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Thread: Humbuckers for alder body guitars and classic prog rock

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    Default Humbuckers for alder body guitars and classic prog rock

    I have a QuickSilver (yes, I know how hated Ed Roman is in most circles, but I do really love this guitar, so please bear with me). It's got an alder body, a maple top, a maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard. Vintage tremolo. Two humbucking pickups. In short, it has the construction of an early PRS Classic Electric (before 1995 they were made of alder, not mahogany). It is currently strung with Dean Markley Blue Steel strings, though I am considering switching to nickel-wound D'addarios.

    I've decided I don't care for the stock pickups, which are referred to as Black/Back ND pickups. The Black/Backs might sound better on a darker wood like korina or mahogany, but on my alder body they're awfully sharp to my ears. Having had a pair of PRS pickups (HFS and VIntage Bass) installed for a time, I preferred the PRS pickups. The problem is, the PRS pickups can't be bolted directly to the wood, at least not without altering the construction of the guitar. So I'm considering switching to a different model of Duncans.

    When I run the specifics of my guitar's construction through the Tone Wizard, I invariably get the same results for all three of the playing styles I'm interested in (Classic Rock, Rock/Pop, and Hard Rock/Metal) -- 59's or Alnico II Pros. The only deviation from this is if I choose "Hard Rock/Metal" for playing style... then one of the suggestions for the bridge pickup is a Custom 5, which I am thinking is more for heavier work than what I do.

    So the suggestions from the Tone Wizard are pretty straightforward -- either 59's, or Alnico II Pros, or a combination of those two. But I'm still not quite convinced, so I was hoping to get some opinions from this forum.

    I play almost entirely with the tone and volume knobs all the way up, and with the pickup selector switch in the center (both pickups active). This gives me a fuller tone than the bridge pickup, but a brighter tone than the neck pickup, so I like this compromise. I mostly play spacy progressive rock, in the style of classic bands like Rush, Pink Floyd, and Yes, as well as newer bands like Porcupine Tree, and ethereal artists like Eric Johnson (particularly on Venus Isle). I tend to use a lot of chorus, and often similar effects like flange and phase, along with delay for that spacy effect. I want a smooth, sweet dirty lead tone with a soft attack and not too much crunch. It should also be noted that I play without a pick, and mostly pick with my fingers (not my fingernails, unless strumming).

    Given my playing style, and the construction of the guitar, what would you recommend for pickups? If you think the Tone Wizard is on the money, should I go with '59s, Alnico II Pros, or some combination thereof? Any advice you guys can give me is greatly appreciated.

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    Frito's Better Half beandip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Humbuckers for alder body guitars and classic prog rock

    I would put a Jazz and JB in there. Good for a warm sound in the neck, but the perfect sound for prog rock in the bridge. you probably will have to drill out the baseplates though to mount them directly into the wood, but if you dont plan on selling them anytime soon, then it should be ok.
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    Ultimate Tone Member yes-fan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Humbuckers for alder body guitars and classic prog rock

    im glad we share interests in music. for a super smooth clear neck pickup i would go with a jazz or a dimarzio air norton. for bridge maybe a jb or a dimarzio norton.
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    Toneologist fusion101's Avatar
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    Default Re: Humbuckers for alder body guitars and classic prog rock

    i dont mean to intrude but isnt the black back neck pickup the same as a jazz. and plz if u do decide to put in the jazz neck and it soudns diffrent post it on the forms(there's a bit of ed roman paranoia around here.)

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    Default Re: Humbuckers for alder body guitars and classic prog rock

    Hm. Not at all what I expected...

    Well, I don't think I want to experiment with Dimarzios -- I'm assuming Duncans will be more likely to fit into my guitar (important since the pickups are bolted into the wood rather than spring-loaded).

    As for the JB... I was under the impression that the high output of my current pickups was the main cause of this problem. The PRS pickups were certainly closer to what I want, and those are not, to my knowledge, built for high output the way the JB is.

    I'm also not convinced that I need the super-clean sound of the Jazz in the neck... I do want some color to the tone, I just want it to be glassy, sweet, and smooth.

    What I really want to pull off is that chorused lead tone reminiscent of Eric Johnson on Venus Isle, or Alex Lifeson on Counterparts -- a little chorus, the JCM-800 distortion, and the pickup selector in the center, using both pickups. That airy sort of tone, full but glossy... not very plucky, and NOT compressed or crunchy. Clean, it should be glassy and bell-like without being jangly. This is not a Jimmy Page tone I'm after at all.

    If you guys still think that a Jazz and a JB is the combination for me, I'll take a look and see if I can't find someone with some sound files to hear how it sounds before I buy... but this is really not a suggestion I was considering at all before.

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    Default Re: Humbuckers for alder body guitars and classic prog rock

    Quote Originally Posted by fusion101
    i dont mean to intrude but isnt the black back neck pickup the same as a jazz. and plz if u do decide to put in the jazz neck and it soudns diffrent post it on the forms(there's a bit of ed roman paranoia around here.)
    I have heard the rumor that the Black/Back ND pickups are just a Jazz in the neck and a Custom Custom in the bridge, but I have found absolutely nothing to substantiate this rumor. Others have claimed that the Black/Backs contain a NeoDymium magnet, and though his website implies this is not the case, there are other references on his site to support this theory. If anybody does have any insight into this, I'd love to hear it.

    In any case, yes, this is one of the reasons I am reluctant to consider putting a Jazz in the neck.

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    Toneologist fusion101's Avatar
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    Default Re: Humbuckers for alder body guitars and classic prog rock

    then what pickups does the black back remind of or u think would sound like, the reason for my intrest is because i'm upsest with edromanguitars.com but live way the hell away from vegas and thought i might try them.

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    Default Re: Humbuckers for alder body guitars and classic prog rock

    Definitely a JB in the bridge, you cant go wrong!

    And for the neck something like a 59 or an Alnico Pro 2 or a Jazz...probably a Jazz - a JB/Jazz combo is afterall what seymour himself recommends

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