#1
Something I wrote ages ago:

The first thing you need to know is, a pickup will not turn your Twin into a Dual Rectifier. A pickup will change the electric voicing of the guitar but not its accoustic voice: there is only so much you can change.
If a change of power is not required, you'd be surprised at how much a change of pick or strings can change your tone. Also, putting the action higher is a big change in both the accoustic AND electric tones of a guitar. Changing the pickup can be a subtle change just like it can be a huge change. You really need to identify your needs first.

If you want softer or harder tone, with more or less of an EQ change, then I'd say yes, a pickup may be what you want if you're satisfied with your tone from the amp in the first place. It's not always easy to determine of course.

Either way... You need to know:
What you like about your sound
What you'd like to change
How you'd like to change
Whether a pickup change is really what you need (duh)

Once you've determined all this, it's easy to give examples of recorded tones to help the research if you're asking around. Chances are you'll never nail it, but you can always get closer, if you're realistic of course.

Another thing you need to know is, no matter what people tell you, you and only you can properly know how close it'd get you, once you listen to it. You may get the best suited pickup with the best suited rig, it won't always bring the tone in your head either.

If you play heavy metal, chances are you'd want a tight low end and a thick tone. Think Custom, Distortion, Full Shred. If these are too powerful, maybe a Screaming Deamon. But all these sound different as well as having different output. The output of a pickup (how hot it is, not the DC resistance or output in mv) IS a big part of what sound you will end up with at the amp because of how hard it pushes it. Bringing the gain down may not get the tone to where it was before. You have to be ready to accept this.


There IS a lot of choice out there. So many PAF type 'buckers, rail single coils....Don't just look at the tone charts. Two pickups may 'look' the same but sound very different. Listen. Your ears only can be judge.

If you barge in a forum asking 'I want to sound like Metallica', not much can be done to help. If however you describe your rig, tell us what's not good and what you want, it's already a way better base on which to advise. Without info, even Seymour Duncan himself couldn't help you. Furthermore if a person doesn't know what's not right about his tone, then maybe a little more time is needed to really figure out what's required to get there. I hope this helps.

Ask away if you're curious about anything.
Last edited by Pott at May 25, 2008,
#2
that's pretty good.
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#3
Good job!
Call me Wes.
Gear:
Fender American Deluxe HSS Strat
Chicago Blues Box Roadhouse
Bad Cat Cougar 5
1957 Gibson GA-5
Ceriatone 18w TMB Combo
Hughes & Kettner Tube Factor
Various Ibanez TS9s
Weber MASS Attenuator
#4
Yeah... you get enough random people asking totally unrelated or impossible questions on here... I figured this may help a little.
#5
nailed it
NICK-NAC PATTY WACK GIVE A DOG A HANDJOB!


The day I see a squirrel masturbating to pictures of other squirrels is the day that we'll lose our human uniqueness.
#6
I'm not sure if you can edit thread titles, but the 'chose' instead of 'choose' looks bad and may make people less inclined to read your guide. Just sayin'...
#7
Ooops sorry... English isn't my native language and this is one of the very few things I still haven't gotten round to correct...edited.
#8
Quote by Pott
Yeah... you get enough random people asking totally unrelated or impossible questions on here... I figured this may help a little.


true... of course the problem is the people who need to read it most never do...
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#9
Aye, but at least now my conscience is happy, I did what I could
#10
yeah, that's true. now that it's written you can bite people's heads off and not feel bad...
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#11
Mhmm...


Thing is... it's not all hard to understand. And we all go through the different stages... I got lucky, I got taught well, and I'd HATE to have someone else's tone, so it makes chosing my stuff easier. But those who want someone's sound and have a totally innapropriate rig, not to mention those who don't get that even with 100% their rig, they won't sound like it at all, that's what messes everything up.

Doing research isn't complicated either...Asking a bunch of dudes on here however, is most likely even less efficient. No offence to you guys, but how many replies to 'which pickup/guitar/amp' are 'I have X and it's GREAT, get it!!' without any actual explanations...?
#12
yeah, that's true. i know when i was new to playing, i bought a bunch of stupid stuff. granted a lot of people here post without really knowing the answer, but sooner or later the regulars turn up and tell things the right way... i know, to me at least, that's the first thing that helped me...
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#13
Then let us go forth, friend, spread the words of the Truth on guitar gear, teach those peons the laws of the tone, how you can't sound like Metallica with a Squier Strat and a MG15 and the ruleness of the Big Muff
#14
Awesome guide man

I say it deserves a sticky or something..?

~SS
Member of the Bugera Users Militia

Quote by JagerSlushy
Go with Ibanez...Or if you're going high-end, get a Jackson.
#15
I'm with you on the sticky thing, soo many people ask which pickup to get...
05' G&L S-500
95' Godin LGX

96' Yamaha APX 6-A

Peavey Classic 30
Maxon OD808
#16
We'll see what the mods say if they see this. It's true there are no pickup stickies yet.

On another hand, usually stickies don't even get looked at...
#17
Good stuff, It'd be good for this to go on the end of the Ultimate Gear Info sticky, if Dave and the mods allow it of course.
A dwarf might hear you. What then?

My Music
#19
If you guys need more info, feel free to ask.

I think one day I'll also write a huge thread about all the pickups I have experience with. Should be a looong read...
#20
Good stuff, pity that the only people who'll likely pay attention to it are the ones who don't need to read it

Here's hoping anyways
Actually called Mark!

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...it's a seagull

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#21
There IS a pattern out there that the less you know what you want, the less research you do. Go figure...
#23
Quote by timi_hendrix
Good stuff, It'd be good for this to go on the end of the Ultimate Gear Info sticky, if Dave and the mods allow it of course.


i'd have no problem with that, but you'd have to contact a mod to get it added. you could maybe pad it out with a little more info as well if you'd like it to be added to the sticky.
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#24
Sure, what do you guys want to know/hear about?

I change pickups more often than strings
#25
i guess you could discuss the different types of pickups for different tones or something like that...
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#26
And maybe something about different magnet types, and the effects of adjusting pole pieces etc.
A dwarf might hear you. What then?

My Music
#27
Sure. New thread or on here?


Just so I can copy paste after then...


Types of pickups:

Single coil: you'll get a slight hum with gain, it's a brigther, snappy sound.
Tele bridge pickup: powerful, bright, cutting, a little aggressive. The Steven Seagall of bridge pickups.
Tele neck: smooth, sometimes muddy
Strat pickup : Bridge: thin, bright... to be honest I never heard of anyone who uses a Strat bridge pickup on its own. In other positions it's more useable... more even, less bright, and obviously in a Strat it's 'that' sound.
P90: big, mean, powerful...still touch sensitive and versatile. It's the Chuck Norris of single coils.


Humbucker: as its name says, quiet pickup. It's less bright, smoother, and bigger sounding. More bass, more balanced EQ in general too (single coils can be a lot of treble). Can be very powerful or vintage sounding, LOADS of options out there.

Active pickups: use a powered preamp to boost the output/shape the sound. So you get a lot more output usually, but also more headroom and a sound that's more processed. Some can hear the difference and say they sound more sterile, a bit colder. I totally agree with this. But it's a sound that has uses. Usually active pickups are clearer, and more suited to totally clean or uber gain sounds.

If your amp has a lot of gain, I'd advise AGAINST a high output pickup: you won't need it. High output pickups were created when amps didn't have master volumes and you had to either crank them up, either yank the input in order to get dirt. Nowadays you can get a lot of gain at very low volumes. Go low output and hear more openness, clarity and less mush. Trust me on this.

If your amp doesn't have enough gain for you, I'd suggest a boost of some kind (low gain OD with level up, or clean boost) before a new pickup. But a higher output pickup will surely increase the gain you get out of a given gain setting, be careful on clean sounds though.

If you play metal in the modern sense, humbuckers are the way to go. Unless you like that sterile thing, I don't get why so many people use EMGs. Sure they're clear and tight, but plenty of passive pickups are very clear, tight, and more dynamic. DON'T BE TEMPTED TO USE WHAT THE BANDS USE!! Please, really, don't.
My personal favorites for Metal:
Duncan Jazz (more on it later)
Duncan Custom
Duncan FullShred
DM Megadrive
Duncan A8
Duncan Distortion


If you play Blues with single coils and a Strat, I'd advise for either vintage style single coils (Duncan SSL1s for instance) or slightly overwound ones if you need more dirt. I won't be giving DC resistance values here because they mean very little unless you compare pickups with similar windings.
A5 for a more classic rock sound, A2 for a smoother, rounder top end and slightly less bass.
If you have, say a vintage Fender amp without MV and you play in your flat, then I'm affraid you're stuck with a clean sound unless you break out the 'buckers or the dirt pedal. That's the way life is.
I quite like the Duncan Custom (single coils), the A2 pro and the SSL1s. I also use a Quarter Pounder for an 'almost P90' sound.

I have no experience with Tele pickups sorry

Anyway...some examples...
Say you want a modern metal sound, and you have say a POD, or a channel switching amp which provides all the gain you could possibly want...
I'd go for a low output bucker. You can adjust your gain from the amp for the cleaner sounds and gain dynamics and headroom (on the amp). Then when you switch to uber gain, you keep your clarity.
Use too high output pickups and your clean sound won't be as clean, you'll lose headroom, which you'll notice live, and you'll sound mushier and less clear. If you play through a Solid State amp, you'll OD it more which is not for everyone, to say the least...

Small word on pickups I like and tried:

Duncan Jazz: Open sounding, great sensitivity, tight low end as you wind up the gain, NEVER MUDDY, very clear... absolutely AMAZING FOR METAL!!

Duncan Distortion: Bright, tight, powerful... It's a classic for some reason. I prefer other flavors myself now but I used one for nearly a year.

Duncan Custom: Tight low end, less bright, a bit more open and less modern sounding. A REALLY nice pickup that one... sounds great in anything!

Duncan FullShred: VERY tight, VERY clear, quite bright, not as much bass. It's not thin at all though, and is one very, VERY cool pickup, but specialised. It's the closest thing to a DiMarzio Duncan make The most modern sounding pickup they use. I absolutely love it. Be careful though...It's not THAT hot but with it you'll REALLY need to clean up your picking. Seriously an underrated choice.

Duncan Alternative 8: feels a bit less output than it really is... it's quite powerful... actually it's VERY powerful hehe... But pretty clear, very tight low end again... It's hard to describe. It's not ceramic, it's not Alnico5... Some say it's the best of both worlds. I just think it's a different sound. I usually don't like uber high output pups anymore but this one is unbelieably FAT sounding and cleans up GREAT. Example...
I was playing through a friend's 100W JCM800 (with KT66 in the output for some reason). Gain on 10, volume on 3... with the GUITAR's volume pot, I was able to get a totally clean sound out of this setting. ENTIRELY clean. Nice clean too! Cleans up like an Alnico, bullies your amp like a ceramic, and something very, very rare, has both a great rythm and lead sounds (to me at least). Fantastic one. Be careful though, it's way less bright than you might expect, so use more presence or treble, and make sure to use a 500K volume pot.

DM Evo: Too hot, too bright, I didn't like it. Harsh. May have been the guitar (JEM555, meh) but I really didn't dig it.

DM Megadrive: I haven't used it in a long time but I have nice memories of it. It's fat, tight, and just a real nice sound. Quite flat sounding EQ wise, but again could have been my guitar (an 1986 Kramer Stagemaster, which I had to sell )

Right now I'm using a Custom (with Alnico 8), a Jazz and an Alternative 8 as my main pickups.

Oh also, if you play through a distortion pedal with loads of gain, same thing applies, low output is usually clearer and more open sounding.
#28
Magnets:


Ceramic: tight low end, more low mids, slightly more biting treble
Alnico 5: warm, less of Ceramic character for a slightly less 'modern' sound
A2: less bass, rounded highs

Very rough guide... you can learn a lot about magnets allover the net, I don't have the correct expertise to talk about them. I've only ever used A5, Ceramic and A8.


Pickup height matters too! If your sound is too compressed and hot, lower the pickup. If it's a little dull and weak, bring it up! It'll make a big difference to your sound. Beware of wolf notes though... too high and your notes will make a 'wobbling' sound. Single coils are especially vulnerable. Also, with very poweful pickups for instance, the magnet can pull down on the strings and diminish sustain. Beware of that too.

Polepieces:
Screws: big sound
Hex: tighter sound

It really is as simple :P

You can snip the polepieces from the underside of the pickup... it'll either brighten either warm up the pickup, can't recall... I've never done that. Could be a good way to keep a general voicing and making them suited to your guitar.
Adjusting polepieces if mainly for evening out the strings on your guitar so they all have roughly the same volume.

Electronics:

500K volume pot: usually for humbuckers, to brighten them up
250K volume pot: usually for single coils, to warm them up

Mix and match, and experiement! If your bucker sounds too bright, try a 250K pot. It's a common mod for say, the Duncan JB.

You can try a 0.001uf capacitor between the middle and output lug of your volume pot to not lose treble as you lower the volume on your guitar. It's called a treble bleed mod.
#29
And two final advices:


LISTEN WITH YOUR EARS, NOT YOUR EYES!

If x brand sounds good to you, then so be it. No one should care, especially not you. Same, a brand doesn't make something sound good or bad. YOU do.

Secondly, tone is mostly in the amp, and hands. You won't sound like your favorite artist. Ever. Ever. It's not even worth trying, trust me. Better sound like yourself no?
#30
Nice work -- thanks for the effort. I'd like to see these in the stickies (yes, some of us noobs do read them!).

I'm also curious about the relationship between pickup choice and guitar wood.
#31
It's not so much a relationship, in that they have no effect on each other.

The wood affects the way the strings vibrate, and their sound in the first place. The pickups er... pickup those vibrations (which is what the sound is made up, vibrations chaning the air pressure) and translate the wood's sounds into an electrical current.

If you learn how wood sounds (mostly by hearing the unplugged guitar hopefully ) it can help you chose the right pickup. If the guitar is quite bright, chose a warm sounding pickup.
If it's very middy, try something like an old PAF style, or a more modern but still scooped sounding pup.
#34
bumpy

Extra good stuff Pott. I remember you helping me make my decisions and although I did not get the SH15 Alt 8 from Duncan, I am very happy with my TB11 Custom Custom from Duncan. Have I mentioned how easy they (Duncan) are to work with on Exchanges? I wouldn't be remissed if I did not add that Strat owners need to look for Trembuckers or F-Spaced humbuckers when looking to swap.

Good points too on the online Tone Charts, i won't bring that up anymore. This really should be stickied as there are a ton of Pickup Questions.

Thanks again for the detailed posts here!

;
#35
Aahh forgot about that! Knew I was missing a couple of things...And yeah Duncans are amazing. Though to be frank I never had to deal with them directly :P