What's your philosophy re: pickups and electronics?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Deed_Poll, Jan 21, 2019.

  1. Deed_Poll

    Deed_Poll Member

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    Could be as regards tone, versatility, ergonomics... but I'm just generally interested!

    I guess this applies more to "inventory" guitars more than complete bespoke custom jobs where the customer is likely to have complete control of the spec.

    Some suggested topics below but I'd love to hear about anything related to controls, wiring and pickup choices and your decision making process...

    Do you tend to stick to variations on an established ''theme'? For instance

    2 humbucker VVTT, 3-way toggle - Gibson
    2 pickup Master VT, 3-way lever - Tele

    Or did you start with a clean sheet of paper and reimagine how it ought to work?

    How do you feel about combining different pickup types in different positions? A P90 in the bridge and Fender style single coil in the neck, for example?

    Do you have any 3 pickup models and how would you approach the challenge of versatility vs. simplicity and ease of use?

    And anything else you can think of!

    Cheers :)
     
  2. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Member

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    I think Ibanez has nailed it with a HH & a 5-way switch:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2019
  3. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Member

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    I picked up a cheap bass from Sam Ash a few months back & on the drive home I had big plans for it, was going to revamp the wiring with push/pull pots for series/parallel.
    Got it home & opened the controls cavity the next day & the pickups only had 3 wires.

    For a minute I was thinking about doing the old True-Duo setup like Ibanez used to do, but instead I just returned it when I realized the neck was twisted & the machine-heads were bunked up:

    [​IMG]
     
  4. JeffreyET

    JeffreyET Member

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    I use a few different standard wiring schemes. But, I also invented a triple humbucker scheme years ago that works with standard Gibby 4 knobs & 3 way toggle that allows ANY pickup alone, standard N & B, and out of phase M PuP blended combinations - and 100& humbucking for every sound.
     
  5. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    I’m in favor of them
     
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  6. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Member

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    I'm thinking one of these days I'm going to wire up my bass so both pickups are in series & there's a push/pull pot that just bypasses all the controls, straight to the jack!
    Had my Rickenbacker 4004 wired straight to the jack in series like that one night & it sounded Bru-Tal!
     
  7. morglan

    morglan Supporting Member

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    I've changed the wiring harness in nearly every guitar I've ever owned. One time the upgrade made no difference either way, all the rest were improvements-many times drastic improvements.
     
  8. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    i actually do have an answer to this question!

    for me, it's gotta be a single volume control, only two pickups, no mixing of different types of pickups on one guitar, and pickups that are balanced such that switching neck to bridge and back doesn't change the overall volume. i like to switch pickup settings and work clean to crunch transitions from the guitar, so i want to be able to put the one volume wherever i need and still switch back and forth between pickups without changing the loudness.

    i found that a strat pickup in the neck of my tele is the perfect match for the tele bridge, they're really "equal" in output and tone and make for a terrific middle setting tone.

    i also like my guitars to sound distinctly like "themselves", so it's single coils in my tele and humbuckers in my gibsons, no coil-splitting or hot rails type pickups or any of that.
     
  9. VaughnC

    VaughnC Supporting Member

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    After trying & rewiring about everything out there in my 50 years in the game, I came to the conclusion that the simpler the better. And, as long as a guitar doesn't have humbuckers or P90's, I can usually make it work...basic Strat, Tele, or Ric is fine. But I look for ones that have that something special, greater than the sum of its parts thing going on. Wood seems moody...so all trees must be female:eek:!
     
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  10. MoarGear

    MoarGear Member

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    I want most every instrument I own to have totally distinct sounds from one another. It's a tool box, to me...

    A semi-hollow with P90s on one, coil split dual humbuckers on another solid body, a classic Tele setup on another...
     
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  11. adrianb

    adrianb Member

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    I loooove their HH switching, but i think i would love their HH with dynamix-10 switching even more. I'm so close to pulling the trigger on an AZ.
     
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  12. Deed_Poll

    Deed_Poll Member

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    Thanks for your replies everyone!

    I ask because when I design a guitar I tend to start with the aesthetic and add / remove knobs until it looks right to me.

    Usually that leads to either a 2V/2T setup or a master V/T setup. Or with a three pickup, usually a master V/T and Jaguar style hex plate with 3 on/off switches (one for each pickup).

    But I've recently been working on a design that seems to look best with three knobs (arranged basically in a line), two potential spots for a toggle switch and maybe a varitone switch.

    I'm trying to get my head around how to wire this design with 2 or 3 pickups.

    [​IMG]

    Here's the design. I was thinking the varitone could go slightly in from the arc of knobs and output jack.

    The bass horn could take a toggle, the treble horn could take a toggle or a Jag hex plate with three switches as described above.

    I was thinking about having the three knobs as a master volume, master treble roll-off (tone) and master bass roll-off. A bit like G&L I think?

    But I got to thinking, what about having the treble roll-off only apply to the bridge pickup and the bass roll-off only apply to the neck pickup?

    And what if it was a 3 pickup? Have all the controls apply to the middle pickup? Maybe put a pushbutton on the bass horn to send the bridge pickup straight to the jack for a ''solo boost" mode?

    How would you do it?

    Cheers!
     
  13. Terry McInturff

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

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    It's a great question!

    Maybe I go about it from a weird direction but, the feature set comes further down in my thinking chain. In other words, I don't think about combining "feature A" with "feature B" etc. like I did when I was getting started.

    What spurs me to develop something new is when I have a strong, repetitive set of sounds in my musical imagination that isn't served by what I currently build. Once I can vividly recall that sound at will, I can begin to choose the materials and get to work.

    Initially it's a matter of building the right sounding acoustical instrument ("chassis") because I know that what I'll be able to feed the amp is going to be dictated greatly by the inherent resonant character of the guitar. Once I've determined what to do in that department I can turn an eye towards the electronics, control layout, and the like.

    An example would be my TCM Spellcaster model. This came about as the result of a private listening party I gave myself!

    For many years, I had avoided addressing the Telecaster sound; I felt that I had nothing new to bring to the design, it had already been done 1,000,000 times, and that all one had to do was to buy a decent Fender and true-it-up.

    Then one day I decided that the following evening I was gonna sit in my control room and listen to hours of music known to feature the Tele; I bought some beer and settled in front of the monitors. After hours of listening I had an epiphany; what I really loved most about the Tele sound was how it sounded when strained thru the analog recording chain. Bingo! There was now something to investigate.

    One commonality amongst the many hours of music was the way that trad analog recording smoothed the highs in a certain way, and gently compressed as well. Now, maybe there was a way to build some of that into the chassis. At the same time I got the idea to investigate some classic recording console EQ circuits to see if there might be a way to ditch the plain ol' tone control and replace it with a passive set of filters inspired by classic recording console (and outboard) EQ circuits. No batteries!!!

    It took a full 8 years to bear fruit in the form of the Spellcaster. There were plenty of dead-ends along the way.
    And so the Spellcaster has a modded high-end and a taste of organic compression built into the resonant character of the "chassis" and features my MAXI-Q filter set that gives me an improved low pass filter and a midrange contour control, independently controlled and bypass-able. The low pass was inspired by the Harrison 32C input module filter whilst the midrange contour was inspired by the midrange EQ on the Olympic Studios Raindirk Series III input module.

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. Deed_Poll

    Deed_Poll Member

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    Wow, that's stunning work Terry! Thanks for sharing your thoughts as well. I'm really interested in hearing more about those EQ circuits! Since I discovered the treble bleed mod, I was just staggered at how something so simple (and completely passive!) could offer such a marked improvement over the way things have been done for 60 years.

    I've been running my CNC for about 2 years now, sorting everything out and making parts for paying customers (mostly custom-shaped bodies). A big part of that has been developing and implementing the tools I needed to streamline the process. I'm a parametric designer by trade, so I try to build versatility into everything I do.

    As far as the chassis and my general design philosophy, a couple of bullet points below:

    Necks - I like a single action truss rod with as much wood left in the neck as possible. I actually don't like the neck to be too stiff so I like flatsawn. My design has a heel adjust and I design my pickguards and pickup cavities so you can slide off the whole guard assembly and adjust the rod through a notch in the neck pocket without detuning the strings.

    I use basically a Gibson truss rod design with the "skunk stripe" hidden under the fretboard, except flipped over for heel adjust. Other than that, the headstock is fundamentally a Fender-like non-tiltback with inline Klusons. I'm keeping the headstock fairly thin (13mm) so I can use staggered tuners and hopefully avoid using a string tree.

    Pickups - I always had myself figured for a single coil guy, until I got hold of some unpotted humbuckers. I don't know 100% if that was what made the difference, and how much was psychological. But it just really seemed to open up the top end and come alive for me in the way I always loved about single coils.

    Designing for the general guitar playing public, I've thought I'd probably combine an unpotted neck pickup with a potted bridge pickup to at least provide an option just in case of high gain squealing.

    As far as single coils, I love the sound of the Jazzmaster with the shallow, wide wind. It's a crispness and maybe a compression I can hear in them, whereas I've found Teles and Strats have a little nasal "hump" in the sound. I quite like that nasal sound in a neck pickup though. It's what I think of when I hear people describe a Strat neck pickup as "glassy" maybe?

    I never liked combined pickup sounds until I tried them out of phase, and found this really got back the dynamic sensitivity that I always thought had been lacking compared to playing a pickup on its own. But then you have the problem of the volume level dropping. So I'm going to experiment with my default combined sound being out of phase but in series, like a sound Brian May uses quite often on his Red Special.

    Interestingly enough, his most raucous solo sound (which I always thought must surely be the bridge pickup) was actually the neck and middle OOP / in series like this. I guess it makes sense because it's cancelling one pickup from the other, throwing away the warm harmonics they share and leaving you only the harmonics they don't (and I guess, doubling the utput by having them in series).

    Woods - I've been using heat treated poplar for several bodies and I actually really like it. The stuff I get is from a Scandinavian company that does lots of exterior cladding, and it's more than twice as dark as the roasted woods you see from Warmoth, etc. I have some maple from them as well, it's the same colour. The poplar has a really wide range of densities, some are as light as the lightest swamp ash, very absorbent (eats up sealer) but also quite soft and dents easily (though plenty strong). Other pieces are much harder and a bit heavier too, these are my preferred pieces. It goes about the same colour as rosewood with a finish on it.

    Here is some ash from the same supplier - it all comes in about the same colour!

    [​IMG]

    My buddy Jon did the finish, this is just a sealer and it was grain filled with shellac hence the cream / gold grain pattern.
     
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  15. icr

    icr Member

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    Many pickup wiring combinations just sound bad as anyone with a soldering iron and a spool of 42 gauge knows. So, avoid those. If one is selling guitar for profit, complex switching combinations combined with strange pickup construction can move inventory.
     
  16. rockon1

    rockon1 Member

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    Ive rewired guitars to have a whole bunch of combinations. HSH with spliting, phase, combinations, etc and never used them, lol. Cool tinkering but when it comes right down to it I might as well have just a humbucker in the bridge...
     
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  17. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Supporting Member

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    Three good sounds, neck, bridge, both, will do me and I have tried many other tricks that yield odd, special purpose sounds or need cumbersome switching to attain.
    The classic sounds work better and with simple controls. Coil splits are optional, when results warrant them.
    Pickups that sound good with wide open pots but a tone control for occasional, but rare, top end rolloff.
    I can do without.
    Plenty of space around the controls (out of the way) but still easy access.
    So many guitars blow this.
    Building to a tone would be great (works for TM:bow) but it's just a constant trial and error, eror, erroerr, process for me.
     
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