I was recently put in a position where I had to know a great deal about PAF pickups. Like most guitar players, I have a tendency to say “I can
I was recently put in a position where I had to know a great deal about PAF pickups. Like most guitar players, I have a tendency to say “I can fake my way through it,” but the stakes in this case were way too high to not be honest with myself. So off I went to the woodshed with the intention of learning everything I could about PAFs. I will fill you in on why I put myself through this endeavor later, but I first want to pass along the essential knowledge I learned in the process.
So I don’t lose anyone at the bakery, let’s begin with humbucker basics. In any magnetic pickup, a vibrating guitar string induces an alternating voltage in its coils. However, magnetic coils are also antennas and are therefore sensitive to the electromagnetic interference that can be generated by wiring and various electrical appliances. Guitar pickups collect this noise, which can be quite audible, sounding like a constant hum or buzz.
A humbucker has two coils with opposing windings and polarities. The string motion induces current in both coils in the same direction. Electromagnetic interference, on the other hand, induces current in opposing directions in each coil because of the reversed winding and polarity. When the signals from both pickups are combined, the noise is cancelled and the actual signal is increased, dramatically improving the signal- to-noise ratio. This technique is called common-mode rejection by electrical engineers and is also used for balanced lines in audio recording.
Before the invention of the humbucker, guitarists relied on single coil pickups, like Gibson’s P-90, which did nothing to block the dreaded 60-cycle hum. In the mid 1950s, Gibson engineer Seth Lover was assigned to tackle this problem. Seth connected two single coil pickups in series, as opposed to parallel, and connected the coils out-of-phase, both electrically and magnetically – thus the signal noise of one coil canceled out that of the other, which is ultimately how the pickup came to be known as “humbucking” or humbuckers. Seth and Gibson filed their patent for the pickup design on June 22, 1955, and Gibson added the new pickups to steel guitars in 1956 and on electric solidbody and archtop guitars – including the Les Paul Model – in 1957. During late 1957, a small black decal with gold lettering was added to the underside of the pickup that read, “PATENT APPLIED FOR” and the PAF designation was born.
Each humbucker has a bobbin wound with a certain type of wire. On original PAFs the bobbin wire appears purple, versus later PAFs that have a reddish appearance. Additionally, different types of wires had unique coatings. When wire coatings change, the sound of the pickups also change. The amount of wire and coating wound on each bobbin helps to determine the pickup’s resistance. When the bobbins are wound with more than a nominal amount of wire they become more powerful, offering fatter midrange at the expense of treble response. The people running the pickup winding machines used by Gibson from 1956-1961, whether knowingly or unintentionally, were inconsistent with the numbers of windings. The machine operators essentially estimated when a pickup bobbin reached 5000 turns of wire, which ended up giving each set of PAF pickups a unique sonic character.
I had to learn all this info because Larry Carlton wanted to replace the original humbuckers in his number two 335, a ‘68 that has been previously used as the backup guitar for his famous ‘69 model, played on over 200 number one hits. Knowledgeable techs told me to look for the “PATENT NO.” style with unopened nickel-plated covers, or, better yet, a pickup with the “PATENT APPLIED FOR” decal intact, which are highly valued and harder to find. Here is what I was specifically looking for: original PAFs made in 1956 or 1957 that had a long magnet, no PAF sticker, purple bobbin wire, black leads on both coils, brushed stainless steel covers, Phillips screw bases, ohms ranging from 7k to 9k, black PAF-style bobbins, and L-shaped tool marks on the feet; original long-magnet PAFs made from 1957 to 1960 that had “PATENT APPLIED FOR” stickers, purple bobbin wire, black leads on both coils, nickel covers, Phillips screw bases, ohms measuring from a low of 7k to a high of 9k ohms, black PAF-style bobbins and L-shaped tool marks on the feet; or a set of the final batch of PAFs made in ‘61 or ‘62 that featured a short magnet, “PATENT APPLIED FOR” sticker, purple wire, black leads on both coils, nickel covers, Phillips screws on the base, double black bobbins and the L-shaped tool marks.
I knew if I found any of these and their measurements were good, we were in business. Lo and behold, we found a matched set made in 1960 and put them in the ‘68 335. They sound amazing. Lately, Larry has been touring with “number two” exclusively, due to the sound of those pickups. It was a great learning experience for me and the end result was that the world gets even more from Mr. 335 himself, which we can all enjoy.
Rick Wheeler currently works as Larry Carlton’s guitar tech and front of house engineer. He is also an accomplished jazz guitarist, vocalist, and educator. You can contact Rick at email@example.com
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.