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Pickup Switch, Amp Settings, Etc.

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Hey I was just wondering about a few things I either never learned or forgot from many years ago. Which pickups are for what sound? I play a Schecter Omen 6. The model where the strings come through the bridge not the body. It has two humbuckers. Three different switch positions. I know what controls what, but the middle position and neck humbucker sound the same kind of. Also. I love my Blackstar Fly 3. Small amp just to practice and play around with. What do you all like for amp settings with delay, gain, etc.?  



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Very generally, I think a bridge pickup sounds louder and brighter than a neck pickup, which tends to sound darker or fuller.  That's a very generalized statement, however, as there's an awful lot more to it -- type of pickup (humbucker, single-coil, coil-tapped, etc.), how it's wound, where it's placed, and so on.

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At one time or another I have used pretty much all the guitar effects in my recordings.  I have no specific set of effects I use.  I use what I want for the each specific song.  Songs are different, so guitar is different.  I get many different sounds from one guitar.  Single coil pickups have less output than dual coil pickups (humbuckers) and humbuckers do indeed prevent a lot of noise, but I like the brighter tone of single coil pickups.  Humbuckers have more midrange.  When I use heavy distortion its hard to tell which guitar pickup is being used.  When distortion starts to saturate you start to get the tone of the amp and effects and less the specific guitar.


All things being equal, the neck pickup should have more output.  Basic physics.  The strings vibrate much farther at the neck position and do more "work" to be converted into electricity, so the neck pickup should have more output.  The bridge pickup is going to have a brighter tone, and brighter can sometime sound louder, but if the pickups are the same, the neck provides more output. The laws of physics must be obeyed.  Speed Limit, C.

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You are somewhat on your own when it comes to settings.  If some favorite player has the same guitar and amp, you can look at how they set up their gear but that typically is for a specific situation such as recording but not playing live or vice versa.  


First, IMO you must realize an electronics chain is influenced primarily by input and output Voltages/Amperages and impedance values.  Mismatch any Voltage (or Amperage) or input/output impedance and you will change the sound, most likely for the worse.   Techs are paid to know these differences.  If you are playing - and buying - on your own, you should, IMO, spend a bit of time learning about the basic technical values of your system; https://www.google.com/search?q=how+to+understand+an+electric+guitar%2Famp+system&rlz=1CAACAJ_enUS705US705&oq=how+to+understand+an+electric+guitar%2Famp+system&aqs=chrome..69i57.14827j0j1&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8  


Unfortunately, there are far too many variables in the chain of components which make an electric guitar work to devise absolutes for any one situation.  How many pick ups you are using and in what combination will alter the final sound quality.  Each individual pick up, tone and volume/gain control, pre amp and amp circuit, effects devices, loudspeaker driver, etc all have their own sound/sound quality contribution.   The cabinet holding your loudspeaker driver controls the frequency response of the driver and how that driver outputs sound into the room.  Spending time learning how each control, each component and each piece, of "your system" changes your final sound is a part of learning how to play an electric guitar.  Since each piece has a sound, change any piece and you will change the final sound.  That makes absolutes difficult to suggest.  You need to simply learn your own gear.


IMO the most important issue to think about is the room.  As much as 90% of the final sound is controlled by the room or could be said to be the sound of the room.  


Where you locate the loudspeaker driver within the room dramatically alters the tonal balance of sound.  Place the driver close to one or more barriers (floor, walls or celing) and you will add a bump in the mid to upper bass frequencies.  Pull the cabinet out into a space away from those barriers (the worst location will be dead center in a room) and you will hear more of the designed in sound of the system.  Getting a driver up off the floor adds a tightness to the bass frequencies while also diminishing their amount to some degree.  You can use controls to add or subtract bass volume but there really aren't any controls which add tightness to the bass.  Knowing that much provides a simple start on achieving tonal balance.  


Solid state power amps are said to have tighter bass than would a tubed amplifier of equal wattage but that is really a matter of the impedance match made between the amp and the driver and how each output device clips or goes into distortion.  Good tube amps are expensive for this reason alone.  Solid state is cheap and many people think watts are cheap.  Listen to a good solid state amp and a cheap solid state amp and you may change your opinion on the value of watts.


The "best sound" IMO is built around the listening space with the realization the space changes when warm bodies fill it up.   Humans add absorption and deaden the sound.  Hard, reflective surfaces make for less intelligibility due to excessive reflected sounds arriving at the listener's ears.  Playing in a theater vs playing in a bar would probably mean you would use very different settings for each venue.  If you set your controls during a sound check for an empty venue and never change those settings, it's a good bet your audience isn't hearing the best sound.  


Tone controls are typically cut only, no boost.  Use the tone controls and, at the guitar at least, all you can do is remove/roll off frequencies.  Active circuits in pre amps and effects devices can boost those frequencies but they will also add distortion if you go too far.  


Overdrive is often desired by electric players and how you achieve that overdriven sound quality is dependent on which circuit you overdrive first.  Tubes are driven into distortion in a different manner than are solid state devices. Most tubes are said to have a soft clipping action while most solid state devices will clip hard and fast.   Soft clipping from tubes can make a tubed power amp sound more powerful than a similar wattage solid state amp.   


The volume controls on your guitar are also cut only, there are no active circuits in the guitar to boost volume.  However, if you run the guitar's vc's full out, most pick ups will have sufficient output Voltage to over drive the pre amp's input circuits.  Overdriving the pre amp sounds different than overdriving the power amp or the loudspeaker driver alone.  


Playing "clean" typically means you are not overdriving any part of the chain.  Roll your vc's off at the guitar and keep the volume control at the pre amp below 2 O'Clock, don't add any effects which might overdrive the following circuits.  That will likely give you the cleanest sound.  Add a bit of gain to add a bit of sustain but realize that sustain is actually the ringing of the circuits just prior to going into distortion.  


If that 2 O'Clock setting is not loud enough for you, buy a speaker with a higher electrical sensitivity rather than simply adding more on paper watts.  Doubling the wattage into the same speaker only gains you +3dB on average.  That's about the same as the difference between your volume control at 2 O'Clock and at 1 O'Clock.  Adding volume (SPL's) with watts alone gets expensive fast.  To double the SPL from any one speaker, you would need to buy ten times as many watts on paper.      


"Volume" and "Gain" controls are both capable of overdriving circuits which follow them in the chain.  Keep "Gain" down to a minimum while you set "Volume" controls for the loudest clean SPL you desire.  Increase the "Gain" to add overdriven distortion.  A little extra gain gives that slight addition to the sustain.  Too much extra gain and you go into all out distortion/clipping of the circuits.  




Doing so at your pre amp will overdrive the power amp which will in turn overdrive the loudspeaker driver.  Each "breaks up" in its own way.  Solid state circuits tend to break up rapidly and with less control than most tube circuits.  Part of the attraction to tubes for an electric guitarist is the controlled break up of most tubes.  Keep in mind though, one 12AX7 will distort in ways not similar to another brand of 12AX7.  Pre amp tubes distort in ways different from power output tubes.  Using tubes adds another layer of control you must learn and deal with.    


Play with your equipment while listening closely to the final sound each control gives.  It's the only way to learn what each control can achieve.  


Place your speaker cabinet deep into the corner of a room on the floor and listen to the additional bass tones and how it can muddy up the overall sound.  Then pull your cabinet out about five feet and toward the middle length of the wall.  Put it on the floor and then put it on a stand of some sort to raise it up about three feet.  You should rather easily hear a different sound as you move the driver in relation to the room barriers.  Try the speaker in a different room, a larger or smaller room or take it outside where there are no barriers.   Every move you make with the speaker cabinet should result in a different balance of sound.  


Then take all that input data and figure out what you want from your gear.  There's really no other way to learn about your system.  

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