Welcome to Tone Tips Part 2! In this series, we're going to help those of you out there learn how find and create pretty much any tone imaginable! Its not as hard as you might think. It's all about learning the key players involved in tone, their signature sound and how they react when paired with each other. We're talking pickups, an instrument's body type, amps, effects and even choice in plectrum (picks)... all ingredients to a recipe where the main dish is your tone!
If any of you out there had ever had a chance to take a look at a vintage model Telecaster or Stratocaster, you might have noticed that the poles of the pickups directly below the B and high E strings are far lower than they would be on a normal model. The reason for this is because when thicker string gauges are used (.11+), the B and E strings would become far too dominant if all the pole pieces were leveled out the same. Also, Telecasters back then came with fretboards having a radius of 7.5 inches (very round) so the pickups shipped with them had to be staggered accordingly for string balance. I know what you’re thinking; pickups today also come staggered, what made these add to that vintage sound? The thicker strings mentioned were far more prevalent back then than they are today, which is why the pickups where shipped with thicker strings in mind, unlike most of today’s guitar’s which more or less conform to a more light to medium gauge (depending on the manufacturer of course). And seeing as how they were more common back then than today, you’d be correct if you guessed these strings added to the tone. This means that even if you buy vintage styled pickups, you will not get that signature vintage tone unless you get the correct gauge strings. Trust me, once you get those thicker strings in there (.11+ for me), you’ll love that thick, ballsy tone with plenty of that old school feel. Not only that, they stay in tune much better too. But don’t forget, if you are moving to a thicker set of strings, you will need to adjust the truss rod on your guitar’s neck to avoid warping and neck bending. It's not too difficult but if you are unfamiliar with the procedure, it's best you let a pro fix that up for you since excessive tightening can break the entire neck. Not hard, but messing up will break you guitar.