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what does a P-90 sound like?

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by Matt Plescher, Apr 21, 2004.

  1. Matt Plescher

    Matt Plescher Tele-Holic

    Mar 17, 2003
    West Michigan
    I haven't heard enough P-90s to get a general idea of what they sound like compared to other pickup styles. Can anyone give a general description?

    Also what ones could I seek out easily at a music store that would be worth hearing?

    Ultimately I'm thinking of this as an option for a Tele neck position.

  2. Roel from Holland

    Roel from Holland Tele-Holic

    Mar 16, 2003
    Den Haag, Nederland
    Be carefull with a P90 in the neckposition. I ordered a guitar with a Fralin P90 in the neckpostition and the pu was way too boomy (@ stagelevel) and overpowered the Suhr bridge pu. I replaced the stock P90 with a 10%-underwound Fralin which made a huge difference. I replaced the Suhr with a Fralin Steelpole 43 (which is almost a P90 shaped like a Tele pu). Now the balance is fine.
  3. beez

    beez Tele-Holic

    Dec 30, 2003
    Peoria IL
    For Rock and Roll listen to Live at Leeds by the who.
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  5. Brad

    Brad Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 17, 2003
    Tacoma, WA

    P-90's can vary depending on what you get and how you use it. The P-90's in my 1957 Les Paul Special were very sweet ( and noisy ) when played clean and lardacious, rude, crude, corpulent and nasty when cranked. I loved em! The P-90's on my recently purchased Peavey Firenza have very much surprised me with how open, spanky and articulate they are. I was certain ( I traded for it without even plugging it in ) the first thing would be an upgrade to Jason Lollar P-90's, but as little as I'll use this guitar and as good as the stock P-90's sound, I'll leave well enough alone. An added bonus these P-90's
    ( and new ones you can purchase ) are hum cancelling in the center position.

    To get back to your questions on how they sound, P-90's are kind of a cross between a PAF type humbucker and a hot Tele bridge pickup. They have a bit fatter tone than a single coil and are a bit more open and articulate than a humbucker. Check out some Beatles stuff when they used their Epiphone Casinos and early Freddie King when he used a P-90 equipped Lester. The Live at Leeds suggestion is a good one. Young Man Blues is rolling through my mind as I type! For a good idea of how they sound cranked through a Marshall, check out Mississippi Queen by Mountain....although I believe Leslie West may have been using a Sunn amp at that time. Anyway, just before the intro lick starts, you can hear the amp in the background sounding like it's about ready to explode! Don't know if the CD will have that, but the old LP and 8 Track I had....had it in spades. I used to play the intro over and over and have my friends listen! Call me crazy, but I used to love that sort of stuff.

    I personally prefer the tone of the vintage style, underwound P-90's to the "Hot" versions. The stock and underwounds are plenty hot IMO.
  6. Ringo

    Ringo Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 16, 2003
    Memphis TN
    Aerodyne Tele P90 neck

    I just got one of the MIJ Aerodyne Teles, has a Fender P90 in the neck, now I don't know anything about how "hot" it is, but it sure sounds great! great clean tones and nice OD tones too, fatter than a Tele or Strat pu, but seems more articulate than a humbucker.
    My first experience owning a P90 so I can't really compare it to other P90 guitars, but this Tele does the Les Paul meets Tele tone to my ears really well.
  7. Brad

    Brad Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 17, 2003
    Tacoma, WA
    Re: Aerodyne Tele P90 neck

    Cool! They sure look nice. Glad you like it..and the tone.
  8. Ben Harmless

    Ben Harmless Friend of Leo's

    Mar 10, 2003
    Allston, Mass
    Most people don't own a New York Dolls record, but to me, Johnny Thunders is the king of P-90s. He plays 'em clean, and dirty, and his tone defines P-90s for me.

    I would describe the tone of a P-90 as being fatter than a single coil, with humbucker range output, but without the more compressed tone of a humbucker - which I think leads to the usage of the word "rude" to describe them.

    Without a doubt, my favorate pickup. I hope to sometime soon be able to afford to have USA Custom Guitars make me a Tele body with a P-90 route in the bridge. Truly my dream guitar, right next to a double cutaway Les Paul Jr. - another great P-90 guitar, and the guitar played by the late Mr. Thunders.
  9. Reno Sepulveda

    Reno Sepulveda Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 16, 2003
    Nowhere man
    Mississippi Queen!

    Leslie West played an old Les Paul Jr. with P-90s that's the best example I can think of.

    Drew Abbott of Bob Seger's Silver Bullet band also favored P-90s in his Les Pauls so The Fire Down Below is a good example as well.

    For me you get the drive of a humbucker with the pick attack of a single coil.

  10. JCollins

    JCollins Tele-Holic

    Mar 21, 2003
    Pleasanton, CA
    Leslie West's studio work with Mountain, while some of my favorite work, was not the best example of a distorted P90. Listen to the live portion of Mountain's Flowers of Evil album for what I think are Leslie's best tones. That's where you'll hear P90 tones that melt in your mouth.
  11. Reno Sepulveda

    Reno Sepulveda Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 16, 2003
    Nowhere man
    Re: P-90's

    Agree on all counts.

  12. Roger Alburn

    Roger Alburn Tele-Meister

    Mar 17, 2003
    West Chester, PA
    George Thorogood

    The AOR chestnuts "Bad to the Bone" "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" and "Who Do You Love" are good examples of the P-90 cranked tone as per George's dog ear-equipped ES-137.
  13. frakenstrat

    frakenstrat Tele-Holic

    Mar 26, 2003
    lardtown california
    saw george live, GREAT tone!

    like a couple people said go for astock or underwound p90. it will sound great in the rhythm position. never really cared for the stock tele neck pup.

    (don't get the duncan "custom" p90, that is the hottest pup i've ever played. seriously it is crazy!)
  14. Billy Claire

    Billy Claire Tele-Holic

    Mar 20, 2003
    Outside Boston MA
    wow.... I just realised how many of my favorite solos and songs are P-90. Live at Leeds is just amazing- Leslie West's tone on Theme for an Imaginary Western is just amazing and is one of the reasons I play guitar...

    there's a couple of songs on Johnny A.'s first CD Sometime Tuesday Morning that are his ES295 that is P-90's and flatwound strings. Great tone as well...
  15. telemonian

    telemonian Tele-Meister


    Exactly, or Lesley West and Mountain at Woodstock. The "boomy" neck position issue is a function of the pickup height, P-90s work better backed way off.

    As you can tell I'm a big P-90 fan, I think they are the original R&R, Jazz, Blues tone. Unfortunately they also make very good radio antennas.
  16. TheBenLow

    TheBenLow Tele-Meister

    Feb 4, 2004
    Lou Reed's 'Rock And Roll Animal'

    That's another deifinitive P-90 record. Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter's Les Paul Juniors were cranking on that one. Mick Raplh's from Bad Company's another great p-90/LP Junior player though Johnny Thunders is the definitive one for me as well.

    My buddy's got a late 60 SG with P-90s, just like Pete's at 'Live At Leeds,' and boy does she sing.
  17. dafack01

    dafack01 Tele-Meister

    Mar 30, 2004
    Every time you see a Chevy truck commercial, you're hearing a P90. That slide guitar solo was done on a TV Yellow Les Paul Junior (Late 50's I think- it was a singlecut).

    Oh yeah, Live at Leeds is KILLER!!!!!!!!!

    I've got to get me a '56 ri Les Paul Goldtop one of these days. I was thinking about a humbucker model, but my Teles have gotten me so addicted to the single coil sound. They just sound so pure compared to buckers, and P90s are a lot RUDER than Fender singlecoils. I've got a really hot Voodoo Broadcaster pup clone wound to between 9k-9.5k and even it sounds very clean and chirpy when dug into when soloing. P90s have a HUGE crunchy midrange and FAT, SEARING highs. Everyone needs a good P90 guitar!
  18. dafack01

    dafack01 Tele-Meister

    Mar 30, 2004
    Re: P-90s

    That's funny!!!! :lol:
  19. mr tom

    mr tom Tele-Meister

    Mar 17, 2003
    Michigan, USA
    Re: P-90s

    Glad to see so many folks namecheck one of my main men, Johnny Thunders!

    Leslie West and Who/Live @ Leeds are good examples.

    How about 40s-50s T-Bone Walker, and the old Chuck Berry sides?
  20. Tele295

    Tele295 Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 16, 2003
    Ventura CA
    Scotty Moore on the early Elvis records, everything prior to 57 or so is P-90s or the Alnico V variant. "That's All Right Mama" is a benchmark P90 tone for me.

    Carl Perkins' orginal version of "Blue Suede Shoes" is a 54 goldtop with P90s. Most if not all of his Sun Records are P90s in one guitar or another.

    Bill Haley records were mostly P-90s. "Rock Around the Clock" with solo by Danny Cedrone, all the later 50's stuff with Fran Beecher on a '54 Les Paul Custom

    Neil Young still has a P90 in his main Les Paul.

    Early Kenny Burrell and some early Wes Montgomery.

    Danny Gatton has a bright P90 tone (sounds direct to me) on Cherokee, Homage to Charlie Christian, Sun Medley, and the entire "New York Stories" jazz record. Some Johnny Seaton and Robert Gordon material as well.

    I thiknk some early Santana was a P90 equipped Les Paul Special. Maybe the guitar he used at Woodstock?
  21. eggman

    eggman Friend of Leo's

    Mar 18, 2003
    Bossier City,La.
    P-90 sound?


    My favorite P-90 song is "Get Off My Cloud" by the Rolling Stones!Talk about nasty and raunchy! Another popular P-90 radio hit is: "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult. Also, much of the guitar parts on Thin Lizzy's songs is a P-90 equipped guitar, as is "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

    P-90' s are thick, but have pleasing definition to compliment it's beefy tone. For me, P-90's render PAF's obsolete! (I'll brace myself for the onslaught of angry replies of those who love humbuckers! Sorry if I'm lacking for tact). As you may have noticed, I'm really fond of P-90's!
    My old Epiphone Casino had a pair and the Beatles and the Rolling Stones' records have P-90's (through the Epiphone Casino) all over them. The short little single note licks on "Ticket To Ride" are played by Paul on his Epiphone Casino (P-90's), the bit after John sings" right by ME".
    On the negative side (even P-90's have shortcomings!) they are a bit dark and do better on Maple or Ash bodies (my Mahogany LP Sp not withstanding), and of course they are known for 60 cycle hum. Small price to pay..
    Good luck, let me know how it turns out.

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