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Different Sounds of Same Pickups in Different Positions?

Discussion in 'Pickup Forum' started by drutgat, Apr 14, 2018.

  1. drutgat

    drutgat Strat-Talk Member

    53
    Jan 21, 2013
    Canada
    Hi,
    I have been wondering what accounts for the difference in sound when the same pickups are used in different positions on, for example, a Strat (or any guitar, for that matter).

    If the pickups are the same, does the physical positioning make that much difference to the sound, because the sound is different acoustically at the bridge than it is at the neck?

    I can imagine that the fact that the bridge pickup in a Strat is on an angle might also make a difference to the sound, but what about the middle pickup?

    Or is the wiring done differently with each pickup, under the scratchplate?

    I look forward to someone clearing up my confusion.
     
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  2. CaseCandy

    CaseCandy Senior Stratmaster

    May 9, 2015
    UK/Ireland
    When a string vibrates is has more deflection closer to the centre of the string.

    On any guitar, play the strings nearer to the bridge or nearer the neck you will get a different tone even on the same pickup. Works with an accoustic too.
     
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  3. drutgat

    drutgat Strat-Talk Member

    53
    Jan 21, 2013
    Canada
    Hi CaseCandy,
    Many thanks for this.
     

  4. Antigua

    Antigua Senior Stratmaster

    Feb 28, 2014
    in between
    Maybe this graphic will make it apparent:


    [​IMG]

    Notice how the bridge gets a little of everything, while the neck pickup more of some things, but less of others? That causes the neck position to be louder overall, and produce more low end, but is also subject to comb filtering, as can be seen with the 4th harmonic, which cuts out various mid range frequencies.

    The middle pickup is sort of a mix of the neck and bridge pickup, but with less comb filtering, than if you were to combine a bridge and neck pickup. It's mostly the aggressive comb filtering that makes a Tele middle position sound different from the middle pickup of a Strat.

    You can even make a bridge pickup sound convincingly similar to a middle or neck pickup by running the bridge pickup's signal through a filter that duplicates the comb filtering profile of a neck or middle pickup. Those electric-to-acoustic effect pedals do something very similar.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018

  5. Seymour Duncan

    Seymour Duncan Senior Stratmaster

    Wiring the same pickup in 3 different positions produces 3 different sounds. The exception would be if it was a very high output high DCR pickup with a ton of gain. Muddy sound is muddy no matter where it is.
     
    bassetman likes this.

  6. drutgat

    drutgat Strat-Talk Member

    53
    Jan 21, 2013
    Canada
    Hi Antigua and Seymour Duncan.

    Many thanks for your replies.

    Antigua, thank you for posting the diagram of the guitar and how the pickups sample string modes at different points.

    It occurs to me that the way that different pickups are made, whether they are single coil or humbucking, where the pole pieces are in relation to the string, and how low or high the pickups are in relation to the string, all also affect the sound of the pickups.

    Thanks, once again.
     

  7. sjtalon

    sjtalon Senior Stratmaster

    >where the pole pieces are in relation to the string, and how low or high the pickups are in relation to the string, all also affect the sound of the pickups. <

    No doubt, it's all about da mags isn't it.

    If you find this interesting (have your answers in these posts), research why most single coil bridge pups are slanted.
     

  8. Groovey

    Groovey Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    57
    Nov 17, 2016
    NC. USA
    Prstty sure I have a guitar with identical pickups in all three positions. My avatar. I was only able to measure DC resistance. But they each measured 6.0 And, they sound great.
     
    Nate D likes this.

  9. drutgat

    drutgat Strat-Talk Member

    53
    Jan 21, 2013
    Canada
    Yes, I was thinking about that as one of the variables, too.
     

  10. drutgat

    drutgat Strat-Talk Member

    53
    Jan 21, 2013
    Canada
    Groovey, thanks for your message, but not quite sure what point you are making.
     

  11. Guy Named Sue

    Guy Named Sue Beer me up Scotty Strat-Talk Supporter

    Feb 11, 2015
    Sweden
    A very good question. You can easily demonstrate this effect on an acoustic guitar with no pickups. Play a chord, any chord. Strum the strings starting at as close as you can to the bridge and after each time move closer bit by bit to the neck heel. You will clearly hear the effect it has on the tone projection depending on where your fingers/pick are/is when strumming the strings.

    It's a technique that Tommy Emmanuel is a master of, just watch his strumming hands position when he is playing and listen to the tone projected depending on where he hits the string, whether it's closer to the bridge or to the neck heel.
     

  12. drutgat

    drutgat Strat-Talk Member

    53
    Jan 21, 2013
    Canada
    Hi Guy Named Sue,
    Thanks for your post.

    I like this as a concept, but since I am talking about an electric instrument with no soundhole, and therefore minimal or no acoustic resonance being amplified by the pickups (which are solely picking up the electro-magnetic vibration of the strings), I think that a better test would be to do what you suggest on a solid body guitar.

    And, of course, you are correct that the sound is different when the strings are strummed in different areas.

    It seems to me, though, that the sound produced by modern pickups has just as much to do with the construction, wiring and voicing of the pickup, as it has to do with the location of the pickups, where one strums, height and angle of the pickups, type and thickness of pick, and whether or not one uses a pick or fingers or a combination of both.

    Thanks again for your post and helpful suggestion.
     

  13. Guy Named Sue

    Guy Named Sue Beer me up Scotty Strat-Talk Supporter

    Feb 11, 2015
    Sweden
    Oh I would disagree, sure the construction of the pickup is important to the overall sound of the guitar but where you strum or pluck the strings has just as much affect if not more. You can only make a pickup that is so great and it stops at a certain point. But with the right use of this technique and talent you can create a big range of sounds, I know this because I learned to play serious guitar on an Esquire which if you don't know only has one single pickup hence the name.

    A lot of people call the Esquire a one trick pony just because of this but they don't know what they're talking about. Because if you know your way around you can create a big bag of ranges of tones that would make the same people think you're switching between pickups while you're actually playing a single pickup guitar.

    Good luck!
    [​IMG]
     
    Nate D likes this.

  14. Mr. Lumbergh

    Mr. Lumbergh needs you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too. Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jan 10, 2014
    Initech, Inc.
    I think the exact same concept applies as the nodes and harmonics chart @Antigua posted. By strumming the string in different places, you're favoring a certain set of harmonics over others. If you strum at one of the peaks of the 2nd harmonic for example, it'll be louder because you will have given it more energy relative to the others, same as sensing the string under the 2nd harmonic.
     
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  15. drutgat

    drutgat Strat-Talk Member

    53
    Jan 21, 2013
    Canada
    Hi Guy Named Sue, and Mr. Lumbergh,
    Thanks for your thoughts.

    We will have to agree to differ in terms of the overall influence of pickups vs. other factors in producing the final sound of a strummed or plucked guitar note(s) and/or chords.

    Thank you for your contributions here.
     

  16. BuddyHollywood

    BuddyHollywood Strat-Talker

    114
    Jul 22, 2011
    Venice, CA
    If you place a bridge pickup of a Strat in the middle position it will sound like a middle position pickup. Placement of pickups matters the most in the difference of sounds. In the early years of electric guitars they did not differentiate between bridge, middle and neck pickups. They wound pickups to be used in whatever position they put them in. Eventually they realized that neck pickups were louder so they started winding bridge pickups hotter to compensate. That is why modern pickups are labelled for bridge, middle or neck. Leo Fender also placed the neck pickup on a Stratocaster directly under what would be the 24th fret harmonic for a reason.
     
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  17. drutgat

    drutgat Strat-Talk Member

    53
    Jan 21, 2013
    Canada
    Hi BuddyHollywood,
    Thanks for your post.

    It seems to confirm what my ears and brain have been telling me for a long time.
     

  18. nickmsmith

    nickmsmith Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jul 28, 2011
    USA
    yep, the position makes a big impact on the sound, moreso than the pickup itself (assuming we're talking about single coil vs. single coil here)

    A bridge pickup put in the neck position will sound like a neck position pickup. Believe me, I have done more swapping of pickups that I care to recall.
     

  19. jvin248

    jvin248 Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 10, 2014
    Michigan
    .

    If you compare an LP to an SG you will see that the extra two frets on the SG push the neck pickup closer to the bridge. It is similar to the difference in tone between a Strat neck and Strat middle pickup.

    Picking position is important too.

    Bill Kirchen Hot Rod Lincoln


    A demo and comments about the Westone Rail Bass where a player can move the pickup into any position (I think there was a six string guitar version too)


    .
     

  20. drutgat

    drutgat Strat-Talk Member

    53
    Jan 21, 2013
    Canada
    I actually was thinking the opposite - if a pickup manufacturer can wire a pickup to sound differently in the position that it is in (even if this is in response to the acoustics of the strings being played in different positions), then this shows that it is possible to shape the sound that eventually comes from the guitar. I can see that positioning may also influence the sound, but what you have said suggests to me that pickups can be wound to 'trump' or control the sound.