Charlie Christian: Guitar Hero and Pickup Name-Giver
Naming a pickup is no easy task. There’s currently a lot of debate on how to name the most recent brain child of the Seymour Duncan User Forum Group, but this issue is not a new one. Most pickups get named after their development or artist but some other pickups don’t have a name at all and are being named in due time. Gibson’s first humbucker didn’t have a name at all. Only years later it got its ‘name’ – the PAF – and only because it had a decal on the bottom reading ‘Patent Applied For.’ But the most unique pickup when it comes to name giving is perhaps, in my idea, the big single coil pickup that is now being linked to the unique and amazing Charlie Christian.
Charlie Christian is one of the first players who utilised the unique possibilities of the electric guitar. The electric guitar offers a completely different voice and palate and gives the player new ways of expression. Up until Charlie Christian the guitar was mostly used as a rhythm guitar. The guitar didn’t have the volume to lift above the rest of the band and only starting at the end of the 1920s, guitars started to get pickups which made amplification possible.
The pickup itself is also absolutely unique. It looks at first sight like a P-90, only with a blade in stead of screw pole pieces, but don’t be fooled by the first looks. There are two huge magnets below the pickup. The system that fixes the magnets to the coil itself is so big that it needs to be fixed to the guitar itself. There are three little screws between the pickup and the bridge. The magnets are really screwed on the guitar through the top. This seems to make the bond between the guitar and pickup tighter than with other mounting systems.
To cater the need of modern guitar players, Seymour Duncan offers the Charlie Christian pickup. Made in the Custom Shop, the Charlie Christian pickup can be ordered in various shapes. It can be ordered in Traditional, Back Mount, Dog Ear P-90, Humbucker and Swingster versions.
The tone of the Charlie Christian pickup is completely unique. It is unbelievably clear but with a smooth, warm feel. The output is not very extreme; it’s not as hot as a P-90 or humbucker so it won’t drive your amp as hard, but you get an unparalleled amount of clarity in return. Just take a listen:
But this pickup sounds also incredible in a solid body guitar. A bit twangy, a bit clanky, a bit honky but that ‘Charlie Christian Clarity’ is still there. This pickup can entice players across the board: jazz, funk, blues, even old school rock, this pickup can take it all. If you’ve got the chops, this pickup will deliver!
Here’s a video of Seymour W. Duncan explaining the different options you can order from the Custom Shop.