Captain Beefhearts 10 Guitar Tips

From Captain Beefhearts Radar Station

http://www.beefheart.com/datharp/10com.htm

1. Listen to the birds

That’s where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren’t going anywhere.

2. Your guitar is not really a guitar

Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you’re good, you’ll land a big one.

3. Practice in front of a bush

Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn’t shake, eat another piece of bread.

4. Walk with the devil

Old Delta blues players referred to guitar amplifiers as the “devil box.” And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you’re brining over from the other side. Electricity attracts devils and demons. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.

5. If you’re guilty of thinking, you’re out

If your brain is part of the process, you’re missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.

6. Never point your guitar at anyone

Your instrument has more clout than lightning. Just hit a big chord then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.

7. Always carry a church key

That’s your key-man clause. Like One String Sam. He’s one. He was a Detroit street musician who played in the fifties on a homemade instrument. His song “I Need a Hundred Dollars” is warm pie. Another key to the church is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty — making you want to look up her dress the whole time to see how he’s doing it.

8. Don’t wipe the sweat off your instrument

You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.

9. Keep your guitar in a dark place

When you’re not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don’t play your guitar for more than a day, be sure you put a saucer of water in with it.

10. You gotta have a hood for your engine

Keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house, the hot air can’t escape. Even a lima bean has to have a piece of wet paper around it to make it grow.

————————–

This sound advice can be found in the book Rolling Stone’s Alt-Rock-A-Rama (1996) which includes an article written by John McCormick about Moris Tepper.

“Though they bear numbers, they are not arranged heirarchically — each Commandment has equal import.”
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THE NASHVILLE NUMBERING SYSTEM


What Should I Know About the Nashville Numbering System?

I hate Country Music. I hate math. I’m not crazy about systems either.

#1 -It has nothing to do with Country Music. It was first developed by Studio Musicians. Nashville is a big Recording studio center. The Musicians more than likely had a Jazz or Classical background.

#2 -The “Math” is just numbering I-VIII. VIII and I are the same. There are 7 different notes in an Octave, the 8th is the first one repeated.

#3 -I wouldn’t even call it a “System” when looking at one specific key. It’s the way it makes all keys the same, that makes it a system. Wouldn’t you like to measure Chords, Scales and chord progressions on the the same yardstick? The system will show you WHY a particular song sounds different from another. Why one chord or scale sounds different, in ANY KEY!

When we take lessons and study Music theory, we learn to count the degrees in any scale, starting from the Tonic or *ROOT note(#1). It is natural for a beginner to focus on the notes themselves but looking at the distance between notes will teach you their relationships.

When you learn a C Maj chord is C,E,G you can play a C chord. When you learn ANY Maj/min chord is Built I,III and V, you can play any Maj/min chord in any key!

If you can use this system to Visualize Chord/Scales in 1 key, the relationship of Every key will make sense.

If you don’t know theory or read standard notation, this is probably the single most useful concept you can grasp. Seeing and feeling the I-IV-I-V in a Blues progression is a good start. Numbering allows us to be very specific about how a chord or scale sounds and feels, without using just one key as the example. Unless you read music or understand music theory, Notes have no quantity, Numbers do.

The easiest way to start learning the Nashville system is to start on the A(5th) string. Memorize the notes up to the 12th fret. A is open, B is 2nd fr, C is 3rd fr, D is 5th fr, E is 7th fr, F is 8th fr, G is 10th fr, A Octave is 12th. The Nashville system refers to the degree in the Major scale, so the Root/Tonic is A, it gets the number 1, B is 2, C# is 3, D is 4, E is 5, F# is 6, and G# is 7.

Looking at a scale this way allows you to visualize and compare, Chords, Chord progressions and melody’s or riffs. The degrees 1(open-A), 3(4th fret-C#) and 5(7th fret-E) make up an A Maj triad. The basic 12-bar blues pattern can be described as 1(A), 4(D), 1(A), 5(E), 1(A). A Country or Polka Bass-line A, E, A, E, can be described as a 1-5 bass-line.

Learning this system will allow you to transpose keys effortlessly. This is also important to understanding how all the keys fit together.

Here’s a diagram of all the keys. Memorize the one you use most(especially the Root, Fourth and Fifth).

key

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

A

A

B

C#/Db

D

E

F#/Gb

G#/Ab

A#/Bb

A#/Bb

C

D

D#/Eb

F

G

A

B

B

C#/Db

D#/Eb

E

F#/Gb

G#/Ab

A#/Bb

C

C

D

E

F

G

A

B

C#/Db

C#/Db

D#/Eb

F

F#/Gb

G#/Ab

A#/Bb

C

D

D

E

F#/Gb

G

A

B

C#/Db

D#/Eb

D#/Eb

F

G

G#/Ab

A#/Bb

C

D

E

E

F#/Gb

G#/Ab

A

B

C#/Db

D#/Eb

F

F

G

A

A#/Bb

C

D

E

F#/Gb

F#/Gb

G#/Ab

A#/Bb

B

C#/Db

D#/Eb

F

G

G

A

B

C

D

E

F#/Gb

G#/Ab

G#/Ab

A#/Bb

C

C#/Db

D#/Eb

F

G

I Do Not recommend memorizing this chart. If you can learn one key, and see the distances between notes, as a moveable pattern, every key will make sense, without memorizing sharps and flats for different keys. C is the perfect key, with no sharps or flats. If you can visualize the Intervals in the key of C, you can apply them as a Major scale in any Key.

Here are some good articles on the system

http://www.gospelmusic.org.uk/resources/nashville_numbering.htm

http://howmusicreallyworks.com/Pages_Chapter_6/6_4.html

Not very many people get this system right away. You need to play songs you already know and convert the Chord progression into numbers. I’d say it takes at least a week, possibly months of practice before you can easily start thinking in Numbers instead of letters.

When you do master this system, it will save you hours Transposing and learning songs. Don’t give up if this doesn’t make sense right away. Part of what makes this hard to grasp, is that the Intervals(numbers) apply to melodies, chords AND chord progressions(songs).

Benefits Of Learning To Play An Instrument

I’m re-posting this as it’s very good to know what kind of effect, playing an instrument has on your daily life. We get much more from learning to play an instrument than just the ability to play a song.

Playing an instrument is a great way to learn about  problem solving, abstract reasoning, visualization, and spatial relationships. Scientists have proven that musicians actually have significant growth in the primary motor cortex, the cerebellum and corpus callosum. Pre-schoolers given keyboard instruction showed an almost 50% increase in their spatial temporal reasoning skills. Kids that take music lessons find it easier learn fractions because they understand time signatures. A study shows secondary students who participated in band or orchestra reported the lowest lifetime and current use of all substances (Texas Commision on Drug and Alcohol Abuse). Students changing schools frequently, find music lessons are a source of  stability.

Music is a communication skill just like learning a language, your abilities to perceive pitch, peak out around the age of 10.  Even people with perfect pitch lose it by the age of 10 if they don’t use the letter names of notes(A,B,C or Do, Re, Mi). One study showed only 7% of American music students had perfect pitch, compared to over 30% of Asian music students surveyed.

Playing an instrument also has incredible stress reduction benefits. There is practically no activity in the frontal cortex of a musician playing a piece from memory! It’s almost like meditating. Pieces of music that are slower than the human heartbeat (approx 78 BPM) will actually cause your heart-rate to drop. In short, almost nothing effects as  many parts of the brain, as music.  Einstein said “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I get most joy in life out of music”

Here’s some articles on the subject Music Lessons Improve Kids Brain Developement

12 Benefits of Music Education

Kindermusik

Working.com

http://coalitionformusiced.ca/html/sec5-research/quickfacts.php

and this is from Wikipedia:

Extra-musical benefits

Some studies suggests that music lessons provide children with important developmental benefits beyond simply the knowledge or skill of playing a musical instrument. Research suggests that musical lessons may enhance intelligence and academic achievement, build self-esteem and improve discipline. A recent Rockefeller Foundation Study found that music majors have the highest rate of admittance to medical schools, followed by biochemistry and the humanities. On SAT tests, the national average scores were 427 on the verbal and 476 on math. At the same time, music students averaged 465 on the verbal and 497 on the math – 38 and 21 points higher, respectively. However, the observed correlation between musical and mathematical ability may be inherent rather than acquired.

Skills learned through the discipline of music may transfer to study skills, communication skills, and cognitive skills useful in every part of a child’s studies at school, though. An in-depth Harvard University study found evidence that spatial-temporal reasoning improves when children learn to make music, and this kind of reasoning improves temporarily when adults listen to certain kinds of music, including Mozart (Rauscher, Shaw & Ky, 1993). This finding which has been named “The Mozart effect” suggests that music and spatial reasoning are related psychologically (i.e., they may rely on some of the same underlying skills) and perhaps neurologically as well. However, there has been considerable controversy over this as later researchers have failed to reproduce the original findings of Rauscher (e.g. Steele, Bass & Crook, 1999), questioned both theory and methodology of the original study (Fudis & Lembesis 2004) and suggested that the enhancing effects of music in experiments have been simply due to an increased level of arousal (Thompson, Schellenberg & Husain, 2001).

A relationship between music and the strengthening of mathdancereading, creative thinking and visual arts skills has also been reported in literature. (Winner, Hetland, Sanni, as reported in The Arts and Academic Achievement – What the Evidence Shows, 2000) However recent findings by Dr. Levitin of McGill University in MontrealCanada, undermines the suggested connection between musical ability and higher math skills. In a study conducted on patients with Williams Syndrome (a genetic disorder causing low intelligence), he found that even though theirintelligence was that of young children they still possessed unusually high level of musical ability.

http://web.sfn.org/index.aspx?pagename=nq_10spring_inside_science

http://www.jneurosci.org/cgi/content/full/23/27/9240

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/6447588/Playing-a-musical-instrument-makes-you-brainier.html

Learning Music as an adult- advantages

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-musical-self/201008/is-music-training-only-our-children

Music Benefits the Brain

http://www.ktradionetwork.com/health/music-benefits-the-brain/

What’s stopping you?

Here’s a great article, if you are considering taking music lessons.

Thursday, 03 June 2010 12:49

by Blue Morris

The only difference between people who can play guitar and those who cannot is this: the people who can play guitar DO IT.

You can too.

I often wonder how many guitars are purchased each year only to be abandoned in the closet shortly thereafter. A guitar was meant to be played. A guitar wants to be played. Your guitar wants you to pick it up and play something… anything. When left alone for long periods of time, guitars get lonely. They feel neglected. Please don’t let your guitar feel neglected.

Think you don’t have enough time?

If you want to do something inspiring in your life but feel that you don’t have enough time, take a close look at the things that you do each week that are not fulfilling and stop doing them so you have more time to do what matters to you.

How much TV do you watch each week? How fulfilling are these TV shows for your life? Are you feeling inspired from TV? Watch a little less TV and you can learn to play music instead.

How many movies did you watch last month? Do you even remember which ones they were? I’ll bet many of them had little impact on your life. Instead of watching another movie that is just like the hundreds before you’ve seen, learn to play beautiful music instead.

Work less, play more

How much time do you spend at the office? How important is your job to you? What if you went home at 5pm instead of 5:30 and played beautiful music? Would your boss fire you for working standard hours? I doubt it. And if you think you would get fired for leaving work at a reasonable hour, try to find another job that allows you more freedom.

I found a job that allows me to play guitar, all day, everyday!

A couple years ago I told a friend that it was my goal in life to work less and play more. She laughed and called me lazy. Am I lazy if I love playing music so much that I will stay up until 4am playing guitar because I can’t put it down? Really, am I lazy? She now works very long hours at a job I don’t believe she even likes. I know what I would choose. Work less, play more!

Think you don’t have enough money to take music lessons?

Take a closer look at where your money actually goes. I bet there are things you spend money on each month that are not nearly as valuable to you as music lessons would be.

How much money are you spending on your Blackberry or iPhone bill? Phone bills used to be so inexpensive. Now that we have more sophisticated technology available, many of us have expensive phones, 3G service and instant e-mail. Just because it’s available doesn’t mean you need it.

For most people this stuff is completely unnecessary. Cell phone companies will try anything to get you to sign up for things you don’t need. Don’t fall for it. What’s more important to you: Instant access to e-mails that are not even interesting to read? Or playing beautiful music?

How much money did you spend on your cable bill last month? Cable used to be inexpensive, but now many of us have 100 channels and HD and it costs a small fortune each month. Cancel your cable or subscribe to fewer channels and lose the HD. Go to the library instead. The books are free and they have no commercials to waste your time.

Stop upgrading all the “things” in your life and feed your soul instead. Do you really need a bigger TV? Do you really need a new car if the current one works just fine? Sure, some people will be impressed by all your fancy new “things,” but everyone will be far more impressed if you can play music. Music can “impress” people so deeply they can be driven to tears.

When we buy new things we get a rush of excitement, but that feeling dies quickly. Music never gets old. Most people who make a real commitment to music end up playing and loving music their entire lives. I have been playing guitar since I was eight years old and I still get butterflies in my stomach when I discover something new in music, play something beautiful, or create music of my own invention.

If you have none of these fancy things in life and still can’t afford guitar lessons, call me. I am willing to take on committed students for less, as are many other teachers. Why? Because we love teaching and we hate to see a guitar get lonely.

Have you ever heard anyone say, “I regret taking music lessons”?

Music is far more rewarding than most of the things we spend our money and time on. If you’re thinking of taking music lessons, don’t hesitate. Make a commitment to spending a little money on lessons with a good teacher and some time to get through the “beginner” stage, and I can promise you that you won’t regret it. Your life will be richer for it.

Somewhere there is a guitar waiting for you to pick it up. When you do, give me a call.

Blue Morris

Here’s Blue with the Pink Flamingo Burlesque Troupe

Bluemorris.com

Time Signatures

Here are some great examples of different time signatures.  90% of western music is in 4/4 time.  Guitarists get used to playing to a safe, natural feeling rhythm. Anything outside of a 4/4 is considered “odd”.  Self-taught players can have notoriously bad timing.  I think that when we start learning to play solos or “lead”, we tend to focus on what and where the notes are, and try to feel the rhythm.  Practice playing ahead of and behind the beat, so that you can sense the difference.  The easiest way to drastically change a song is to speed up or slow down the tempo or change the time signature.
This is from the Pandora Radio series
http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2kqiej/blog.pandora.com/archives/podcast/2007/09/meters_time_sig.html

This is a comment left on Reddit about metronome exercises. Some very good info;

Good metronome exercises (record yourself and listen back to it):
1)Clap along with the metronome on every beat.
2)Clap along on every second beat.
3)Clap a triplet feel over two beats, then on the click for the next two.
4)In 4/4 time, put the metronome on 1 and 3, and clap on 2 and 4.
5)In 3/4 time, put the metronome on 1, and clap on 2 and 3.
6)In 4/4 put the metronome on just the 3 beat, and clap 1 and 4.
7)In 3/4 time, put the metronome on the “and” of 2 and clap the 1, 2, and 3.
8)In 4/4 time, put the metronome on the 1 and 3, and clap quarter note triplets starting on 3.
9)Same as 8, but start your triplet on the 2.
10)In 4/4 time, put the metronome on the 2 for only ever second bar. Clap first one type of clave then another. (Note: each clave is a two bar pattern, and you can reverse the two measures)
You get the idea. From there, you can make up your own exercises.
Tap your foot on each beat as a help at first, but eventually, you’ll want to internalize the feel, so that on the rests, you’re actually resting.
Start with the metronome at a comfortable speed, then speed it up. Then slow it down. It’s all fine and good if you can keep good rhythm at 120bpm, but what about at 240? What about at 60? Or 30? Playing fast is hard, keeping a good rhythm at painfully slow tempos is even harder.
Make it perfect. Don’t ever shrug it off as “meh, good enough.” With music, there’s no such thing as good enough. As you get better at making rhythm, you’ll get better at hearing just how bad your rhythm is. You will never have those exercises down well enough. Work on them for the rest of your life.

Magnetism, How Does it Work? Dave Leddin of Daves Vintage Guitars answers some questions about pickups

Dave Leddin of Daves Vintage Guitars in Vancouver was nice enough to answer some of my questions about how pickups work. I’ve been using one Dave’s hand-wound pickups in my Lap-steel and they sound great! Dave got his training in the Australian military but now he puts his skills to use modifying guitars and winding his own pickups.

Gord

Thank you giving me the opportunity to answer these questions.  Hopefully your readers will gain some good info out of them.  Remember terrible tone is not terminal.

  • Magnetism.  I thought older pickups were better (Dearmond, PAFs). So can an old pickup lose magnetism?

Old pickups sound great for several reasons and magnetism is just one of them.  If a warm sweet vintage tone is what you are after then a weaker magnet is desirable.  As a rule the stronger the magnet, the brighter the tone.  In some cases, modern pickups have insanely strong magnets and the result is an ice-pick like tone.  Magnets do lose their strength over time and they will mellow with age.  A magnet can also lose too much of its strength and then the pickup’s output will be low and muddy.

Most pre-1970s pickups use Alnico magnets.  Alnico is an alloy of aluminum, nickel, cobalt and steel or iron.  They range from Alnico 2 to Alnico 8, the former being the weakest and the latter being the strongest.  The percentage of cobalt in the mix is one the most important factors.  Alnico 2 magnets have lower cobalt content while Alnico 5 has almost twice the amount.  For example early ‘50s Fender pickups use Alnico 2 or 3 magnets; in this era cobalt was an important metal to the military.

The type of wire and winding methods of earlier pickups also contribute to their sweet tone.  For example Fender Strat pickups pre-’64 were wound using heavy Formvar wire which is known for it’s warm and bright tones.  Most pickups in the ‘50s were “Scatterwound” which means the wire was hand fed onto the bobbin.  Later as technology progressed the wire was then machine fed onto the bobbins; we will talk about that later.

To sum things up, the sweet tone older pickups have is a result of softer magnets, types of wire and also winding methods.

  • Depending on the strength of the magnet can a pickup that is too close to the strings affect their vibration pattern and duration?  Is there a rule of thumb for being too close or too far?

Good question, I am going to dig deep into this one.  Basically a pickup is comprised of a series of magnets or poles that sit perpendicular to the strings.  The poles are spaced to sit under each string and they are sandwiched in by a top and bottom called the bobbin.  A thin wire is then wrapped around these poles and this is called the windings.  A magnetic field emits from the north and south pole of each magnet and this is called flux.  Imagine flux to be an invisible ball, the size and shape is determined by the magnet strength and width.

When a guitar string is plucked it vibrates in a circular motion, this disturbs the magnetic field and a very small electric current is induced within the coil.  A magnet that is too strong or too close can impede the vibration of the string and can severely dampen the signal.  Each pickup will have its own recommended height and there are some standard rules.  You must depress the top and bottom strings at the last fret to set your pickup height.  For normal vintage Strat/Tele pickups the height should be 6/64th at the base side and 5/64th at the treble.  Humbuckers should be set at 4/64th for both sides.  These are standard recommended heights and each pickup has its own happy spot.  Magnet strength and output are also important factors so it is best to explore.

  • Phases. On a Strat type 3 pickup guitar, what difference does reversing the polarity of the middle pickup make when two pickups are combined?

Reverse wound reverse polarity (RWRP) middle pickups have a noise cancelling effect when combined with a traditionally wound pickup.  A traditional Strat pickup is wound around the bobbin in a clockwise direction.  The polarity of the poles will differ between manufacturers.  Pre 1960 Fender pickups are north up and after 1960 they switched to south up.  A RWRP pickup is wound anticlockwise around the bobbin and the magnets will be polarized opposite to the neck and bridge.

The process of noise cancellation is a complicated process to explain so I won’t delve into that too far.  All we really need to know is what a RWRP does and how to identify one.  The signal from a guitar string is a collection of sine waves with different amplitudes and different oscillating frequencies.  If we imagine the string signals passing through two pickups with one RWRP the following will happen: two identical signals with opposing phases will cancel each other out, these are the unwanted noise.  Two identical signals with the same phase will strengthen each other, these are good guys.

Hum cancelling pickups do have a drawback in that the signal will be quieter and will also have a drop in volume.  RWRP pickups didn’t really appear until the ‘80s and Fender only started using them on their USA Strats in 1986.

  • If one of your pickups is too bright, muffled or uneven, what components should you look at, before you do anything to the pickups.  Pots, capacitors, hi/lo cut.

I always advise to change pots and caps before changing pickups.  Basically, a resistor (the pot) and a capacitor will filter certain frequencies.  I always describe this to clients as being like the filter for your pool; if it is the wrong type or made of ‘shotty’ parts you will get leaves in your pool i.e. terrible tone.  As a rule, a higher resistance will give a brighter tone.  A single coil, like in a Strat or Tele, already has a bright tone, so 250k pots are better.

Capacitors work in the opposite way.  The lower the capacitor value, the brighter the tone.  The combination of the pot and capacitor will trim certain frequencies.  As a rule I use a 0.022uf caps for a bright, modern tone and a 0.047uf for a more vintage tone.  I always use 0.047uf for my Teles – the bridge is bright enough.  I also use 0.047uf with 500k pots for Humbuckers.  Some Gibson SG etc. use 330k pots with 0.022uf capacitors for a brighter tone.  Using a quality capacitor is also a great idea.  It’s not really the brand, but rather the tolerance which contributes to good quality.  Cheaper capacitors are around 20% tolerance and better capacitors are around 10% tolerance.  You don’t need to run out there and buy the $35 snake oil filled, hermetically sealed, titanium cased capacitor.  I always use Sprague Orange Drops as they are cheap and do the job very well.

  • How do low impedance and active pickups work?

Both active pickups and low impedance pickups are built for a clear and noise free sound.  Both pickups have a low resistance.  The lower the resistance of the coil, the cleaner the tone will be and it will also have less noise.

Active electronics are similar in construction to passive pickups but they are wound with a lower resistance. The lower resistance gives the pickup a better frequency response and the result is a very clean, noise free signal.  Active pickups have a low output and require a pre-amp to bring them up to a decent level, but they can be used on their own.

Low impedance pickups have a very low signal and they definitely need a pre-amp to boost the signal before it gets fed into an amplifier.  They also have a very clean noise-free signal due to their great frequency response.

6) Can you add magnetism or degauss your pickups?

The unit for magnetic strength is called gauss and yes you can gauss and degauss your pickups.  This will affect the output and tone of your pickup.  As I explained in question 1, magnet strength is very important in determining a pickup’s tone.  If you have a pickup that is weak, you can strengthen the magnets to boost the output and tone.  When I get a pickup that I feel is harsh and shrill, I will degauss it to a respectable level.  I do this to factory wound Tele pickups all the time, especially bridges.

7)         Why do hand wound pickups sound better than factory wound pickups? How does the perfectly consistent wind of a machine wound pickup produce an inferior tone?

Hand wound pickups sound superior to factory wound pickups for a few reasons.  The most important factor is internal capacitance and resistance within the coil.  As I discussed in question 4, capacitance and resistance work together to act as a frequency filter. Within a factory wound pickup the capacitance and resistance are fairly constant throughout the coil.  The value of capacitance is reliant on the lay of the windings and spacing between the wraps.  With a machine wound pickup this is a very uniform pattern from left to right back and forth across the bobbin.  Resistance within the coil is determined by the number of winds and also the cross sectional density of the wire.  A machine will keep a constant tension on the wire so the cross sectional density of the wire will remain constant.  Since we are creating a filter, only a strict band of frequencies from the string will pass through the pickup.  Some of the harmonic frequencies that the string is producing are not coming through the pickup, so you are losing your tone man!!

Myself and many other winders use a method call scatter winding.  This is where the wraps of the coil are random and don’t follow a strict pattern.  This method creates a varied capacitance within the coil and this is a good thing.  Since I am a man and not a machine I cannot maintain a constant tension on the wire, so I am stretching the wire in some places, therefore I am changing the wires cross sectional density and also the resistance.  Hand wound pickups have a random capacitive and resistive value within the coil – this creates a wider filter.  The result of this relationship is a signal rich in harmonic frequencies or what I call a 3 dimensional tone.

While factory wound pickups are built for quantity, the quality of tone is lost. Hand wound pickups are based more on quality and the tone is harmonically rich. When I am winding a pickup I have a specific tone in mind and I have several tricks up my sleeve to achieve it.  The type of wire is important, so is magnet strength and type, the resistance of the coil is also big factor.  When I wind a pickup I aim for a specific coil resistance based on how much bottom end I require at the end.  The amount of high end I need is also determined by the resistance but the magnet type and strength is very important.  In the case of some factory wound pickups the magnets are charged way too strong for the coil and the tone is way too harsh. With my pickups I have gone back to basics and I charge my magnets at a moderate strength.  For example with my Tele bridges I am using the original formvar and plain enamel wires that were used in the ‘5os and ‘60s.  I am also using wider alnico 3 magnets and the combination produces a pickup that has a tight bottom end with a very nice high end as well.  Pickup winders are always seeking the perfect tone and there is always room for experimentation.

8) Does a higher resistance value generally mean more winds or does it have anything to do with the strength of the magnet?

The resistance of a pickup is determined by the diameter of the wire and the number of turns.  The thinner the wire, the less turns are required to obtain the required resistance.   Wire comes in many gauges called AWG or American Wire Gauge.  The lower the number, then the thicker the wire will be.  The most popular is 42 AWG and 43 AWG. Most single coils and older PAF style pickups will use 42AWG, high gain pickups and humbuckers tend to have 43AWG wire. Magnets do not determine resistance.

9) How do you test a pickup to see if the magnet is too strong or weak?

You can test a pickup’s magnets using a gauss meter – gauss being the unit of measurement for magnetic strength.  Most pickups are around 20 – 40 gauss.  These meters are expensive and not really necessary for most people.  To test the magnets strength touch the poles with a metal object, like a screw driver.  I recommend listening to your guitar plugged in to hear the volume and tone. If the tone is weak and muffled, and the magnet is weak, it will need to be charged.  If it is sharp and harsh sounding, then adjust the pickup height first before degaussing the pickup.  You can gauss or degauss your pickups using a super strong permanent magnet.  I strongly recommend that you take your pickup to a professional

10) For single pickup guitars like the Esquire, what is the best way to get a variety of sounds out of 1 pickup?

The best way to get the most out of a one pickup guitar is to put the signal through a series of filters such as capacitors and resistors.  The original Esquire of the 50’s did this using a 3-way switch.  For the first position, the pickup signal was fed through a filter, cutting the highs to simulate a neck pickup with a warmer tone.  For the centre position, the pickup was normal with the tone control active.  The last position of the switch was the pickup fully open with no tone control for a very bright tone.  These early Esquires were very popular for both rhythm and lead.

11) Does it matter if the poles are directly under the strings or is there a ¼”of leeway?

The more central a pole piece is, the better it will receive the signal from the string.  The further away it is, the more likely the signal will be distorted.  If you notice on the bridge pickup of most Strats, the poles are usually off a little.  It is not surgical, but definitely a factor

12) Why does a Tele pickup sound different on Strat and vice versa?

Each particular pickup is designed for that particular style of guitar.  Each pickup has a different height, width, output and magnets, these all combine to produce that pickup’s tone.  For example, the Tele neck also has a narrower spacing then most Strat pickups.  You can put a Strat pickup on a Tele and still get a warm Tele tone.  The pickup’s position under the strings is also important, since each area of a string emits a different frequency. There are no set rules to what pickup can go in what guitar so if it fits and sounds good go with it.

For more information please contact:

Dave Leddin

Leddin Handwound Pickups

Dave’s Vintage Guitars

www.davesvintageguitars.ca

edit- here’s Dave’s new site   www.leddinpickups.com

t: 778-229-0045

e: davesvintageguitars@live.ca

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