On this week’s Academy Of Tone, Thomas and Rich dive into the exciting world of guitar pickups!
We all know that guitars and amps are huge shapers of guitar tone, but pickups are equally as crucial. In fact, we guitar players also tend to associate certain pickup types with specific models of guitar and genres of music.
Fender’s Stratocaster and Telecaster models, for example, are the key examples of single coil pickup-equipped guitars. Single coil pickups offer more clarity and top-end bite than other pickup types, but can also be noisier in operation. Thomas is known for his Strat playing, and will demonstrate a few choice Fenders in classic styles like country, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll. There have been hundreds of iconic players who have used single coil pickups over the years, though, from Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton to Keith Richards and Jimi Hendrix.
Then there’s that other pickup staple, the humbucker. So named because the pickups are wound as a double coil design to ‘buck’ (i.e. cancel out) the hum of older single coil designs, the humbucker offers thicker, richer tones than its single coil counterpart, and is often favored by rockers and metal players too. Guitarists like Peter Green, Gary Moore, Slash and Jimmy Page are known for their humbucker tones, and Thomas will have some choice axes on-hand to go through some of the sounds.
Beyond single coils and humbuckers, though, there are a number of other designs on offer to the guitar player, all of which bring something different to the guitar tone table. The P90 is another legendary pickup type and, while technically also a single coil pickup in terms of design, it offers a unique mid-range honk that other pickups can’t quite reach. Players like Dave Gilmour and Pete Townshend have put the P90 to incredible use over the years.
Moving into the modern era of guitar music, we start to see pickup designers creating hotter, higher output humbuckers to offer heavier players more crushing tones. There is now a huge range of passive and active pickups available from companies such as EMG, and Thomas will demonstrate a few of these on the show.
Finally, in a fitting way to round off this episode, we have a great interview Thomas did with Andreas Kloppmann, one of the world’s leading pickup designers! Thomas and Andreas discuss pickups from the viewpoint of a top winder and designer, why some pickup types are better than others for certain applications, and the guys also discuss Thomas’s own signature set of Kloppmann pickups. And for the super nerds among us, the guys go into some pickup history: what’s different on early Tele vs later Tele Pickups, and what’s the difference between 50s Strat ‘black bottom’ and ‘grey bottom’ pickups!
This is going to be a very fun episode, and we welcome your suggestions for tunes and riffs Thomas can play to best demonstrate each pickup type, so please let us know your ideas in the live chat and the comments!
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