A friend of mine has very kindly lent me his Gibson ES-339 recently. Even more kindly, he has allowed me to switch the pickups. The stock pickups that come in the guitar are standard PAF-type pickups, but to me, they still have a little too much output and the wax potting removes some of that “airiness” in the tone that comes from the pickups being slightly microphonic.
When I play a semi-hollow guitar, it’s not because I’m going to be using a lot of gain. The most I will ever do is push it just past overdrive and into mild distortion. This being the case, I don’t need to worry about the squealing feedback that comes from using an unpotted pickup at high gain/volume settings. The obvious candidates for the guitar were the SH-55 Seth Lover model and the Anitquity Humbuckers.
I decided to go for the Anitquities, because of the nicely aged covers, the slightly weaker magnet and… yeah that intangible “vibe” you get from something that’s obviously a bit special. So sue me.
So I set about rewiring the 339. Wow. This was the first time I had worked on a semi-hollow guitar and ARE YOU KIDDING ME you cannot get to any of the electronics through the back of the guitar. Seriously, there’s just wood there. No nice little plastic plate that comes off with a few screws and lets you get to the pots in situ. Nope – you have to pull the entire caboodle out through the bridge pickup cavity, wire it all up, and then ram it all back in somehow. But I learned some lessons and now feel confident I could do it again in a third of the time.
For now, let’s just fast-forward to where the pickups were already in. The difference was huge. Suddenly it sounded exactly like those 50s records I loved. I couldn’t resist playing the first few bars of “Johnny B. Goode.” And then came all the stuff I hadn’t heard on the records – the wonderfully smooth-yet-bright neck pickup tone. The almost-quacky middle position. And the endless variety of tones achievable through the volume and tone controls.
But hey. Enough o’ my yackin’. Waddya say – let’s boogie.
Have you got a guitar you think that Antiquities would go nicely in?