Like a long tailed cat in a roadhouse full of Telecasters

Got a sqealing TeleCATster? We just might be able to help you out with that.

Got a squealing Tele-CAT-ster? We just might be able to help you out with that.

As a follow-up to our last post about pickup potting and the effect it can have on microphonics (which can be found here: http://www.lollarguitars.com/blog/2014/01/what_is_potting/), we thought we’d address the issue some players have with their Tele bridge pickup squealing like an angry cat. This can be caused by an overly microphinc pickup, the bridge plate, or both. We’re here to help you narrow down what is causing the problem and how to go about fixing it.

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If you don’t talk to your pickups about potting, who will…?

"I learned it from watching you..."

“I learned it from watching you…”

We will, that’s who!

Potting is the process of soaking the pickup in melted wax, in order to saturate the components, which will isolate them and reduce movement of the coils. Because of this, potted pickups have reduced likelihood of excessive handling noise, microphonic feedback or mechanical failure. However, if a pickup is potted too much, the pickup can often sound lifeless and dull, lacking character and “vibe”.

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Lollar Pickups Primer: The 3-Wire Tele Modification

teleactionA 4-way switch mod for Tele style guitars has always been a fun, “secret sauce” menu item for discerning guitar players. We don’t offer a pickup set that will work with it as a standard option but if you ask nicely we just might make one for you…

The standard three-way-switch gives you the three classic Tele position we all know and love. Neck pickup alone, neck + bridge in parallel, and bridge pickup alone – A tone formula that’s had the ladies swoonin’ and shakin’ since 1951. The 4-way Tele mod (TELE 4 WAY PDF) introduces a new position, the neck and bridge combo in series, which can give any Tele player a bit more versatility.

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Small in Stature, Big in Tone

minihbfirebird

The Firebird and Mini-Humbucker might be the two of the most underrated and misunderstood pickups that are available today. These two designs are as versatile and complex as any of the pickups we make, and many discerning players are taking advantage of their unique capabilities in order to expand their tonal options.

Pickups in the “mini” family have a different tone than the larger PAF for various reasons; some apply to all the smaller ‘buckers and some are specific to each design. All of these secondary pickups share a smaller size, 2-5/8” X 1-1/8”. The narrower width of these pickups (1-1/8” compared to 1-1/2”) senses a shorter length of string vibration. This makes the pickup  sense higher harmonics generated by the string, which gives you a slightly brighter and more focused sound due to the smaller size.

The internal constructions of these little guys are also a huge part of the tone. A Mini-humbucker is made like a miniature PAF pickup, with one bar magnet positioned under each coil with adjustable pole pieces made out of a ferrous alloy and the other coil containing a ferrous metal bar that is not adjustable. This corresponds to a PAF with adjustable poles in one coil and a series of metal slugs in the other coil. A Firebird on the other hand, has a bar magnet in each coil. Each coil is wound around the bar magnet, one coil is south up and the other is north up. The inductance properties of steel and alnico magnet grades are very different. Also the magnetic field shape and strength are different between the Mini-Humbucker and the Firebird which gives them different characteristics.
Steel cores tend to have a higher inductance- you get more bass and more output verses an alnico magnet core. That gives Mini-Humbucker a smoother attack with more sustain and you’ll get more of a grind to the tone when you push your amp into distortion. Traditional Firebird pickups have a tighter, “spankier” tone that stays more defined when you really crank up your amp.

Not to be left out, Johnny Smith pickups are a hybrid of both the Mini-Humbucker and Firebird; they combine some of the clarity of a Firebird with the smoother attack of the mini. It’s actually quite a clever invention- one coil has a bar magnet in it like a Firebird but the pickup has a bottom plate made out of steel that is tapped and threaded to hold adjustable pole pieces for the second coil.  The magnetism travels from the bottom of the bar magnet along the steel plate to the adjustable pole pieces.

One thing to note if you’re thinking about Lollar-izing a guitar with these mini-marvels is our sizes are bit larger than the vintage specs. Our pickups covers for Mini-Humbuckers and Firebirds are slightly longer than vintage mini or firebird pickup covers. Vintage covers are 2.587” X 1.87” which translates to 2-19/32” X 1-3/32”. New covers are 2.687” X 1.87” which translates to fractions as 2-11/16” X 1-3/32”. New covers are 3/32” longer than vintage pickups but they will still fit in a vintage route with a new size ring mounts you can order from us.

These small humbuckers were never very popular when they were first introduced- they tended to be overly microphonic and too bright. Recently they have come back in to the spotlight. If they are made correctly they can be a very good pickup! You can mount a mini bucker or a Firebird into any guitar that currently has soapbar P-90 pickups installed. The conversion is very simple to do – it uses a special P-90 soapbar cover size adapter. We also take orders daily for players wanted use them as neck pickups in Teles for a nice spin on a classic style.

Visit our website for a series of videos showing different ways to mount and install Mini-Humbuckers and Firebirds. http://www.lollarguitars.com/mini-humbucker-installation.shtml

Left-handed Guitar Pickups for Left-handed Guitar Players

This article is dedicated to all of our left handed guitar-playing customers. Although most players – right or left handed – will enjoy the technical information in this article because it applies to other questions that come up regarding the orientation of the pickup in the guitar.

In particular, this article will address our most frequently asked question from left handed players:

Do left handed players need “left handed” guitar pickups for their left handed guitars?

Generally speaking, the only time you will need a “left handed” guitar pickup is if you are ordering a pickup with staggered pole pieces. For example, a set of staggered Lollar strat style pickups or a Lollar AlNiCo 3 staggered tele bridge. Because there is 180 degrees difference between a right-handed guitar and a left-handed guitar, the magnet pattern needs to be reversed for left-handed players. But it is ONLY the magnet pattern that is affected by left versus right-handed instruments.

If you are ordering a flat pole Lollar pickup, you will not need a “left handed” guitar pickup. This applies to all of our Lollar single coil pickups and Lollar humbucking pickups.

Here’s why:

The magnet polarity and wind direction of the coil wire are the two variables we want to look at here. These two variables interact to affect phasing and hum-cancelling operations when pickups are combined. The interesting thing is that these two factors do not change when the pickup’s orientation changes. In other words, the pickup can be rotated in the guitar and the polarity and wind direction will stay the same.

First let’s start with polarity. As you know, pole piece magnets have one end that has a north polarity and one end that has a south polarity. So regardless of the orientation of the pickup in the guitar, assuming you orient the top of the pickup toward the strings, the same polarity of the magnet will always be facing outward toward the strings. In other words, if the magnet pole pieces are facing “north up” you can orient the pickup anywhere on the guitar, and it will remain “north up.” The pickup’s north poles will be facing toward the strings.

Next let’s talk about the wind direction of the coil wire. By this we mean the circular pathway the coil wire takes as it travels from hot to ground. In other words, the pathway the electricity takes as it “flows” from the hot lead, circles around the pickup pole pieces a few thousand times, and then passes to ground.

There are only two possibilities for wind direction: clockwise or counter-clockwise. In other words from the hot lead – then around the coil in a clockwise rotation – and then out to ground. Or, from the hot lead – then around the coil in a counter-clockwise rotation – and then out to ground.

A simple visual illustration will help you see that polarity and wind direction are not affected when a pickup is put in a right handed or a left handed guitar.

This Lollar strat style pickup is north up and has a counter-clockwise wind direction.

This Lollar strat style pickup is north up and has a counter-clockwise wind direction.

In this first photo we have the outline of a more familiar right handed strat pickguard, with a Lollar strat style middle pickup. We build all of our strats so that the colored cloth lead (either yellow or white) is hot, and the black is ground. As you can see the coil wire travels from the hot (yellow) lead – around the coil in a counter-clockwise path – and then out to ground.

Even though the pickup's orientation has changed for use in a left-handed guitar, its polarity and wind direction are still the same.

Even though the pickup's orientation has changed for use in a left-handed guitar, its polarity and wind direction are still the same.

Now take that same Lollar strat style middle pickup and rotate it for use in a left handed strat pickguard. As you can see, the coil wire STILL travels from the hot (yellow) lead – around the coil in a counter-clockwise path – and then out to ground.

Bottom line: It makes no difference if your flat pole pickup is in a left handed guitar or a right handed guitar. Your pickup’s polarity and wind direction will stay the same. 

For a related discussion take a look at this blog article, Guitar Pickup Phasing & Lead Wire Direction.

Our most popular pickups are flat pole pickups. So leftys that’s good news for you. Give us a call: what you’re looking for is likely in stock and ready to ship.