Notes on Pickups

There are so many guitar pickups to choose from these days that it can be mind-boggling. You may have noticed that our pickup selection leans heavily towards various vintage style and progressive style pickups, however, we would be happy to order any pickups from the Fender pickup line or from the Seymour Duncan and Antiquity lines for you. If you are looking for pickups to make your guitar sound just right, then grab a guitar, pull up a chair, and let's jam!

The types of music that you play, and the tonal characteristics of your guitar are just a couple of the factors to consider when choosing pickups.

Please take a look at our pickup descriptions, and feel free to contact us with any questions. You may wish to check out Seymour Duncan's Tone Wizard as well.

Humbucking Pickup Covers

In the 60's and 70's, the wisdom of the day held that the humbucking pickup's metal covers would increase the treble response. This was the start of the "exposed bobbins" craze that is still fairly prevalent today. Today's wisdom holds that the vintage style nickel or gold plated covers made from traditional nickel/silver have little if any effect on the pickup's treble output. More and more of today's players have realized this, and now prefer covered humbuckers. We prefer and recommend them as well. Not just for aesthetic reasons, but because of the added shielding against noise, and protection for the coils from spilled beer, your guitar pick, & sweat. Seymour Duncan's humbucker covers are made of nickel/silver, as are the SD accessory covers that we sell.

Humbucking Pickup Cover Installation

We recommend that this task be performed only by an experienced guitar technician. Installation of a humbucking pickup cover is best done with a 35 - 50 watt soldering iron, and there is risk of damaging both the pickup and the person doing the soldering.

  1. Remove the outer wrap of black tape from the pickup. Failure to do so will cause the sides of the cover to bulge, which in turn will cause other problems.
  2. We will go over two ways to "pot" the cover so it will not cause feedback. The first involves pouring a small amount of melted paraffin into the cover, before inserting the pickup into it. The second uses a strip of electrical tape.
    1. Paraffin Method:

      Melt a small amount of paraffin wax (available in the canning section of your grocery store) in a double boiler. Carefully pour about ½ - 1 tsp into the cover, making certain to drizzle it evenly, then insert the pickup into the cover. Make certain that the adjustable polepiece screws are sticking out of the cover holes properly, that the pickup is fully inserted, and that the cover has no bulges. You will probably need to clean some paraffin off of the polepieces and cover. Use caution when handling the cover, as the melted wax will cause the metal to become hot.
    2. Electrical Tape Method:

      This is the easiest and fastest method; although not as traditional as the paraffin method, it is also quite effective. In this method, the inside of the pickup cover actually rests against the electrical tape, which keeps the cover from vibrating against the pickup.

      Carefully place a strip of common, black, electrical tape across the pickup, from bass end to treble end, in-between the 2 rows of polepieces. Trim the tape neatly at the edges, and make certain there are no wrinkles, bubbles or folds. This is not a situation where "if one is good, two must be better". Use one strip of tape only. Insert the pickup into the cover. Make certain that the adjustable polepiece screws are sticking out of the cover holes properly, that the pickup is fully inserted, and that the cover has no bulges.
  3. It is recommended to use a soldering pencil of approximately 35 - 50 watts for soldering the cover to the pickup base. A small solder connection must be made on each side of the pickup (the adjustable polepiece side, and the opposite side -- see photo). With a small flat-blade screwdriver, or a small wire brush, gently scratch the pickup base, and the inside of the cover, in the spots where the solder connections will be made. This exposes clean, un-oxidized metal for the solder to adhere to.
  4. Apply small amounts of paste flux to the spots to be soldered. Make certain your soldering iron is fully warmed up and that the tip is properly tinned. Apply some solder to the iron's tip, and then apply the tip to the prepped areas of the pickup base and the cover at the same time. Apply some more solder to the junction. It is imperative that heat not be applied for too long or damage to the pickup may occur. When you see that the solder has flowed to the base and cover, remove the iron, and allow to cool. Do not handle the pickup until it has fully cooled. Repeat these steps on the other side of the pickup.
  5. When cool, you may wish to carefully clean any flux residue with an acid brush or a cotton swab, and alcohol.
  6. Re-install your pickups and go rock out!

Stratocaster® Pickups

The magnet stagger of vintage style Strat® pickups does not really match up correctly to modern fret board radii and to the lighter gauged strings commonly used these days. The vintage stagger was designed to accommodate wound G strings and fret boards with a 7-¼" radius. The problem is often most noticeable with the Bridge pickup of a staggered vintage style set. In raising the Bridge pickup so that the height is best for most of the strings, the G string magnet (pole piece) is often too close to the G string. This causes the G string to be out of balance with the other strings, and causes the strange warble and intonation problems inherent in this scenario.

The Neck and Middle pickups in a vintage set are usually set a bit lower, so this imbalance may not be as noticeable. One way to minimize this is to lower the Bridge pickup, but this may make it too weak in relation to the other pickups. There are several options to consider.

First, is to install one of our High Output Base Plates on the Bridge pickup. This could give the Bridge pickup the necessary "oomph" to help it balance properly with the other pickups.

Another option is to switch to a flat magnet (pole piece) Bridge pickup. Flat magnet Strat® pickups have a bit more midrange and slightly different tone in general due to the different magnetic field. But what if you want the classic vintage style tone of staggered magnets without the problems?

Well, we have an answer for you. Consder a vintage style pickup combination that has become quite popular lately among Strat® slingers, and for good reason. This is a "mixed" set with staggered magnet pickups for the Neck and Middle positions (where the traditional character of the staggered magnets is most noticeable, but causes the least trouble), and a flat magnet pickup for the Bridge position (where the staggered magnet character is less noticeable but causes the most trouble). In addition to having a bit more midrange, the flat magnet pickup can be set closer to the strings for increased and balanced output. You may still wish to add a High Output Base Plate to the Bridge pickup.

Installation of High Output Base Plate

We prefer this method of installation because it does not require the removal of a pre-installed pickup. Put a thin layer of contact cement, wood glue, silicone adhesive, or other adhesive to the masking tape side of the base plate. Then install with glue side against the base of the pickup making certain the plate is properly oriented. Allow the glue to dry. Solder the ground braid on the plate to the ground wire lug of the pickup (this is usually the lug the black wire is soldered to).