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Moveable/Sliding Pickups: Why don't we see more of them?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by cjazz50, Mar 27, 2002.


  1. I know that pickup placement has a huge effect on tone. It seems like it would be really useful to be able to change the positioning on the fly. Why are there almost no examples of this on the market? There must be some big disadvantages. I wanted to get the luthiers' opinions on this.
     
  2. dhuffguitars

    dhuffguitars Luthier/Bass Wanker depending on your opinion

    Sep 18, 2001
    SPOKANE WA
    You might checkout the traditionalists thread on this.
     
  3. Does this "traditionalist thread" still exist?
     
  4. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    The Gibson Grabber is the main example in basses with this concept, and it really never took. Reason, it's not really called for. Most out there are basic Fender wonks, and just keep redundantly buying Fenders because they like that sound. The more adventurous get into different brands, and become enammored, then there is the "looking for something really different" player, and they never stick with any one instrument long enough to ever know what they want, thus making the market for a sliding pick-up bass not worth the r&d to develop anything really practical.
     
  5. elgecko

    elgecko

    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
  6. Fly Guitars

    Fly Guitars

    Dec 29, 2008
    The Grabber bass pickup never really slid far enough - not enough tonal variation in my opinion.

    The Dan Armstrong London bass (IIRC) had a much longer slide, so presumably a much wider tonal range. I am after one....
     
    comingxcurse likes this.
  7. abarson

    abarson

    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
  8. Hi.

    Thanks elgecko for the link.

    Even though I'm fairly new here, SSSBass's comments brought up some memories ;).

    My take on the subject is the same as most of the others, complicated technology is way too expensive to be popular. If the benefits of said technology are questionable, the road to popularity is a rocky one.

    Regards
    Sam
     
  9. Basstovsky

    Basstovsky The guy with the dumb username... Supporting Member

    Feb 29, 2008
    Massachusetts
    I think the main reason there aren't many of these is because there are only a few positions that are different sounding enough, while still sounding "good." I took on this idea with a pickup testing bass I had, built a sliding platform to mount pickups to and test how they sounded in different spots. Here it is, posted in another thread

    When testing, I found the best sound from many pickups were within the musicman 'sweet spot', where the pickup is in stingrays and sterlings. The frequency response was great, it seemed to have enough treble that the tone knob made a good difference, but still had plenty of bass oomph that it wasnt thin or lacking in warmth. BUT it wasn't really a large difference that it could not be achieved through amp EQing or a preamp.

    There were definitely a few spots where the pickup sounded a bit bland, kind of like hitting a dead spot on a neck, so there are definitely reasons behind specific placement of pickups. If I had a single pickup bass, I would always put the pickup in this spot (MM sweet spot), but I think multi-pickup basses have an advantage, because basically you can take the different sounds of each pickup location and blend them together into one sound, unattainable by a single pickup.

    Honestly the ideal would be to have a few pickups with their own volumes (or at least individual on/off switching) and a master volume pot, so you could blend each into your sound. I think that would be a great natural (passive instead of active) sounding way to get some really good usable tones. As always YMMV, these are just my observations after testing a bass with a movable pickup, and while it does allow a range of tones, it is not the most efficient way. I did have a hard time getting a good balance of it staying put while playing, and ease of moving it when I wanted it to.
     
  10. comingxcurse

    comingxcurse

    Apr 8, 2009
    Largo, FL
    Here's why I want to see a sliding pick-up system:

    1) I'd like to hear from luthiers what they think would be a fair price for this conversion.

    Specifically:



    B) While in Guitar Center, I saw pick-up combinations in every way imaginable. The amount of different routing templates, locations of the route are unthinkable; every combination possible using H,S and X. And with the basses it became even more varied. Stingrays with bridge only humbuckers, SG's with neck only single coils. Every combination of P and J pickups not to mention the Billy Sheehan combination. It's absurd.

    So what occurred to me was: "Why not let the players choose where they want the pick-ups? Everyone from traditionalists whom could throw the pick-up into one position and never change it for their entire careers to more avant-garde players, using the same mind-set applied to fretless necks and whammy bars could get some sweet pickup sliding action mid riff, and everyone in between."

    I'm glad to see this idea being in the public consciousness. Let's make it happen.

    Everyone has slightly different tastes, so a movable pickup system I think would be not only an ideal solution, but a lot of fun and bring out even more possibilities in sound and textures. Also, pick-up sizes vary to the point of needing a new rout, lest you have a wide open slot, or not enough room to ram that sucker in. Fenders (and copies) are already like playing with legos, so I think this would be the next logical step.

    One criticism I often see is the sweet-spot. However, it's not unheard of to hear on recordings the instrument to be edited into the background and then brought forward to accentuate the punch of the riff... Imagine being able to pull that off in a live setting. Or being able to lock in EXACTLY where you want your pick-ups to be.

    All this being said, I'd love to get my hands on a Light-wave drool
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2015
  11. mc900ftj

    mc900ftj Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2014
    One more moving part to break?
     
    reverendrally likes this.
  12. Basstovsky

    Basstovsky The guy with the dumb username... Supporting Member

    Feb 29, 2008
    Massachusetts
    Probably because people are resistant to change, just look at how much money Fender and Gibson are making by churning out the same basses (sometimes with minor upgrades) for 50 years. The general public wants the familiar, and sliding pickups are intimidating.

    Sad but true.

    I love being able to fine-tune my pickup placement but is often too costly
     
  13. This all seems like a good idea except... the cost of building a reliable, aesthetically pleasing, PU sliding system that won't have the connections break (coz that's the real issue) is prohibitive unless EVERY bass player in the world wants it. Here's the thing, they don't. Most peops want to sound like Jaco, Marcus, James Jameson, McCartney, Bruce, Lemmy, etc. So they just buy what they had... or the closest copy of it they can afford.

    The bass that got close to what you're suggesting was the Line6 variax. 1 million tones in 1 bass. But hardly anyone bought them... and quite a few people said,

    As for Guy's custom Warwick... I'd ask why he didn't do it years ago if they're so good. ;)
     
  14. comingxcurse

    comingxcurse

    Apr 8, 2009
    Largo, FL
    You're right about the list of players; it takes the right person to get others to really latch onto an idea. And not everyone wants an expansive tonal palette (they have their sound and stick to it), and not everyone can drive "clutch," some people need "automatic" to even get on to the road.

    Speaking of the Variax, the guy who does work on my instruments said that it cured his G.A.S.

    Maybe seeing David Gilmour's "Answer" guitar gave him the movable pick-up bug.
    For me it was an absurd amount of variations in stationary pick-ups. :)
     
    Basstovsky likes this.
  15. Last edited: Jun 30, 2015
    comingxcurse likes this.
  16. Interesting but really I kept thinking... "the Answer to what?" You could have 90% of those combinations on strat at the flick of switch AND without a great ugly trench down the front of the guitar. He even said, "Framus" made the first one, "Dan Armstrong" did it later. Then finally... "I tend to leave it about there". Ie. even with all those options, he hardly moves his. As an idea, it's not caught on for a reason.

    I like multiple PU basses. I built this a while back and it's all manner of fun.
    Build 6 & 7; Fundabirds are GO! (with pew wood!) | Page 5 | TalkBass.com

    Only I don't need to go moving things around. Looks a lot prettier. Right? ;)
     
  17. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    The Westone Rail really had it figured. Quick, reliable adjustment, real and interesting impact on the tone.
     
    comingxcurse likes this.
  18. RED J

    RED J I ain't ready for the junkyard yet. Supporting Member

    Jan 23, 2000
    Tennessee
    In this vein, why don't Carvin or Warmoth offer more choices as to pickup placement ? I know realistically, they can't keep and inventory of every imaginable pickup, but let's just go with the most common, P,J, and MM. It is no big deal with CNC technology to do any configuration or combination . When I built my Warmoth, I might have gone P-P if I could have but it's not available.
    Add to this that in a component body they could conceivably offer any rout in any position if they didn't have to supply the pickup.
    It would also seem this would be a net gain for them from a sales standpoint.
     
    comingxcurse likes this.
  19. Jisch

    Jisch Supporting Member

    I think it's because they know the positions they've picked will sound good. Imagine someone picking a "bad" location out of ignorance, that instrument sounds terrible. 1) that represents a bad sounding Carvin (bad for their image) 2) they have a 10 day (or whatever) return policy that means they get back a bad sounding instrument that probably can't be resold.