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Author Topic: Pick-ups or Pick-downs?  (Read 713 times)
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« on: July 07, 2017, 05:31:38 pm »


Quoted from the Plectrum Choice thread:  Meron said:

"Dunno if you watched the Dan Patlansky video posted a while back? (http://www.guitarforum.co.za/youtube-guitar-videos/dan-patlansky-'killer-strat-tone-tips-and-monster-playing'-video/msg274974/#new). There one thing he does I'm interested to try, that is lowering the pups almost all the way into the body (about 2-3mm lower than I have them now). This will drop output, so I'd want to make that up with a boost pedal (Klon/TS clone) or a compressor (depending if it's a blues or funk tone I'm aiming at) and see if that scratches my strat tonal itch. I expect it to add a lot of mellow and some more dynamics to the soundm we'll see.

You'll struggle to tame the twang of the bridge pup on a strat. If it''s a stock strat wiring, then the bridge pickup will not be affected by the tone pot. No load from the pot means a rather bright pickup. Literally a icepick - worked for Rory Gallagher - but not for me. I've had mine wired up to the tone pot, so I can roll off the highs if need be. I do use the vol & tone control a lot on the strat, there's a lot of magic for tone there. Recently was chatting to a old-skool tech at bothners, he is a fan of the greasebucket tone mod on fender's and -like me- we both prefer our vol pot just shy of '10' - just slightly rolled off, somewhere between 8.5 and 9.5."

No, I did not watch.  Must do so.

Guitar setup is getting the better of me.  Never knew about it, until I bought my own copy of "The Guitar Handbook".  Started adjusting truss rods.  (My magic guitar improved no end.  The other guitar was action-heaven from the sales room, never needed work.)  Started setting string height.  Started playing with intonation.  "The Book" does not say too much about pick-ups, but reading a lot of information on the web and here, I started tuning my pick-up heights too.  ?  The problem here being that I do not recognize good "tone", mostly maybe due to not knowing how to set my amp.  And all the info here does not help, because I cannot hear that talked about "sweet spot". 

I re-did my single coil guitar setup (again), by starting out at the recommended pick-up to string clearance.  And then proceeded to screw those adjusters until the pick-ups were mm's lower than ever.  That was before this comment by Meron, but yes, seems to be what is implied.  I did this because Alan mentioned somewhere that the inverse square law applies, so lowering the pick-ups smooths out the response between the strings.  Cannot confirm that, but the "tone" did go mellow and "smooth" on the neck and middle pick-ups, but, like Meron mentions, the bridge stays harsh.  OK, the famous "twang" is not lost, just smoothed out.  Years ago I wanted to swop out pick-ups because these are so low powered.  The store said "live with it, turn up the amp".  I really cannot say if the sound level dropped with the pick-ups as well, one would really need to measure it with a dB meter.

Not making much progress here, not getting the "sound".  Whatever that may be.  Maybe a small valve amp will help with that, this guitar is better with valves, but I have to sort out my system as is.  Another interesting thing is the two Tone pots - Sort of an on-off type response, dof and dead to bright and clear, to my ears loud to soft, but my wife says no, it is the treble-bass difference.  To get any useful sound I have them set at almost "10".  The thing with "tone" is like a new guitar:  Wonderful at first (honeymoon) but then after a few hours, Huh? again.

Looking at the string alignment over the poles, the middle and bridge pick-ups have the high E on the side of the pole piece, the pickguard is off by 2 mm at the bridge end, not going to try and fix that...  As Alan says, increase the string - to - pick-up distance and that does not matter so much (?).  I do find the high E to be quieter than the B string, when playing.  Not so noticeable when one picks them slowly to hear the difference, but when playing, the high E string disappears in the mix. Substituting with the same note on the B string results in the required strong response.

Sigh.  This is never ending, I still have two more electrics to optimize, two classicals, and one steel string.  I did make up a prototype bone nut for the one nylon,  spacing the strings from 43 mm to 41.5 mm at the nut,  and yes, the sound is better.  As soon as I get bone of sufficient size, I shall make up lots of blanks to play with string spacing, and start on intonation, and make bone saddles to enter Sound Nirvana.  (Nut width and string spacing:  The one Nylon has a 52.5 mm nut, strings were spaced 43 mm center-center.  The other one is 52 mm at the nut, strings spaced 45 mm center-center.  And it plays easier, the one with the closer spaced strings had me looking for the strings between the strings, looking for them closer together that they were.  With the 41.5 mm spacing now, it is better.  All this makes no sense, but highlights the fact that neck shape has a lot to do with "playing feel".  No hard and fast rules here, with the stack of bone nuts to be, I shall play with spacing a lot, to see where I find my sweet spot on each instrument.  Ah, yes, a steel string with 45 - 47 mm nut would be nice, a nylon with 48 - 50 mm nut would be nice, with slight radius to the frets, and an electric with 45 mm nut would be lekker.  Getting all my fingers on the strings on a 41 mm nut neck is not easy.  And I do not have fat fingers. Dream on.)

Being a long way from home, there is nobody close by to help sort out my systems, to point the correct way to go, to show me how stuff sounds, and though the road to my destination may be interesting, it would help if I knew what the tourist attractions looked like, as well as have a rough idea where the road is supposed to be going to...

Soldier on regardless.


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Meron Rigas
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« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2017, 10:31:02 am »

And all the info here does not help, because I cannot hear that talked about "sweet spot". 
It'a a entirely personal thing - the sweet spot that gets you playing on your setup.

All the info does is give you things to try. And the spot (like a cat's itchy spot) moves around. Yesterday I couldn't find it on the strat. After some tweaking, figured it was the strings, which are really dead. Plugged the bass into the same amp without touching a thing...bass sounded killer Roll Eyes Seems like yesterday was a bass playing day for me. (Part of the issue was in my head?)

Is this the book you are referring to : https://www.amazon.com/Electric-Guitar-Handbook-Alan-Ratcliffe/dp/1845370422?

Another interesting thing is the two Tone pots - Sort of an on-off type response, dof and dead to bright and clear, to my ears loud to soft, but my wife says no, it is the treble-bass difference.  To get any useful sound I have them set at almost "10".  The thing with "tone" is like a new guitar:  Wonderful at first (honeymoon) but then after a few hours, Huh? again.
If the pots are audio taper, the sweep is very abrupt (last/first 20% of the travel of the pot). Typically they will cut treble and there is a perception of volume loss without the bite of treble there?

I like a audio taper on the volume and linear taper on tone pots. But it's not a big deal. I'm not sure how you strat is wired, I assumed the tone pot(s) are not wired to the bridge - you can check fairly easily by running through the positions and tweaking tone knobs.

Honestly, I reckon the tone debate often gets in the way of playing. Gimme a solid groove played with feel over great tone played robotically.



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« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2017, 04:20:31 pm »

Meron

It is a personal thing, yes, but I struggle to find that good sound.  As for tone being overrated, well, if the sound sounds wrong, it is no fun to play.  Yet, some days, everything clicks, the sound dials in, the guitar sings and all is well.  All in the head, yes.

The book is Ralph Denyer's "The Guitar Handbook".  What would be nice is a modern version including all that has happened the past two decades.  With more tech info as well.  Will be a rather thick book, or a rather expensive series of books to cover it all.
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