A single pickup *in the middle*: good, bad, why don't I see any around? Why?

mexicanyella

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Jan 26, 2012
Posts
4,346
Location
Troy, MO
I got a somewhat butchered early 60s Melody Maker as part of a trade once, badly routed for two humbuckers. It played nice but sounded bad to me. I tried a bunch of different pickup ideas in that thing, and one of the combinations was a single Rickenbacker Hi-Gain single coil in the middle position.

It looked really cool and if Inset my amp pretty Bright it had a nice sound for what I thought of as strummy, jangly rhythms.

I didn’t like it for riffing or crunchy rhythms much though. I guess I missed the overtones and tighter twang on the low strings. But I could see how some players might love that configuration, and the simple looks and layout were nice.
 

ScottJPatrick

Friend of Leo's
Joined
May 12, 2011
Posts
2,660
Location
Stirling, Scotland.
Does this count?

xy5jfsm9bq1lvuhzvmjm.png


Here is the 'blade' version.


gibson-ES-300-long-pu.jpg
 

Chiogtr4x

Doctor of Teleocity
Silver Supporter
Joined
Mar 29, 2007
Posts
13,987
Location
Manassas Park, VA
I really don't want a 'one pickup Stratocaster' ( and my Strat is my #1 gig electric),
but I sure do love that middle pickup alone sound, for a lot of the stuff I play:
Old school Chuck Berry/Stones R&R, any kind of blues lead or rhythm, Country/rockabilly, Surf, Jazz, even a ' Dickey Betts on a Fender sound ' - it just works!
Clean and dirty- love it. Just very expressive w/ good playing
 

Lawdawg

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Mar 13, 2018
Posts
2,276
Age
51
Location
Atlanta
Ditto @Chiogtr4x post above. The middle pickup on a strat is so underrated. Among other useful tones, it's where you get the jangle from a strat.

Another well-regarded middle pickup player is Doug Martsch of Built to Spill. I believe his primary strat doesn't even have a pickup selector -- it's just permanently set to the middle pickup.
 

Chiogtr4x

Doctor of Teleocity
Silver Supporter
Joined
Mar 29, 2007
Posts
13,987
Location
Manassas Park, VA
Ditto @Chiogtr4x post above. The middle pickup on a strat is so underrated. Among other useful tones, it's where you get the jangle from a strat.

Another well-regarded middle pickup player is Doug Martsch of Built to Spill. I believe his primary strat doesn't even have a pickup selector -- it's just permanently set to the middle pickup.

That's taking a stand!
 

39martind18

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Jul 31, 2012
Posts
3,473
Age
71
Location
Spring TX
I may be blowing patootie paste here, but I seem to recall that the neck pickup is located at a "node" position on the string vibrations, thus enhancing its tone. The bridge pickup, in its location, senses much more of the fundamentals of the vibrations, rather than overtones, thus contributing to the bright edge of its sound. A pickup in the middle would not have the depth of the neck or the bite of the bridge. Some may like this lack of character, but it leaves me a bit cold. Having owned, in my long and checkered career, several Strat-types, a Gibson ES5, a Nashville Power Tele and an Epiphone P93 Riviera, and none are now in my collection (sure wish I had that ES5 back), I've come to the conclusion I'm not really a middle pickup fan. YMMV
 

etype

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Sep 23, 2014
Posts
1,938
Location
Dallas
I may be blowing patootie paste here, but I seem to recall that the neck pickup is located at a "node" position on the string vibrations, thus enhancing its tone. The bridge pickup, in its location, senses much more of the fundamentals of the vibrations, rather than overtones, thus contributing to the bright edge of its sound. A pickup in the middle would not have the depth of the neck or the bite of the bridge. Some may like this lack of character, but it leaves me a bit cold. Having owned, in my long and checkered career, several Strat-types, a Gibson ES5, a Nashville Power Tele and an Epiphone P93 Riviera, and none are now in my collection (sure wish I had that ES5 back), I've come to the conclusion I'm not really a middle pickup fan. YMMV

I found this on "The Gear Page" Thanks Killed_by_Death!

It was a discussion about neck pickup placement. The conventional wisdom is that at the location where the 24th fret would be is ideal (due to string harmonics and fundamentals). So that would be why a middle pickup would be less than idea. But hold on! When you fret a note, that all moves, so the 24th fret is only ideal for open strings. So a middle pickup location might be better after all if you play further up the neck. Here is the quote:

The Fundamental is also known as the First Harmonic:

http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/sound/Lesson-4/Fundamental-Frequency-and-Harmonics

the middle of the string would be the first harmonic (fundamental)

1/4-way up the string is the 2nd harmonic, so 64.75cm/4 = 16.19 cm from where the string leaves the saddle to center of the pickup
(a 25.5" scale is roughly 64-3/4 cm)

Since the fundamental moves when you fret the string, the 1st harmonic (fundamental) is at the same spot (as the open-string 2nd harmonic) when you fret at the 12th fret.
 

knavel

Tele-Holic
Joined
Jul 21, 2014
Posts
746
Location
London
The only true middle pickup only guitars I have ever been aware of are those Gibson's already pictured.

My understanding was that Lennon deactivated the middle pickup in his Rickenbacker 325 because it clicked and clacked when his pick hit it. That's what I always think of when I think of "middle pickups".

I've never had middle pickup anything but a Strat, which I don't think of as a middle pick up somehow. But I have a new Rickenbacker Rose Morris 1993Plus waiting for me so maybe I'll have a view soon.
 

Obsessed

Telefied
Silver Supporter
Joined
Nov 21, 2012
Posts
30,219
Location
Montana
I would assume this was part of the evolution of the electric guitar. We players want some sort of dynamic voicing out of our guitars. Two would be better yet. Placing just one pickup in the center would be eliminating some fantastic bandwidth of the guitar’s potential voicing. Sure, the middle pick up on the strat is pretty darn sweet, but imagine what is lost without the bridge and neck positions on that strat.
 

Chart72

TDPRI Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2021
Posts
64
Age
26
Location
Maine
On my own “esquire” I have a bridge pickup only - but I scooted it towards the neck. Quite versatile and sensitive to picking location, but still lots of that tele bridge character on tap
6BCB6498-06FF-42F2-8C6D-7CE2B64627DA.jpeg
 

Willie Johnson

Friend of Leo's
Joined
May 24, 2016
Posts
2,653
Age
102
Location
Chicagoland
Was going to post that YouTube video of the dude with the Strat. The middle pickup of my Am Std Strat with first-run Fender Custom Shop pickups (just 50's, before the 'fat 50's' were available) sounds great, and is wired to bypass the tone circuit, a la JV--makes a difference.
 

PCollen

Friend of Leo's
Joined
May 7, 2010
Posts
4,125
Location
Florida
I'm intrigued.

Assuming the question regards the existence of a guitar with just one pickup, but mounted roughly halfway between the bridge and the fretboard?

I would like that myself.
A lot.

:)
Get a Nashville Tele a....
 

Larry F

Doctor of Teleocity
Vendor Member
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Posts
17,974
Location
Iowa City, IA
I have an Epiphone Les Paul Custom. Kokotele (sp?) installed a Lollar Charlie Christian pickup in between two Lollar P-90s. A varitone replaces the tone controls, while the pickups each has a volume control. Pickup selection is done with 3 mini-switches where the original pickup selector used to be. I need to post pictures of this fantastic guitar. I balance the volume controls so that one pickup is dominant and another pickup is not very loud and is used for shading the dominant pickup. I use the cc both as the dominant pickup and as a shading pickup. My general philosophy is that any one pickup can be shaded by one of the other pickups, and can shade either of the other pickups. At least, this is how I use it. I like the results a lot.

Everything is difficult for me these days, but I'll try to upload some pics later. Sounds, too.
 




Top