Lollar Pickups Blog

Welcome to the Lollar Pickups Blog, where we discuss in detail the finer points of Lollar Pickups and share the latest news from the Workbench.

Better Know a Builder with John Page of John Page Guitars

At Lollar Pickups we love working closely with some of the best builders in the industry to find the right tone for their custom creations. So we thought we’d spotlight some of the unique builds and the thought process behind them. First up is John Page and this amazing double-neck beauty:

1. What made you choose Lollar Pickups for that guitar? (Lollar P90 bridge with Mini Humbucker Neck for standard scale side and a Special T bridge with Lollar P90 neck on baritone side)

On this particular guitar, the Lars Haavard Haugen double-neck DL, the pickups were a group decision by myself, Lars (the artist and final customer) and Arne Hast (the dealer – Vintage Gitar Norway). We were trying to create a new unique instrument to replace his old Jerry Jones double-neck which was kind of falling apart. The choice of the pickups was our best attempt to create the tone Lars was looking for that wasn’t completely being satisfied with the lipsticks.

2. Double neck guitar math: Is the guitar “twice as nice” or is it “doubly delicious”? Please show your work.

Lars had played a couple of my DL models. The DL is my double cutaway body design with 3 P-90s, and a 3+3 tilt back peghead. We started with that body and the P-90s due to his interest in that model. From there I needed to try and balance my design thoughts with the Jerry Jones that he was used to. This was in an effort to make the playing transition from the JJ to mine more seamless.

After deciding on scale lengths and the guitar/baritone neck locations, the body design could be completed. I drew it up (old school… pencil, paper and drawing table) and sent if off to Lars and Arne for approval. We went back and forth a couple of times before we all agreed on a design.

Near the end of the design process Lars and Arne requested that I use a 6 in-line peghead design instead of my standard 3+3 peg. This was because Lars wanted to do string bending behind the nut and needed the extra string length. This posed a problem for me because I didn’t have the tooling or the design for that style of peghead. I had been wanting to add this to my design offerings for a while so I agreed. This resulted in me needing to design and tool up for a new neck. Oh, and he wanted 23 frets to match the JJ… the fun continued!

I build everything old school, pin routers, band saws, hand routers, etc., so I had to make 40+ tools and fixtures to make the new necks, body and pickguard for this guitar. But it was all worth it… I was really pleased with the way it turned out. More importantly so was Lars and Arne! It never gets old seeing a guitar you built being played on stage by a great player!

3. Describe the typical player that loves a John Page built instrument.

I guess the first word that comes to mind in describing my “typical” customer would be “patient”! I take a long time to build a guitar… a minimum of 9 months in-process time from the first cut of wood to the final set-up. With the number of back-orders in queue the wait is 15-18 months. My goal is to create instruments that will last for generations… that will sound as good as they play… and be as stable as they can possibly be. To attain this needs time. The wood needs to be able to move where it wants to before certain processes happen, and be locked in for others. It’s kind of a dance between the builder and the woods… I let the wood lead.

I have been really lucky to have been around this business for many, many years now. A lot of my customers remember me from my old Fender Custom Shop and R&D days. I didn’t have a lot of time to build guitars back then, so a lot of my customers still want a piece of that “John Page”… it’s all good with me!

My customers aren’t afraid to wait for quality… and they trust me, they have faith in me, they trust my judgment. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important for me to believe in the products I put in my guitars… like Lollar pickups.

4. What is your favorite guitar you’ve ever built? 

I have been asked this question so many times over the years, and it’s always hard to answer because there have been so many special pieces. I guess the most recent one that comes to mind was one of my AJ models (named after my son Adam John) that I made for NAMM last year (2012). Besides looking really great (it had a dyed Amboyna Burl top that made it look like Abalone, and some really sweet, old Hondo mahogany for the body and neck), it played and sounded killer. It was just so much fun to play… it was effortless and had a beautiful tone.

5. What guitarist, alive, dead, or mostly dead would you love to build a guitar for?

Over the decades I’ve built for some of the best and most famous guitarists in the world… and it has been an honor. I don’t want to just build a “tool”… I strive to build an instrument that inspires creativity. With that in mind, the guitarist I want to build for more than anyone else, is the person whose passion in his or her music, and belief in their message will help sculpt the next generation of guitarists. I have no idea who he or she is… but that’s the cat! Hopefully we’ll cross paths one of these days…

 

Why Are You Reading This And Not Listening To Our New Soundclips?

You’re still here. Reading this sentence, not listening to Tim Lerch’s new soundclips for a couple of our favorite models. Rectify this immediately.

Clean and dirty. Neck and bridge. All the good stuff. Click on the links below:

P90’s

Lollartrons

Firebirds

Also we have a dedicated Soundcloud page with clips for just about every pickup we make. Gorge on tone!

Tim Lerch Makes It Look Easy With Lollar Pickups

There are a few things we unequivocally love here at Lollar Pickups, and Tim Lerch’s tasty chops are pretty high on that list (authentic carnitas tacos a close second). Tim has been cutting killer demos for years, and it’s always a treat to hear his take on our pickups.

We recently asked Tim to record a whole bunch of new YouTube video demos highlighting some of our favorite pickup combinations and guitars, and the first couple have already hit the interwebs. Check them out!

Lollartron Set in a Collings CL Deluxe:

Firebird Set in a Collings 360:

Standard P90 set in a Collings 290:

Kazumi Watanabe, Collings, and Lollar!

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Kazumi Watanabe - photo by Leslie Kee

We always love to hear about great guitar players, especially when they are using our pickups! Our Japanese distributor, Zenbu Japan, recently informed us that the legendary Kazumi Watanabe has been spinning many of his burning jazz and fusion lines on a Collings SoCo, complete with Lollar Imperials!

Mr. Watanabe has been one of Japan’s most important and influential guitarists (and composers) since the mid-seventies. He has played and recorded with many of the worlds greatest musicians, and received the prestigious Fumio Nanri Award in 1991. He has also been a visiting professor of music at Senzoku Gakuen College since 1996.

Please enjoy his playing!

Small in Stature, Big in Tone

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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

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