Knowing about the details of most anything can be a curse. Really. The devil truly CAN be in the details. I’ve been on the guitar tone journey for a long time and it all started when I was a young player in my early teens. I wanted to capture and emulate the exciting tones I heard from my favorite guitarists. That’s normal.
Over the years I’ve learned that the gear is only part of the equation. There is a lot of truth when people say, “Tone is in the fingers”, but we’ll get to that discussion in detail another time. It took me a long time to live by the thought and remind myself of this fact.
We’re thankful for YOU, our readers! And to show our gratitude, we’re giving away one of Robert Keeley’s most in-demand new releases, the Keeley Oxblood overdrive pedal. All you need to do to enter is insert a comment below with a topic you’d like us to research and write about next year! It could be anything from a review request for a specific product, a tone tip or question, a profile of a favorite artist or an interview, etc. We’ll select a winner randomly on DECEMBER 18, 2015! Good luck and wish you all a wonderful holiday season!
Perhaps the title is a bit misleading. "Shred Guitars" – a.ka. those guitars designed to be used for playing fast runs and scales – never really went away. They just were underground for a bit during the ’90s in particular. In the 1980’s, a hot-rodded "Super Strat" configuration was THE guitar to own for up and coming rock guitarists. If you played hard rock or metal, having a U.S.-built B.C. Rich, Charvel, Kramer, or Jackson was one way to tell the world that you were one "serious" musician – even if your guitar was painted in hot pink or some florescent shade, or came with wild polka dot accents or striping.
When Les Paul fanatics talk vintage style pickups, there’s one pickup type that gets talked about more often than any other: the legendary "PAF". Those three letters stand for "Patent Applied For" and are a reference to the earliest humbucking pickups used in Gibson guitars. Even after more than forty years of continued development and advancement in pickup technology, the PAF remains the premier tonal choice for expressive blues and rock players.
This has driven early original PAF pickup prices to extreme levels and as of this writing in 2003, prices of $1000+ each are not uncommon for those that require the original deal. For the rest of us thankfully, replacement pickups fashioned after the original PAFs are offered by numerous pickup manufacturers and are much more affordable.
With so many different types of pickups on the market, choosing one that’s just right for you can certainly be a challenge. For typical non-active pickups used in most guitars today, the materials used and how each pickup is constructed can make a large difference in the final tone achieved. Active pickups (i.e., those that have some form of pre-amplification built in that requires the use of a battery of some type) are a whole different category altogether.
For the sake of focus, this two-part series will discuss varieties of vintage style pickups. First, we’ll take a look at some single-coil options that you’d typically use in a Stratocaster. Next time, we’ll bring out the Les Paul and play with some vintage-voiced humbuckers. As we go through the various options, some vendors were kind enough to provide great educational info about how each pickup is made and why they’ll sound a particular way. This will be helpful for the person that may not necessarily be interested in a vintage-voiced pickup but can use the information to read over the specifications of another pickup and then perhaps get a better understanding of how each specification may affect the tone.
The Fender Stratocaster’s design, tone, and roster of famous past and current players clearly make it a legendary guitar. As with any other guitar model however, certain designs invoke a special feeling which deem it to be a classic or at least a legend in the making. The most prized Fender Stratocasters today are those known as pre-CBS (prior to the sale of Fender Musical Instruments to CBS in 1965) models, produced from 1954 through the early 1965. These instruments have a certain unique feel and sound as well as being historically significant since they were produced during some of the most interesting eras of rock and roll itself. As we moved into the 70’s, the Stratocaster became a more popular and more widely produced guitar, but also one that was constructed with less attention to detail. As a result of poorer quality control and materials used, the 70’s were seen as the low point of the Stratocaster.
Introduction by David Szabados, Review by Mike Mullen
After playing through a P-90-loaded guitar for the first time, my immediate thought was, "OMG! Where have you been all my life? And where have I been all these years!?"
While focusing on getting my ideal rock and blues tones for years, I’ve always played through and with countless variations of Les Pauls and Stratocasters (and copies) with a myriad of pickup arrangements. For one reason or another however, I had never gotten to trying a guitar equipped with P-90s. Until late last year…
Jimi Hendrix. David Gilmour. I grew up admiring both of these artists…and their Stratocasters. Hendrix is most famously known for his late ’60s white “Woodstock” Strat, while Gilmour is best known for his black Strat (now a signature Fender model) which is a “mutt” of various parts – but started out as a circa 1968 stock model.
These late ’60s Strats are most easily identified by use of the large headstock design that originated after the CBS purchase of Fender musical instruments in 1965. Hendrix can be seen with his favorite Strat (he preferred his black one over the white he used at Woodstock) in his famous performance captured on video at The Isle of Wight in 1970. Gilmour used an identical black with maple board model in the Pink Floyd “Live at Pomeii” film shot in 1972. These classic performances, and those Stratocasters, left an impression on me that continues to this day.
I think I’m a lot like most people caught up in the world of vintage (or at least semi-vintage) music gear. I always look for a great deal and to pay the lowest price when I’m buying and then I look to get the most return on my dollars when selling. That’s just human nature.
But within the past couple of years, it’s been a lot harder for me to do any buying. The deals have been difficult to find and the prices of the things that I’m interested in have gone through the roof. It frustrates and pisses me off that I can’t have the same fun in the marketplace like I used to.
In the early 1970’s, electric rock and roll music was booming and growing in sophistication, and guitarists were interested in getting more from their instruments to help enhance their playing and inspire further creativity. The two traditional and most famous electric guitars, the Gibson Les Paul and the Fender Stratocaster, were essentially polar opposites in both sound and feel. This left the market open for a guitar that could successfully merge some of the features of both instruments to create what would be viewed by many as the ultimate rock and roll guitar.