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Unread 04-09-2004, 06:44 PM   #1
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pups

Ok, as stated in most other threads on this site I don't know much about guitar mechanics and the like. I'm hopefully gonna start 'hot rodding' my strat copy this summer so that when i'm confident I can work on my les paul and other stuff.

What's good to look for in pick-ups? I'd probably lean towards a seymour-duncan but i'm not sure why. Just the name i'm most familiar with probably.

What makes a pick up good?

What different sounds can you expect?

How much of a difference can new pups make?

What other things would you suggest upgrading? The whole thing is basically crap but i don't have THAT much money to spend on new gear...
-shane

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Unread 04-09-2004, 07:35 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snizzle
Ok, as stated in most other threads on this site I don't know much about guitar mechanics and the like. I'm hopefully gonna start 'hot rodding' my strat copy this summer so that when i'm confident I can work on my les paul and other stuff.
Cool. Hot-Rodding is the great aspect of working on guitars. Especially with the market with so many replacement parts, etc.

Quote:
What's good to look for in pick-ups? I'd probably lean towards a seymour-duncan but i'm not sure why. Just the name i'm most familiar with probably.
And for good reason. Duncans have a good rep. Why? Because they're just darn good pickups.

Quote:
What makes a pick up good?
First, they need to be decent in sound quality. Not a ton of buzzing (usually caused by bad wiring), squealing (bad microphonics), humming (bad shielding), screetching (bad wiring), and other extraneous noises. Next it needs a fairly balanced tone. Not extremely piercing highs, or amp-blowing lows. Just right for a good guitar tone. The rest of the tonal factors are subjective. Basically, and obviously, it needs to sound good.

Quote:
What different sounds can you expect?
Just a different tonal spectrum as far as the brightness, darkness, midrange, harmonic "sparkle", output etc. It won't change some natural characteristics of the wood and construction, such as the sustain, the resonance, and the tone of the strings, but virtually everything else regarding tone can be shaped by the pups.

Quote:
How much of a difference can new pups make?
A lot.

It can really change your guitar into a nearly totally different instrument, just with the tone-shaping power it has. Again, it won't change the natural tonal characteristics, but anything else is likely affected by the pickups and electronics in general.

Quote:
What other things would you suggest upgrading? The whole thing is basically crap but i don't have THAT much money to spend on new gear...
Depends on how far you want to go with this. Using various switches, pots, and other electronic components, you can pretty much totally customize your guitar.

Regarding the rest of the guitar, you can do a lot of things to the hardware components to improve your sound.
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Unread 04-09-2004, 08:07 PM   #3
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what kinda duncan's would u suggest?

is there any real plus to "Using various switches, pots, and other electronic components" or is it just a personal preference thing? (i.e. "i think this switch looks better than that one")
-shane
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Unread 04-09-2004, 08:11 PM   #4
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I think first you need to know exactly what you want the guitar to do that it doesn't do now. Say if you have a "regular" strat and you want a sound like Creed (ugh) or EVH, or SRV, etc. Rainer's right about the voice of the guitar - it will still be there with the new pickups. IMHO, pickups need to be matched to the guitar to reach its potential. Like a dark sounding guitar would benefit from p'ups with a little extra high end.

If you go the route of putting in Duncans or Dimarzios or whatevas, you can contact them, tell them about your guitar and what you want it to sound like, they can recommend one of their models. First you need to be able to describe the voice of the guitar as it is, and then know what you want it to do. I have changed a few pickups here and there, and after the change I can still tell its the same guitar.
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Unread 04-09-2004, 08:42 PM   #5
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Quote:
I think first you need to know exactly what you want the guitar to do that it doesn't do now.


My guitar is in pieces right now. I took it apart last year to work on it and ran outta cash. What would I like it to do that it doesn't right now? Play!

Sorry, anyways. Thanks for the advice. I'm really not sure what I want out of it. Probably more or a rockish sound. I've got an epi LP than i'm quite content w/ for p&w and other stuff but i'd like to have this guitar to just rock out on. I realize that 'rock' is pretty general, umm...something along the lines of tool i guess? I don't wanna limit it to a certain band or bands cuz I'm not sure exactly what sounds i want. This guy in my dorm has just been blaring tool lately, and that's kinda the general sound i'd like to go for i guess, w/out limiting myself. Suggestions?
-shane
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Unread 04-09-2004, 10:37 PM   #6
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I'm not the right guy to make recommedations on Tool's guitar sound, but I'm sure someone can. Seriously, go to Duncan and Dimarzio websites, get their customer service/tech support email address, and ask them. They are in business to sell pickups sure, but pickups are what they know - you don't have to get what they recommend, but it won't hurt to have another opinion. The cheapest way to buy pickups is on Ebay, there are lots of them up for sale from guys who change to something else. Pickups don't wear out, they either work or don't, so its a good way to save some $$.
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Unread 04-10-2004, 07:55 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snizzle
is there any real plus to "Using various switches, pots, and other electronic components" or is it just a personal preference thing? (i.e. "i think this switch looks better than that one")
Well, one 250k potentiometer will be about the same as another 250k potentiometer, but it's all in the way you wire it up. For example, what could you do with a strat wired up to a 7 way switch instead of a 5? You can change a lot of stuff about the sound using a few switches. For example, adding one switch could determine which pickups the selector switch selects, adding a kill switch, switching one of the pickups to be wired in the reverse phase of the others, etc. It's just what electronic components you use where.

Quote:
Sorry, anyways. Thanks for the advice. I'm really not sure what I want out of it. Probably more or a rockish sound. I've got an epi LP than i'm quite content w/ for p&w and other stuff but i'd like to have this guitar to just rock out on. I realize that 'rock' is pretty general, umm...something along the lines of tool i guess? I don't wanna limit it to a certain band or bands cuz I'm not sure exactly what sounds i want. This guy in my dorm has just been blaring tool lately, and that's kinda the general sound i'd like to go for i guess, w/out limiting myself. Suggestions?
What is the electronics config. of your guitar? (tone controls, volume controls, pickups (humbucker/single coil)) I'm gona tell you right now that you'll need a humbucker, probably aloing the lines of DiMarzio. Duncan also has some that would be usable. Mainly, for that tone, the amp tone is a little more important then the guitar tone.
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Unread 04-10-2004, 02:01 PM   #8
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haha, whoops. I meant fuel, not tool. sorry. I haven't looked at the guitar in about a year and my original intention was to just give it the bare neccisities (I was shooting for the Tom Delunge strat: pretty much just a humbucker and a volume knob). My tastes have changed though. It original had three single coils, two tone knobs, and a volume knob. I believe it had a three way switch. But I don't neccisarily want any of this again. Why a humbucker over three single coils? And i'm assuming you mean a humbucker and a single coil. Suggestions?
-shane
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Unread 04-10-2004, 02:16 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snizzle
haha, whoops. I meant fuel, not tool. sorry. I haven't looked at the guitar in about a year and my original intention was to just give it the bare neccisities (I was shooting for the Tom Delunge strat: pretty much just a humbucker and a volume knob). My tastes have changed though. It original had three single coils, two tone knobs, and a volume knob. I believe it had a three way switch. But I don't neccisarily want any of this again. Why a humbucker over three single coils? And i'm assuming you mean a humbucker and a single coil. Suggestions?
-shane
Actually, I mean at least one humbucker. You can have whatever else you want, but to get that real hard rock tone you gotta have the 'bucker in the bridge position. I love the H/S/H config. Very versatile. I would mod it so you can pick any combination of pickups you want, then give it a master tone and volume. I got a diagram of that wiring somewhere...
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Unread 04-10-2004, 02:54 PM   #10
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sounds difficult and complicated. Is it? I've never done any wiring or worked on anything ever. Always wanted to but never got into it. H/S/H would be tight, i actually forgot about that possibility. Could you give me a basic rundown of what it would take to say put in:

H/S/H
tone knob
volume knob
5 way switch (would it be worth the trouble of putting in a 7?)
new bridge

basically everything. I wish i could post pictures of my guitar. Here's the way it is now. It's basically in two separate pieces: Neck and body. The body is completely emptied out, just wood. Everything else is in one big bucket, and the bucket is probably worth more than the stuff in it. My dad's a carpenter but knows nothing about music. He helped me take it all apart and get the paint off (it's actually got a nice wood tone ) I'm talking about a COMPLETE rebuild off this guitar. I'd get a new neck if i could afford it, but those are expensive. Anyway to kinda boost the quality of a mediocre neck? Basically, what would it take to complete redo everything and approximately how much $$ am i talking about here?
-shane
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Unread 04-10-2004, 04:33 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snizzle
sounds difficult and complicated. Is it? I've never done any wiring or worked on anything ever. Always wanted to but never got into it.
It is very intimidating on the outside, but once you really get started, it's a piece of cake. Explaining it make it seem hard, but once you open up, it's one of the easiest wiring projects ever.

Quote:
H/S/H would be tight, i actually forgot about that possibility. Could you give me a basic rundown of what it would take to say put in:

H/S/H
tone knob
volume knob
5 way switch (would it be worth the trouble of putting in a 7?)
new bridge
Not much. Again, wiring a guitar is easy. Usually point-a to point-b soldering. I'd reccommend just putting in a 5. Now you wire all the pups to the switch, then wire the switch to the volume pot, wire the volume pot to the tone pot, and then the volume pot to the output. Sound easy?

That's actually standard Ibanez H/S/H wiring.

Quote:
I wish i could post pictures of my guitar. Here's the way it is now. It's basically in two separate pieces: Neck and body. The body is completely emptied out, just wood. Everything else is in one big bucket, and the bucket is probably worth more than the stuff in it. My dad's a carpenter but knows nothing about music. He helped me take it all apart and get the paint off (it's actually got a nice wood tone ) I'm talking about a COMPLETE rebuild off this guitar. I'd get a new neck if i could afford it, but those are expensive. Anyway to kinda boost the quality of a mediocre neck? Basically, what would it take to complete redo everything and approximately how much $$ am i talking about here?
That's a good explanation. For the electronics, you're probably looking at $300-350 for Duncans, and a bit more if you opt for EMG's. I'm not sure how much the painting will be, but maybe someone else (gg7? Chesh?) can enlighten you. The bridge will be around $200. (assuming straight Strat-spec replacement...)
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Unread 04-10-2004, 06:38 PM   #12
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Well, I found another one of Chesh's old posts...

Quote:
Originally Posted by CheshireCat
To throw in on this . . .

Get the Salsa Strat and start hot-rodding!!!

Specifically, add Graph-Tech's Ghost Modular Pickup System to it.

To start with, the Ghost System is based on Graph-Tech string savers, saddles made of a polymer containing teflon, so they have an amazing slip quotient, which means it reduces string breakage to near zero and strings can last for months. Yes, you eventually replace them, but you get a lot more life out of them.

Plus, because of the material they are made of, and not being metal, you get a richer sound from them. Not so quacky or clangy, and a richer midrange warmth.

For that reason, they sell them just as a set of saddles under the heading of String-Savers, which is a great deal, pickup or not!!

But, the magic doesn't stop there!

Inside the saddles are piezo crystals. But these are not off-the-shelf-Motorola piezos. These were built from the ground up to best accentuate the acoustic properties of guitars.

And, because they are in the polymer instead of metal, as alluded to before, they don't have that clacky, clangy, quacky sound you get from the 1K spike that occurs with metal saddles. That's a big plus. That way, it doesn't have that weird, fake sound like some rigged acoustics have.

Now, leads from the piezos run to either one of two pre-amps, or both coupled together. The Acousti-Phonic pre-amp and/or the Hexpander pre-amp for MIDI. The two can piggyback so you can get both.

Also, because it's modular, you can just use acoustic, and then add the MIDI later, if ever. You don't ever have to add MIDI, but it's always an option! Very sweet!

These pre-amps take up way way way little space. The two pre-amps coupled together take up less than two cubic inches. They are about half the size of a business card. Really, really small.

http://www.tusq.com/product_display....nd&brand=Ghost

The whole system with the pre-amp requires a 9-volt battery. No problem. It can probably fit inside the control cavity, but you can do way better than that. You can get a Gotoh battery box. It's brilliant. You rout a small space in the back for it and just drill a channel to the control cavity. Tho, I would highly recommend having a qualified Luthier or Guitar Tech do it. The batteries last for hundreds of hours. And, it turns on and off when you plug and unplug your guitar. Very simple. Very clean.

You can also wire it for 18 volts by using two 9-volts. More headroom.

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Electron...ery_Boxes.html

Now, you asked about pickups? Best bet would be EMGs. You can get a full set in a pre-wired Strat pickguard direct from EMG with whatever additional circuits you want.

EMG's are active pickups. They have pre-amps built into them. So, they have very high output, but because the pre-amp shields the pickup and cleans up the sound, they are very quiet. Incredibly quiet. So quiet, in fact, that you don't need to ground the strings. Which is nice because that eliminates any possibility of shock or electrocution because of improperly grounded gear. Several guitarists have actually died that way, believe it or not. They are the most technologically advanced pickups ever, and they are the first to create active pickups.

BTW, there are some passive psuedo-EMGs out there. Don't get them!!! They are not active and they don't have all the benefits.

http://www.emgpickups.com/proseries.html

I would get whatever choice of Strat replacement pickups you wanted. A good combo would be:

EMG-SA (strat replacement) in the Neck poistion
EMG-FT (tele replacement, for a little tele twang! ) in the Middle position
EMG-89 (dual-mode single/humbucker) in the Bridge position
EMG-BTC (Bass/Treble Concentric EQ circuit) in one of the tone spots
EMG-VMC (Variable Midrange Concentric EQ circuit) in the other tone spot
25k ohm Push/Pull Pot for Vol control and for switching the '89
5-way selector switch

(btw, some had said that the BTC and VMC are strictly for Bass, and not Guitar. That's patently untrue. They are more pronouced on a Bass, but they work phenomenally well on guitar, and beats a bleed-the-trebles-to-ground tone control hands down any day! Right, Tom? )

Now, you can get all that pre-wired from EMG. In fact, they have several signature combos for their different artists that you can order, but you can also choose your own combo.

Now, this is really cool. The pre-amps for the Graph-Tech Ghost System has a special auxillary lead, so instead of trying to wire two battery systems together, you just plug the battery leads from the EMG's to the Auxillary Power lead on the pre-amp, and then the pre-amp does all the rest, turning the power system on and off when you plug and unplug the guitar.

Now, I'm sure this all sounds complicated, but check this out.

Here's what you get:

First, the best sounding, highest performance guitar possible. Yes, I know, sound is very subjective, but they do sound killer, and there is no point in trying to "find the right sound" because that will cost you a fortune and a lot of time that you don't have. EMG's are either the best, or one of the best, so, at least, you're doing pretty good to start with.

Second, you have a phenomenal acoustic guitar available at the flick of a switch. You just flip the switch, and your guitar goes from electric to acoustic, just like that. Or you could blend them to get a semi-hollow body or hollow-body jazz guitar sound! Schweet!!

Also, the Acousti-phonic pre-amp has "Smart-Switching" so that if you plug a mono cable into the jack, it blends the mag and piezo signals. If you plug a stereo cable into the jack, it splits them to two different channels. Very nice if you want to run your electric guitar to a stack of Marshalls and your acoustic to a Full-Range acoustic amp. That way, you can run your electric signal thru your rack of effects, and keep your acoustic signal clean and pristine. Nice!!

Third, the only upkeep the system requires is periodically changing the 9-volt battery(ies). Just open the battery box in the back and trade out the batteries every 6 months or so, based on use. And remember, to turn the power system on or off, just plug and unplug the guitar when you practice and play, which you'll do anyway.

It's that simple and clean!!

While you're at it, get an Earvana Nut. It is a compensated nut that will make your guitar play near perfectly in tune, like when a piano tuner tunes a piano to be in tune with itself. The Earvana Nut does the same with a guitar. http://www.earvana.com It cost only $25 and the price of a nut/set-up job, which you'll want to do anyway.

BTW, you might think that all of this is pricey. Well, it isn't cheap. But, each one of these modifications cost less than the price of a cheap guitar, and you are basically getting a brand new guitar, so to speak, with each system, available at the flick of a switch.

I mean, at StewMac, the saddles and the pre-amp, together, cost under $200, and you are going to get an acoustic sound better than any guitar under that. You can't beat that with a stick.

The MIDI system, which we didn't even get into, costs about $200-$300 more. That sounds like a lot, but that is dirt cheap to put an entire orchestra into your guitar, available with a flick of a switch. And you can add that much, much later.

The EMG combo system outlined will, according to their most recent Price List, cost $400, tho I'm sure you could probably get a deal or something, like if you went thru a local authorized dealer.

So, let's look at this:

Strat for $100-$300
Acoustic for $200
EMG's for $400 (or less)
Earvana Nut for $25

So you're looking at $725 for a guitar with the sound, performance, and playability reserved for instruments in the $2K to $5K price range, and, in effect, you are getting two instruments for the price of one because of the acoustic/electric capacity.

So, try to go out and find a top flite acoustic and top-flite electric for the combined price of $725. And, on top of that, a few hundred more will give you MIDI!!

And, best of all, this is all modular. You can do all this in stages. First, get the Salsa Strat (mim) for $100 or whatever, then add the Ghost Acousti-Phonic System for under $200, and the Earvana Nut for $25. Also, include the battery box.

Stop there if you like, or go on and add the EMG Prewired setup.

Either way, you're gold all the way!!

Chesh

BTW, believe it or not, this is just the tip of the iceberg!! But, that's another post.

BTW, I'm sure there are some incidentals that I left out, like Luthier labor and a few parts (battery box, so on).

Well, yeah.

But, you'd have to pay the Luthier for anything you do anyway, and it doesn't get any easier that hot-glue-gunning a preamp in place, routing a bit of space for a battery box, and screwing a prewired pickguard in place. Not to mention a nut job and set-up.

But, ultimately, you are getting a great deal over all!! True?

Also, while on the topic, Schaller Strap-Locks are a must, and Locking Tuning machines are way cool. You could also add a Hipshot Tremsetter to the mix for greater stability as you hammy your whammy.

Locking Tuners http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tuners/G...el_Tuners.html
Strap Locks http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Hardware...rap_Locks.html
Tremsetter http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Bridges,...tabilizer.html

Chesh

PS - This is also, believe it or not, still just the tip of the iceberg!! But, again, that's another post.
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Unread 04-10-2004, 09:16 PM   #13
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Holy crap man. Ok, lemme rephrase this. I don't have much money to spend and this needs to be more of a side project thing than a 3 month investment. Is there a way for me to do this cheaper? I've got a lotta other things a need to get (laptop, etc...) plus bills and i'm a college student. While $700 aint bad for a superb guitar, i don't have that and wont for a while. If this is my only choice than i'm afraid that my dreams of learning to rebuild/work on a guitar are pretty much dead. Are there any other options???
-shane
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Unread 04-10-2004, 09:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snizzle
Holy crap man. Ok, lemme rephrase this. I don't have much money to spend and this needs to be more of a side project thing than a 3 month investment. Is there a way for me to do this cheaper? I've got a lotta other things a need to get (laptop, etc...) plus bills and i'm a college student. While $700 aint bad for a superb guitar, i don't have that and wont for a while. If this is my only choice than i'm afraid that my dreams of learning to rebuild/work on a guitar are pretty much dead. Are there any other options???
-shane
Great, now I have some ideas of what you have to work with.

Check out the Duncan Performer series. Decent pickups for around $40 each. You could also hunt around eBay. Shield the guitar for around $20.
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Unread 04-10-2004, 09:28 PM   #15
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'shield the guitar'? i'm lost...
-shane
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