Les Paul Custom's Tone - Pickups or Ebony Fingerboard?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Troubleman, May 27, 2008.

  1. Troubleman

    Troubleman Silver Supporting Member

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    I finally acquired that Alpine White Les Paul Custom that I've lusted over since I was a kid. BEAUTIFUL instrument (purchased it here on the Emporium). I wish they came with the baseball bat necks that are on the R8's.. ah well - the 50's neck ain't bad; it plays like a gem. What I'd like to reign in - it's bright tone. I know it has an ebony (vs rosewood on Standards) fingerboard, and that contributes, but it also has Gibson's 490R and 498T pickups. Not my favs. I'm wondering how much is ebony fingerboard and how much is pickups... I'd like to get its tone more in the realm of my R4 Oxblood. Ok, the Burstbucker 2 & 3 pups in the Oxblood aren't the be-all/end-all, but they're (and its tone overall) head and shoulders above the 490R/498T combo.

    So - what'll get me there (think Joe Bonamassa's tone, Mark Ford's tone), or is the extra high-end sizzle and sharp attack imparted by the ebony board something just plain endemic to Les Paul Customs, and what I really want is another Historic RI?

    I've eyeballed WCRs - maybe a mixed set of Darkburst/Godwood
    I've eyeballed Wolfetones... (waiting waiting to hear back from Wolfe)
    I've listened to Duncan Alnico Pro IIs - decent pups, albeit not very complex.

    (already done the RS Kit/TonePros thing; this is the final step, I hope...)

    Thanks!

    jb
     
  2. Terry McInturff

    Terry McInturff 40th Anniversary of guitar building! Gold Supporting Member

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    Take a close listen to the guitar acoustically in order to determine wether or not the tone you seek is actually built into the guitar. You may want to take a look at the thread regarding the "acoustic sound of the electric guitar".

    If the sound is in the wood...you WILL be able to amplify it.
    Terry
     
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  3. big mike

    big mike Moderator - EL34 Emeritas Staff Member

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    Terry makes an excellent point.

    I will say if you're happy with it acoustically, Wagner or Wolfe will get you the tone you're after.
     
  4. Adams

    Adams Member

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    The neck wood wont make enough of a difference in the guitars tone to matter. If its too shrill for you then I'd put in lower value pots and different tone caps. Its cheaper and has more affect on a guitars sound than changing pickups.
     
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  5. musicofanatic5

    musicofanatic5 Supporting Member

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    "The neck wood wont make enough of a difference in the guitars tone to matter. "
    Yow, really? I am continuously amazed at the misguided thinking on this board about electronics being a larger influence on the sound of a solid body gtr than it's actual construction and the materials involved.
    This fella a coupla posts up, y'know, Terrysomebody. Yeah, he actually builds gtrs, and people pay a lotta dough for 'em. Y'might wanna pay some attention to any free info he might offers here.
    The sound is in the gtr. The p.u.s enable that sound to be amplified.
    And to the original poster: shoulda got a black one; the paint sounds better on those!
     
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  6. big mike

    big mike Moderator - EL34 Emeritas Staff Member

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    I disagree with this. I think the ebony does make a difference, maybe not as drastic. I'm not sure the RS pots will help as they usually get you a brighter tone.

    I've a 92 Custom...caps helped, left the stock pots, and put in WCR's. big improvement. Threw the 498T/R pups away.
     
  7. buchla300

    buchla300 Member

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    I have 2 LP's with ebony boards (a 1975 pro deluxe and a fab blue 1981 standard) and neither are shrill or too bright. They have a touch more bite to the tone than rosewood, but nothing dramatic.
    The Blue LP has Tim Shaw Gibson pups and they are a nice middy honky tone. Very cool. Perhaps that would work in a Custom.
    I'd say any classy PAF's will get you there though.. I have 2 pairs of Tom Holmes PUP's and they are killer, but hard to find.
     
  8. Troubleman

    Troubleman Silver Supporting Member

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    Whenever I'm searching for electric guitars, that's one of the first features I look for. I've heard "some" that were dead acoustically, but actually sounded pretty good plugged in, but generally not. Conversely, if it sounds good acoustically, getting it to sound good plugged in is very, very possible. That's one of the things that stands out about the guitar - it is acoustically loud and fat. It has a woody quality to its acoustic sound. It's not as pronounced as the Oxblood, which is pretty much a six-string grand piano, but it does have an acoustically fat tone.

    jb
     
  9. Whiskeyrebel

    Whiskeyrebel Member

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    I take it you've already played around with pickup height and tilt, and with the polepiece heights. And that feathering back the tone controls does not do the trick. Nor changing your brand of strings.

    What about adding a 'sweet switch' like PRS used to on some of their models? I think it's switchable treble cut cap that is intended to mimic the effect of a long cable. That way if you ever WANT the extra slice, it's still there.
     
  10. HHB

    HHB Member

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    I think its the wood, I had a killer 68 reissue that sounded great w/ 3 sets of pickups, it always retained its basic tone
     
  11. codeorama

    codeorama Member

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    I also lusted after a white LP Custom and finally got one on 05...

    Mine was bright, not bad, but brighter than the standards that I had.

    I spoke to Jim Wagner, maker of WCR pick ups on the phone several times and I went with a goodwood bridge p'up and a darkburst neck p'up and I've never been happier. (also put in an RS kit)

    I get a lot of compliments on how FAT my tone is with the Les paul when playing out.
     
  12. AL30

    AL30 Member

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    I pulled my stock Gibson pickups out of my custom about a year ago. I replaced them with Manlius FAT Dianes. The difference was shocking - more articulation, note definition, harmonics, warmth, smooth... etc. Personally I think just about any decent pickup will make a difference over what's in there now.

    Stock my neck was boomy and muddy, the bridge was shrill and had some serious ice-pick high end (and too hot at 14K), there was always an odd fizziness to them (I actually thought I had a blown speaker), and they just couldn't be blended well. No matter what I did I felt I was fighting those pick-ups. The Gibsons did work well with a ton of gain on them so I think they were probably designed for that. But, considering I don't play with a ton of gain...

    I hate those pickups.

    AL
     
  13. big mike

    big mike Moderator - EL34 Emeritas Staff Member

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    That's what I use. With an A2 mag in the bridge.
     
  14. codeorama

    codeorama Member

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    Did you try the magnet that came with the goodwood stock? Whats the difference in the A2??
     
  15. 1973Marshall

    1973Marshall Member

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    I think you can mellow the tone a bit with less harsh pickups. If it's not "brightness", but more the note attack, the top end zing, and the separation of the notes that is getting you - then NO it's NOT the pickups it's the Ebony.

    My experience with Ebony is it has beautiful definition and attack, but it will give you a sort of hi-fi vibe, for lack of a better word. You will get closer to the tone you want with PAF style pups, but that 'zing' will always be there. It's part of the magic!
     
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  16. Jef Bardsley

    Jef Bardsley Member

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    +1, and well said.

    Bonamassa? What's to discuss? It's the pickups!
     
  17. Rhomco

    Rhomco Silver Supporting Member

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    is solid mahogany. Could be the tone you want to hear is probably the missing maple top. Totally changes the tone of a lester more than pups or fingerboards.
    Rob
     
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  18. Jagsound

    Jagsound Member

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    I had a stock LP Studio Lite which had an ebony board and the guitar was never bright, but the pickups were high output ceramic so that might have had something to with it, or maybe the block of chromite that was put into the mahogany body to make it 'lite' might have stopped it being bright.

    Sorry I guess this isn't any help.
     
  19. jijoe

    jijoe Member

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    I know this has a beard - but I found this thread as I'm looking for some thoughts on how to tame the highs out of a semi hollow with an ebony board. However, I noticed this and just thought I'd leave correct information for anybody else that happens across this. The comment above about RS pots - the make or source of pots will make no difference whatsoever. It's actually a response to somebody who was pointing out that there is a simple electrical fact of life when a capacitor and a resistor is involved. This is what your tone circuit is - it's a low pass filter - that filters out higher frequencies depending on the values of the resistor and capacitor. When you twist the tone pot - you change the value of the resistor. So it's a simple fact that the cap an pot values will have the biggest effect on the tone of your guitar - other than your volume pot.

    However, I totally agree that the acoustic sound of your guitar is basis of what you will hear - and if it sounds good acoustically - then there is a much higher chance of you squeezing this sound through the electronics. Personally - I never plug a guitar in to listen before buying - you can always change the electronics - but you can't much alter the fundamental sound of the instrument.

    Sorry - I just didn't want guys searching for different variable resistor manufacturers as well - it's bad enough as it is.
     
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  20. strawberries

    strawberries Member

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    Y'right y'dude.
     

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