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Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby John Egan » Mon Jan 21, 2019 10:53 pm

I'm in the process of making another guitar, and am keen to get some opinions.

The guitar has a 25.5" scale length with a Strat shaped body, but without forearm or belly contours, and a Strat neck. The body is ash and the neck is maple. I'm having trouble deciding on the pickup configuration.

It will definitely be single coils and the bridge pickup will be a Tele pickup with a Tele bridge. Generally, I prefer to play two pickup guitars rather than three, because I find the middle pickup gets in the way (I play pick and fingers - or in the modern jargon, hybrid picking). I also palm mute a lot. However, I love both P90 and Strat neck pickups.

I wondered if it would be a practical idea to fit a Strat pickup in the conventional neck position, with a P90 immediately behind it, leaving a larger gap between the P90 and the bridge pickup to make hybrid picking more comfortable. The displacement of the P90 would have the effect of tightening up the sound a little, which might not be a bad thing.

The switching arrangement should be straightforward but would need to allow each pickup to be selected individually. I can sort that easily, but it is the pickup placement idea that I would love to hear your thoughts on.

Regards, John
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Jan 21, 2019 11:59 pm

I love P90s too and have a 'bitsa' Strat with two P90s. Mine are in the 'normal' bridge and neck positions but I think your idea would work well, the slightly displaced P90 would probably mix with the Tele bridge pickup better than having it in the 'normal' neck position. But, I'd also consider a Seymour Duncan P-Rails pickup which has a P90 and Strat style single coil in the same housing.
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby zenguitar » Tue Jan 22, 2019 1:40 am

The P90 and Strat neck pick-ups have very different transfer characteristics so I think you are onto a good idea. They won't depend on spacing to give you different sounds.

You could even mount them side by side in a single routed cavity in the body and scratch plate to keep them well spaced from the Tele bridge pick-up. And voila, plenty of space for your hybrid picking.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby Wonks » Tue Jan 22, 2019 10:20 am

I too would suggest considering a P- rails. It does open up the sonic possibilities considerably. But you then need to consider how to switch it to make use of the 3 possible configurations. To keep the standard switching look, the SD switching mounting ring for the pickup would be my choice. Not cheap, but very straightforward. A standard Tele control cavity is probably the worse one of any guitar to add fancy switching options to.
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby John Egan » Tue Jan 22, 2019 12:39 pm

Thanks guys for the encouraging replies.
Sam and Wonks, I have tried the Duncan pickup on a secondhand Strat in a local shop. It seems very versatile, but I wasn't quite convinced by the P90 sound. Mind you, I have a Godin LG guitar with two Seymour P90s and they are much more pokey than my preferred P90 sound, whereas my LP Studio Gem has a really early P90 vibe to it, which is what I would like to get. I once tried a Lollar P90 which was really good. I haven't decided on control cavity or switching design yet. The default would probably be Tele cavity with some additional switching - maybe a five way.
Zen thanks for the encouragement. The idea for a single cavity for both pickups is interesting and, as you say, it would maximise the size of the gap to accommodate pick and finger playing.
I'm slightly relieved that so far that nobody has questioned my sanity for wanting two neck pickups. Still, give it time.

Regards, John
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby zenguitar » Tue Jan 22, 2019 1:00 pm

Wonks wrote: A standard Tele control cavity is probably the worse one of any guitar to add fancy switching options to.

Yep, to fit a standard Oaks-Grigsby 5 way 4 pole you either need to rout out part of the side of the cavity to fit it or have a custom control plate with an off-set slot.

However, I have discovered this custom made version designed to fit in a Tele without modification.

http://www.toneshapers.com/wiring-produ ... EcEpi2cYW8

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby John Egan » Tue Jan 22, 2019 3:41 pm

zenguitar wrote:
Wonks wrote: A standard Tele control cavity is probably the worse one of any guitar to add fancy switching options to.

However, I have discovered this custom made version designed to fit in a Tele without modification.

http://www.toneshapers.com/wiring-produ ... EcEpi2cYW8

Andy :beamup:

Andy, thanks for the link. I'm going to buy one of those - not for this project though. I think it would be overkill for a guitar with three single coils. I'm more likely to fit a standard Fender 5 way with maybe a push pull pot to change phase on the P90.

Regards, John
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby Wonks » Tue Jan 22, 2019 4:38 pm

Don't forget that you'll need a custom wired P-90 in order to succesfully swap phase; using a 2-conductor + screen cable, instead of the standard single conductor + screen arrangement.

I'm sure you already know this, but some other readers may not, so I thought I'd just mention it.
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby ore_terra » Tue Jan 22, 2019 6:55 pm

You can go for a strat sized p90-ish pickup (such as SD quarter pounder), and maybe you can fit it along with the regular strat pickup in a humbucker frame/hole...

not sure though if you could get along with the wires position, as the pickup closer to the neck might have to be flipped, and dont know how good would be to have “wrong” pole heights over the strings
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby John Egan » Tue Jan 22, 2019 7:03 pm

Wonks wrote:Don't forget that you'll need a custom wired P-90 in order to succesfully swap phase; using a 2-conductor + screen cable, instead of the standard single conductor + screen arrangement.

I'm sure you already know this, but some other readers may not, so I thought I'd just mention it.

Thanks Wonks. Actually I didn't know. Would you believe that in more than 60 years of playing guitar, I've never fitted a P90.

Regards, John
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby Wonks » Tue Jan 22, 2019 11:17 pm

Well, it's probably about time you did then! :D

They can be lovely pickups. Personally I'd avoid anything too hot. Some have a hotter outout than a humbucker, but I think the vintage style ones have far more character, but these still have a lot of clarity plus poke. My '93 Hamer had SD made P90s that were ridiculously hot. Ceramic magnets and 22k windings (partly due to thinner wire). You may take it for granted that they didn't do 'subtle'.

It now has some low cost Irongear P90s that sound great.

You really need the wide shallow coil plus the screw polepieces to get the true P90 sound. My Melody Maker LP has two P90S pickups that have magnetic pole pieces, rather than bar magnets and screws, and whilst the coil is still shallow and wide, they sounds a lot brighter, more like a Jazzmaster pickup.

The downside of the wide coils is that they do pick up more hum than standard Strat-sized single coils, so cavity shielding is a really good idea.
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Jan 23, 2019 12:20 am

All that is right, I have Kent Armstrong P90s (wide/flat coils and screw pole pieces) in my main guitar (a 'bitsa' Strat) and they are cheap and gorgeous. They have a fatness that my 'vintage' Strat pickups don't but still have the single coil 'chime' that my Les Paul's 'buckers don't. Best of both worlds, but, yes they do hum........

Playing it tonight rehearsing with the trio through my kit built '18 Watt' combo and a few pedals, absolutely perfect (even the drummer commented how good it sounded......) :D
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby zenguitar » Wed Jan 23, 2019 2:02 am

+1 for vintage P90's that aren't overwound. A very useful voice to have on hand.

Almost as underestimated as a good Gibson mini humbucker. One of the guys at tonight's open mic night in the village pub turned up with his late 60's Les Paul loaded with mini's, it was a real treat.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby John Egan » Wed Jan 23, 2019 11:58 am

I too much prefer lower output P90s,. I think they have a much more expressive tome. Recently, I played a Godin Kingpin and was very impressed with its sound and, similarly, a Peerless Wizard (which is the only guitar I know with the same arrangement as the original Gibson ES5 which is my favourite old guitar but which I've never been able to afford). Maybe I'll find one in a boot sale one day, but I won't hold my breath! A few days ago, I tried a cheap as chips Chinese Tele with P90s which was amazing. It needed a setup badly, so I bought it for £200 - a steal.
Given other commitments, it may take me a while to finish the guitar, but I'll let you know how it goes.

Regards, John
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby Studio Support Gnome » Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:32 pm

it has to be said, I bloody Love P90's on a Strat/Tele based guitar..... just , YUMM



I am a fan of the P-rail , for versatility reasons, Does passable single coil , (rail) and passable P90, and pretty good Humbucker despite the theoretical possible imbalance..

perhaps too good at being a humbucker, which implies to me that the two single coil windings are compromised to make it work well as a humbucker....

still sounds pretty damn good.... I use them in the Neck position yummy plummy yum yum
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby Watchmaker » Fri Jan 25, 2019 12:20 am

the elusive P90. somes they do, somes they don't, eh? This thread has been bad for my jones and even worse now that I pulled 9 guitars out of the closet to fix my boiler.

I feel a build coming on.

If you haven't yet heard of Jason Lollar in jolly old england (due to brexit, no capitals for you anymore), he makes some very nice pups. He's in the US, not UK...I mean, his pups sound better than most - I'm a tad skeptical of boutique gear in general, but he's the real deal. I put two of his filter 'trons in a single piece ash tele build that has a sound like no other :-) I"ve also used his "52 tele winds to very good effect, looks like I'm setting myself up to try the P90s - unless I run into an OEM set from '69. I also love SD, hard to go wrong there.

I think I'd put the P90 up top and the strat in the middle though. just a gut feeling it'd be more versatile. Apologies for being a flagrant fanboy...
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby Wonks » Fri Jan 25, 2019 12:12 pm

We do know of Jason Lollar pickups over here. They are on the expensive side, and there are only a few stockists (Charlie Chandler's Guitar Experience being the only one that I can remember) but they do have a very good reputation.

But there are now a wide range of UK pickup winders that are producing some equally nice pickups. I've got a set of low/powered dog ear P90s from The Creamery that I'm hoping are very nice, but I have yet to finish the es330 style kit guitar they are going in, so can't say what they are like until I do finish.
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Re: Pickup Placement - What do you think ?

Postby John Egan » Fri Jan 25, 2019 4:15 pm

I have a Chris Eccleshall Strat with Lollar pickups and they do sound really good. Most guitarists who hear them comment on how good they sound (even when I'm playing).

Regards, John
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