As previously threatened, here’s the first installment in a series on unusual Strat pickup combinations, inspired by a big box of Duncan pickups and a couple of prewired “BYOP” pickguards. I tried a couple of meh combinations that I didn’t like enough to record, but this third experiment seemed worth sharing. Dig this odd combo: Lipstick Tube neck. Alnico II Pro middle. Twang Banger bridge. Comments and post mortem after the clip. Have a listen!
If you’re intrigued by this combination at all, keep listening at the end of the clip, after the screen goes dark, at which point I hooked up a looper and layered various pickup combinations. To my ear, it really sounds like three different guitars.
This was actually the third oddball combination I tried — my first two attempts weren’t even worth recording. I was chasing after the sound of a guitar I once had on long-term loan, courtesy of the legendary Fat Dog of Berkeley’s Subway Guitars. He’d replaced the bridge pickup on an original ’60s single-cutaway Danelectro with a pre-CBS tele pickup. Both pickups sounded awesome, and the blend was killer. I knew I wouldn’t get the same sound with a solidbody Strat, but I was angling for something that pushed the guitar to greater extremes — more treble clank for the bridge pickup, and a looser/warmer neck sound.
My first attempt: Lipstick Tube neck and middle pickups, with a Twang Banger bridge. The Twang Banger is a fascinating pickup with a copper-coated bottom plate, Tele-style. All three pickups sounded great, but the blends were lacking. You’d expect the loud Twang Banger to dominate the lower-output lipstick tubes, right? But no — the lipstick sound predominated in the bridge/middle and bridge/neck combinations, so much so that the tone wasn’t all that different from the lipstick tube pickups alone.
The next experiment replaced the neck pickup with the Alnico II Pro. Same issue — the blends just weren’t as cool as I’d thought they’d be. But when I swapped the neck and middle pickups as demoed here, with the Alnico II Pro in the middle, the blended settings suddenly came alive, and I felt like I’d found a recipe worth sharing.
Any of you have unusual Strat pickup recipes to share? Has anyone mixed lipstick tubes with Fender-style single-coils on the same guitar? Fess up!