Wednesday, 18 September 2013
Messing about with my electric guitar
And when I say messing about with, I don't mean playing it.
My guitar is a Hamer Solid ArchTop Quilt in Transparent Black. Yes, the snappily titled SATQ/TBK. It's the Taiwanese model rather than the "proper" USA job, but it's a pretty decent guitar. When I bought it about eight years ago I changed the Duncan Design pickups (basically made by someone else to an SD pattern) for original Seymours. I also had a couple of chrome pickup surrounds laying around that I put on.
All of which leads to this before picture - quite different to a standard one which would have cream plastic pickup rings, chrome covered pickups and gold knobs:
And looking at that picture now I notice that at some point I've put the bridge on upside down. Muppet.
The Seymours I chose weren't a very good match for each other - the bridge postion was a Duncan Distortion and had a considerably higher output than the Classic in the neck position, but overall it was capable of a couple of convincing Gibson-like tones - somewhere between SG and Les Paul.
I hardly ever actually play the guitar anymore - it hangs from a hook in the study - which is where it's been ever since.
Then over the last couple of years I've been seeing a lot more live music, and that always gets me thinking about playing, and that in turn gets me to thinking about guitar mods...
So first thing I did was research what was available. I sort of liked the idea of P90s but I always use loads of gain, so they'd have to be humbuckers, and the guitar has full sized humbucker routing, so they'd have to packaged in that size.
Eventually that led me to the Seymour Duncan P-Rail. These are very interesting pickups - a humbucker, but instead of two standard sized single-coil pickups wired together, they have a full sized Soap-bar P90 pickup as one half, and a very slim single-coil like a hot-rail as the other half. The wiring is all open, so in theory, you can have P90, Hot-Rail, Series Humbucker and out-of-phase Humbucker. If you've got enough switches!
And thinking about switching, and how to add some sort of multi-way switch led me to the Seymour Duncan Triple shot:
This is basically a standard black plastic pickup ring that has two micro switches on it, that each have two positions. Allowing for the maximum four positions required to get every posible sound out of each pickup.
The triple shot attaches to a pickup with 2 screws and springs in the normal way, and has a ribbon cable leading to a small PCB that sticks to the back of the pickup. You then solder the pickups outputs to PCB and wire the PCBs outputs as if they were a standard humbucker. Very neat and simple. I say that bearing in mind that I re-wired the whole thing three times because I'm a bozo with a soldering iron.
Here it is in situ with the P-Rail, you can clearly see the P90 soap-bar with the adjustable screws and you can also make out the black bar above it which is the hot-rail. Also notice the two micro switches built into the left hand edge of the surround.
What's also clever about this set up is that the two pickups themselves are in series, meaning that you get a humbucking effect with both Hot-rails selected or both P90s.
The after picture. I thought the change would be subtle, but actually it seems to have given the guitar an entirely different look.