Do you think Leo Fender knew what he was doing?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by stevel, Feb 21, 2009.

  1. stevel

    stevel Member

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    I see some things in Strats that really lead me to believe Leo really thought through some issues - individual bridge saddles that let you adjust BOTH the height and intonation for each string? Genius.

    Now I'm sure we can find pros and cons to everything, but my question is about pickups:

    Fender designed pups with staggered pole pieces - and of course at the time for sets with wound 3rds.

    It appears to me from looking at a traditional staggered pole-piece that some forethought went into the design.

    A common bit of info about pickups is that they should be set so that the treble side is a bit closer than the bass side - because the strings "throw" farther on the bass side.

    But didn't Leo (or whoever designed the pups) already factor this in?

    The stagger does not really "follow the radius" as many surmise, but the strings with either the bigger throw - or possibly those with the biggest magnetic signature - have the lowest pole pieces.

    Obviously, the B string does not have as big a throw as the low E, but the B pole piece is sunken beneath the top of the pup in many cases.

    So it seems to me they "balanced" it correctly and the pup *should* sit flat - not angled up to the high side to give proper string-to-string balance.

    Of course, it was also designed for a wound 3rd on a 12-56 set.

    But even so, am I the only one who things staggered pole pieces have already been correctly balanced, and that angling the pickup to be higher on the treble side is really not necessary?

    Obviously, our ear of course is the final judge, but, it seems to be they should be flat.

    Steve
     
  2. dazco

    dazco Member

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    he really did nail a lot of things. But i also believe some of it is a case of which came first, the chicken or the egg. in other words, many of the things we find so perfect about a fender is because we spent decades listening to fenders on recordings and becoming used to that sound. But theres no denying many of the details are perfection and that in the 5 decades since there have really been no significant improvments, that proven by the fact the RI's are the most desirable fenders and even the non RI's are still very close to the originals.
     
  3. Joe_Steeler

    Joe_Steeler Member

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  4. diego

    diego Member

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    Once he in the Dalai Lama succession somewhere?
     
  5. retrobob

    retrobob Member

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    Leo came up with stuff through R&D and then sought the opinions of what the players thought. One example, thats how the contoured body came about.
    He was concerned with what the players wanted.

    So, i would say he knew what he was doing.
     
  6. shane8

    shane8 Member

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    all u need 2 know is the strat is a brilliant piece of industrial design..... the fact that peeps will still buy exact replicas of 54 strats is proof enough..... oh and the pickups move up and down by turnin a screw :)
     
  7. ghoti

    ghoti Member

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    It's pretty easy to find some interviews with Les Paul where he reminisces about talking about design with Leo Fender and Paul Bigsby.

    Yeah, I'd say he knew what he was doing. What's more, he knew whom to listen to (most of the time, anyway) and had the courage to design and risk failure.
     
  8. Sadhaka

    Sadhaka Member

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    Fascinating idea Steve,

    I'm sure he obviously had an idea of what he was doing, but you make a really good point. An advanced way of thinking that really needs no change. Bizarre in this world of technical development... I also heard that he had designed the broadcaster on a pub napkin. Is this true?

    In regard to the R & D, are there any prototypes floating around that demonstrate the progression of development? Man, I wonder who has those if there are?

    Great thoughts mate :)
     
  9. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Supporting Member

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    I think one might surmise that a vintage radius Strat with 12-56, wound g, would sound as intended with the pup body parallel the the pickguard.
    However, the adjustable height indicates that there may be a range of possible settings, operator adjustments, that are all acceptable, possibly expected.
     
  10. benjammin420

    benjammin420 Member

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    Is it possible they designed the staggered pole peices to correlate with angle of the pickup height? i doubt it though as ive seen all kinds of strats with different angles, hieghts. Ive also experimented with adjusting the pickup height/angle, and never had an issue with "unbalanced" strings. I also recently switched pickups from CS 69s (staggered) with Hot noiseless (non-staggered) and notice no difference in the string-to-string response. Though it may also just be me

    But to answer 'did leo fender know what he was doing?' its worth considering that he didnt like the tone of using 2 strat pickups at the same time. But over the years its become so popular that now 5 way switches are standard. And even with a 5 way switch, there are some "obvious" pickup combos that arent available on strats that easily could be(neck & bridge, neck & mid & bridge, series/parallel, etc). Leo fender did an excellent job at designing, then redesigning the solid body electric guitar, but theres always going to be some room for improvement.
     
  11. Voodoo Blues

    Voodoo Blues Member

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    Leo didn't play guitar so he didn't have any preconceived conceptions about guitars and how they worked. He was an engineer so he figured out the best way to make the thing work and then talked to guitarists about how it should be put together.
     
  12. shuie

    shuie Member

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  13. Peppy

    Peppy Member

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    Nope, he wasn't an engineer. His formal, post-secondary schooling was in accounting. Basically, he worked on radios and learned from there. Right man at the right time.
     
  14. 84Bravo

    84Bravo Member

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    But even so, am I the only one who things staggered pole pieces have already been correctly balanced, and that angling the pickup to be higher on the treble side is really not necessary?

    Why, then, is it necessary to raise a Broadcaster pickup (flat polepieces) in order to compensate for amplitude? That pickup was essentially the same one used in the lap steels, where fretboard radius isn't an issue, and the pickup could be raised parallel to the strings. Yes, Leo knew what he was doing when he designed the Strat pickup, which was meant to be adjusted for every position on a Strat. I think his real goal was true fidelity and not so much tone as we discuss here.
     
  15. ken budd

    ken budd Member

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    Absolutely and to take it furthur he also thought about practicality and convenience. Bolt on necks meant the neck could be replaced easily. Maple necks made refretting easier and were easier to construct. The tremelo on a Strat is an engineering marvel. Leo was an engineering genius who wasn't afraid to enlist the opinions of others or take risks.
     
  16. bluesjuke

    bluesjuke Disrespected Elder

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    Last I heard from him, and I believe it was on the Gear Page, was that he offered that guitar to Fender and if they didn't want to buy it it would be offered for public sale.

    Here's the original body;
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2009
  17. gkoelling

    gkoelling Member

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    He has posted that guitar here occasionally and it's a great piece of Fender and modern American history.

    I seem to remember him posting recently that he was going to sell it soon.
     
  18. bluesjuke

    bluesjuke Disrespected Elder

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    I recall that and advised him that if there were anyway possible I would hang on to it.
    If I had it I would give up eating before I let it go but alas, it's not mine to make that call.
     
  19. asattwanger

    asattwanger Member

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    I think it's pretty interesting that there has been no mention of George Fullerton on this thread.

    More interesting that there has been a G&L George Fullerton model for many years before the Fender GF came out and as far as I can tell all Leo Commermorative guitars have been Asat/tele's style guitars.

    Also the mention of "proto" guitars Leo had laying around. Yeah, stories are plenty have walk right out of the Fullerton factory. I have pictures of some of these instruments, but I don't feel like contacting people asking for permission to post them again, but if your a member of Z-talk you can find them by searching telecaster on that site.
     
  20. RickC

    RickC Gold Supporting Member

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    I think of the #2 and #4 positions on a Strat in the same way I think about the whole idea of amplifier distortion - happy accidents. Leo designed his amplifiers for "clear, undistorted volume". The tone of an overdriven tweed Deluxe was not anticipated or desired; at least at first.

    /rick
     

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