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do pickups set at an angle really make any difference?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by mike_odonovan, Mar 13, 2003.


  1. well? see them on the Roscoe basses and was wondering if anyone had any views on how they may or may not affect the sound. thinking about it, it is kind of like the P bass pickup in a way.
     
  2. Aside from creating a certain "look" for a particular bass or bass Compnay, I don't think it really matters that much.

    We all know that all other things being equal, a given pickup angled towards the bridge going from the E string to the G string will produce an increasingly brighter tone as a higher string is played than the same pickup angled towards the neck going from the E to the G string, which will produce an increasingly fuller (bassier) tone as a higher string is played.

    It all depends on how far the pickup is from the bridge on the E side to begin with.

    A Fender type P bass pickup has the EA half of its pickup slightly further from the bridge than its DG half of the pup. Yamaha for one installs their split pups the other way around. I honestly can not say that I can hear any noticeable difference from this variation only. I think you'd have to A/B two basses made exactly the same (except for the pickup slant) to really hear a difference, which I think wouldn't be that big.

    I could be wrong, though. ;)

    Mike
     
  3. geshel

    geshel

    Oct 2, 2001
    Seattle
    When you mix with another pickup, it makes a big difference IME. I've got quad-coil Bartolini soapbars on my basses. They're straight, but just changing from the "outside" coils to the "inside" coils is quite noticeable.
     
  4. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    I think you're wrong! I can't prove it because I've never come across two basses which were identical apart from their pickup tilt. However, my Warwick has a reversed P-pickup and I swear it brings more growl to the bottom strings and more fullness to the top strings.

    It is a subtle difference in that moving a pickup cannot change the acoustic sound of the bass, nor can it change the tonality of the electronics, all it does is modify the particular harmonics of the string that are emphasised. But from my limited experience I do believe that the pickup tilt can really turn a good bass into a great bass - or more accurately give you more of the sound that you want from your bass.

    In my case, I want pickups angled towards the bridge on the low strings, for a more even tone across the bass, more growl on the bottom, more fatness on the top. IMO a better fingerstyle tone. Larry Graham prefers the oppposite which gets more treble out of the top strings and more fatness out of the bottom strings, which seems to optimise the bass for the ultimate slap sound.

    Maybe someone could design a J-style bass with rotating pickups to vary the tone. If a recessed knob was attached to a fast worm screw to turn the turntable on which the pickup is mounted, then one could easily adjust the pickup angles mid-song yet the pickups would be rigid enough to act as thumbrests.

    Enough...

    Alex
     
  5. TheLarch

    TheLarch Supporting Member

    If memory serves me correctly, the first incarnation of the Guild Pilot bass in the '80's (back when Guild was Guild and not some red-headed step-child of Fender) had the p-style pickup oriented like the standard Fender installation with the E-A part towards the neck and the D-G half towards the bridge. In the later versions, Guild reversed them with the D-G closer to the neck and E-A towards the bridge.

    As Guild was making very high quality products (albeit some a little wackier than others) back then, they must have felt it made some sort of a difference or improved tonal balance. Or maybe they wanted to be the "Anti-Fender".
     
  6. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    Another thing - the DG side of the P-pickup on my Warwick is in almost exactly the same place as on a P-bass, whilst the EA side has been shifted all the way from the neck side of the DG half to the bridge side. So in this case, that's not a small change in position at all. (Not that this is particularly on topic...)

    And once there are two pickups on a bass the interaction is so complicated with phase cancellations and reinforcements, that even a small change in pickup position can make a big difference in tone.

    The Mike Lull (IIRC) P/J bass was originally designed to have the P and J pickups in the standard positions but Mike found that the J pickup interacted badly with the P and moving it closer to the bridge solved the problem. It'd be interesting to know if Mike could have just tilted the J pickup to match the 'tilt' of the P-pickup, thus keeping the 'Jaco' singing tone on the top strings with the J-pickup soloed, whilst ensuring that with the both pickups blended the sound would still be fat and clear on the low strings.

    Alex
     
  7. Killdar

    Killdar

    Dec 16, 2002
    Portland Maine
    the Spalt Vviper bass has that weird pickup that is like, as the name implies, a windshield wiper, so that must have a really weird shift in harmonics as it is moved around....the E side not moving much while the treble side changes greatly....forget who it was who just got one....maybe they will show up here sometime and explain this....
     


  8. Alex, what do you mean when you say the J pickup "interacted badly" with the P?

    This is getting very interesting! :)

    I'm going home now. See you all tomorrow.

    Good topic, good topic.

    Mike
     
  9. re. P p/up orientation, I think you can hear what effect on the tone it has on the bass intros to Megadeth's "countdown to extinction" and "poison was the cure" songs. David Ellefson was using a Jackson bass with a PJ config with a reverse P.

    I think the pan setting he had was P full on, J at around 75%.
    the D and G sound more nasal, the E and A more spongy, than would be expected with the P the normal way round.

    also on Pantera's "cowboys from hell", Rex was using a Charvel bass with a reverse PJ setup.

    on Metallica's "my friend of misery" you can hear the tonal differences between the A string and the D + G due to the reverse PJ on Jason Newsted's Spector NS2.
    (but when he had a couple of Sadowsky 4's made with a PJ setup, he went for non-reverse)

    personally, I think it sounds a bit odd (the E and A not full enough, the D and G not cutting enough), but then I'm used to the conventional P bass sound.


    on the Yamaha BB3000MA, the original pics show a reverse PJ (also on the BB1000MA), but Mike Anthony has more recently been using a non-reverse PJ setup.....
     
  10. old_skool

    old_skool

    Aug 17, 2000
    Milwaukee, WI
    It would be cool to have three notches that a pickup devided in half could switch between p,j, and reverse p. Confused?

    the "|" are the notches, the P represents half of the pickups name sake, and the - with be the division.

    | | |P|
    --------
    |P| | |

    this would be the standard p (above "diagram")

    | |P| |
    --------
    | |P| |


    the each half of the P pup in the middle would = J


    |P| | |
    --------
    | | |P|

    and this would be the reverse P

    does this make any sence?
     
  11. old_skool

    old_skool

    Aug 17, 2000
    Milwaukee, WI
    Man, I spent way to long trying to make it look that good and its still pretty bad.
     
  12. geshel

    geshel

    Oct 2, 2001
    Seattle
    Yeah, it's kind of a pain. I get the idea though. With quad-coils (like Bartolini xxP and xxM models), you can get something like that using mini-switches, electrically. You can go between P, reverse P, "left" J, "right" J, and all four.

    If they'd put quad coils in a larger shape like the MM case, it would have an even more noticeable effect.
     
  13. old_skool

    old_skool

    Aug 17, 2000
    Milwaukee, WI
    Well that could be easier...:rolleyes: :D
     
  14. you know, the pups on my reverend are slanted towards the bridge on the low strings, ostensibly for tighter lows and fuller highs, and it SEEMS to work, but without playing the same bass with straight pickups i guess i wouldn't know how much difference it makes. so in the end, the answer is: play it, and if it sounds good, it's good.
     
  15. jitsoa33

    jitsoa33 Guest

    Mar 10, 2003
    lafayette, ca
    on jazz basses, the pickups want to have brightness all the way through....so the bridge pickup is usually angled toward the bridge (can be same with the neck pickup) to take away lows and add highs to low strings, and make the higher strings a little bit lower in tone (not really much that, but to even out the tone). when they are straight up and down, thats normal rock config.
    :oops: tired.
     
  16. Monkey

    Monkey Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Dayton, Ohio, USA
    I used to own one of the reverse-P Pilots, and it sounded great, but I thought it looked a little funny. I think it sounded better than the standard P, but I didn't have a direct comparison. In theory, it makes sense that it balances the lows and highs. I remember reading that Leland Sklar used a P with reversed pickups for lots of his recordings.
     
  17. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    I'll have to check the comments in Bass Player but I think because the pickups were too close together with the J in standard position, too much low-mids were being lost from phase cancellation. Moving the J towards the bridge would shift the emphasis on that pickup to higher mids thus leaving the P pickup to handle the lower frequencies without them being cancelled out. I think...

    Alex
     
  18. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    From Bass Player via Mike's website:

    The P4's J pickup soloed had the familiar throaty punch of a Jazz, but it sounded a touch more nasal due to its placement - a bit closer to the bridge than our '64. (Roger Gee of Mike Lull's Guitar Works comments: "if the J pickup is placed in the traditional '64 Jazz Bass spot, it is too close to the P pickup and the two pickups interact in a way that sounds not very pleasing to the ear. We have taken this into consideration by having Lindy wind the J pickup to compensate for its placement close to the bridge.")

    So there you have it. (Not very enlightening though is it!)

    Alex
     
  19. Anyone sticking pins in their bass voodoo dolls yet to see which pin brings the most trebly or bassy yelp. Or maybe we could just do away with EQ and finger technique and string differences and put the pickups in all our basses on a swivel and rail set-up so we could put them in all sorts of baffling configurations.

    Interactions can be affected by the way a pup is wound as well as the position in which it's placed. Once that's taken care of, I can't help but feel that the tone is more affected by the strings, EQ and players technique.

    I've owned a lot of basses over the years, and I'll admit that most of them were Fenders, and P-Basses at that, but even when I've owned basses with reversed P pups, there wasn't really a whole lot of difference, at least not that I could detect. And when you start factoring in what the room acoustics and band instrument mix does in live performances, and in the studio what the sound engineer can do with frequency boosts, cuts, etc., a lot of this really gets to be conjecture.

    But, the beat goes on, and on, and on.
     
  20. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Not if you like Precision basses. I mean, the P-bass is what it is. It is true that reversing the P-pup adds a bit of growl to the EA strings and a bit of fullness to the DG. However to my ears, reverse Precisions no longer sound like Precisions, they sound generic. I love standard P-basses for what they offer: nice boomy lows, with a bit more zing and clarity up high.

    So getting back to the main question, I agree that a subtle change in pup placement provides a subtle but noticeable difference in tone (and a reminder that tone isn't all about technique).