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Adjectives fail me…

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by LGOberean, Mar 1, 2021.

  1. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    Okay, I know that the neck pickup on a tele has been discussed countless times here on TDPRI. However, I haven’t been able to find a specific discussion of how to describe its tonal characteristics, hence this thread.

    This is not a “Strat neck pickup vs. Tele neck pickup” thread. I don’t dislike the former but I much prefer the latter.

    This is not a thread to find a vintage style Tele single coil neck pickup that I like. I’ve played quite a few Fender Teles over the last 13 years, and generally found their neck pickups to be at least serviceable.

    And I have three different brands of such neck pickups in my five teles: Wilkinson, Bill Lawrence Keystone and DiMarzio Twang King. Of those three, the Wilkinson is serviceable, the Keystone is the clearest and most articulate, and the Twang King neck is my personal favorite, being clear and articulate as well, but with a bit more color (in a good way) than the Keystone.

    And in writing that last paragraph I experienced the problem that I always have regarding tele neck pickups: describing their tonal characteristics. Like the title says, “Adjectives fail me.” How do you describe in words the tone of a Tele neck pickup (not to mention tonal characteristics in general)?

    My mind goes to Greg Kock Wildwood videos, where I’ve heard him repeatedly describe the neck pickup in a guitar that he was playing as “nice and squishy,” or, “It has that squish that I like.” Obviously, he meant that as a positive descriptor. And I’ve read others use that same adjective in a positive sense. But since synonyms for the adjective squishy are spongy, mushy and/or muddy, that doesn’t sound like a positive description to me.

    I’ve also read positive descriptions using other adjectives: throaty, woody, acoustic, full, sweet, warm, etc.

    I’m not fool enough to think that through this discussion thread we can collectively come up with a one-size-fits-all description, something 100% objective that everybody instantly recognizes as the new standard descriptor for Tele neck pickup tonal characteristics. I’m just hoping that I can clarify my own thinking on the subject, to the point that I can settle on an adjective to describe what I like, and be able to elaborate upon that adjective to clarify my perception if asked.

    So, how do you describe in words the tone of a Tele neck pickup?
     
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  2. archetype

    archetype Fiend of Leo's

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    Warm - The highs are attenuated on most Tele neck pickups. Most of them don't have the snap on top that most Tele bridge pickups have.

    Compressed - I think Koch is using "squishy" to describe the compressed tone that comes from the physics of the thing. It's a small, short coil wound full with 43 guage wire. It doesn't have the dynamic response of the bridge pickup and tends to smooth and compress the dynamics.

    Small Full - A Tele neck pickup's tone is small full. Not big full like a humbucker.

    Strat pickups can be distinctively different between types, but usually they're the same basic pickup in 3 positions. This produces 3-5 tones within a range.

    What many Tele players like is the big difference between neck and bridge tones. A Tele with a 3-way switch has 3 distinctively different tones. Each position responds differently to picking dynamics.
     
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  3. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    Hmmm...so @archetype regarding your description of "compressed" as compared to Greg Koch's "squishy," are you meaning that "compression of the dynamics" as a positive thing? Because that's the way Greg used the adjective squishy with respect the pickups he was demoing.
     
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  4. uriah1

    uriah1 Telefied Gold Supporter

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    Woofy
     
  5. pi

    pi Tele-Meister

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    He said he liked it, so yeah, it would be positive. Alternately he might have said "it has a squish that I don't like", which would be negative.

    My point being that squishy, in of itself, is neither positive or negative -- whether it's good or bad depends on the nature of the squishiness and the expectation of the player, e.g how it responds to the way he or she plays it.

    Keep in mind those Wildwood videos are trying to sell you something, and Greg Koch is a great player that makes them all sound good, and being in a sales video he would emphasize the positive and not the negative. I would take any adjectives he makes with a grain of salt.
     
  6. Guitarteach

    Guitarteach Doctor of Teleocity

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    Boring, underwhelming, mediocre... i could get a thesaurus.
     
  7. mexicanyella

    mexicanyella Friend of Leo's

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    First off, while I am not a Tele neck pickup lover, I am not here to trash this thread. I want to say thanks for posting it, because I’m interested in what others DO like about that sound.

    And right off the bat, the first response is full of well-presented, thoughtful detail. It helped me better understand (“internally define?”) my own preferences, and that’s helpful.

    Thanks to you both, and I am watching with interest.
     
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  8. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Doctor of Teleocity

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    I share your dilemma, Larry, but for ALL descriptions of musical things. I've written here before that I'm mostly in the dark when people throw any term like squishy, chimey, woody, etc etc......around. Many of you guys may understand completely with those words and what the refer to......but I'm in the dark.
     
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  9. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    A certain amount of compression is a good thing if you play finger style. The unwound strings are plucked whereas the wound strings are strummed or rolled over with the thumb. This accentuates the timber and loudness differences between the wound and unwound strings. Telecaster neck pickups go a long way to bring balance between strings. I never thought of it as compression but I plugged my Telecaster in and listened. I’m thinking that “squish” meant in a good way is probably compression, also in a good way. Finding words to describe sounds is almost impossible if you aren’t using words that describe easily recognizable sounds.
     
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  10. loopfinding

    loopfinding Friend of Leo's

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    Coming from Gibson land for most of my life, I find them “chimey” like a strat, but with less bass, less highs, so a more “mid-forward” sound than a strat. maybe that character contributes to the squish for some, but being used to a 335 neck HB, I definitely don’t find them squishy. Personally I like a strat neck much better for rock, but everything else the tele neck wins.
     
  11. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    Great...another adjective applied to tone needing qualification! :rolleyes::twisted:

    Kidding...sort of. I accept that those chiming in here will have terms that in their minds express what they're hearing. So I guess woofy says something to you about the tone.

    But it doesn't automatically bring to mind anything near what I would describe as the tone of a tele neck pickup. The bass notes being pumped out of the sound system of a passing car? Probably. A dog emitting a low, guttural growl? Possibly. A tele neck pickup? That word would have never occurred to me in this context.
     
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  12. rigatele

    rigatele Tele-Afflicted

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    Let's be clear first about which neck pickup type, brass covered or not. Because there is a world of difference right there and I see no mention of it.
     
  13. uriah1

    uriah1 Telefied Gold Supporter

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    Non articulated low artifact presence.. except for my neck pu.
     
  14. Fuelish

    Fuelish Tele-Holic

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    I've forever given up trying to describe tone of guitars/amps....and I usually don't get it when other folks use word to describe tone.....it goes beyond, is in the ear of the listener to determine.
     
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  15. kbold

    kbold Friend of Leo's

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    Well, the best I could do is to describe the sound that I want: warm and clear, without losing the highs.
    In comparison, I would want to hear more harmonics and some dirt (overdrive) from the bridge pickup.

    Some adjectives (eg woody,acoustic) tend to describe how the mid's are handled, others (eg glassy, harmonic) how the highs are handled, and others the bass (eg muddy). Glassy and muddy don't usually tend to be positive traits. Some adjectives (eg vintage, hi-fi) tend to draw users from specific genre's.

    The variability between neck pickups (manufacture, type, etc) is both a source of joy and difficulty.
     
  16. SPUDCASTER

    SPUDCASTER Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    Love my Cavalier Lion King and my Fender neck pickup in my AV58.

    Describing a sound is like trying to describe a color to someone that's never had sight.

    I grew up with the plated brass covers. Then came the nickel silver.

    Oh, that's what it's supposed to sound like.:D
     
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  17. mexicanyella

    mexicanyella Friend of Leo's

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    @JL_LI, that’s an interesting point, and makes me want to go play through a Tele neck pickup and check that effect out for myself.

    I can relate somewhat; for me pick selection is important because I want picked notes to be as close as possible in attack and timbre to fingertip-plucked notes. Having some of that effect come from a pickup configuration is not something I’d considered before.
     
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  18. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    You're right; whether squishy is considered a positive or negative description of the tonal attributes of a tele neck pickup is in the ear or the hearer. That is why I pointed out that I've heard/read it both ways.

    And I get that in the Wildwood context, Greg Koch is a hired gun, employed for the purpose of selling guitars. And yes, he could make a crappy Chinese guitar sound good, but that's beside the point.

    And that doesn't really nullify his assessment. It is well known that a Tele is his guitar of choice, so when he says a neck pickup is squishy like he likes it, he's expressing his opinion with his descriptor of choice, not (just) talking hype.
     
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  19. scottser

    scottser Friend of Leo's

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    I have a set of entwhistle pickups in mine. The neck PU is 'schmoove'.
    I can't define it, but whenever I get to play funky or bluesy riffs the neck is where it sounds best.
     
  20. fasteddie42

    fasteddie42 Tele-Afflicted

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    Warm.
     
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