Have you ever noticed that some chords of News were changed in the live version that Dire Straits used to play on the On Location tour (Making Moviers tour) in 1980/81?
The original chord sequence of News – as recorded on the Communiqué album – was:
Em – Bm – C – Bm – Am – Am – C – C
Live it was changed to:
Em – Bm – C – G/B – Am – Am G/B – C – C D
In words: The second Bm was changed to a G (while the bass still plays the B). This also lead to some changes of the melody over this chord. The G before the last C chord (also with a B in the bass) was just a transition chord (played for the last two beats of that bar), the same is true for the last D which was the transition to the Em of the next verse.
Here is a video which shows them playing this version:
In today’s blog post I want to feature a lick again, one I think that stroke me because of the interesting and logical idea behind it. This idea is: what will it sound like if you steadily repeat the same five sixteenth notes?
In detail: On a recording of Telegraph Road from Nimes, France, September 29, 1992 (this is NOT the gig in Nimes that was filmed for the On Every Night video earlier that year but the one that was shown on TV in many European countries), Mark played a lick that consists of the following five repeated notes:
If each of these notes is played as a sixteenth note, always each fourth of them will fall on the beat. As there are five different notes over a rhythm of four sixteenth notes, the first note of a sixteenth group will always be different, see the following tab.
After 20 notes, which is on the 2nd beat in the 2nd bar, the notes will repeat, after 80 notes which is after 5 bars, the first c note will be on the “one” again.
Simple but clever, isn’t it? Often the simple ideas are the best anyway. However, if you try to play the lick, you will find that it is everything but easy to play. Since always the first note of a group of four sixteenth notes is stressed, you have to stress a different note all the time (always the one on your foottap of course). Sometimes you even have to stress the pulled-off note. It is hard not to lose the musical context, in other words not to lose where you are in the chord scheme (which is basically Dm, Dm7, G , D by the way).
Here is the video that shows what I am talking about. Unfortunately specifying a starting point seems not to work any longer in embedded youtube videos, so you manually need to go to where the lick is, which is ca. between 6:52 and 6:57. I will also try to record a tutorial video on this lick as soon as I will find some time. Happy practicing!
A guitar pickup does not contain any moving parts, and for this reason it is generally free of mechanical wear and might work for many decades (maybe even for centuries?). Nevertheless, certain pickup models seem to be prone to die earlier than others. One example are Fender pickups from the 50ies or early 60ies. For this reason you will often see vintage Stratocasters with rewound pickups. The same is true for the Schecter F500T – a tapped pickup which consists of two individual coils.
It is mostly corrosion of the magnets that kills the pickup
The reason is simple. A pickup consists of some magnets and a coil – in case of a standard Fender-type singlecoil pickup we have individual magnetic pole pieces for each string, but some pickups also have non-magnetic metal pieces (or screws) that are connected to one bar magnet that often sits below the bobbin. The coil consist of hair-thin wire that is wound around the magnets. The wire is an extremely thin copper wire that is insulated with some film (e.g. laquer, formvar or enamel). For this reason – the wire itself is insulated – it is not necessary to insulate the magnets from the wire.
Now the problem: the magnets are made of metal – normally alnico which is an alloy of ALuminium, NIckle, and Cobalt – , and metal can corrode when exposed to humidity or other environmental factors like sweat, beer, or whatever. It is this corrosion of the magnets in the interior of the pick-up that can destroy the wire of the coil. There are two different things that can happen: (a) the wire breaks and the pick-up will not produce any output at all anymore, or (b) only the insulation is destroyed and the coil is shortened. The pick-up will still produce some output but not as much as it normally does. It depends on the number of turns that are shortened how much output the pick-up will produce – any value from 0 – 100% is possible.
Fender reacted to the problem which killed so many pickups from the 50ies and applied a thin coat of laquer on the pole pieces before winding the coil. Alternatively some manufacturers put some tape around the pole pieces.
Measurung the resistance of the pickup
The exact diagnosis of a defective pickup is simple. All you need is to measure the resistance of the coil with a multi meter (or to be concrete an ohm meter). Make sure that the pick-up is NOT switched on at the 5-way (or whatever) pick-up switch, but switched OFF. Then measure between the two poles where the cables are soldered to the pick-up. If you don’t want to open the guitar, you can also turn up the volume and tone controls, switch on the pick-up and measure at the output jack (plug in a guitar cable and measure between the two poles of the other plug). However, this measurment is not as exact as the other method since the potis will be in parallel to the pickup and reduce the resistance you will measure)
If the wire is broken, the multimeter will read an extremely high value (indefinite), if it is shortened it will read lower than the normal resistance of the pick-up (which is about 6 kohms in case of a vintage-style Stratocaster pick-up)
If the pickup is defective, there is nothing you can do to repair it except exchange it or let it be rewound by a specialist. If the correct type of wire is used, there should be no audible sound difference after the job.
If you are looking for a replacement for the Schecter F500T pickup, you should check out our tapped pick-ups by the German pick-up specialist Harry Haeussel. Click on the image below for more info.