We get asked all the time, “Why does my old pickup sound dull?”
There are many reasons the tone can suffer on vintage pickups…
These p’ups aren’t just *playing* dead… They’re actually dead!
We can’t resurrect or improve every beaten, tired, old pickup that we come across. Some of them, like the ones seen above, are just too far gone. Only a complete rebuild, with brand new parts could bring them back to life – but at that point, you may as well just replace it! You can’t shine a turd, as they say (even if you could, you’d still just have a shiny turd). But, just maybe, your dull sound isn’t the turd you thought it was, so in this edition, we’ll address the possible causes and potential solutions.
This picture shows how tiny ferrous pieces of steel wool (or iron shavings, in this case) are attracted to magnetic fields.
(Author’s note: As steel wool can be so harmful to pickups, we are not willing to risk the integrity of our pickups by allowing steel wool into the shop, even for photographic purposes. Because of this, I have used stock images for illustrative aides.)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to tell our customers that their beloved pickup has gone belly up because of something that was completely avoidable – the usual suspect; STEEL WOOL! In fact, more often than not, they themselves (or even their “reputable guitar tech”) are the ones to blame. Many times when my diagnosis of, “I’m sorry, but your pickup is dead – most likely due to all the steel wool in it. Unfortunately the only way to fix it is to completely re-wind it” solicits a response along the lines of, “How could that even happen? I don’t use steel wool near my pickups.”
Occasionally we’re asked whether we suggest that our customers wire their Tele’s in what is known as the “Vintage” wiring schematic (also known as “Dark Tone” or “Blackguard” styles). A simple answer: No.
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: https://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.
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”.