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Pickup design idea

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Marcus Willett, May 16, 2005.


  1. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Most of us have encountered the scenario common to the MusicMan, but really all basses IMO. Inconsistent tone from the bottom to the top strings. I used the MM example because it seems to be the epitome of this condition i.e. the low strings sound great, the G string sounds tiny or weak. Usually remedies range from heavier strings to lowering the pup height on the bass side (but that changes the tone), stringing the G thru the body, etc. There are even the Bill Lawrence pups in the Roscoe Beck model that attempt to address this by having more magnets under the G as opposed to the B string. To me none of these really work. One idea that seems like it might work is simply angling the pickup(s). I am having a bass built right now with a single J at the bridge position but angled 45 degrees with the G side towards the neck. The idea being of course that the smaller strings with have a fuller tone and vice-versa. I know I'm not the first to come up with this idea, but I'm not sure how it will work...this leads me to the idea I had.

    Is it possible to build a pickup with a more-or-less triangular shape so that the actual sensing area of the pickup is larger as the strings get smaller? If, for example the sensing area is 3/4" under the E (or B), it might be 1 1/4" under the G. Getting more of a fatter soapbar-ish tone as the strings get thinner, and conversely getting a tighter single coil sound as the strings get fatter. I know there are other approaches to getting even tone, and I expect Dingwall owners to point out the fanned fret system. That makes sense, but I wonder if this electronic approach is viable. Would it be possible to build such a pickup?
     
  2. Razman

    Razman

    Feb 10, 2005
    Orange Park, FL
    I'm sure if there's a will, there's a way. I guess what you are wanting to do is run the string through a wider magnetic field. That would pick up more on both sides of the string i.e. both towards the bridge and away from it, therefore picking up more full sound along with more treble. Wouldn't that possibly make the string warble? I think angling is a better idea, but what do I know? I'm no pickup or bass building/design expert (or even a novice for that matter) so take my opinion for what it's worth.

    Why not just go fanned and get great playability (fantastic actually) and feel along with great tone? (Yep, you were right.) I love my Z1, and the bridge pup sounds like it should without being too thin or tinny. I hope your bass turns out alright, though.

    Eric
     
  3. actually IIRC thats exactly what mr Dingwqall has done, not only is the pickup angled, but also the Fury-designed, FD pickups have a larger triangular shaped magnet, to sense more of the string.
    Of course if you look at my avatar you'll see this pickup angling incorporating those FD pickups.
    Oh right, lastly, yes the fanned fretboard does help w/ string to string consistancy of tone
     
  4. well, an odd shaped bobbin would work in a pickup, it really doesnt matter what shape the bobbin is to get a pickup to work. i actually was thinking of odd shaped bobbins for guitar humbuckers, actually like two of what you are describing in opposite directions so they fit as a standard humbucker would. if the bobbin was slightly triangular, the bass side, thinner side of the bobbin, would have a brighter more focussed tone, like a fender jazz, where the other side should have a less focussed tone with more midrange due to the wider area of string that the pickup is sensing. it seems like it could work, possibly the bridge side of the pickup parallel to the bridge, so that the larger end of the pickup is only going towards the neck and isnt picking up any brighter tone that it would normally be. im sure that whole thing could be fit in a soapbar so you would never know that there was an odd shaped pickup in there. another possibility is going with the Wal pickup design. wal pickups consist of a humbucker for each string. smaller round bobbins in pairs which are matched to the string so the output and sound is equal. of course you could do this with single coils too, just have 4 small coils and make the higher strings shorter and fatter than the lower strings, that gives you the option to vary the output (resistance) too so you can get a very good match . i think i might actually to make an odd shaped bobbin and wind it. do you have a bass that you could put a pickup like this in? i could make a pickup for you if you pay for the parts. pm me
     
  5. Metal Mitch

    Metal Mitch

    Jul 14, 2003
    NJ
    2 things immediately come to mind...

    1) reverse-P

    2)adjustable pole pieces

    that oughtta take care of it!
     
  6. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Yeah, but a P doesn't sound like a J, and that's the sound I want. Also, the reverse thing is the same as angling the pickup, I'm working on that idea now and it may work. Adjustable poles would make the G louder, but won't address the tone issues I was getting at.
     
  7. I'm designing a pickup for my final year project next year(Engineering - Mechatronics to be precise.) So, I'll be watching this thread carefully. Although, I honestly can't notice a significant difference on my bass, perhaps I just have great pickups! hehe
     
  8. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    The bass I'm having built with the single coil at a 45 degree angle will be done in a couple weeks. Bit of an experiment, but I'll have more practical info after it's done. I'll post about it when the time comes if anyone is interested.
     
  9. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    FWIW:

    I guess I'm closing in on having run about 75 different makes and models of pups now. And actually, tone balance is the norm in my experience and out of balance the exception - at least that's my perception. Optimally, you can tweak pairs (E/A or D/G) in or out of balance with adjustment cause there's tunes that works for - to do that at a useable tone though is definitely more an exception.

    Could be we're talking about different things though, cause seems I've had a few pups that put out almost a monotone across the board and that was just boring, lifeless, and useless.

    To me if an E sounds like an E and D sounds like a D, and volume, tone, sensivity, clarity, and cut work to a tune even across the board using the same technique - that's balanced.
     
  10. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Well, I admit I'm getting into hair-splitting here, but I've yet to encounter a bass (and I've encountered a lot) that has the eveness I'm looking for. Doesn't mean it doesn't sound great, it's just a goal of mine. I'm fairly happy with the balance from my Aero pups tho. I might try putting those at a slight angle in the future.

    BTW luknfur, your Lawrence pup should go out today.
     
  11. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    Cool. 76.

    Actually norm and exceptions gave a skewed impression. More accurately, I've found it's not common for pups to be either balanced or not but definitely more balanced than unbalanced. Ballpark 75% - 25%. I'd have to go back tally all the reviews - and actually I would't be suprised if I was suprised. I don't have much of a memory.

    Just shipped a set of Aero Type I's to San Antonio. Wasn't impressed fingerpicked but they were some uncommon songbirds flatpicked. Uncharacteristically dramatic difference.
     
  12. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    FWIW:

    couple other thoughts. With pups I've had, it's not always the D & G strings that are weak when pups are out of balance. Many times it's actually the E and less rarely the E & A.

    Another thing I've found is the pole location in terms of signal is irrelevant. There may be a few exceptions but I sure don't recall any off hand. As long as the perimeter strings fall within 1/8" or so (bridge pup) of the magnetic field where they won't be bent out of the field - pups will read fine. For example, I think that BL J45 is like the Ken Smith J45 with 9 poles which Smith has strings splitting the poles on the 5 string models while the 4 strings are dead over them (hmm, I wonder where Ken got that idea?). I've got a set of 5 string Jim Cairnes singles that are built into wooden soap covers and I have them on a 4 string bass and have no idea where the poles line up with the strings - and it reads fine.

    From one of the more recent hashings:

     
  13. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    I kind of agree with this, but I think it's more a matter of being consistent. If I put magentic paper over my Aero pups, I find that the field is actually confined to the poles, moreso than most pups. I agree that in general, it's not a huge issue, but when the alignment is way off result in some strings being between poles (in a bi-pole setup) and some going right over, it does make a difference. Tho a difference most probably can't hear. Our keyboardist at work can't even hear much diff between my Aero pups and me using an upright patch on the V-Bass. "Sounds about the same to me". :confused:
     
  14. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    FWIW:

    I don't really remember running into a situation where one may be dead on and another in between, but I could see where that could pose a problem. I use Schaller roller bridges so I can adjust laterally but I rarely mess with it cause I can move the pup around anywhere I want. It's been a while since I've really paid any attention to poles. I just ballpark 'em and don't look for a solution till there's a problem. Basically, I consider anything I can tell the difference in significant. I've moved pups around that didn't balance in the past but it didn't make any difference - distance to the strings has had more of an impact than pole alignment. Some pups are rrrrrreal sensitive to string height - but that's really volume/sensitivity to attack not tone (unless the pole is so close to cause distortion).

    I just got some Dearmond humbuckers that are about EBO pole width. Schaller rollers only go in so far - but I really don't like that short scale feel anyway. Wouldn't even have picked them up except with a pair I could always split P them. Will see what comes to pass soon.
     
  15. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Yeah, I had the problem for a while when I first started building my 5's. I went with the Basslines 67/70 pups that were unfortunately still too wide (I'm using 16.5mm spacing). As a result, the B was between two poles and the G was right over the inner pole of the G set of poles. Again, this was not a big deal, but it did cause subtle inconsistencies in tone and attack. Plus I didn't like how it looked. ;) I ended up getting custom Aeros with my exact spacing, so all ended well. My other 5 has Barts which are blades of course.
     
  16. Fred Hammon

    Fred Hammon Dark Star pickups

    May 13, 2005
    It's not only possible but it has alread been done by Rick Turner when he was developing pickups for Alembic. Here is an example of one of his early "Trapizoid" pickups. The coil wire is wound directly around a shaped magnet. This was probably made around '71.
    Alembic started out doing modifications to Guild Starfires for Jack Casady and Phil Lesh so you can see how they arrived at the design for their Series-I bass.
     

    Attached Files:

  17. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    Why does that look familiar. Got the Starfire pups and it's the EBO experience all over - narrow spacing that presents the problem as far as I can tell. Get the strings outside the poles and it's an issue. That's a single pup so I'll try the split P idea and see what happens.

    But if Rick Turner was into it, there's bound to be something to it - at least at that time. Definetly old Alembic - 50,000 knobs and switches.
     
  18. Rick Turner

    Rick Turner Commercial User

    Jul 14, 2004
    I design and build electric basses and pickups under the Turner, Renaissance, and Electroline brand names.
    Am I allowed to say, "Been there, done that."? Did it back in 1969, for that matter. I'll take pics of one of my earliest electric guitars with the trapezoid pickups that were literally hand wound. Yes, it works.
     
  19. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    If you post it, he will come :)
     
  20. My 1954 Fender Dual Pro steel guitar has the "trapezoidal pickups". I don't know if the magnets are actually trapezoidal or just the covers. But I will look when I get home tonight. I would assume there was a magnet shape change when Leo went from the boxcars of the 40s to the trapezoidals in the 50s. Having one of Rick's Electroline basses, I hope he will post a photo of one of his early creations.