Do pickups matter anymore?

Discussion in 'Pickups' started by Worblehat, Nov 17, 2018.

  1. Worblehat

    Worblehat Well-Known Member

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    I recently found this video:


    Ryan Bruce is a great Youtuber and I like his videos. Don't fully agree with him on this topic though. His main statement of this video is:
    With all the tone shaping options we have today (tons of pedals, modelling amps etc.) the type of pickup you use does not really matter anymore. You will get to the tone you want anyway.

    I mean yes...he is right: The pickup design hasn't really changed for decades. in the end they are just some wire wrapped around pole pieces and there is no magic in it no matter what marketing wants to tell you.

    On the other hand I think as long as you are not playing extreme high gain or using massive effects, the pickups are a fundamental part of your tone. Changing pickups is still a good way to get to a desired tone and might even be easier and cheaper than buying a lot of pedals and fiddling with EQ.

    But what do I know. I am just a beginner guitar player who bought his first aftermarket pickup recently (and is already looking for the next one)...
    So I would really like to know what you guys think about this topic!
     
  2. plankton

    plankton Well-Known Member

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    I will preface this by saying that I haven't watched the video. I'm also not an expert in anything.

    The pickups are what transform the energy from the vibrating strings into an electrical signal. Now there's many things you can do to shape that signal afterwards, but afaik there's no way to actually add anything that's not already there. You can take away and tweak things, but if the original signal is lacking then the core tone isn't going to be there.

    The two most important components for me in an electric guitar setup, from a tonal point of view, are the pickups, which create the signal, and the speaker which turns it back into sound. If those two things are lacking then nothing in between can make up for it.
     
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  3. Norton

    Norton Well-Known Member

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    Are you using amp modeling? Do you only play with heavy distortion and/or other fx?

    Then not so much. But if you’re looking for amp/guitar interaction and dynamics then yes. The pickup will very much matter.
     
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  4. NMA

    NMA Well-Known Member

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    Pickups don't matter. No one wants to admit it...snobbery involved...but it is true. Pickups don't matter.

    I have:
    490R pickups,
    498T pickups
    P-90s,
    High Gains,
    Toaster pickups,
    Single Coils,
    Vintage Single Coils,
    Filtertrons


    And, folks, there is no difference. It's all in the amp. My single coil Strat can sound like my Humbucking SG. Amps have knobs. Guitars have knobs. Turn them this way and that and you can get a million different tones. It ain't the pickups.
     
  5. living room rocker

    living room rocker Member

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    Stumbled across the same video yesterday Worblehat. What I found interesting was his historical timeline; the explosion of aftermarket pups was the early 80's......after/during the height of some of my favorite classic rock acts. And then many of us now turn around and chase the early "PAF" tone. I'm a beginner too, and one thing I'm telling myself amid the endless tone chase and gear ads is.........just learn to play the damn thing.
     
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  6. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    +1 on that.

    Many on this site would maintain that it's all in your fingers.

    I'm not so adamant about these things as to say that, but
    there is MUCH truth in that statement. I feel that many factors combine to create tone.

    Our quest is in finding the right combination of pickups, and other guitar components, amp, effects, strings, and then learning to play the damn thing.

    THE QUEST FOR TONE HAS NO FINISH LINE
    SO IT'S TECHNICALLY A DEATH MARCH...

    I do believe that all decent quality pickups are accurate.
    There may be some variations in tone between Seymour Duncan's products and Lindy Fralin's... but they are all chasing the original Gibson tone, or trying to improve on it.

    You can't go wrong buying a good brand such as the above. There are many other excellent choices, Rio Grande, Anderson's, Bare Knuckles... it goes on and on.
    My favorites are the Gibson '57 Classic and Classic +
    because they make my music sound good. Others who play different style or genre will prefer something else.

    So yes, pickup quality does matter. For new guitar players, maybe not so much. A new player should devote his energy to mastering the techniques, and
    learning to fit them to the song. Really, it's all about
    the song IMHO. The gear is just the tools we use to work our craft.
     
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  7. Norton

    Norton Well-Known Member

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    There’s no difference between any acoustic guitar and any electric guitar. They are all the same.

    Those bass guitars? You don’t need them. Just turn your knobs on your amp and guitar.

    It’s all marketing fluff and fake news, people. A strat and - a bass and full body arch top with humbuckers are the same thing!!!

    The color blue? It’s one color. All the same.
     
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  8. Logan

    Logan Well-Known Member

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    For Ryan Bruce, what he says is factual, because he plays high gain most of the time and is heavily processed with effects. Me, though? Most of the time, while I have a pedalboard, I go straight in usually. As others have said, in that situation it matters quite a bit.
     
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  9. sazista

    sazista Active Member

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    BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT BUTBUT BUT BUTBUT BUT BUTBUT BUT BUTBUT BUT BUTBUT BUT BUT, when you start out with a clean sound on a clean amp and it sounds very dark and dirgy, and you crank your amp's treble to 11 and it's still muddy, then YES, it 'could' be the pickup. You can't get it sound clean by using amp effects, pedals, Helix, etc. I do think many are spending too much time polishing their guitars rather than playing them, but there is also some things to consider. When it comes down to it, if Foo Fighters asked you to play 2nd guitar in the band and you went out there with your Epiphone SG special and a Marshall, well, it would still sound good.
     
  10. Ray

    Ray Well-Known Member

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    I'm to spot some irony here, but, well I don't see it, obviously ...

    What if you don't have loads of amps and want another sound? What if you're tight moneywise and want your guitar to sound different (without buying more gadgets to get in your way when youre on stage?) Theres so many factors ...

    Stating that pups doesnt matter, because theres some knobs on the guitar AND the amp ... I havent seen the video, but I believe its a bit more to it than this "Pickups don't matter. End of discussion"-nonsense.

    Point is, nowadays theres a million ways to get such and such tone, but in the end PUPs matter IMO, cause the tone is colored by the pu no matter what.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
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  11. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    P-90’s are my favorite.

    I don’t like 60 Hz hum or the use of noise gates. No matter how well a noise gate is dialed in I feel like it is choking the sustain out of the notes and feels unnatural to play.

    Using an aftermarket zero-hum P-90 works for me so they do matter.
     
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  12. Ray

    Ray Well-Known Member

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    Hear, hear...

    I'm installing a Dimarzio Bluesbucker on my bandmates LP Studio soon, really curious about the result, we're hoping for some sweet P90-ish tones!
    Personally I looooove the Classic 57 too, in addition to P90s. My former band were more "hard rock anno 1975" and the 57 is perfect for that stuff (that, as well, I gotta add) Now, in SKADA, I play more aggressively (again!) and thought a little hotter pu would help me get the sound I was after this time around. My new sound is more "hard rock autumn -81":D

    So I really dig the BKP Riff Raff I got on my new Standard. The Riff Raff isnt really that hot - it sounds real vintage-PAF - Angus 1980ish, very, very cool. Also I got a Dimarzio EJ Custom at the neck. It sounds like a real good, sharp singlecoil. Excellent pickup at the neck.

    PS. These last few weeks my bandmate has been armed with a never-heard-of-name killer-sounding Jap-strat-copy (says even "Handmade in Japan" on the headstock:D) The guitar sounds surprisingly good, blends great with my sound, and the most funny thing is that those supercheapo-pickups has endlessly more spark and twang than the pups on that (pretty new) Fender Mustang he brought (it was borrowed) in last week.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
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  13. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    I think the geometry of the pickup has a lot to do with how they sound and of course the location of where installed in relation to the bridge.

    F-style single coils sound thin because they are narrow and pickup a narrow region of string vibrations.

    Humbuckers sound fat because they are wider (from bridge to nut distance) so they pickup a wider region of string vibrations.

    I guess that’s why I like the P-90 because it has the geometry that is in between an F-style single coil and a humbucker which makes it really versatile.

    I have a Strat with single coils, an SG with P-90’s and an SG with humbuckers and do enjoy having all three types of pickups.
     
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  14. Ray

    Ray Well-Known Member

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    Sounds right to me, that.

    Me too, one SG with p90s and one with humbuckers. Hopefully, in a few years, I'm getting me a SG Les Paul Custom with 3 Classic 57's. Then I'd have all I ever needed and wanted electric-guitarwise:D Oh, and a nice Telecaster, too. :D (I like the sound of Strats but have a problem playing them ... that volume-knob seem to go down for every stroke I play, haha.)
     
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  15. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    Funny you mention the volume knob on the Strat. I took care of that on mine and also installed a set of zero-hum single coils.

    [​IMG]
     
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  16. Ray

    Ray Well-Known Member

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    Haha, thats great! That also looks really, really cool! I'm sure it sounds and PLAYS awesome! Very cool stuff, man!:D
     
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  17. NMA

    NMA Well-Known Member

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    Then you agree with me.

    Modelling amps, pedals that can make an electric guitar sound like an acoustic guitar, heck, pedals that can make an electric guitar sound like a sitar...and you are going to say pickups matter?

    Amp and effects are the true creators of tone. Amp and effects can turn a friggin' trumpet into a banjo if you want.
     
  18. Chubbles

    Chubbles Well-Known Member

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    I remember decades ago, there was an article that said you could make any guitar sound like any other guitar with a rack eq. No need to buy a Strat and an LP.
     
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  19. Ray

    Ray Well-Known Member

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    No, of course I dont.

    Yeah, me and good deal of other players, studioengineers, instrumentmakers etc are actually saying that.

    I've HAVE been, between other amps, also been using modelling amps since 1995 and yeah, you CAN get tons of different tones in it, but .... Theres a million may to get such and such tone (modellingamps certainly doesnt deliver the full spectre, not by a mile), but changing pu's is IMO a very good option sometimes.

    And for all that "I can make my SG-with-humbucker sound like a Strat"-stuff - who cares? Changing pu's WILL affect the sound no matter how much of a genius you are in "simulating" various guitarsounds with your modelling amps.

    Of course has amps the most influence on the sound, but since CHANGING PU'S ARE ONE OF THE MILLION WAYs way to change your tone, sometimes DRASTICALLY, picks-up DO matter.

    Most of the pros and real good players I know would dismiss all that my-modelling-amp-can-do-it-all these days. Its 2018, we know now that digital "magic", has its limitations. Its not 1995 anymore, and it funny how a lot of younger players these times again turn to valve amps and the likes. Its a matter of keeping it a bit simple too; fuc'ing bout with sequencers and eq can easyly send you way off, average ears doesnt stay fresh long. Also: Too many choices and options isnt always the best alternative anyway, you CAN get lost.

    You got your opinion, NMA, but remember, thats only YOUR opinon, dont confuse it with The Official Truth. I dont say i say whats right, but you being so damn cocksure and insisting on that pu's doesnt matter, just begged for a reply.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2018
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  20. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    The Voice of Reason has spoken.
     
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