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strat pickup replacement - Maybe I'm crazy but humour me
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JakeJew



Joined: 30 Jul 2005
Posts: 2190
Location: Boston, MA

PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 2:30 am    Post subject: strat pickup replacement - Maybe I'm crazy but humour me Reply with quote

Hi guys
Really not my area of expertise, but I've been curious about some things with my strato-caster. Twould be greatly appreciated if you could bear with me...

It's a 57 reissue, I didn't pay too much money for it, relatively. The most pressing issue is the staggered pole pieces. Driving me crazy as the dynamics can be so uneven string to string. As I've been practicing dynamics and control more lately I realize my guitar is really limiting how specific I can get. The G string was so much louder so I put a wound G string on but now the D string is the loud one. Things are just very uneven.

It's my main guitar right now, even though I'm playing it almost exclusively for jazz.

I may just bite the bullet at some point and buy a more traditional jazz guitar, but I'm interested in this little experiment.

So I was toying with a few options

1. Seek out a similar pickup for the neck (that will stay fairly true to the nature of the guitar) with flat or adjustable pole pieces.

2. Find a good single coil-sized humbucker, but I have no idea which one would be right for me. A quick search led me to this - http://www.seymourduncan.com/products/electric/stratocaster/cutting-edge/little_59_for_s/ ...apparently Bill Frisell uses/used it in the bridge position of one of his teles.

The humbucker idea sounds very appealing to me as I feel like I might be able to get an interesting sound out of the strat, something sort of novel. I'd want a pickup that could be as warm, clear, and thick as possible. I know a strat will never sound like an L5 but I have this feeling that maybe something interesting would happen if you put a really warm pickup in that neck position and played it through a very classic type of amp.

3. I saw this for trying to flatten the staggered pole pieces - http://www.sweetwater.com/expert-center/techtips/d--09/03/2007 and I wonder if it's doable. I might ask around about it.

My questions -

On the single coil side of things, any recommendations?

Is the humbucker idea at all realistic? I figure this would all just be experimentation and if I didn't like the result I could just put the guitar back the way it was. If it is realistic, do you think there's any pickup out there that might satisfy this curiosity?

Lastly, here's Mordy Ferber playing a strat http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIdtEN9tiiM
I think he sounds pretty good. If you look close there's some black stuff on the base of his guitar but I can't at all make out what it is. Some other pickup? Just some tape? Can you tell? I wonder if he's got some crazy set up in that video or if it's just the standard strat pickups into a SS amp with some reverb.
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planetguy



Joined: 11 Dec 2008
Posts: 284

PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

as i've mentioned elsewhere, i plan on changing out the neck p/u in one of my teles w this HB'er from guitar fetish:

http://store.guitarfetish.com/lilpuxlnepif.html

these are $30...not sure why they're more that the strat p/u's that go for $25.

they make two versions: the Vintage at 5.5K and the Modern at 7K. that 7K sounds just right for what i need.

these are the three different versions available for strat:

http://store.guitarfetish.com/lilkiblhurap.html

vintage 6K, modern 10K, and lead 15K....15K is pretty hot for jazz methinks and i suspect it would be difficult if not impossible to get much clean tone from that one.

of course these are all coil tappable and you have the option of running 'em in single coil mode should you choose.

these are "blade" type p/u's so if you must have something w adjustable polepieces you might check into CARVIN. a buddy of mine has one of their tele's and i'm sure it's p/u's contribute to it's great tone.
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JakeJew



Joined: 30 Jul 2005
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 5:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks a lot PG I'll look into those.
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trickeydave



Joined: 24 Aug 2006
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Location: Chula Vista, CA

PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a strat as well that I've been using more and more for jazz. I would stick with single coils for it. It's a strat! Strat + single coils = strat. Whatever that means...

Point is, the single coils give your strat that distinctive tone. Personally I would stay away from humbuckers. There are myriad choices for new pickups. You might check out vintagevibeguitars.com; Pete will custom wind you some single coil strat pickups for a very reasonable price based on what you're looking for. Dimarzio makes some very good strat p'ups; Bardens are excellent for single coils; Seymour Duncans are good also.

My next set of pups for my strat will probably be the Vintage Vibes. Really good quality/tone for the money. But that's me.
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JakeJew



Joined: 30 Jul 2005
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 6:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

trickeydave wrote:
I have a strat as well that I've been using more and more for jazz. I would stick with single coils for it. It's a strat! Strat + single coils = strat. Whatever that means...

Point is, the single coils give your strat that distinctive tone. Personally I would stay away from humbuckers. There are myriad choices for new pickups. You might check out vintagevibeguitars.com; Pete will custom wind you some single coil strat pickups for a very reasonable price based on what you're looking for. Dimarzio makes some very good strat p'ups; Bardens are excellent for single coils; Seymour Duncans are good also.

My next set of pups for my strat will probably be the Vintage Vibes. Really good quality/tone for the money. But that's me.


Thanks for the reply Dave...See the thing is I bought this guitar when I was in high school, I don't have much attachment to its tone. I'm comfortable with the neck and simply used to it as my main guitar as I've logged so many practice hours with it, but the tone doesn't do a lot for me. I'm really okay with it not sounding like a strat anymore, and perhaps sounding like something new and interesting. And like I said, I can always just go back to the old PUs.

But thanks for the suggestions - I still may go the single coil route and I'll check out those makers.
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trickeydave



Joined: 24 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jake, as far as I can tell, it looks like the black thing on the lower end of his strat is a Roland guitar synth, like what Pat Metheny uses. But those just give you synth sounds and doesn't necessarily affect the general, natural tone of your guitar when not in use for those kind of sounds, i.e. strings, synthesizer, etc. So on his '59 strat, what I heard on his video was just the basic strat sound with highs rolled off and some reverb. His p'ups are not stock Fenders, but not sure what they are. He might be using thicker gauge strings as well, although I use .010s on my strat and I get a pretty good jazz tone with it.

Your stock pups should be fine though as long as you roll off your highs and use the neck pup. His Henriksen amp also contributes greatly to his tone, which I love btw.

The other thing I like about playing jazz on my strat is that my neck (which is maple not rosewood) is so easy to play on. My action is set fairly low and it's just a breeze to play.
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planetguy



Joined: 11 Dec 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 1:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
But those just give you synth sounds and doesn't necessarily affect the general, natural tone of your guitar when not in use for those kind of sounds, i.e. strings, synthesizer, etc.


haven't seen the vid so can't comment on it, but here is a possibility...

if he has a nice fat non strat like tone...it's quite possible he's using that midi p/u to trigger a 'jazz gtr' patch from whatever sound source he's using.

Quote:
The other thing I like about playing jazz on my strat is that my neck (which is maple not rosewood) is so easy to play on. My action is set fairly low and it's just a breeze to play.


i hear that...my thin line tele has a '97 rosewood strat neck w the wider nut. i came up playing strats and teles and they always feel like home...but for jazz i just prefer the shorter 24 3/4" Gibson scale or even the 25" on my Eastman ....that said there IS something 'bout playing jazz on a well set up FENDER.

as for preserving that traditional strat tone by sticking w a single coil p/u...if that is an issue i believe most HB'ers that come in single coil size
allow you the option of wiring 'em up w a push/pull pot (or seperate mini switch) to toggle between single coil and HB.
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randyc



Joined: 14 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 5:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hope that I'm not missing the point here - and I'm not a Fender guy (I own the '73 Strat pictured below - put a lot of miles on this guitar back in the day, but it's the only Fender I've ever owned except for my Jazz Bass. (Other than P-90 Gibsons, it's the only single coil guitar I've ever owned, now that I think of itů)



Sounds like the original complaint deals with string-to-string output inequality. Strat pickups are adjustable but it's not easily done. I did this once only, a LONG time ago, it was a true PITA. There are probably more efficient ways that the Fender experts know, however this is my recollection from thirty years back.

1 Remove strings and pickguard (with electronics).

2 From the rear of the pickguard, push all of the magnets on all of the pickups "up" until they are almost flush with the bottom of the coils.

3 Re-install pickguard and install the strings that you're CERTAIN you'll be using.

4 Push down all of the magnets from the top until they are about 1/16 below the strings, when fretted at the last fret (use a capo).

5 Move the capo on the tuned guitar to around the tenth fret.

6 Attach the guitar output (you'll need an adaptor, easily home-made) to a digital multi-meter, adjust the DMM setting for 2 volt A.C. RMS range.

7 Pluck the individual strings, with volume, tone controls at maximum settings, observing the voltage measurement (it will take a second or two to get a valid measurement).

From my notes, The RMS output voltage for the various pickups were as follows: neck pickup about 30 mV, middle pickup about 25 mV, bridge pickup about 20 mV.

8 CAREFULLY push down the individual magnets of the selected pickup to obtain the approximate voltages described above when plucking the strings - try to be consistent about the plucking. I used a bamboo skewer (grocery store product for barbecuing) to push the magnets around.

The adjustment won't assure that all of the strings are of equal amplitude but they will be of equal output voltage. Our hearing varies (both sensitivity and frequency range) so radically with age, gender and other experiences that it's not possible to provide more guidance than this. One might tinker with the magnet adjustment further, to individual taste but I wouldn't recommend it. It's best to get a fairly "flat" response and then adjust the amplifier EQ to individual taste.
Be CAREFUL, it's a monster PITA to re-adjust a magnet that's been pushed too far down 

Cheers,
randyc

Edit to add: a possibility that might be worth trying is to leave magnets 1 and 6 as-is on each pickup, push magnets on other poles up slightly. Adjust pickup height/tilt to get equal amplitude on magnets 1 and 6 for each pickup. Then adjust magnets 2 - 5 as described above. This isn't for the faint-hearted, as I've been advised elsewhere. It's for inveterate tinkerers like me.


Last edited by randyc on Tue Jan 26, 2010 12:27 am; edited 1 time in total
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JakeJew



Joined: 30 Jul 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 5:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You know I realized a good question to ask, before I get into any of this, is how dynamically even are most electric guitars?

I'd imagine that even if you could attack each string with the exact same amount of force that there will always be some discrepancies even acoustically. To make things a little more complicated, I'd also imagine that most people don't pay as much attention as I have been recently.

Because I think I've had it in my head that either a humbucker or single coil with flat or adjustable pole pieces is going to make the strings have a significantly more even output (if not completely even) on my strat, but that might be a misapprehension.
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randyc



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 8:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that you're right, that's always been my way of thinking. Regarding the stratocaster, I was told that one wasn't supposed to move those magnets. The reason given was the fragility of the pickup windings. I did it successfully but it may not be a good idea for others that may not be prepared to pay for a new pickup. It was a long time ago, I was young and impulsive and I like my guitars to be as even-sounding as you do Smile
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JakeJew



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 10:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

randyc wrote:
I think that you're right, that's always been my way of thinking. Regarding the stratocaster, I was told that one wasn't supposed to move those magnets. The reason given was the fragility of the pickup windings. I did it successfully but it may not be a good idea for others that may not be prepared to pay for a new pickup. It was a long time ago, I was young and impulsive and I like my guitars to be as even-sounding as you do Smile


high fiiive

Given my lack of expertise (or anything close to it) with guitar repair or upgrades I'm definitely not going to attempt to even out the magnets myself. In fact, the shameful truth is that I've never even replaced a pickup on a guitar. I have an amp guy that's becoming somewhat of a friend and if/when i do pull the trigger on a pickup he's agreed to both install it and teach me how. (i hear it's a pretty easy job but I seem to be pretty good at f***ing things like this up)

He might be interested in trying to even out the pieces, we could try either your method or the one I posted...but honestly paying for a new pickup (or a new guitar) isn't that big of a deal for me, so I'd rather leave the original pickups as they are unless if I have confidence in a method and craftsman that could really do a good job on the existing pieces.
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randyc



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I see absolutely nothing wrong in your thinking. Past a certain point in my youth, where one guitar had to do it all, I decided to leave them alone except for pickup adjustment, action adjustment and intonation. Rather than trying to modify an instrument to make it sound like something else, I just started buying the "something else", instead.

(I don't think that I've bought any more guitars than most of us here of a certain age, the main difference being that I quit selling them when I was around thirty, so they started to pile up. Consequently there is little in musical genres that can't be covered with what's laying around here, from ragas to hip-hop. There are always four or five out on semi-permanent loans to relatives, as well.)

cheers,
randyc
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JakeJew



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 11:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

randyc wrote:
Rather than trying to modify an instrument to make it sound like something else, I just started buying the "something else", instead.


I see your point but for me I don't really know what that "something else" is. Right now I'm in a place where I can afford a high quality archtop, but I'm not really sure that's what I want.

Nobody's guitar tone really does it for me so much that I feel like I want to seek out a similar instrument...some things interest me but my taste changes so frequently that I'd feel foolish buying a 2K guitar only to have a totally different taste in tone in a year.

A few years ago I loved the Martino/Benson type of sound and was interested in a guitar of that nature. Last year I was intrigued by the solid body players like Goodrick, Tim Miller, John Abercrombie.

I'm probably going to be going to Berklee or NEC in the next few years (they are gonna call me grandpa...hah)...I'm going to be around so many different musicians and types of music I'm sure my tastes will change.

So there are big archtops thick and thin, solid body guitars like les paul, tele, strat, single coil, humbucker, p90s, something different like a klein. I guess my best bet is probably to just go to different stores and play as many guitars as I can. It's all a bit overwhelming tho...I thought if I modded out my strat - a guitar which i guess has become pretty personal to me - I might get something unique, interesting, and personal. Maybe the first step before that should be playing a ton of guitars.

Gear is always such a big ? to me. Maybe as I gig out more (something I haven't been doing at all) I'll start to get a better feel for what I want. But for now I do know I want something different....
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randyc



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

FWIW, before I decided that archtops were for me 100% of the time, I went through the search for the most versatile guitar and settled on the ES-330 with P-90s ... Even now, owning way more expensive guitars than my little '69, it would be the last one I'd relinquish.

It's thin enough to resist feedback but still completely hollow (no block running through the body), the P-90 pickups are not too bassy (as some feel humbuckers tend to be). The neck pickup produces the authentic jazz tones, the ones that were produced in the golden era of the genre by those that we usually try to emulate.

For some time I used the 330 in place of my SG in a rock band, back in the 1980s. (I was playing slide with the SG so it was never in standard tuning.) The 330 sounded great through my Bassman and I never had a feedback issue.

It's also a very comfortable guitar to play, light with a very nice neck and lots of John Lee Hooker mojo Smile Unfortunately, they are not so common, these days.

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JakeJew



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 2:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

randyc wrote:
FWIW, before I decided that archtops were for me 100% of the time, I went through the search for the most versatile guitar and settled on the ES-330 with P-90s ... Even now, owning way more expensive guitars than my little '69, it would be the last one I'd relinquish.

It's thin enough to resist feedback but still completely hollow (no block running through the body), the P-90 pickups are not too bassy (as some feel humbuckers tend to be). The neck pickup produces the authentic jazz tones, the ones that were produced in the golden era of the genre by those that we usually try to emulate.

For some time I used the 330 in place of my SG in a rock band, back in the 1980s. (I was playing slide with the SG so it was never in standard tuning.) The 330 sounded great through my Bassman and I never had a feedback issue.

It's also a very comfortable guitar to play, light with a very nice neck and lots of John Lee Hooker mojo Smile Unfortunately, they are not so common, these days.

'

neat little relic, dude! Thanks.
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