Humbuckers and bridge pickups. Why? - Jemsite
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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-10-2012, 01:33 AM Thread Starter
 
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Humbuckers and bridge pickups. Why?

I've got a couple of noobie questions, although I've been thinking about these and studying various boards for possible answers.

Why is a humbucker supposedly better, and for certain styles, say metal? I understand the value in eliminating single coil hum, especially when used for simpler, cleaner songs. But otherwise, why do you need a HB?

2. Is there any good reason to put any pickup in the bridge of an S-type guitar? All the ones I've listened to sound pretty thin and weak, compared to a pickup in the 24th fret position (neck). Ignoring Teles, why bother? Is just for another choice in sound?

I'm not trying to start a debate. I really don't see the need for either HB or bridge pickups. But others do and I'm trying to learn why.
Thanks, Gary
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-10-2012, 02:02 AM
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Re: Humbuckers and bridge pickups. Why?

Humbuckers have a different sonic profile to single coils because they (usually) have a higher output and so drive the front of the amplifier harder (think of it as a more powerful engine) and being bigger and having a wider magnetic field they "listen" to a wider part of the string vibrating.

This (again usually) results in them having a fatter, louder more mid-frequency focussed sound.

As to why put a pickup in the bridge of an S-type guitar, the "thin and weak" sound you hear in the bridge slot, becomes thick and tight when you have a good humbucker in that position througha heavily overdriven amp, perfect for playing rock and metal.

The same passages of music when played in the neck position through a similarly set amplifier will sound flabby and lack definition, not a desired trait amoungst many heavier musical genres.
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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-10-2012, 02:08 AM
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Re: Humbuckers and bridge pickups. Why?

I suggest humbuckers because in the proper case you can split the coils. It's not the exact same but it's there if you need it. You could go HSS, which should cover you in most aspects. Never did like single coils all too much, especially bridge. If twang is your thing go SSS. Fireman is the only thing that comes to mind.

You're going to get people that say single coils are fine for metal. You'll never get the growl or the balls of a humbucker in single coil. Up to you in all honesty. I still think single coils are lacking for metal.

David Gilmour one of favorite guitar players, mainly uses a single coil neck. However, he isn't a heavy player. All matters what you play.
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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-11-2012, 12:11 PM
 
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Re: Humbuckers and bridge pickups. Why?

Some good answers already, I'll try my hand though.

1 - Why might you want a humbucker?

This one is easy. The first thing to note is that a humbucker is, as the name implies, hum free. That means when you're pushing lots of gain through your amplifier, to get a lot of distortion, its way, way less noisy and will feed back less.

The reason this is the case is because if you turn the gain (or distortion, whatever its labelled they mean the same thing) up on your amplifier, this is what you're doing:

Clean Guitar Tone:

Guitar Pickup -----> Gain Stage ----> Preamplifier -----> Power amplifier ----> Speaker.

In this example, the Guitar Pickup outputs sound, the gain stage doesn't do much beyond just being a channel volume control, the Preamplifier SHAPES that sound (It doesn't make it louder, it just shapes it, adding more bass, taking away treble, etc) the poweramplifier then takes that shaped sound, and changes it from a fairly low level signal, into a massive great roaring high level signal, strong enough to drive the speaker.

Thats how a clean guitar sound works.

Now what if we want to add distortion?

Well there's a bunch of ways to do that, you can use a pedal, (either one that IS a distortion stage, or one that boosts the output of the guitar) you can turn the gain up on the amp, you can cut slashes in your speaker cones (Yes people used to do this), or you can even solder a diode/transistor into your guitar cable to make a Fuzz cable.

Now by far the most common way is to increase the gain on the amplifier.

When you do that, this is what happens:

Guitar Pickup -----> Gain stage SET TO BOOST EVERYTHING LIKE HELL ----> Preamplifier WHICH DISTORTS BECAUSE IT CAN'T HANDLE IT -----> Power amplifier (which is probably fine with just making the distorted signal louder) ----> Speaker.

Now in this example, the gain stage isn't just acting like a volume control anymore. Its deliberately overpowering the preamplifier, so that it distorts. Now, if you're boosting things to the extent you have a lot of distortion, you're doing a LOT of boosting.

Now if your signal from the guitar has noise in it, even a little, thats going to get boosted too. And, thanks to the way distortion works, especially at high volumes, your signal will be naturally compressed. The difference between loud and soft will be fairly minimal. The noise created by the pickups will be very, very audible over the rest of the signal.

Thats where humbuckers come in. If you want a lot of distortion, humbuckers have less noise to begin with, so when you crank the gain up on the amp, there's way more headroom before noise becomes a problem. There's also a secondary benefit, which is that humbuckers usually have a higher output, and therefore you can get EVEN MORE distortion, because you START with a higher level signal, and that means any boosting has more effect.





And of course on top of all that, there is the fact that a humbucker has a very broad, thick, natural voice, on account of sensing a wider area of the string, and having way more resistance. Both of these shift the strongest frequencies for the pickup, DOWN slightly. They're less trebly and more bassy. Or, put another way, they've got some balls instead of being shrill.


Continued in post 2....
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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-11-2012, 12:19 PM
 
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Re: Humbuckers and bridge pickups. Why?

Now, onto question 2 - Why do you need a bridge pickup?


That one is easy too. The closer to the bridge of a guitar you PICK, the more trebly and high end focused the sound is. The closer to the bridge your pickup is, the more trebly it is also.

Now, if you want a nice, blooming, thick, smooth Jazz sound, you probably want to be a good ways away from the bridge, to get that sound.

Now what if you want a gritty, snarling, responsive, attack-laden rythm sound for a metal guitar part? Well, you want it to sound tighter, more focused, a bit more trebly, and with more attack. All of these things happen closer to the bridge.

But what if your guitar is TOO MUCH like that, and it starts sounding thin? Well, you might think that moving to the middle pickup would be a good idea, and, for a given value of good idea, it is.

But it doesn't work. A pickup "picks up" the sound of a string ABOVE it. Even if you get a little more balls by using a further pickup, the problem becomes that the string above that pickup just isn't moving in a way that will produce a nice, snappy attack. It'll sound flabby and flubby as the part of the string where its motion translates into a tight tone, is near the bridge. The problem isn't the location of the bridge pickup, the problem is the TYPE of bridge pickup.

And this is where humbuckers come back in. Remember how we discovered that humbuckers are less shrill and less trebly than single coils? Well guess what? Thats exactly what we need out of our bridge pickup, to stop it sounding so thin and weedy. So we throw a bridge humbucker into our guitar and suddenly we have the best of both worlds. We're picking up the string vibrations at the point they're most snappy and immediate, and therefore tightest for our metal rythm part, and we're focusing on the frequency range within those vibrations that is best for creating a sound with some balls.


Of course, this is just if you want a metal rythm part. The fact is, there's plenty of great music with strat bridge pickups on the recordings. Listen to some Stevie Ray Vaughan for some GREAT examples of that. Everything has its place. And that includes the bridge pickup of a strat.
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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-11-2012, 01:05 PM
 
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Re: Humbuckers and bridge pickups. Why?

Quote:
Originally Posted by allthumbs View Post
I've got a couple of noobie questions, although I've been thinking about these and studying various boards for possible answers.

Why is a humbucker supposedly better, and for certain styles, say metal? I understand the value in eliminating single coil hum, especially when used for simpler, cleaner songs. But otherwise, why do you need a HB?

2. Is there any good reason to put any pickup in the bridge of an S-type guitar? All the ones I've listened to sound pretty thin and weak, compared to a pickup in the 24th fret position (neck). Ignoring Teles, why bother? Is just for another choice in sound?

I'm not trying to start a debate. I really don't see the need for either HB or bridge pickups. But others do and I'm trying to learn why.
Thanks, Gary
I would ask the same question for single coils in any position
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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-11-2012, 01:15 PM
 
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Re: Humbuckers and bridge pickups. Why?

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Originally Posted by GUITARMAGEDDON View Post
I would ask the same question for single coils in any position
Thats because you don't play real music.
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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-11-2012, 02:20 PM
 
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Re: Humbuckers and bridge pickups. Why?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GuitarBizarre View Post
Thats because you don't play real music.
..................Mom?
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-11-2012, 02:20 PM
 
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Re: Humbuckers and bridge pickups. Why?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GUITARMAGEDDON View Post
..................Mom?
You wish.
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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-11-2012, 03:28 PM
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Re: Humbuckers and bridge pickups. Why?

I guess I'm not the only only one that says humbuckers have more "balls" >_> Single coils have their place. Music like David Gilmour sounds awesome with a single coil pickup in the neck.

I say HB in bridge for sure for metal. Heck a lot of metal guitars only have a HB bridge.

Single coil in the bridge if twang is your thing.
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post #11 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-11-2012, 05:42 PM
 
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Re: Humbuckers and bridge pickups. Why?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GUITARMAGEDDON View Post
..................Mom?
bahaha that was hilarious
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post #12 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-11-2012, 05:47 PM
 
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Re: Humbuckers and bridge pickups. Why?

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Originally Posted by van01010100 View Post
bahaha that was hilarious
It's a rare thread that educates and entertains so well . . .
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post #13 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-11-2012, 07:34 PM
 
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Re: Humbuckers and bridge pickups. Why?

thread = thumbs up.
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post #14 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-11-2012, 07:55 PM
 
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Re: Humbuckers and bridge pickups. Why?

BECAUSE I PLAY DEATH METAL!!!

Nah, it's just the best way to get the heavy tones that I need while still keeping the clarity. And because single coil's hate low tunings (some do anyway). LOVE single-sized humbuckers in the neck position though
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post #15 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-12-2012, 03:34 AM
 
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Re: Humbuckers and bridge pickups. Why?

As a long year Strat player I'd like to throw in one thing.

There were perfect explanations for the questions, so I'd like to just say:

A Strat with single coils can sound very heavy, too!
My Buddy Guy Signature Strat (USA made) has Lace Sensor Gold PUs with a 25db boost circuit.
Man, this axe can rock very heavily, if I want. Lots of gain....no probs! LS Golds are humcancelling, the boost gives very high output, the rest is a matter of amp settings.

It sounds almost the same as a Strat with humbuckers in single coil format!

I personally have a problem to choose one before the other. Both pickup versions have their advantages and disadvantages. Single coil format HBs are kinda like in between.
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