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Pickups; where do I begin?

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by drop2flat, Feb 15, 2009.

  1. drop2flat

    drop2flat Member

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    Feb 15, 2009
    Hi, I'm somewhat new to the world of the guitar. I've been playing for about two years now, and I'm really getting into it. I've got a PRS SE singlecut, and love to play blues/rock. I occasionally dabble in the metal realm, but primarily I'm in search for the perfect "tone." I want to upgrade my pick-ups, because I heard a friend of mine play his $2200 strat through my amp, and let me tell you, it sounded much better than mine. I know I have humbuckers and he has single coil pickups, but I still feel like I can get a better tone out of my guitar and not get that muddy sound. What pick-ups do you recommend? Again, I'm mainly a blues player. Some artists I play are Eric Johnson, Elliott Smith, SRV, Creedence Clearwater Revival, lots of improv on the pentatonics, hendrix, the list goes on. I'd really appreciate your input because I don't know where to begin. Thanks.
     
  2. Drifting

    Drifting Member

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    Well first off, what kind of amp are you running through? What's your budget? You may want to get a new amp, depending on what you currently have, as the PRS SE pickups aren't bad, but aren't anything special either.(except for the soapbars, those are something else)

    You seem to generally like a vintagey sound, so for humbuckers I'd go for PAF styled humbuckers(PAF=Patent Applied For). PAF humbuckers are reminiscent of old humbucker tones(i.e. Cream, ZZ top, AC/DC, just to name a few)They are the best style for clarity in a humbucker(since you want to avoid muddiness that plagues humbuckers in general). There are alot of expensive 'boutique' options that are worth it, but at this point I'd go with Seymour Duncan's or Dimarzio's PAF styled pickups. You cannot go wrong with them! It'll be a little more difficult to get into metal territory with PAF styled pickups(they are lower output, not as hot), but if you pickup some overdrive/dist. pedals that should solve some of your problems.

    The other thing to consider, if you don't already know, is that single coils are totally different than humbuckers. Good humbuckers won't sound like single coils, and vice versa. Neither are 'bad' they are just totally different.

    If you want a sound like your friend's strat, you'll need to get a strat.

    You don't need to pay 2k+ for a good strat either. Play the Mexican made Fenders until you find one that 'has it'. Look for playability, how the neck feels to you, and how it plays acoustically(unplugged). You can always change the pickups. A good playing mexi strat with upgraded electronics is a all of an american strat, minus a fret.
     
  3. frankiestarr

    frankiestarr Supporting Member

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    Every description you mentioned had "strat" written all over it ! Weclome to the never ending journey of "tone" !!!! Take some advice.... from someone who has chased tone, and spent way to much money on guitar junk.....Be happy with what you have, get a good teacher, and focus on your playing.....85% of the tone is in the fingers......Maybe get a resonable strat..and stop while your ahead! Good luck to you.
     
  4. zenfreud

    zenfreud Member

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    I'd agree with frankie, the time you spend with a teacher will pay you back a thousand-fold. The time you spend on forums reading about gear will... let's just say I wish I had done the former!

    But to try to answer your question, if you really dig your buddy's Strat and can potentially can spend $300 to $500, keep your PRS stock (at least for now) and buy a used MIM Strat. When I think of the artists you listed, I mostly think of Fenderish single-coil tone tones, not humbuckers. I've got a Custom Shop Strat that's dang nice and a MIM Jimmy Vaughn that's nearly as nice for about one-fifth the cost; start with something along those lines, you'll dig it.

    But seriously, if you don't already have a great teacher, find one, you'll be glad you did.
     
  5. drop2flat

    drop2flat Member

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    I appreciate the replies. I was planning on getting an american standard strat soon, but figured new pickups would be an easier and cheaper way to better tone. It's good to know I can still get a quality strat for under a grand. What is a MIM strat though? I'll check it out. Also, I have a wonderful teacher. We are primarily working with the acoustic right now, learning how to finger pick, but I'm still learning songs on the electric. Again, thanks for the replies, I'll keep practicing...
     
  6. Drifting

    Drifting Member

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    Yeah keep practicing, it's hard not to get drawn into the materialistic aspect of guitar playing, GEAR!

    MIM strats are assembled in Mexico with American parts. Many are turned off by them being made in Mexico, but it's silly considering MIM strats have better quality control than 2k+ Gibsons. They are of the same calibur of quality(in workmanship) as their American made counter parts. Like an American strat, you just have to play around with some before you find one you dig.

    They are the same as MIA(Made in America) strats, except the Electronics(Pickups, Pots, Capacitor) are cheaper, and have 21 frets versus 22.(Don't worry about the 21 frets, Hendrix sounded just fine with 21, I think you will too :) ) Upgrading Pots, Caps, and pickups in a MIM Strat is cheaper than a MIA altogether. Especially with Fender's new price increase.

    I'm not knocking MIA's, they are excellent guitars, but there's no reason for looking down on a MIM strat. Both are great choices, but you may go with one over the other depending on your budget, and our economic predicament.
     
  7. frankiestarr

    frankiestarr Supporting Member

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    A PRS with any type pickups will never do the strat thing! My Jimmie Vaughn strat for the money was really a gem! Then stop.......If you can! heheheh
     

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