Friday, February 27, 2009

Six String Bliss #140

The guys over at Six String Bliss has really upped their game lately. If you haven't listened lately you have missed a lot. Their coverage of 2009 Winter NAMM with guest corespondent Snoozy Shrugs was out of sight. The rough but rapid shows launched from their hotel room every night were shows 132 through 136 and they were great! Some how in the middle of all this NAMM coverage they found time to sit down and do an interview with a guy who was arguably the worlds first rock and roll guitarist Ernest McLean who played with cats like Fats Domino and Little Richard back in the day. That ended on being episode #137. Then in show # 139 Pipes does the solo interview thing with modern blues rocker Eric Sardinas live from the sound check.
This week is show # 140 where they interview amp builder Adam Grimm of Satellite Amps. These are kicking boutique tube amps that are priced right in line with many factory production amps. Oh.... I happen to be on this show as well doing a little segment about tone they some of you have heard me go on about before.
I'm going to try to start recording one segment a month for the guys to use if they want. Subjects could be pretty much anything. Here's one I did for them a while back that I converted into a youtube video. It's a review of the Electro Harmonix POG. I've bought a better mic since then.



Monday, February 23, 2009

“When all government...in little as in great things, shall be drawn to
Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks
provided...” Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Malmstrom lap steel pickup rebuild. (The Long Strange Trip... )

Over the years countless pickups have made their way through my little shop. Everything from dead 1950's Fender Strat pickups and 1960's FilterTrons needing to be rewound to the Katrina pickups that were nearly tossed out as unusable. Yep... it's been a long strange trip.
But not one of those pickups has sparked as much interest, intrigue and even a little bit of controversy like this strange pickup from Finland that I rebuilt a few years ago. I have written about it extensively and the other day I decided to present the story in a more modern medium. Check out this video.




Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Guitar tone? Pickup Tone? Pedal Tone?Your tone?


So.. I was talking to a couple of cats in their late 20's a little while back and we were talking about how to get different tones from a guitar. One kid says, "How do you get that ACDC tone?" and the other piped up right away. "That's easy... just crank everything to 11 and rock!" Now.... I've been listening to ACDC since about 1977 and never has Malcolm or Angus tone struck me as over the top super distortion. Even on a tune like "I'm a rocker" or "Hells Bells" the tone is well defined and smooth and breaks up with the picking dynamics and aggression of attack. I made them listen to "Ride On" as homework.

One thing to think about is this. If your running a signal chain looks like this...
Squash-o-Matic compressor > Wonder Wah > 12 band EQ > Super Skull F#@%er Mega Distort Pedal > Flang-o-tron > Echo-
Zilla Analog Delay and then run all that into a 200W Mega Colossus Distortus Maximus amp with everything set to 20 you have sort of negated the subtle nuances of your expensive boutique hand made pickups or your vintage NOS tone caps. At some point the guitars effect on the tone starts to become a moot point if you don't keep it simple.


Now.... don't get me wrong. I'm not
hatin on stomp boxes. I have over 50 stomp boxes and I'm adding and swapping and modding new ones all the time. I've heard the guys that yell "If you need a stomp box your guitar or amp must suck!" But that just ain't so. It's one thing to get that 15 watt valve amp to sound good in your bed room. It's another matter all together to get it to sound good in a bar, or an out door stage or a warehouse. For those type of situations it can be handy to have a good EQ pedal or a distortion pedal with a good EQ built in. And the simple truth is that if you're going to try to sound like Warren Haynes you will need a Boss Metal Zone pedal. If you're trying to sound like Tom Morello you'll need a Digitech Whammy and if you're trying to sound like Michael Schenker you'll need a CryBaby.

You really have to decide what you want to do with your sound and build it from the ground up. Ever bit of your rig, from your finger tips to your speakers are going to play a part in you tone. How much? Well, that depends on your musical style. If your playing through 4 distortion boxes then I wouldn't worry too much about the tone cap you have on your
Tele.

I ask you to think about these things when you are
considering a new set of expensive hand made pickups. It will help me direct you to the right pickup or perhaps even recommend not replacing your pickups at all.

Oh... and that ACDC tone? Try a well made guitar built in the Gibson or Gretch style with vintage spec pickups (ie, not hot) and run that into a good tube amp and set most of the knobs on about 5. Try it out and tweak the amp from there.



"If you know what I mean..."


Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Searcy String Works Bolero Humbucker MP3

Without a doubt the most popular guitar pickup I have made is the Bolero Humbucker. First introduced at the 2007 Winter NAMM show it was an instant hit and has remained so ever since. The Bolero is a nod to the hotrod humbucker sounds of the '70's. With a DC resistance of 14.8k ohms, the hotter, wax potted coils give it a great bite for driving your amp. The vintage style Alnico-5 bar magnets ensure a controllable output that can clean up nicely when needed. The 4-wire lead allows for coil splitting and phasing switching.

There's nothing like hearing though is there?

High Gain Metal Tone MP3

Country Chord Tone MP3


Project Stelios DONE!


Ok, I finally finished the crazy quad coil, stereo output mega monsters for Stelios I last told you about HERE .

Stelios Bridge Pickup MP3

For those who don't know Greek Mythology, Stelios is the mythical Greek God of Shred. If your looking for proof here is a little something he did while taking a break in front of his computer.




If you like that check out some more of his YouTube work right HERE . I can't wait to hear what he does with his new Searcy String Works pickups.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Pickup Wars!



You know, I don't spend every second of my time making pickups. In fact it's been so cold out in the shop a few times this winter that I couldn't feel my fingers and had to delay some work. I mean, I have heaters in the shop and all but they are pretty light duty and when it's 45 degrees in the shop I can't make good pickups.


So I have spent a few of the colder nights this winter fixing up a 1997 Gibson Les Paul
Studio Double Cutaway that I bought last year. I installed my Obsession Bolero Humbucker set and swapped a lot of the parts out for gold. I rewired the controls to just have two volume pots and installed a BadAss bridge to allow for some better intonation adjustment. When I got done I was impressed with this guitar. It's a real player! HERE is a sound clip of it through a Morley Wah.
So I decide to see if any other Les Paul guys are fans of this very overlooked model that was only made for a year or two. I decide to start my quest by posting a few pictures of my guitar on the My Les Paul forum. After that I saw they had a pickup section! Cool! I gotta check that out cause I'm a pickup geek, right? Then, what do ya know there was a discussion about one of my You Tube videos. How cool is that? It's like I was meant to be there.



There were a few comments after the video. Most were cool. Someone wanted to know if I was really building a humbucker so fast. One other person questioned my jump wire technique and another wondered why I would reveal my secrets and show everyone how I make my pickups. I was only to happy to answer these questions so I posted this...

"Thanks for checking out my little video. The build was edited for time. Usually I build in batches instead of one at a time. Having the camera in the room adds about 14 hours to the build time. I don't tape the coil end of the jumpers because they are resting between the tape and the insulated magnet wire. Once the cover is soldered on and the pickup is wax or epoxy potted there's little chance of anything moving enough to cause a short. And if it does it's OK cause I guarantee all my work for life.

I don't know if showing people how to make a 150 dollar pickup in about 10 minutes is a good idea or not. Very interesting though. Not much to it.

You can get money for these things? Honestly, I don't think I have given away too much here. They're pickups not time machines. There isn't too much to them. 80% of the black arts, mad science we hear about pickups amounts to little more than marketing B.S... I've never been too good at that."

That's it... that's my first post on the My Les Paul Forum ever. I have talked to a lot of pickup makers over the years like Bill Lawrence and Jason Lollar and one of the things that seems to annoy them all is the amount of marketing B.S. you see in the pickup making world.
I didn't think this was to controversial a statement... So I was surprised when this replay came back from some anonymous we'll call..... Ummmm..... "Cap'n Sticky Bottom"...

ROTFLMA... yeah, your right. no marketing bs. just fancy edited video marketing. well, i guess that's the typical new pickup winders mentality when they come out.. dis the other winders who work hard at their "black art, science" and say that they are the best because? looking forward to seeing your , um... marketing hype? Welcome!

Stew mac kits in the first vid? hmm.. by the way, your bobbin leads should have some kinda of protecting. I know, i have learned the hard way. i do like your custom art work "iron cross" on the allparts covers. cool!

WOW! I wasn't expecting that at all. Now, I know what you're saying. The guy obviously has a tiny penis and I should just let it go. The problem with that is that I use my real name every time I post on the internet and my name and reputation is all I have. So while I don't always feel like addressing these idiots... for the most part I have too. If he makes this crazy assertions and I just disappear some folks on the My Les Paul Forum will assume there might be something to what he said. I can't have that so the battle was on... His comments are in red here and mine are in green.

Searcy:
well, i guess that's the typical new pickup winders mentality when they come out.. dis the other winders who work hard at their "black art, science" and say that they are the best because?

Wow... It's been many a year since I've been called the new pickup guy. I'm new to the My Les Paul forum though. Guess that's what you mean. Did I say a bad thing? I call terms like "Calibrated, aged magnets and special potting solutions and Rosie Wraps" marketing B.S. The reason I mention it at all was simply because folks always seem amazed when they see me build a pickup and there's no mojo dance or magic wire or anything. I wasn't trying to call anyone out. If I hit a nerve it was inadvertent.

Stew mac kits in the first vid?

Nope, you can tell by the color of the cream bobbin, type of magnet, length of the legs on the base plate and the size of the spacer. If you miss those little details you can go by the fact the Stew Mac doesn't sell 50MM base plates. Besides I can't afford to by bulk parts from Stew Mac. I have bought some tools from them though. Good stuff... but spendy!

i do like your custom art work "iron cross" on the allparts covers. cool!

Thanks, but it's not an allparts cover. It's a cast epoxy cover I made for a neodymium powered bass humbucker I made about 5 years ago.

Here's another cover you wont' see at all parts.

Where do you think I got that one?

Again, I'm not trying to upset anyone. Just wanted to thank you guys for checking out my work.




Ok , So I figured that was cool. I made my point and let the guy know that I wasn't picking on anyone just in case he was a pickup maker I had never heard of.... But no.... he was still mad about something...

no nerve hit. I am sorry never heard of ya. i am sure that many people can wind and build a pickups as you. it's as simple as 1,2,3... that's why so many are always popping up and starting a biz and are taking off through the roof but you have 5 years right. cool!

i do find it amusing that according to you that many pickup winders around must be a bull shitters and your the home run winder saying that there is no science behind it and it's all bull shit. I am NOT a winder at all.. I have tried it and they came out crap but i do know that there is a science behind it and maybe you should really do some back ground here into this section and you will see that there is some great data available here and on the net.

i do see a new arrogant guy who's just joined a forum with some very respected winders here and do put in a lot of "marketing B.S." science and love into their work and you come out of the park your first day saying they are bull shitters. just to remind you.. no nerve hit here. I am not a winder but an assembler and i do see a BS marketing scheme in the works here. so instead of going back and forth with ya..

I just end it here and watch your no BS marketing plan go into effect here at the seen it all, heard it all MLP.

Nice p-90 cover.. do your own covers. nice.

So I had to reply...

i do find it amusing that according to you that many pickup winders around must be a bull shitters and your the home run winder saying that there is no science behind it and it's all bull shit.

You know... you sure don't have much of an eye for details. I never said there was no science involved in pickup making. I never said that I was the home run king or that people should even pick my pickups over anyone elses. Seems you've decided to pick a fight even if here isn't one here. That's the sort of thing a real asshole would do. Not that I'm calling you an asshole or anything. I never heard of you before yesterday so it's too early to make such a character evaluation.

I am NOT a winder at all.. I have tried it and they came out crap but i do know that there is a science behind it and maybe you should really do some back ground here into this section and you will see that there is some great data available here and on the net.

Well... I am a winder. You would have known that if you had spent 30 seconds on Google instead of deciding that I must be the new kid with a StewMac kit, a video camera and a plan to tear down all the giants of the pickup making world. Now just so we understand each other.... again... I never said there wasn't any science involved but you just keep on fighting that fight if it makes you feel like you're defending the downtrodden.
Now...I can see by looking around that there is a lot of good information here on the MLP forum but just what data is it that you think I need to find? I have spent years studying every aspect of pickup making. I have made, restored and designed more pickups than I can count (again google would have told you that) and one of the things I learned very early on was that it can be hard to separate the science from the marketing B.S.

i do see a new arrogant guy who's just joined a forum with some very respected winders here and do put in a lot of "marketing B.S." science and love into their work and you come out of the park your first day saying they are bull shitters.

What you call arrogance I call being confidante in my work. There's a difference between science and marketing BS. I can't believe I actually have to say that.... Now... what I see is a real tough guy who defends his friends against the slightest insult even if he has to twist comments to make them sound the way he needs too in order to wring an insult out of them and feel justified.

just to remind you.. no nerve hit here. I am not a winder but an assembler and i do see a BS marketing scheme in the works here. so instead of going back and forth with ya.. I just end it here and watch your no BS marketing plan go into effect here at the seen it all, heard it all MLP.

The dragon is dead and the villagers are now safe. Well fought Don Quixote of the web...

Nice p-90 cover.. do your own covers. nice.

Thanks! A lot of love and science went into making them. They won't make your guitar sound better though.

After that he let it go and I got back to work in the shop. But his constant comments about my covert marketing plan just baffled me. Why does this guy who claims he isn't a pickup maker seem so offended by and suspicious about my comments? Well, I did a little more digging around this morning and I figured out that this guy actually works for a small pickup company in North California. I won't name them because I don't believe the owner of this outfit had any idea one of his flunkies was picking fights for him. I will tell you that their claim is that using antique magnet wire, an antique pickup winder and some custom made parts result in fantastic sounding pickups.

That guy with the small penis must have thought I was picking on their claims or something and decided to defend his boss. After checking out their website I'm sure their pickups do sound just fine. But I don't think there is any magic mojo at work there. The guy who runs the company simply has an amazing eye for detail and works hard to reproduce vintage style pickups.

So, why don't I have some big marketing push with ads in magazines and web banners all over the place? Well, while I do sell a small number of my pickups to the public the majority of my pickups are sold to luthiers like John Derrick, Steve Benford, W. Jeffrey Jones, EllieGuitars and the list goes on and on. There are boutique basses hanging in shops all over the world with my pickups in them even though they may have someone elses name on the cover. I sell everything I make and until that changes I don't see any need to buy ads and launch the mege marketing blitz. If that day comes you can bet that I won't have ads claiming that I alone know the secret to making the best pickup in the world or that my very limited supply of NOS maple humbucker spacers are the key to nailing the Peter Green tone or that my potting wax that's been infused with the sweat of Steve Ray Vaughn is the only way to get the Texas Flood sound.
The plain and simple truth is that a Gibson PAF style pickup is easy to make. They have been around for over half a century and we have had decades to study and document hundreds and hundreds of them. Seth Lover has been interviewed at length about them and has given up every magic secret there was about them. Most of the parts are easy and cheap to get in bulk. There is scarcely a pickup maker out there that doesn't offer up some sort of PAF style pickup and they mostly understand the ins and outs of altering its tone. Replacing the alnico magnet with a strong ceramic magnet with give you more highs and some more output. More windings with smaller wire will give you more output and low end. Wax potting can remove microphonics but can dampen the harmionics. Perfectly matched coils gives a smother sound. Slightly mismatched coils adds a little edge to the tone. This is 1950's technology folks. It's just not that tricky....

It's hard to believe that something as simple as pickup making could lead to such bruised egos and hard feelings. To
Cap'n Sticky Bottom, you know... you can get that SMALL PENIS fixed these days. They have an operation for that.



Ok.... back to the shop!






Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Get well soon Pete Way!

For those of you who don't know I'm a huge UFO fan and today I noticed this on the UFO web site.

Feb 2, 2009

2009 is shaping up to be a busy time for UFO, what with the studio sessions in Germany (where they're recording the new album, due out later this year), and also the forthcoming tours and festival shows which are being booked right now. But amidst all the good news, the band also need to share some other news with you. For a while now, Pete Way has been dealing with a medical condition which affects his liver, and he's currently undergoing treatment to cure it. The medication he's on makes him tired and dizzy, and he feels that taking part in the recording sessions and the hectic touring schedule would be too much for him at the moment, so he'll be taking some time out from UFO until he is match-fit. But as we all know with Pete, he won't be able to stay away from rocknroll for long - so it's very likely that he'll be doing a few gigs here and there with Waysted. UFO wish him the very best and hope for a swift and full recovery. We love ya Pete! Get well soon man.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Living Color - Cult of Personality



This one goes out to the new Prez!

Peavey Wolfgang Pickup














Here's a Peavey Wolfgang bridge humbucker I got in for a repair. These guitars were built by Peavey for Eddie Van Halen from late 1996 through the end of 2004. Seems one of the coils is dead in this pickup so I'll be doing a rewind on it. The good coil reads 7K
so that's what we need to wind the new coil too. The pickup also has a ceramic magnet. The most unusual aspect of these pickups would be the little solder lugs built into the bottom flange of the bobbins. It really helps to clean things up in the soldering department. One other little detail that is interesting is that the base place it black so that it doesn't stand out so much when used without a pickup ring.