Blog Post Categories
- Dire Straits/ Mark Knopfler live pictures and videos (31)
- Guitar in general (91)
- Vintage guitars (46)
- Mark Knopfler gear (144)
- Misc (72)
- MK guitar style and licks (84)
- Recording (16)
- Understanding music (28)
- Contents (List)
- Mark Knopfler Gear Database
- User Pictures Gallery: Build your own MK guitar
- Gear on all songs for all albums – WIKI
Recent Forum Posts
- Forum: Gear
Topic: Stumped identifying speakers in 212HD 130
By: Mike D - 6 months ago
- Forum: Gear
Topic: Music Man HD130 212 maintenance
By: direstrat - 6 months ago
- Forum: Gear
Topic: Schecter one piece birdseye maple neck with serial number
By: hamerfan - 7 months ago
- Forum: Gear
Topic: unknown equipement on the musicman guitar strap
By: J.Francois - 9 months ago
- Forum: Playing style, riffs, licks, soli, chords
Topic: Lights of Taormina SlideTuning?
By: mrandel - 11 months ago
- Tokai Springy Sound - Japanese Vintage Stratocaster Copies that caused lawsuit (5)
- Enjoyed the articles covering Tokai and Squire. Check out my photo book of Tokai... Feb 19, 6:15 PM
- Gear on album Brothers in arms (15)
- Out of phase, middle position roll off one of the tone controls all the... Feb 16, 11:59 AM
- National Style-O 1932 and 1936 - Double Power (4)
- Is this guitar for sale? Feb 14, 12:27 PM
- Sensational: Sultans of Swing guitar track solo - without backing tracks - from Guitar Hero 5 (95)
- Ha Ha Ha – copied and recopied stories stolen from other neighbouring cultures. Not... Feb 12, 6:48 PM
- Tonight, at the Principal Church of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter,... Feb 07, 5:58 PM
- 8-7-12Mirela spune: Buna. Ai putea sa imi cauti si mie driverele de sunet si... Feb 07, 5:02 PM
- Johnnie:Allt rÃ¶rande detta Ã¤r givetvis "clearat" med IFK, sÃ¥ du behÃ¶ver inte oroa dig.... Feb 02, 5:01 PM
- Mark Knopfler on facebook and myspace (3)
- The Schecter Story: Schecter Guitar Research - Dream Machines - The Van Nuys Era (24)
- Easy way to cure a scratchy voice coil in a guitar speaker (2)
- Hi. Great, great, great! I had that same problem with my Music Man RD112... Feb 06, 2:31 PM
- The wrong colour of the first Mark Knopfler Signature Strats (40)
- Finally I bought a used one last week. SE00064 dakota red Jan 15, 9:59 PM
- Schecter Dream Machine red 1980 (12)
- Color is Candy Apple Red, but it has a silver undercoat like earlier Fender... Jan 15, 8:55 PM
- Suhr Custom MK-1 and Pensa Custom MK-1 (5)
- I disagree Cathleen Jan 04, 12:58 AM
- Music Man Guitar Amps (39)
- Hi i have had a m/man 210 hd one thirty fo 30 yrs. ,great... Dec 20, 12:12 PM
- Coming new products (16)
- Any news on the availability of the DM Bodies? I would love to build... Dec 19, 2:20 PM
- Guitar refinishing – nitro vs poly and how to remove a polyester finish (54)
- Keys for all Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits songs (5)
- I think Tunnle of Love is in F major. In Live version,they had finished... Dec 09, 7:11 PM
- The Gibson Chet Atkins CEC - Classical Electric Guitar with Nylon Strings (18)
- Hi Thanks for the info. I have one of each at the moment. I... Dec 07, 4:33 PM
- March 2016
- February 2016
- January 2016
- December 2015
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- MK-Guitar on Facebook
- MK-Guitar on Twitter
- My Facebook profile
- My old Dire Straits Guitar Page
- My personal homepage
- My Youtube channel
Latest updates and news
Tweets by @mk_guitar_com
Top Comment Authors
- Ingo (421)
- Jean-François (166)
- Jeff - Anthony (36)
- Erik (33)
- Fletch (29)
- J.Francois (29)
- Dermot O'Reilly (28)
- Arthur Luz (23)
- TheWizzard29 (22)
- zach (22)
- John (20)
- Knopfleberg (20)
- Philipp (19)
- Eduard (18)
- Morten (17)
- danny (14)
- Jim (14)
- thomas (13)
- Alex Mircica (12)
- Lapelcelery (12)
- Chris (11)
- Ryan T. (11)
- David (10)
- liftedcj7on44s (10)
- dave (9)
Posted in: Guitar in general by Ingo on January 31, 2015
It seems to be out of question that the pickups are an important ingredient that defines the sound of an electric guitar. Besides obvious contruction differences – like overwound single coil pickups, or single-coil sized humbuckers etc. – there are many details , like different magnet alloys or different wire for the coil, that make a subtle or even clear sound difference. And there are many ‘external’ aspects, like shielding, pickguard materials etc. that might also influenece the sound of a pickup. And of course there are many myths and speculations about what else is said to be important as well – some can be true, others probably not.
With this blog post I want to list and describe some of such aspects, and let you know my opinion on what is important, and what is not. I have a long experience with pickups, so I have tried out much myself, and I think I can judge other questions from my technical background knowledge. Of course there are other things where I am not sure myself, as I have not a/b compared each single possible combination of pickup features within the same guitar, but I will let you know my guess here as well. Much of the stuff I will discuss will be with the typical Strat pickup in mind – the probably most important pickup for us Knopfler fans, but many results will of course also apply to other pickups. So let’s start with the…
Pole pieces material
First, there are pickups with Alnico (an AL-uminium/ NI-ckle/ CO-balt alloy) pole pieces and pickups with steel pole pieces which touch a ceramic bar magnet on the underside of the pickup (‘ceramic’ pickups). The Alnico pickups often have a stronger magnetic pull to the strings which makes them sound more snappy, also they are considered to sound warmer, while the ceramic pickups are said to sound more sterile, or even harsher. Ceramic Strat pickups can be found e.g. in some Squier Strats, and often in low-end guitars, but e.g. the last Van Nuys era Schecter pickups, the ‘Monstertone’ pickups developped by Tom Anderson, are ceramic as well (these are NOT the Schecter F500T pickups that Mark Knopfler had in his Schecters).
Both will definitely sound more or less different but I have heard many ceramic pickups that actually sounded great, so I would not agree that these are generally inferior. It is rather a matter of what you want or prefer, or maybe also which pickup sounds best in a particular guitar.
Among the Alnico pickups, there are many different alloys, with Alnico V or II being the most important ones. In these the proportions of the three main ingredients aluminium, nickle, and cobalt are different. Alnico V is surely the most important one for Strats, all the original Fender pickups used it. However, there are some who believe that e.g. the Alnico available in the 50ies or 60ies was possibly closer to what comes as Alnico II these days, or that over time the magnets changed – e.g. lost a part of their magnetic strength – and sound for this reason more like a different alloy than Alnico V. Generally V is stronger than II, and the sound is snappier with more punch and direct treble than the softer and warmer sounding Alnico II. Other alloys like Alnico III are also used, possibly in vintage Gibsons or Fenders as well. The problem is that nobody knows for sure what these companies ordered then, or if they sometimes simply changed to a different alloy as e.g. cobalt prices went up, or simply something was not in stock when they ordered.
Conclusion: Makes a sound difference, normally clearly audible
Winding wire insulation
The hair-thin wire for the coil is always made of copper. To wind a coil, you cannot use bare copper wire, it has to be insulated. As it is extremely thin wire, this insulation is not the coloured plastic like on ‘normal’ cables, but often a clear coat that is not visible with the bare eye. This insulation can be made of different materials, e.g. Formvar or enamel on old Fenders, but also polyurethane or polyamide is used.
As this is just an insulation, you might argue that a different material should not lead to any sound difference. However, it does! How is this possible? This is because all the wire of the pickup coil makes a capacitor – remember from your school days, two opposite metal plates that do not touch make a capacitor. Instead of metal plates we have the wire here, and all the surface of each single winding lies next to another winding, so they make a capacitor as well. Maybe you also remember that the insulating material between these metal plates – e.g. air, oil, paper,.. – also changes the value of the capacitor. So the same is true for the wire insulation, all the different materials have their own specific ‘dialectric constant’ that influences the overall value of the capacitance.
Not only the material matters, but also the thickness of the insulation. Remember the capacitor at school, the distance between the metal plates matters. While the insulation is always ‘thin’, it still has a thickness that is not to be neglected. And sometimes the insulation is even thicker for a more durable wire, so called double-coating. When talking about old Fender pickups,you will hear terms like heavey Formvar, or plain enamel. Heavey means double coated here, and plain means single coated.
Conclusion: Wire insulation makes an audible difference as well. It depends not only on the material (Formvar, enamel,..) but also on the thickness so it is difficult to say what exactly sounds like what. The difference might be subtle – but I could assure myself that I can hear it.
Pickups are normally potted with hot wax, sometimes also with laquer (e.g. old Tele nek pickups). This is done to avoid that the pickup is too microphonic. The loser the coil is wound, the more microphonic the pickup might be. You will not only hear a louder noise when e.g. tapping on the pickup (with a non-magnetic material, e.g. with your fingertips), but this will also increase the danger of squealing feedback at high volume.
The wax (or laquer) can change the ‘dialectric constant’ of the coil as a capacitor (see the passage above), so it can make a sound difference. Some of the early Gibson PAF pickups are said to be non-potted, or hardly potted. The sound might becoame a bit ‘airier’ without the wax.
Conclusion: Theoretically possible, but a rather subtle difference – not too important in most situations.
Some pickups have cloth-covered push-back cables, others have plastic insulation cables in different colours. I cannot imagine how this should make any sound difference, so it is just a question of ‘vintage-correctness’, or of ease to handle it (push-back cable is nice to solder, you just have to push it back a bit, and it will slide back after soldering).
However, if the cables are drilled – like e.g. the three cables on the Schecter F500T pickups – there might be a small capacity again, however so small that I personally would not bother about it too much. If the cables are shielded however, more capacitance is added which might become audible.
Conclusion: Normally no difference
A stronger magnet results in clearer and stronger treble, and a snappier tone, similar to the difference between e.g. Alnico V and II (see above). The strength can be measured, and it is a fact that with age magnets can lose a part of their strength. It is possible to remagnetize them to their original strength if they become too weak. The slightly weaker magnets might be one ingredient of vintage tone! Also you should avoid to use a soldering gun (instead of a normal soldering iron) when handling pickups, and for sure be careful when placing your guitar near to very strong magnets (e.g. resting it against a speaker cabinet with powerful speakers). This can not only make the magnet weaker but also cause some weird magnetic behaviour within the pole pieces.
Conclusion: Makes a sound difference.
Single coil pickups will hum when being exposed to certain magnetic fields. The idea of a humbucker pickup was to eliminate this hum by using two coils with opposite polarity. A similar hum cancellation can be achieved with two single coils as well (e.g. when playing the typical Knopfler bridge-middle pickup sound). The two pickups must be wound in opposite directions then (this is meant with RW for reverse winding). To avoid that the sound of the guitar strings is cancelled as well, the polarity of the pole pieces must be different, too (RP for reverse polarity). This idea came up in the 80ies I think. Mark’s Fenders and Schecters at the time of early Dire Straits did not have RWRP for this reason.
Apart from some theoretical reasons related to two coils with different magnetic fields that influence each other, I don’t see how this can affect the sound of the guitar – at least not as much to make an audible difference.
Conclusion: I don’t think it can make an audible difference.
If you look at several old Fender pickups, you will often notice that they all look a bit different. Some seem to be a bit taller so that the pole pieces seem a bit shorter on the top side. This will affect the dimensions of the coil, a flatter coil with the same number of turns will appear wider, while a taller coil will be narrower. The different distance from the wire to the magnets will change the properties of the coil, so this can make a sound difference. A wider one should be a bit warmer, while a taller one should have a bit more treble.
Conclusion: Might make a subtle difference.
In the old Fender days, the pickups were wound on machines but the wire was guided by hand. When winding more than 8,000 turns on a coil, the girl who operates the machine – mostly girls did this job at Fender – has to make sure that the wire goes evenly on the coil to avoid all wire being in the middle of the coil only, so she will move her hand to guide it from one side of the coil to the other, back again, and so on. If she does it quicker, or even at some random pattern, you will get what is called a scatterwound coil. The pattern in which one layer of wire lies to the next, or even one turn of wire, might again influence the capacity, and possibly other properties of the coil as well.
Conclusion: Might make a subtle difference.
Screws, rubber tube, springs
This should not make any sound difference. It is true that each piece of metal that comes into the field of a pickup affects the tone, due to an effect called eddy currents (see below), but different pickup screws, or a metal spring instead of a piece of rubber tube to hold the pickup, should not be enough metal to make it audible.
Conclusion: Not important for the sound.
Base plate / Metal cover
The original Telecaster bridge pickups had a piece of metal below their bottom bobbin. This changed the field of the coil, and also reduced treble due to eddy currents. Some maunfacturers add such a plate to some Strat pickup models as well, often for the bridge pickup, to boost bass a bit and make treble end softer.
The same is true for a metal case, as. e.g. on a Tele neck pickup, or on a PAF humbucker. Removing / adding these will make a clear sound difference (more treble without case).
Conclusion: Make a clear difference.
Distance between pickups and the strings
The closer the pickup is to the strings, the louder the pickup will be. The sound also becomes more direct, more snappy and punchier. However, you will get the infamous ‘Stratitis’ effect, a strange wobbling and somewhat ‘out of tune’ sound as the magnetic pull makes the string vibrate unevenly.
Conclusion: Besides the volume differnce and the Stratitis, this will also affect the tone to some extend.
To avoid hum from electric fields (it does not help much against magnetic fields), some manufacturers use a shielding foil, or an aluminium shielding plate below the pickguard. Believe it or not, this can make a sound difference, due to possibly added capacitace but more because of what is called eddy currents. These will dampen the resonance peak of the pickup, and also change the frequency response close to this frequency. The more metal you have within the magnetic field, the stronger the effect. This means a very thin foil will not make an audible difference, but the 0.3 mm shielding plates of those 60ies Strats – like Mark used to play – does.
Schecter F500T pickups have a loop of shielding copper tape around the coil. This also makes a difference – even a big one! This is mainly because of added capacitance, plus some eddy currents.
Conclusion: Not with a very thin foil, but can make a difference otherwise.
It should not matter if the pickguard is 2 or 3 millimeters, or of vinyl or celluloid BUT … if it is made of metal it will have a big effect on the tone! This is because of eddy currents again. The aluminium pickguard on Mark’s red Schecter Strat clearly changes the tone of the pickups a lot! The effect is much stronger than most other aspects discussed before. You might say there is only a subtle sound difference between e.g. an original Fender vintage pickup and a good replica like the Seymour Duncans which Mark put in his red Schecter, but there is a huge difference between the same pickups in a plastic or metal pickguard. This is a part of the Schecter Dream Machine sound but there were many old Fenders with anodized aluminium pickguards as well (e.g. David Gilmour’s #0001 Strat). Search on youtube, you will find many videos to demonstrate this.
Conclusion: Makes a big difference.
Volume and Tone pot values
Makes clearly difference, see this blog post for more info.
Guitar cable quality
The quality of the guitar cable also makes a sound difference. Each cable has a capacitance, a typical cable about 30 pF per feet. So the longer the cable, the more capacitance, but the distance between the inner lead in the cable and the outer shielding also affects the total capacitance. The resonance frequency of a Strat pickup will shift from about 8 kHz without a cable to something like 2 – 5 kHz with a cable! An 8kHz resonace peak will not sound ideal for many situations, definitely not for most distorted sounds, so the cable really shapes the sound here, adding (!) midrange to the sound while reducing treble.
Conclusion: Can make a big difference.
The material, or colour, (black/grey fiber board, plastic) of the pickup bobbins should not matter at all.
Bevelled/unbevelled pole pieces however can make a very subtle difference as the magnetic field can be a bit stronger, or more focussed, at the end of a bevelled magnet (bevelling was done to make it easier to push the pole pieces into the bobbin, not to shape the sound).
The material or thickness of the plastic caps does not matter. An original or rewound coil should not matter if everything is exactly the same (which in fact hardly ever will be) but generally a good rewinding job with the right materials does not automatically mean a loss of sound.
Staggered or flat pole pieces lead to different volume of the individual sound, and other effects due to a different magnetic field are possible but seem to be unlikely to me.
The tension of the wire while winding makes a subtle difference. With more tension the wire is puuled and becomes thinner a bit, so the DC resistance per turn will increase.
Of course different wire gauge (AWG 43, AWG,43,…) makes a big difference, so does different pole pieces diameter, but these are really differences that totally change the design of the pickup and should not be considered here in this list for this reason.
A Tele bridge pickup will sound different in a Tele bridge of massive brass – like the Walk of Life tele bridge – than in a Fender vintage bridge of much thinner steel. This is due to eddy currents again, and adds to the tone change of a brass bridge vs. a steel bridge (that can also be heard acoustically with the unplugged guitar)."Buy me a beer" - donate for the site via PayPal. Or buy a backing track in my online shop :)
Total Resistance – Add Sweetness – Remove Harshness – Shaping the sound of your pickups for the Mark Knopfler Sound
Posted in: Guitars,Mark Knopfler gear by Ingo on December 11, 2014
I guess most of you know that the value of the volume pot affects the sound of your pickups. I already wrote a blog post on this some time ago – please refer to this to understand terms like ‘resonance peak’ and what it means for the sound. Today I will cover some more details of this phenomenon, especially with regard to Mark Knopfler’s guitar sound.
Does only the volume pot matter or the tone pot as well?
This was really a valid question for me which I was unsure about myself. Of course a smaller value tone pot – e.g. 100k instead of 250k – will act like the 250k pot set to something like ‘9’ instead of ’10’ even when turned fully up. But here I am talking about a possible effect on the height of the resonance peak of the pickup.
From a technical point of view (skip this part if this is nothing for you), I had reasons to believe that it does not, and also some reasons to believe it does. This is because the tone pot – unlike the volume pot – does not bridge the hot wire directly to ground but does so via the tone capacitor. If you measure the total load of both pots to the pickup, your meter will only show the volume pot value (this is because the capacitor does not pass DC). This was reason to believe it does not affect the resonance peak height. However, a guitar produces AC (alternate current, DC is direct current), and the tone pot passes AC more or less (depending of the AC frequency, and at the frequency where the resonace peak of a pickup sits – some kHz – it passes AC even very well). This is reason to believe it affects the resonance peak height.
I could not find the answer easily in the web, so I simply decided to measure it myself. I found that the tone pot DOES MATTER, equally to the volume pot. For this reason, we need to look at the total load that both pots put on the pickup (two resistors in parallel – this is what the pots are – combine due to a special formula, two identical values will result to half the value – 2 x 250k to 125k – but e.g. a 250k and a 500k will result to 167k). Theoretically, the AC resistance of the tone capacitor has to be considered in the equation as well, but this results to changes < 1%, so I left it out.
Load of the guitar pots for different guitar types
Here I list the load of both pots for the various guitars that are relevant for us MK fans.
small value – soft and sweet (or muddy, depending on the other settings)
high value – bright (or harsh, depending on the other settings)
Fender Strat (any pickup combination except middle & neck or bridge pickup only)
2 x 250k
Fender Strat (bridge pickup only)
1 x 250k
Fender Strat (middle & neck pickups together)
3 x 250k
Schecter Dream Machine (Strat or Tele)
2 x 500k
Fender Tele (>1967, e.g. the black Water of Love Tele)
2 x 1000K
Fender Tele (<1967, e.g. Mark’s sunburst Tele Custom)
2 x 250k
Les Paul (bridge or neck pickup)
2 x 500k
Les Paul (bridge & neck pickup)
4 x 500k
Total load for different guitars and effects/amps setups
Besides the load of the guitar pots, the load of other devices in the signal chain also matters. These will combine with the load from the pots following the same formula (parallel resistors). However, not all effect devices matter, only those up to the first in the chain that transforms the signal to a low output impedance (most effects will do, even when switched off, but some, e.g. the volume pedal, do not).
small value – soft and sweet (or muddy, depending on the other settings)
high value – bright (or harsh, depending on the other settings)
Fender Strat (125k) into rack or tube amp or through Active Lead cable (1996 – 2001 tours, 1000k)
Schecter (250k) into rack or tube amp or Active Lead (1000k)
Live in 1979: Fender Strat (125k) into Morley volume pedal (68k) into MXR Analog Delay (500k )
Water of Love Tele (500k) into Morley (66k) into MXR (500k ?)
Making Movies album: Schecter (250k) into Music Man (319k )
Alchemy: Schecter (250k) into Nady Guitar Transmitter (500k ?)
Studio: Fender Strat (125k) into Ernie Ball volume pedal (250k) into rack (1000k ? )
Les Paul (bridge or neck pickup) into Ernie Ball volume pedal (250k) into tube amp (1000k)
The effect is less pronounced with a Les Paul but still existing (the resonance peak is less strong than with single coils). On guitars with active pickups, e.g. the Pensa/Suhr MK 1, the pots and other loads do not matter at all.
Can I get any benefit of this and shape the sound of my guitar with my setup
Here is a good and very short answer: yes! You can decrease the load value by simply adding a small resistor – a part for a few cents – into the signal chain to emulate other values in the list above. The resistor connects hot and ground, and can sit anywhere in the signal chain, e.g. between the hot wire and ground on the volume pot, between hot and ground at the output jack, or in the guitar cable plug.
You can use an online resistor calculator like this one to calculate the value you need. Simply put the value of your guitar alone (see list above), for your first effect(s) or amp (you will find most values in the list above as well), and for the resistor into the fields of the online calculator, and press ‘calculate’. Change the value of the resistor until you reach the target value for the sound you are looking for, found in the second list above.
Example: you have a normal Strat (125k) that you play into a tube amp (1000k, try 500k for a non-tube amp), and want the soft MK 1979 live sound (Strat, Morley, MXR -> 40.5k). Enter 125 and 1000 into the first fields and some start value into the third, calculate, clear the result and change the resistor value until you get near 40.5. In this example you will need anything about 50k. Buy a 50k resistor – the smallest wattage, usually 0.25W will do, more will not hurt either – and put it into your guitar, or into the plug of a dedicated guitar cable for this sound.
If you want to increase the value, you can exchange the pots in your guitar, or put a standard effect device (500k or 1000k input impedance) before e.g. your passive volume pedal (250k for an Ernie Ball, 68k for a Morley). This way the volume pedal value can be neglected, only the one of the effect will matter.
I might make a future video to demonstrate the change of sound with different values, check out."Buy me a beer" - donate for the site via PayPal. Or buy a backing track in my online shop :)
Posted in: Guitars,Mark Knopfler gear,Misc by Ingo on December 07, 2014
A few days ago I wrote a blog post in which I compared the first Sultans of Swing solo played with 010 strings and with 009 strings. With today’s blog post I want to have a closer look at some details of that sound: I recorded a video to compare lots of different pickup combinations, and to compare 009 to 008 strings. I used the same Japanese Strat copy with the Sultans pickguard with VFS-1 pickups. This way I could emulate sounds that Mark might have created with both Fender pickups or with his DiMarzio FS-1. I recorded the guitar directly into the desk, using the same setup as the last time. Maybe I should have used an amp and mics to get a more authentic sound, this way Mark’s version always sounds much better (well, his would still sound better if I had used an amp anyway ). If you have questions about the setup and effects and such, refer to the last blog post.
I compared a few licks with Mark’s original, using the guitar track that came available with the Guitar Hero game. I must say that after listening to so many pickup versions, it is not easy to judge which one is best. Depending on the speakers or the listening situation, sometimes this one sounds best, and then again another one. Please don’t forget that
I setup a poll again so that you can judge for yourself, and also see what others say. I only included the combinations that seem to be most likely, if you prefer something not mentioned here, let us know using the comments for this blog post.
As most of you voted for the thinner strings last time, I decided to go more into the details here. A the end of the video I am also comparing 009 and 008 strings. Remember, we have a hint that Mark used 008 strings. As both sets share a 011 b-string, I contrasted some single tones on the g-string and on the high e-string. I was surprised to hear how those ultra-thin strings sound, but listen for yourself. I also made a poll for the strings:
I am planning various new products and projects for the next weeks or months, and just thought you might be interested in what is coming. I must say I found myself involved in more and more different ideas lately, but as what is basically a “one-man company” it is often difficult for me to keep them all going at the same time. Whenever I dig more intensively into one thing I have to delay other projects but – well, I think this is the way things simply are. So what is going on?
There are probably enough companies who make clones of pre-CBS Fender pickups but I found that the pickups in Mark’s red Fender Strat of the early Dire Straits era had some unique features that I would like to have for my personal guitar as well (to be precise I should say the pickups in Mark’s greenish pickguard – the one with the black volume knob – as he used to swap this pickguard from one of his two Strats to the other frequently). It seems that other fans often like the same stuff as me – no wonder, we all want the same sound – I thought to offer these to everyone. What I am talking about is a Strat pickup that is not only a faithful replica of a 1961 Fender pickup but also has all features that differ from pickup to pickup – like pole pieces height for example – as close as they were in Mark’s guitar. It’s a bit too early to tell what other details I have in mind, but there will be some that make not only an cosmetical difference but also a subtle sound difference. Planned for summer 2014.
Walk of Life Telecaster set
You know that I have the Walk of Life pickups – replicas of the tapped Schecter pickups of the Van Nuys era Dream Machine Teles, and I already offer brass or white aluminium pickguards for such Tele clones. You need two push/pull potis to switch the pickup taps, and do some soldering for these. So I am planning to offer pickups and the metal pickguards as a set including the control plate (of course from brass like Schecters then) with all controls and switches already wired. So it is easy to turn any Tele style guitar into a Dream Machine copy with the sound of these. One set will have the golden brass pickguard and control plate, another one the white aluminium pickguard with a chrome plated brass control plate. Planned for summer 2014.
Walk of Life Telecaster bridges
A major part of the Dream Machine sound comes from the brass bridges that I already offer for the Strat. We still need a brass Tele bridge with the typical brass saddles to get the real Walk of Life sound. These will be available in brass and chrome-plated brass. Coming summer 2014.
Serial number plates
So many of you built yourself Dream Machine clones but a nice little detail to have might be the matching serial number neck plate. Maybe we are moving more into the “mad fans only” area here, but many of you already asked for these so I thought to offer them not only with the different serial numbers of Mark’s most important Dream Machines (of course of brass or chrome-plated brass) but also for the red Fenders of the early Dire Straits days (chrome-plated steel). Also hopefully available in summer 2014.
Van Nuys Dream Machine style bodies
Mark’s Dream Machine Strats all had bodies from rather unusual woods, and not from ash or alder like Fenders. But not only the kind of wood was different. Did you sometimes have the impression that for example the horns on Mark’s guitars were somewhat different, or other contours? In fact the horns, the cutaways, the edges, the forearm and belly contours, even the size was different on the Van Nuys Dream Machines. I am not talking about drastic differences but about many details, some subtle, some rather clear. As it seems bodies with these specs are not available anywhere, I thought to produce some by myself, of course from high quality tone wood. I already have the first prototypes
Probably I will offer them unfinished and finished. With the unfinished bodies you can not only see the wonderful wood, you can also let it be finished by yourself in the quality (nitro, poly,..) you want, or are willing to pay. In fact the original nitro finish is very expensive as it is extremely labour intensive ( I heard Fender estimates nitro finishing costs at about one third of the price of the complete guitar). I might offer them with such a high quality finish neverthelessl. First bodies (unfinished) might be available in summer 2014.
And before you ask for matching necks (birdseye maple): yes, makes sense, we will see ..
Loaded Dream Machine Strat pickguard in chrome finish
In addition to the loaded brass, white and black enamel aluminium loaded pickguards, I will produce some with chrome plating. However, as there seems only little demand for this non-Knopfler related finish, these will be limited, with more in case of a demand for more. Summer 2014…
Guitar tutorial DVD
Many readers asked me for tutorials, e.g. for the MK style right hand techniques. I thought to start with these on a DVD, but still cannot say for sure when this will be available. Possibly autumn 2014."Buy me a beer" - donate for the site via PayPal. Or buy a backing track in my online shop :)
I recently watched this video on youtube and felt to share it with all readers of my blog. It shows Abigail Ybarra winding a pickup in the Fender custom shop. In case you haven’t heard of her, she started to wind pickups at the Fender factory in 1956, and again does so at the Fender custom shop today. She is the mother of pickup winding so-to-say.
The youtube video shows you what is meant with hand-winding a pickup, or scatter winding. Of course noone wounds a pickup by hand in the sense of laying single turns of thin wire around the coil, and neither by turning the coil by hand. For this always machine have been used, but the wire is led by hand. This way the person who operates the machine controls where exactly the next layer of wire goes, and also the tension of the wire.
Scatter winding means all the time the wire is led from one side of the bobbin to the other, and back again. Such details are of importance for the sound of a pickup because they affect physical values, e.g. the capacity of the pickup. It is a mistake to think only the number of turns and the material of the magnets matter, it is much more. Even the insulation of the pickup wire – normally something like enamel or a material called Formvar – is of importance, and both the thickness of the insulation and the material cause clearly audible differences. Of course it is still all physics and not vodoo, but a pickups is really a highly complex issue."Buy me a beer" - donate for the site via PayPal. Or buy a backing track in my online shop :)
Older Posts »