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Guitar Pickup in a bass

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Anscari, Dec 9, 2006.

  1. Hi there!
    That's my first post here, so, welcome you all!

    Well, I've got to ask something:
    I'm been looking for a very trebly (I mean VERY trebly) tone for pseudo-shred solo passages, and I've been considering the option of fitting a guitar pickup in my bass by carving a new cavity just below the bridge pickup. I know it has been done by a lot of people, so I'm looking for someone who did it (or someone who heared the sound of it) to tell me if it's worth it.

    And of course, if it is, which pups would be the best for this purpose...

  2. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA
    I like the Bill Lawrence EB50- it is the same as his L-500 guitar pickup, except that the coil rails extend farther to accomodate for the wider string spacing of a bass (I believe it is the same pickup used for 7 string guitars). You won't be able to use a regular guitar pickup because the strings on a guitar are closer together, so the outer bass strings would be outside the magnetic field of the pickup.

    Also, you may be surprised to see how much different a guitar pickup will sound on a bass- there are things that effect the sound more than the pickup- you should look into Billy Sheehan's setup- he plays ridiculous guitar- like solos and even false harmonics. I think he uses some custom bass pickups and 2 amps to create this effect.

  3. I was thinking on a pickup like those with rails on it... wouldn't it fit a narrow 4-string?

    Anyway, how's the sound of that bill lawrence?
  4. Daytona955i


    Feb 17, 2005
    Albany, NY
    Blade type guitar pickups are the only type that would really work.
  5. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA
    I personally only play basses with Fender spacing (I guess that is the standard?), and I've found that guitar sized humbuckers can only be put as far back as a P pickup (if that) before the strings are outside the polepieces. One way to compensate somewhat is to get a bridge with adjustable spacing (like a Schaller or some Gotohs), as long as your current pickup(s) don't have poles to worry about. Some basses, like Gibsons and Rickenbackers, have closer string spacing- so you might have more luck with one of those basses.

    The Bill Lawrence is really midrangey and aggressive(partially due to the P-bass position that I have mine in- also it is a pretty aggressive and midrangey bass to begin with!). I believe the bass player of the Allman Brothers Band had one on a bass- However, as I said before- a guitar pickup on a bass isn't going to make the bass sound like a guitar, more likely just a really cheap bass! (The Bill Lawrence doesn't do this, by the way). The downside to the Bill Lawrence is that you have to special order them and wait for them to be made- it took about a month for me (I ordered through a Bill Lawrence dealer)

  6. Wouldn't the guitar pickup enhance the harmonics? Because that's one of the things that I'm looking for.
  7. TribalEagle


    Mar 19, 2005
    Finland EU
    How is this:
    putting two guitar humbuckers on bass in the form of splitcoil..

    Think p-bass, then replace both coils with guitar humbuckers.. The ones with rails not poles..
    String spacing is no longer an issue.. if you like, it would be possible to wire them separatelly or together (like p)..

    And going bit more advanced: The pickup under the E-A strings should be neckhumbucker (smoother, better bass responce) and the ne under D-G a bridge humbucker (more attack and clarity..)

    Just a crazy thought...:D
  8. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    I have a bass with guitar size HB routs and am looking at alternatives to popping the $US430 on a pair of DarkStars (which will also likely need some routing)

    There are four issues here;

    1 - string spacing. There are a number of basses that use guitar sized pickups, eg my Steinberger XL2 and clones. If the magnetic aperture of the pickup is wide enough for where it's to be placed on the bass it'll be fine. Pickups like the Dimarzio Model 1, Will Power neck, Model G, X2N-B, Schaller Bassbucker, EMG HB-SS and -CS are a few bass specific pickups that'll fit in guitar HB routs.

    2 - Pole pieces. Standard 6 pole guitar pickups will work fine in a bass. The strings don't need to line up, it just works better if they do and the Fender Musicmaster used a standard 6 pole Strat pickup for years. Not what I'd use permanently, but if you can borrow some guitar pickups it'll be worth trying them to help get an idea what sort of tone you're looking for.

    Blade polepiece pickups are a better alternative and they won't look naff. Multi polepiece guitar pickups like some of the Carvins will also work and look OK.

    3 - Pickup characteristics. Pickups don't know what they're in, so as long as the one you choose is correct tonally, it's irrelevant whether it was originally designed for guitar, bass or anything else.

    Lots of guitar pickups are designed to be very midrange oriented, simply because when you add in some distortion, the added harmonics will brighten the perceived tone somewhat.
    I'd look for lowish impedance 'clean' or 'jazz' type pickups that meet the physical characteristics. These are likely to have a higher bandwidth which will give you more top end and at a guess, one with a narrow (along the string) aperture will have less cancellation and give a better HF response. These pickups will have a lower output though and may need some extra gain in the pre. OTTOMH suggestion, SD Vintage Rails, DM Cruiser neck or EMG FT (not FTC). I've never tried for the sort of bright toe you want, so these are only guesses.

    4 - Tone. You're on your own there as I have no idea exactly what you're looking for and how the characteristics of your bass will affect that. No one's ever described 'tone' to me in print satisfactorily. I'm planning on buying a few cheap blade guitar pickups to add to my collection and try them which is the only way to ever know what it'll sound like.

    Some guitar pickups I've tried in a bass and have worked well for standard sort of bass tones are the DM Cruisers, Fasttrack 1, Protrack, SD Coolrails and EMG FT. The DM X2N also works (and I bet the -B version is identical. DM have removed it from their site again and wouldn't answer tech Q's on it). Some of these might have what you're looking for in parallel or single coil mode. If you like the X2N but the spacing isn't wide enough, the X2N7 might be the ticket.

    Sorry for the rant, but I can't sleep and the meds haven't kicked in. :)
  9. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    It'll work. Look at the Chapman NS Stick. I beleive they use similar pups on both sides but there's no reason why different one's wouldn't work. Dimarzio have a big range of slightly different Strat sized rail pups.

    I'd try them the opposite way to your suggestion too as bridge pickups have a higher inductance and capacitance, and hence a lower resonance and frequency response.
  10. Why not get a bass with piezo pickups and a treble boost?
  11. TribalEagle


    Mar 19, 2005
    Finland EU
  12. In fact, I know that it would work and that there would be no prob on doing it. What I was asking was if I would really get an harmonicfest when using it. Of course I'm looking for a high-gain pickup, with a lot of treble and hi-mids. Just a tool to fancy with bass pinched harmonics and make them sound HUGE.
  13. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Hi output pickups have lots of windings, lots of inductance and stray capacitance, and hence LESS high frequency output.
  14. UBU


    Nov 15, 2006
    Single coil guitar pups are wider than humbuckers(nk). I think that maybe a seymour duncan hot rails might be worth a shot, it may be just wide enough. Plus, its small so the route would'nt be so big.
  15. UBU


    Nov 15, 2006
    I just took some measurements from a MM sterling. I found the specs for the hotrails at seymourduncan.com. It fits! Even if very close to the bridge. The magnet width is 2.28 inches, the coil width is 2.58, and the total width is 3.31. Also, its only .73 inches wide...low profile, but powerful

  16. I'm a completely neophite at this... I just wanted to say... I'm looking for a "dimarzio superdistortion", which gives a lot of harmonics and all that stuff... I think there is a single coil version of that one, isn't it?

    I'll probably do it... so recommend me the best pickups for a wicked trebly solo sound with lots of harmonics! :D

    I'm thinking of wiring it to the bridge pickup volume, and put a switch to turn the pickup on and off, so I retain the bridge pickup on, but add the extra treble and harmonic output of the guitar pup... would this be okay?

    Thank you all for your advice! That's a great place to share opinions and ask questions, as everybody here is so nice :D, I've been in a few places where, if you were less than Pastorius and Sheehan together, you were nothing...
  17. And would it be useful in my case?
  18. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Echos what I said in my first post, end of part 3.
  19. Espidog


    May 19, 2006
    Well, you'd think so, wouldn't you? But in fact, surprising as it may seem, a six-pole guitar pickup can work perfectly well under the four strings of a bass. The Rickenbacker toaster pickup is a six-pole unit - because it's exactly the same one they use on their 6-string guitars.

    It's all down to how wide a "field of view" each pole-piece has. If it's very narow, you're likely to get problems with dead spots.
  20. Alivefor5

    Alivefor5 Supporting Member

    Jul 17, 2006
    I saw this very thing in the late seventies. A fretless P bass with a telecaster bass pickup mounted as close to the bridge as possible. Lots of harmonics.

    Duncan currently makes 3 versions of the single coil P bass pickup (The single coil telecaster bass had a reissue of this pickup) . The quarter pounder has high output and lots of top end. May be just what you're looking for.

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