Author Topic: Pickup Selection 101  (Read 325 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Online Ex-Calif

  • Concert Hall Hasbeen
  • ****
  • Posts: 208
  • Good Vibes 13
  • SoCal Transplant to Dayton Ohio
Pickup Selection 101
« on: January 13, 2021, 07:04:10 pm »
OK - Not sure where this ends up but as a beginner I have never really paid attention to which pickup(s) are selected on the guitar - but I know it's important.

I have watched enough videos to get curious and am forming an opinion but for a beginner guitarist I could use a clarification.

Not getting into effects boxes, delays, modulations etc. and from an "Explain it to a 12 year old." perspective.

In general on an HSS guitar which pickups are generally selected for different music and why?

Going to pop some popcorn now and get ready for the replies - LOL...
New old guy getting on the Blues path
Picked up the guitar again Dec 17, 2020
Fender Squire Bullet Strat & Fender Mustang 2
iRig - iPad - MPOW BT Receiver - Pyle Mixer

Offline stuartw

  • Pub Night Playa
  • ***
  • Posts: 195
  • Good Vibes 4
Re: Pickup Selection 101
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2021, 07:21:55 pm »
Thanks for asking this. Would be interested in the response as well. To be honest I have tried the different positions/pickups but are not hearing much of a difference. May be my old second hand Pacifica or my ears!

Sent from my SM-G930F using JustinGuitar Community mobile app

« Last Edit: January 13, 2021, 08:19:38 pm by close2u »

Offline LievenDV

  • Administrator
  • All Time Legend
  • *****
  • Posts: 5469
  • Good Vibes 178
    • Point Fifty
Re: Pickup Selection 101
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2021, 08:04:38 pm »
Good question

Typically, a Stratocaster like guitar has 5 pickup positions and only 3 pickups.
Playing them amplifies with a bit of overdrive of distortion will make it more obvious.

This described a STANDARD wiring, although there are many options and I'm not sure how your guitar is wired

Typically, setting it on the setting with the switch pointing at the headstock of the guitar, you selected the neck pickup. This pickup will sound less sharp, a bit muffled perhaps on some guitars but also warmer, a bit more with the qualities of an acoustic guitar. Better for strumming along, typically names  the "jazz player" pickup also :) I use it for fingerpicking on my electric as well

Moving it to the middle selects the middle position and moving it the furthest away from the headstock is the bridge pickup; defined, more powerful, sharp, pushing,... I use this setting often for my high gain stuff. Use it with overdrive and distortion and you will notice the difference! :)

Now, what are the settings in between?
They are often used to combine 2 pickups, wiring them in series or parallel.
They are referred to as "in between settings".
When on the bridge pickup and moving back up 1 notch, your (often) select bridge AND middle pickup.
the other "in between setting" selects middle and neck.

This originates from the times the in-between settings didn't really exist but the selector was engineered that you always had a flow of signal coming through when changing pickups.
It's clever engineering to have no silences and pops while switching right in between strums.
Artists would block the pickup selector in a setting between them, because of the interesting sound.
It was noticed and the exploit became a feature :)

Nowaways you can get a lot of different wiring schemes, all having different effects to the sound;
parallel wiring, serial wiring, push/pull knobs to 'tap' a humbucker (only using one coil of it, making it a single coil pickup" etc.

You have a HSS configuration.
The H is a humbucker and it consists of 2 serial pickups but with opposing wiring to cancel out hum. Hence the name "hum bucker". The wil sound fuller and fatter but might miss that extra top sparkle and edge a single coil pick-up might have. singlecoils can be noisy but it the middle pickup is reverse wound, the in between settings on the pickup selector simulate the effect of a humbucker: 2 single coils wired opposite of each other. This works well for noice cancelling. My workhorse Strat features that option.
my band: fb: Point Fifty | Instagram: Point Fifty

Online DarrellW

  • Stadium Superstar
  • ******
  • Posts: 3545
  • Good Vibes 178
  • Black country bloke, ijut intollerant 😂
Re: Pickup Selection 101
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2021, 08:10:39 pm »
Just something to add to that, Mark Knopfler tends to use the in between settings a lot, especially on the early stuff like Money for nothing and Sultans of swing, it’s a quite distinctive sound!
Still here, still learning - no longer letting Fibromyalgia get in the way, it sucks but doesn’t have to mean your life stops!

Offline close2u

  • Administrator
  • All Time Legend
  • *****
  • Posts: 13612
  • Good Vibes 604
  • Teesside, North East England.
Re: Pickup Selection 101
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2021, 08:19:20 pm »
LievenDV has given a good account.

These are 'typical' descriptions ...


Clean amp settings:

Neck (front or position 5) is typically a bluesy or smooth jazz position.
Middle (position 3) is often overlooked but can give clear rhythm sounds.
Bridge (back or position 1) with a humbucker would often be used for general playing, with a single coil there for trebly country twang.
Neck + Middle (position 4) and Neck + Bridge (position 2) is often used for funky rhythm or fast, clean strumming.

Overdriven, distorted, crunchy amp settings ...
Neck - gritty blues (SRV) or smooth but clear lead soloing (Gilmour)
Middle - overlooked
Bridge (humbucker) punchy rock rhythm, power chords, rock solos etc.
In-between - any of the above, especially if hum is bad.

Note - these are all very vague and general.
And the rolling down of the volume knob or the tone controls also has effect here.
If clean on the neck pickup you want a jazzy (woody) tone, the trick is to turn the tone down.
Clapton's driven blues sound of the Cream era called the 'woman tone' was played with the tone fully down on the neck pickup.

Offline close2u

  • Administrator
  • All Time Legend
  • *****
  • Posts: 13612
  • Good Vibes 604
  • Teesside, North East England.
Re: Pickup Selection 101
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2021, 08:21:06 pm »
Just something to add to that, Mark Knopfler tends to use the in between settings a lot, especially on the early stuff like Money for nothing and Sultans of swing, it’s a quite distinctive sound!

Can I be a little pedantic?
Yes to positions 2 and 4 on lots of the first few albums when Knopfler only played Strat style guitars.

Money For Nothing was famously a Les Paul on neck pickup with a wah pedal set and maintained in a cocked position. Chris Buck did a recent vid on this.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2021, 08:26:59 pm by LievenDV »

Offline LievenDV

  • Administrator
  • All Time Legend
  • *****
  • Posts: 5469
  • Good Vibes 178
    • Point Fifty
Re: Pickup Selection 101
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2021, 08:27:28 pm »
Money For Nothing was famously a Les Paul on neck pickup with a wah pedal set and maintained in a cocked position.
First Thing I do when testing a Wah :D
my band: fb: Point Fifty | Instagram: Point Fifty

Online Ex-Calif

  • Concert Hall Hasbeen
  • ****
  • Posts: 208
  • Good Vibes 13
  • SoCal Transplant to Dayton Ohio
Re: Pickup Selection 101
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2021, 09:01:04 pm »
Thanks guys - This is what I have observed watching YouTube videos of original artists and when I see "demo" youtubes of guitars.

I totally get there will be a ton of opinion on how to set stuff up and so on.  I can tell the difference in tone and so on as I switch between the settings and I am pretty sure I understand how my "stock" 5-way switch is set up.

Not to get too engineery but imagine plucking an Open A string. It vibrates at 110hz if I am not mistaken.  The maximum side to side deflection occurs directly in the middle of the string.  Where the string goes through the nut there is obviously no deflection (resonance) at all.

So over the neck pick up vis a vis the bridge pick up the pickup coil is subject to more resonance over the neck pick up than the bridge pick up, but both are oscillating at 110hz.

Clearly this has something to do with how the pickups respond and that characteristic must be conducive to the massive distortion and modulation effects possible with the bridge pick up.

Not a sound engineer, don't play one on tv and don't wanna be one - LOL...
New old guy getting on the Blues path
Picked up the guitar again Dec 17, 2020
Fender Squire Bullet Strat & Fender Mustang 2
iRig - iPad - MPOW BT Receiver - Pyle Mixer

Offline Majik

  • Stadium Superstar
  • ******
  • Posts: 2635
  • Good Vibes 205
    • My Road Case
Re: Pickup Selection 101
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2021, 09:35:28 pm »
To get "Engineery"...

(given that I'm also an Engineer and in my case, I have studied some Acoustics and Audio Engineering, although I've never played one on TV - I once played an "Oologist" in a film, but that's a different story...).

A primary difference between the neck and bridge pickups is due to the impact of their relative positions: Everything else being equal, a neck pickup will get more signal in it than a bridge pickup because the oscillation of the string over the bridge pickup is a much smaller amplitude than that over the neck pickup.

There will also be a tendency for lower frequencies to be stronger in the neck pickup. This is because the string doesn't just oscillate at (say) 110Hz, but you will also have higher and lower order harmonics. These harmonics tend to add "warmth". The harmonics will be much weaker than the fundamental frequency but will still have a relatively stronger amplitude towards the middle of the string, which the neck pickup is nearer to. Toward the ends of the string, the fundamental tends to dominate more, so it sounds "thinner" or "less warm".

But, in reality, all things are not equal. The pickups in multi-pickup guitars are rarely the same. For a start the bridge pickups tend to be slightly "hotter" to balance the weaker signal. Also, bridge pickups are sometimes voiced/wired to be more trebly than the neck to accentuate the effect described above. This is partly because it has become a convention for bridge pickups to be more trebly.

So each pickup has a sonic "fingerprint" which is based on its construction, wiring, and the position on the guitar. This "fingerprint" could be expressed in the frequency domain. So, for instance, if you did a Fourier transform of the output of a pickup after plucking a note, you would see different harmonics in the resulting waveform (and that would also alter over time).

So if you then combine the outputs of two pickups, you get a combination of the two frequencies

on a Strat, the classic wiring is for the 2 and 4 positions is described as "out of phase" although it technically isn't really out of phase, else the resulting signal would be too weak (it would mainly be the residual harmonics).

What actually happens is that the 2 different pickups respond to different frequencies over time (from the time you pluck, as the note decays) and the mix of these two produces a unique sound that changes over time in unusual and characteristic ways. These inbetween sounds are often described as "quacky" or "hollow".

https://www.fender.com/articles/tech-talk/sounds-aplenty-the-stratocaster-pickup-selector-switch

Cheers,

Keith
« Last Edit: January 13, 2021, 11:08:07 pm by Majik »

Offline close2u

  • Administrator
  • All Time Legend
  • *****
  • Posts: 13612
  • Good Vibes 604
  • Teesside, North East England.
Re: Pickup Selection 101
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2021, 09:54:34 pm »
My engineering understanding and knowledge in respect of mechanics, physics, wave forms etc is so poor as to be virtually zero (which may surprise you given I'm a mathematician) ... and so I really enjoyed that simple explanation from Keith.
Thanks pal.
Good vibes for you my friend.
:)

Online Ex-Calif

  • Concert Hall Hasbeen
  • ****
  • Posts: 208
  • Good Vibes 13
  • SoCal Transplant to Dayton Ohio
Re: Pickup Selection 101
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2021, 10:24:06 pm »
Thanks Keith - Everything you said "resonates" with me (groan...) and I can imagine the "complexity" of what goes on with a vibrating string - LOL...

BTW - I am an Aero Engineer - We build weapons systems. Civil Engineers build targets...
New old guy getting on the Blues path
Picked up the guitar again Dec 17, 2020
Fender Squire Bullet Strat & Fender Mustang 2
iRig - iPad - MPOW BT Receiver - Pyle Mixer

Offline LievenDV

  • Administrator
  • All Time Legend
  • *****
  • Posts: 5469
  • Good Vibes 178
    • Point Fifty
Re: Pickup Selection 101
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2021, 10:36:18 pm »
BTW - I am an Aero Engineer - We build weapons systems. Civil Engineers build targets...

Do they go brrrrrrrrt or do they go boom? ;)
my band: fb: Point Fifty | Instagram: Point Fifty

Online Ex-Calif

  • Concert Hall Hasbeen
  • ****
  • Posts: 208
  • Good Vibes 13
  • SoCal Transplant to Dayton Ohio
Re: Pickup Selection 101
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2021, 10:44:25 pm »
If we shoot at 'em they just go gone...
New old guy getting on the Blues path
Picked up the guitar again Dec 17, 2020
Fender Squire Bullet Strat & Fender Mustang 2
iRig - iPad - MPOW BT Receiver - Pyle Mixer

Offline Majik

  • Stadium Superstar
  • ******
  • Posts: 2635
  • Good Vibes 205
    • My Road Case
Re: Pickup Selection 101
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2021, 11:03:07 pm »
BTW - I am an Aero Engineer - We build weapons systems. Civil Engineers build targets...

Nice. I'm an EE by training, but Telecoms Engineer by trade. I almost got into weapons systems (I spent a short time at BAe and a bit longer at Marconi) but ended up in Telecoms.

Cheers,

Keith

Online Ex-Calif

  • Concert Hall Hasbeen
  • ****
  • Posts: 208
  • Good Vibes 13
  • SoCal Transplant to Dayton Ohio
Re: Pickup Selection 101
« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2021, 12:31:37 am »
"Aero Engineer - Like a regular engineer only cooler..."

I saw that on a t-shirt...
New old guy getting on the Blues path
Picked up the guitar again Dec 17, 2020
Fender Squire Bullet Strat & Fender Mustang 2
iRig - iPad - MPOW BT Receiver - Pyle Mixer

 

Get The Forum As A Mobile App