Best rock/metal pickups?

March 19th, 2009, 07:50 PM
I am building my own custom tele. It has a peruvian mahogany body, and probably a maple neck. I play mostly rock, hard rock, and metal (Red Hot chili peppers, rage against the machine, black sabbath, etc.) What would be the best pickups for these genres? :confused:

March 20th, 2009, 05:46 AM
Sounds like a great build! There are some, but not many, hard rock guys around here (so you might not get many responses), but I'm one of them.

If it's a custom build, you're not limited to using a single coil pickup (or even a stacked pickup). So, you can choose any of the hundreds of humbuckers that are out there. An oldie but goodie, is the DiMarzio Super Distortion. It would be perfect for the stuff that you play.

If you don't want to go to a humbucker, and want to keep the single coil look, I would recommend a some sort of a stacked pickup. I have the DiMarzio Tone Zone T in one of my custom Teles, and this pickup really delivers those rock tones. It's solid throughout the upper and lower frequencies and it's never muddy. I would highly recommend it.

Good luck with the build.

Col Ronson
March 20th, 2009, 06:16 AM
Humbuckers are the best for hard rock/metal/alternative... that sort of stuff. single coils are usually for our country/blues/classic rock fans.

March 20th, 2009, 06:26 AM
I had a custom wind from Pete @ Vintage Vibe Guitars for my 72 Thinline, based off the Seymour Duncan Distortion, and I've self-proclaimed it the best rock and roll pickup I've ever used. Granted, if I could've fit a Duncan into the guitar I had without modding, I probably would've done that, but still.

So, if you know what you're looking for, you might give him a holler and have him wind you a custom. If you're going for a stock humbucker, I'd look into the Duncan Distortion. I wouldn't say it's a "metal" pickup, but for almost anything else requiring distortion, it holds its own.

On my custom tele, I had a Wolfetone Fenris put in the bridge, and that pickup is also a tone monster. There are lots of good options. The trick is to try as many as you can (if possible) before deciding.

March 20th, 2009, 07:16 AM
well, i might not be the best person to post here, cause im more of an indie rocker, but i have a friend who is in a metal band and he told me to put EMG pickups in my tele. i dont want a battery in my pickup, so im going with Nocasters myself (more for my style), but im sure EMGs would be right up your alley.

March 20th, 2009, 08:58 AM
Pete @ Vintage Vibe Guitars made a pair of P90 type pickups for me that fit on mini-humbucker frames. They sound awesome and allowed me to have the sound I wanted without having to modify the instrument! The price was very reasonable too!

If you were looking at Seymour Duncan, the obvious choice of course would be the JB Bridge pickup. It has HUGE mids that cut through the heavy gain and scooped mid amp settings often found in the music you describe. My biggest problem with the JB though, is that it doesn't sound very musical at all when played clean.

Perhaps the best compromise would be the Duncan Custom V bridge pickup. Biting, singing tone that cuts through a fair amount of gain and remains very musical for the cleaner stuff.

March 20th, 2009, 10:31 AM
EMG 60 in the neck
EMG 81 in the bridge
Make sure you do an 18V mod to the EMG. Awesome tone!!! Just check the majority of ESP/LTD guitars, they come stock with these pick ups.
Bare Knuckle pickups from England are expensive, but they're tone machine,
I'm thinking of putting the Steve Stevens model in the neck of my main Tele.
Good luck , man

March 20th, 2009, 10:41 AM
Personally, I would go with the Seymour Duncan JB/Jazz combo. One of the most versatile pickup sets I've ever heard. With a coil tap, I can play everything from Country to Heavy Metal with them. And I personally think the JB sounds pretty decent clean...

March 20th, 2009, 11:06 AM
And I personally think the JB sounds pretty decent clean...

LOL! I did too until I played the Custom V!

March 20th, 2009, 11:17 AM
I'm not into metal myself, but a lot of the guys around here who play it also claim EMG's are the way to go.

March 20th, 2009, 11:57 AM
LOL! I did too until I played the Custom V!

Hey, ignorance is bliss! (on my part, I mean.) As long as I don't try the Custom V, I'll be perfectly happy! :grin:

March 20th, 2009, 03:42 PM
You could do what I did, I fitted a Seymour Duncan Distortion Mayhem Humbucker Pickup Set
(Seymour Duncan SH6N and SH6B) to my Yamaha Tele.


In case you wonder about the color, mine are "zebra".

Don't let the name "distortion" fool you too much, though. These pickups
can be used for all kinds of music. They remain high output, though, so
if you want less breakup, just turn the gain of your amp or the volume knob
on your guitar down. The emphasis is mainly on the mids & highs but the
bass isn't too shabby either!

I just love these for all kinds Metal, that is why I bought them in the
first place. Have to admit when I play Metal I usually play the rhythm parts.
For that these pickups are realy great, imho.

If you're more into Steve Vai, Joey Satriani etc, etc, stuff you'd better ask
someone else :wink:


March 20th, 2009, 04:13 PM
I would like to stick to the classic telecaster look. would it be a good idea to go with a rock pickup in the bridge, such as the dimarzio tone zone, when i play rock and metal, and have a better pickup for clean tones on the bridge, probably stacked or single coil, and just switch back and forth from each pickup?

11 Gauge
March 20th, 2009, 04:23 PM
If routing for buckers isn't an issue, another big +1 for the JB. Tool is one of my favorite heavy bands, and I love Adam's tone. Thick and aggressive on the distorted stuff, but still plenty of complexity and treble on the cleaner stuff.

If routing for buckers is an issue, there are plenty of good rail type pickups out there. It seems that you listed more of the old school metal tones, which makes the rail types something to consider even more, if you consider the following. Dave Murray of Iron Maiden switched to Hot Rails in around 2000 or so. Either he got tired of requesting custom routed bodies from Fender, or Janick Gers turned him onto them (Janick uses JB Jrs.). And Adrian Smith has been a long time Super Distortion user, and I know that this pickup has been released as a rail T type, as well.

You didn't really mention any bands that use drop tunings or sucked out mids, so I don't know if EMG's would really suit you well. IMO, they're great for low noise, mountains of rack equipment, and so much distortion that midrange and treble complexity kind of go out the window. At least with the 81 and 85, IMO.

Also, check the specs of "signature" pickups - you will most likely find some very unorthodox pickup spec's. I love Steve Morse's distorted neck pickup tone, but never could cop it. It turns out that DiMarzio custom wound him an overwound pickup with a really weak ceramic magnet - very strange. But it really does work (for Steve, IMO)!

Perhaps two of the biggest factors with whatever you choose should be resistance to noise and proper potting. Nothing ruins those heavy tones more than a ton of hum and squealing microphonic feedback.

March 20th, 2009, 04:29 PM
(Red Hot chili peppers, rage against the machine, black sabbath, etc.) What would be the best pickups for these genres? :confused:

I'd say Seymour Duncan Custom in the bridge and a Jazz or a 59 in the neck.
Will give you the best choice of tones for the genre.