Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Universal Pickup: the come-back

In the last days, there's been a discussion going on about the feasibility on the universal pickup idea I posted a couple of years ago (check the comments), with a key contribution of reader Ben Wa, who  also sent me this message - with sketches.
Hi Bertram! 
Attached are three sketches.  They are more based on pickup positioning ideas than anything else.  The ideas are very rough brainstorming, and the sketches are sometimes intended to be transparent views.   
The first is a quick drawing showing what amounts to two Strat pickups in the bridge and neck positions, and the crossed config of individual string pickups.  This was just an initial idea.  The crossed pickups would amount to a Strat-type magnet with a sewing machine bobbin used as a coil form.  They could be held in place with a grommet.  I know, this is pretty crude but it was just an initial idea.   

The second sketch is a tad more involved and takes a bit more explaining.  I was considering using a staple-shaped magnet that was held in place by a brass screw and a spring to allow for pole piece adjustment.  The coils would have been separate coil forms that would be sandwiched between two pieces of plastic or fiberboard.  The design would allow for humbucking configuration.  The coils wouldn't have very many turns, and would require some kind of electronic boost. I was considering using the same setup for the crossed pickups, or possibly combining an oddball mix between a single cylindrical pole and a blade piece (obviously with a magnet underneath the top plate) forming the center pickup *and* the pole for the crossed pickup. 
Long story short, I figured this would end up being impractical. Wiring harness, electronics, etc. would have been difficult if not impossible to fit in the designated space, and the potential for on-stage failure greatly increased.  A guy like Seymour Duncan or Don Lace might be able to refine it and make it practical, but I am not nearly as knowledgeable as those guys.  This was a pie-in-the-sky idea.   

The third sketch is the compromise I was talking about, and could end up being very workable.  The pickups are split amongst three strings each, and there is enough of a spread between poles to allow for a reasonable number of coil turns so active electronics won't be required.  The configuration allows for a hum-cancelling config in certain combinations as well.  I showed direct magnets in my sketch at the neck and bridge, but there is nothing that says there can't be a kind of interrupted blade pole (shaped sort of like the side shields you see on a Fender Jaguar, only cut deeper).  If you really don't want the neck/bridge sections, they could be eliminated and the space used to stretch out the "X".  I only went with what I have here because I felt it gave a greater number of combinations.  

The third sketch, I feel, is the best compromise for the idea that I have come up with so far.  I feel it will give a pretty good usable number of combinations.  The part I need to know from you is more about how you envision the switching functions.  I feel it is critical to rig the switching to something that makes sense to you - the end-user.   

One thing that I have not shown:  I would like to see the addition of a piezoelectric pickup into the aluminum box near the neck joint.  This would allow adding in more sound of the wood.  Frank Zappa did this many decades ago, and he claimed it worked well for him.  
Again, these are all just rough initial ideas.  Any thoughts are welcome.  Keep in mind that for a magnetic pickup to work, you need a magnetic field source and a coil of wire with enough turns to generate the output level you require.  After that, almost anything is possible.   

Note that the actual pickup poles could be shrouded with a plastic cover plate over the aluminum box top, giving the overall appearance much closer to what you have sketched out in your design.  As long as the cover material is non-ferrous, it will be invisible to the magnetic field.   

Hope you enjoy, 

 Thank you Ben, let's pursue the thread under this post - and any comment is welcome.

Friday, May 17, 2013

more sketches

Music of the week: I listened to many things and nothing really stood out, but I notice that more and more of my Facebook friends listen to and post about folk and neo-folk music, mostly guitar based... I wouldn't listen to this spontaneously but I often find that there are really good stuff there. 
I happen to have been a child in the 1970s and back then I was listening to French traditional music, some of it I still play for my kid, for its timeless quality. It was probably the starting point of my later taste for medieval / renaissance / baroque music.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mellifluous Pussy MP-1 review

When Erik from Inductor Guitars proposed me to review his MP-1 pedal, I was interested right away because it had already attracted my attention last year when Fuzz Box Girl released a video about it. But I'll have to do the review my own way because 1. my technical knowledge is quite limited, so I can just talk about what I hear and feel, and 2. most of the guitar sound description terminology is undecipherable to me, and I cannot really use any of the colorful adjectives you find in catalogues and magazines...

The astutely named Mellifluous Pussy MP-1 is Inductor Guitars's take on the Interfax Harmonic Percolator, a fuzz pedal from the 1970s. It just has 1 volume knob and 2 switches - that makes 4 positions. I tried it with my Rickenbacker 620 and an Eastwood Airline 3P, plugged in a Marshall stack.

The thing I noticed right away and highly enjoyed is that the MP-1 combines a super sharp bite with a warm sound, with quite present medium - that is probably what makes the harmonics sing. The sound is particularly rich with a single coil guitar, with humbuckers you can still go for a good fat sound with bigger low but it's less special. In its way it respects more the original sound of the pickups than many  distortion pedals I use, not that it matters much to me but people who play instruments for their specific sound will be interested.

I also like the velcro-ish quality of the MP-1 - it's not going synth but it's in the edge, staying on the enjoyable side (I mean it  stops before you feel your teeth are about to fall), so the sound is quite unique without having to be freakish to stand out of the lot. Since you don't have many controls, you have to like the sound how it is - still the pedal reacts quite well to the volume knob of a a guitar -, I mostly played the cleaner position, perfect for super chopping rhythm, something I have no equivalent of in my other pedals.

Here I made a rough demo of the most distorted position - with my Ricken straight to the computer (I didn't put too much effort in it since I don't believe that YouTube's sound through computers' speakers make justice to any kind of sound device unless you have a real sound engineer to do the post-production!)

Monday, May 13, 2013


My friend theremist and electronicist Laurent Dailleau passed away yesterday. He was a respected musician of the experimental music scene in France, and he will be deeply regretted. In the last months he was part of a touring project recreating on stage the studio version of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (something Pink Floyd itself could never do) - he was of course in charge of the electronic sounds, all on old school analog machines. 

Laurent and I didn't meet in the flesh for many years - since I left France - but thanks to social networks we were still sharing our likes (and dislikes) about music, instruments and cooking. He was one of the few people who was savvy enough about guitars to have noticed that I was playing on an übercool ergonomic Ovation Breadwinner when everybody else in the experimental crowd thought that I was a fan of Kiss or something! He advised me when I started to use a theremin and I was quite influenced by his work in my last theremin performance. Last year he had invited me for a music retreat in his country house and I postponed going there until I have a perfect project for it - now it will never happen, sorry Laurent... 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

more sketches

Music of the week: Romano song by Lulu Rouge - trip hop comes back and strikes hard!

Monday, May 6, 2013

more sketches

Yeah, I have a scanner again! 

Music of the week: I've discovered a wonderful band called The Observatory (from Singapore) and when you buy their music (something I do advise) you have access to many online live videos that I enjoyed in the last days...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

solid body percussion guitar

This guy in France invented a cool percussion guitar system for solid body guitars, called Gperc - and he looks for crowd-funding to develop, build and sell this new instrument. Look at the video and listen to the music, it's pretty good, and if interested check (it's in French but you'll easily spot where to click to send money!)

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