Choosing Guitar Pickups and amps

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John has written in asking about pickup and amplifier configurations:

Hi my name is john I bought your jamorama and lead programs. I was wondering if you can explain the difference in the pick-ups in the fender guitars. There are the 500.00 – 1700.00 dollar guitars and up, I am confused because they look like single coil p/u but can sound like dual humbuckers to me.
If I was to buy one how would I know which ones would give me a heavy rock distortion sound, you know, switch between clear clean sound to heavy distortion?

Hi John,

Jake Edwards here. Personally I use a fender stratocaster plus with gold lace sensors used exclusively by Fender from 1987 to 1996. These were used by Eric Clapton for some time, and Jeff Beck also. So if you`re interested, check out the sounds these guys achieve between these dates in a live situation. I think they deliver a great sound through a range of amplifiers and I`d recommend them.

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humbuckers

The options for pick ups are pretty vast these days but if you are keen on Fender guitars Fender are now producing their own Fender Special Design dual-coil ceramic Noiseless™ pick ups in Stratocasters, so these, which Clapton (using the vintage model) and Beck have in their current signature guitar models should be pretty good. In telecaster they are using Samarium Cobalt Noiseless™ Telecaster pickups.

The best course of action is to try and find a guitar that really has that magic feel, playability and sound for you. Try a telecaster and a stratocaster.  Consider the sound that Bruce Springsteen, Joe Strummer, or Keith Richards get with a telecaster and then maybe have a listen to some strat` users – Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher or Jeff Beck….

dodge-charger

There are two main styles of electric guitar pickups: single-coil and humbucker.

Single-coil pickups are most commonly seen in Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster guitars.

The humbucker is basically, two single-coil pickups stacked on top of each other. They are the muscle car pick up of the guitar world and produce thicker, punchier tones. Humbuckers are seen in all kinds of guitars but are most closely associated with the Gibson Les Paul. It’s called a hum bucker because it was designed to do exactly that – buck the hum.

Country rock or blues players often choose single-coils, while heavy metal music is predominantly played on guitars with humbuckers. There is no limit to your imagination either and you can combine any array of pickups you like.

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Really at the end of the day your choice of pickups is a highly individual matter and it is well worth taking the time to choose a pickup that suits your style and sound. One of the best ways to do this is to listen to some of your favourite records and use the internet to find out what kind of guitars, amplifiers and equipment the artist is using.

Cruise on over to GUITAR GEEK and check out what your favourite professional guitarist is using. You`ll be surprised at some of the set ups.


DualRecto-Stac-Lg

Just for example here is the set up used by Head from Korn:

korn_head_1997


Maybe start by playing the guitars unplugged so you can gain an insight into the feel of the neck, the balance of the machine and the kind of tones it makes before amplification. When you think you’ve found a guitar that really feels right then you can plug it into something!

Are you going to be playing live to 500 people or just playing at home? Will you be recording with your amplifier in the studio? Or will you be having a small jam down at your local bar?

These are the types of questions you should ask yourself when thinking about an amplifier to begin with. Having a huge stacking amplifier set up with a head and cabinets is great  for high volume applications but difficult to move and incredibly loud.  <a href=”http://jamorama.com” rel=”nofollow”>Personally</a> I would suggest a valve amp but at the end of the day use your ears carefully. A Fender twin sounds markedly different from a Marshall amplifier for example and a Session.

<a href=”http://www.cornfordamps.com” rel=”nofollow”>Cornford amps</a> have a great series of versatile amps, some specifically for club playing or recording.

Most of your overdrive and distortion can be achieved through your choice of amplifier. Look for an amp with both a clean and an overdriven channel  – then you can switch between the channels or combine them with a footswitch. At the end of the day a good guitar and a decent amp will deliver a huge range of tonal and sound possibilities and characteristics.

Try  clean sounds first with all combinations of pick up and tone control possibilities on the guitar and then play with the controls on the amplifier as well. Roll all your tone on and off across each pick up and do the same with the EQ section of the amp.

Then do the same thing with the dirty channel and a distorted sound. The combine the two and listen to the results. Spend as long as you can and concentrate on what your hear. It may take you an hour, a day or a even week. I used different Marshalls, combined with Fender Twins and a few others before I settled upon <a href=”http://www.promenademusic.co.uk” rel=”nofollow”>SESSION AMPLIFIERS</a>.

Then if you really want to kick out the jams try some distortion boxes.

ABOUT LACE SENSORS

Lace Sensors are true single-coil pickups; however, internally they are different from classic single coils. The chief difference is that the coil is surrounded by metal barriers which blocks electro-magnetic interference such as power line hum. These barriers also help concentrate the magnetic field, allowing weaker magnets to be used, which results in less string pull. Less string pull, in turn, means truer pitch and intonation, and superior sustain. There are three main types gold red and blue:

GOLD: A classic 50’s Style single coil sound with a classy bell.

BLUE: Slightly increased output with the warmer 50’s humbucking sound in a single coil configuration

RED:  The hottest output of our Sensor Series. Perfect for the bridge position when fat, punch humbucking output is required.

Jake Edwards current musical projects are <a href=”http://jamorama.com” rel=”nofollow”>available here</a>

Maybe start by playing the guitars unplugged so you can gain an insight into the feel of the neck, the balance of the machine and the kind of tones it makes before amplification. When you think you’ve found a guitar that really feels right then you can plug it into something!

Are you going to be playing live to 500 people or just playing at home? Will you be recording with your amplifier in the studio? Or will you be having a small jam down at your local bar?

These are the types of questions you should ask yourself when thinking about an amplifier to begin with. Having a huge stacking amplifier set up with a head and cabinets is great for high volume applications but difficult to move and incredibly loud. Personally I would suggest a valve amp but at the end of the day use your ears carefully. A Fender twin sounds markedly different from a Marshall amplifier for example and a Session highly different from a Peavey.

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Cornford amps have a great series of versatile amps, some specifically for club playing or recording.

Most of your overdrive and distortion can be achieved through your choice of amplifier. Look for an amp with both a clean and an overdriven channel – then you can switch between the channels or combine them with a footswitch. At the end of the day a good guitar and a decent amp will deliver a huge range of tonal and sound possibilities and characteristics.

Try clean sounds first with all combinations of pick up and tone control possibilities on the guitar and then play with the controls on the amplifier as well. Roll all your tone on and off across each pick up and do the same with the EQ section of the amp.

mofo

Then do the same thing with the dirty channel and a distorted sound. The combine the two and listen to the results. Spend as long as you can and concentrate on what your hear. It may take you an hour, a day or a even week. I used different Marshalls, combined with Fender Twins and a few others before I settled upon SESSION AMPLIFIERS.

Then if you really want to kick out the jams try some distortion boxes.

Cheers,

Jake Edwards

ABOUT LACE SENSORS
Lace Sensors are true single-coil pickups; however, internally they are different from classic single coils. The chief difference is that the coil is surrounded by metal barriers which blocks electro-magnetic interference such as power line hum. These barriers also help concentrate the magnetic field, allowing weaker magnets to be used, which results in less string pull. Less string pull, in turn, means truer pitch and intonation, and superior sustain. There are three main types gold red and blue:

GOLD: A classic 50’s Style single coil sound with a classy bell.
BLUE: Slightly increased output with the warmer 50’s humbucking sound in a single coil configuration
RED: The hottest output of our Sensor Series. Perfect for the bridge position when fat, punch humbucking output is required.

Comments

  1. kandy

    Been reading your excellent blog for quite a few weeks now, and i am enjoying many of your excellent topics.

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