I need to focus on ordering an equally under-wound middle pup?

Thanks for your time and continued insights.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
38,451
i would definitely want the middle pickup to be in the same ballpark strength-wise as the neck and bridge; too-hot of a middle pickup makes the 2 and 4 settings kinda lose their "quack", and i really don't like for the bridge pickup to be weaker than the other pickups.

an RWRP middle makes sense if you want to use 2 and 4 with higher gain and want them to hum-cancel.

if your two favorite settings are N+M and N+B and you want them hum-canceling, you might want to have middle and bridge the same polarity and have the neck reversed from that.

you could also skip the whole RWRP thing, get all three pickups the same, and use the ilitch backplate.

finally, you could skip the whole thing entirely, get them all the same polarity, and not even worry about hum-canceling! (lots of great music was recorded and performed with vintage strats and teles, which didn't have any RWRP pickups at all.)
 

Bandalero

Member
Messages
891
. . .

If your two favorite settings are N+M and N+B and you want them hum-canceling, you might want to have middle and bridge the same polarity and have the neck reversed from that.

Finally, you could skip the whole thing entirely, get them all the same polarity, and not even worry about hum-canceling! (lots of great music was recorded and performed with vintage strats and teles, which didn't have any RWRP pickups at all.)
Thanks Walt.

The only Strat pickup that I currently have for potential use in that middle position (a DiMarzio FS-1 = DP-110), is not RWRP and I believe its also wound fairly hot, maybe as high as 12-13k, so it sounds like that one's out, which means I'm gonna have to order something specially wound (RWRP or not).

Problem is, the neck pickup that I wanted to use (a stock but great sounding 'Twisted Tele' from a CP Baja Tele), is not RWRP, so that approach won't work either. It seems like every which I go with this evaluation, I'm running into conflicts. I may have to just stick with a non-RWRP neck and bridge, like you've suggested, and order a comparable non-RWRP middle, hoping that with proper shielding of the routings and pickguard (including soldered ground wires), its reasonably quiet. Otherwise, I'll be forced to order new middle and bridge, both RWRP.

Whew! Its gettin' deeper.
 

fumbler

Member
Messages
1,471
Arghh!!! Learn this fact: "RWRP" does not really mean anything specific. And it only means anything when comparing two pickups to each other.

I think Walter said most of this before but it's worth repeating . . .

Different companies have different conventions for polarity. Some have the North pole of the magnet pointing up at the strings and call that "standard" polarity, some have the south pole up and call THAT "standard". So a "standard" pickup from one company compared to a "standard" pickup from another company might actually be RWRP from each other.

And "winding direction" doesn't mean anything other than which color hook-up wire is attached to the clockwise end of the coil. Some company might always put the lighter color wire at the clockwise end and the black wire at the counter-clockwise end (or vice versa for their RWRP pickups). If you swap the hook-up wires then you've just reversed the wind direction. (EXCEPTION: it DOES matter for vintage-style pickups where the first winds of coil are in direct contact with the magnets. You want that end to go to ground; otherwise your pole-pieces will buzz like a mofo when touched.)

The ONLY fact you can rely on is that if you have two pickups from the SAME company and ONLY ONE is marked RWRP then it will be hum-cancelling with the other. (EXCEPT you can't even rely on that if one pickup is much older than the other because some companies flipped their convention over the years!)
 
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Bandalero

Member
Messages
891
Sounds like Snookie and friends aren't quite gettin' it done there on the Jersey Shore - maybe time for more 'bran' in your morning muffin?
 




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