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Option Paralysis: Bridge Pickups

Option Paralysis: Bridge Pickups

It's 2015, and guitar shit is everywhere.  I mean there are seemingly endless amounts of guitars and amps, modellers and software, parts and accessories, pedals and toys; the list just goes on and on.  This particularly seems to apply to two things: Pickups and overdrive pedals.  While we'll save the overdrive pedal talk for another day, we can indeed begin to tackle the issue of having TOO many pickups to choose from.  WAY too many. How many times can you wind a pickup?  Does it really even change the tone?!

You would think the pickup battle would be simple, like something like active vs. passive and that's it right?  Far from it! 

It's more like trying to shop for salad dressing.  There is WAY too much to choose from, you'll waste more time thinking about it, then actually buying.

This is true especially in the passive community.  With a seemingly endless amount of companies offering their twist on the latest and greatest pickup design, the options are just insane.  It starts to sound like a broken record.  One company claims to own the technology and machines that made the classic pickups of the 50s, while another company boasts its ability to create windings that are tighter and more precise than the old days.  Who has the right choice and how could it benefit YOU?  Worst off, if you just stick to your favorite brand, chances are that brand has a billion different options!

Installing pickups sucks, and lord knows, us mortal guitarists don't have the budget to try everything, so thanks to the internet, it is now easier than ever to figure out what we pickup will give us our dream tone.

Let's be perfectly clear here; a pickup will not give you the tone in your head.  The pickups you choose are simply a small spice in your guitar tone recipe.  The guitar itself, the amp, and your hands are the most important pieces to the tone.  The guitar pick and pedals come next alongside the pickups, offering the tone subtlety.   But let us not understate the value of the guitar pickup.  Very truly, if your guitar strings were the guitar's voice, the pickups are the guitar's microphone.

Pickups come with all sorts of cool stats and titles, some offering more output or more sustain, others are less "hot", others boast pronounced midrange.  Others still have cool names like "Pegasus", "Nazgul", or "Pearly Gates".  And with all these cool names, how can we decide?  What if there was someone who had the video and audio editing skill, playing skill, and patience to professionally set up a recording rig as a control and swap in and out the entire line up of Seymour Duncan bridge pickups in a scientific fashion?  Thanks to the internet, Keith Merrow is here to do exactly this! 

Keith, the master of metal, took the unfathomable amount of time to set up a control amp and guitar that remains untouched, and swapped the bridge pickups out of the guitar's pickup cavity.  Leaving everything unchanged, Keith is able to accurately demo what each pickup sounds like.  Do you find yourself saying, "But wait!  If he records the pickups, how do I know what it sounds like in a mix?!"

Never fear, Keith did the demo with you in mind!  Keith demos the entire line up of 2015 6 string bridge pickups from Seymour Duncan and offers them back to back, same Dan Donegan style riff, same tone, in a mix, and solo.  This amazing key to tone video also has timestamps in the description so you can flip around quickly to A/B tones!

I mean, just look at this lineup of pickups and when they occur (holy soldering):

Full Shred 0:11
Distortion 1:08
Aternative 8 2:04
Nazgul 3:01
Invader 3:58
Omega 4:55
Pegasus 5:51
JB 6:48
Custom 7:45
Custom 5 8:42
EMTY 9:38
Blackout 10:35
Dave Mustaine Livewire 11:32
Dimebucker 12:28
Black winter 13:25

As Keith states, "As before, I used the same guitar, same amp tone, same mix, and same riffs. All of these pickups would most likely sound great if I were to dial in the amp according to how the pickup reacts to the guitar. But, for the sake of consistency, the amp settings are exactly the same on every clip so you can hear the tonal variations between them IN THIS GUITAR.

Keep in mind- These pickups are all going to sound different depending on the guitar and amp you're using. A pickup that sounds good (or not good) in this guitar, might sound completely different in yours. The result: a couple of the models clearly aren't a good choice for this guitar. However, a few of them compliment the guitar quite nicely . Which ones are your favorites?"

If you want my personal advice, turn the video on in the background whilst wearing good headphones.  And just zone out and listen while doing something else.  When you hear a standout pickup in the mix, go see what the pickup is you are hearing and write it down.  Then keep listening til your list is done.  Then go back and A/B from the list to narrow it down.  THEN, go listen to them solo to let your ear decide what suits your ear the best!

So go demo it out and join me in a HUGE thank you to the most amazing Keith Merrow and Seymour Duncan for making this epic video happen!  I cannot imagine the work this took, and the production value is just amazing.  It all adds up to a totally invaluable video to help you find the sound you are looking for! 

Seriously, go follow Keith for all the latest in guitar awesomeness