Designing Eric Johnson's Pickups

MatsEriksson

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Many people on the forums are way more sensitive than I am. I’ve had most of the boutique amps, pedals, and some nice guitars. Also Tiny Terror, Blues Jr, Boss SD1, MIM Tele. I really experience only very subtle differences, and as often said, I still sound like me.

Keith Richards once said, regarding all gear head and material sport that guitar playins has turned into:

"gimme 10 minutes with any amp and I'll sound the same".
 

kafka

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Yes, speaking of this have you looked at how EJ ears looks like when they're not covered with hair?
Prominent and outstanding ears that children in school can get a lot of bullying and flak for.
Parabolic hearing.
Guess what he is hearing when cranking his 100W Marshall? Apart from getting tinnitus.

Of course he'll hear things that we mere mortals with normal physical shaped ears do not hear. Believe me everything gets exaggerated. Just cuff your hands and put them behind your ears, same thing:

screen-shot-2015-12-20-at-00-34-58.png


And if he wasn't that obsessed he would not have that signature sound of his.

I believe that, in general, vulcans generally have more acute hearing than humans.

Pass.
I’m picking up your gauntlet and handing it back to you.
No idea where I read it. Perhaps it was just a made up story that someone posted on a guitar forum.

Ding ding ding! We have a winnah!

But seriously. The guy is on video saying he can hear the difference in the output jack washer. I don't think that correcting the battery story really changes much.
 

schmee

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I think as a designer, you change the color of the baseplate and tell EJ it's a new design just for him. See how he likes it........ :eek:
 

codamedia

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Where?
Well, not any interview by him, at least, neither his roadies nor guitar technicians. I have all guitar magazines since the 80s with his interviews in. I challenge anyone and even will make a bet if you find the one where he actually said that.

May 1986.... Guitar Player Magazine. (not really, please keep reading)
A couple years ago I would have told anyone that Eric discussed batteries and cable direction in that article.

HOWEVER, upon re-opening that issue and reading that article since.... NONE OF IT IS THERE!
How can that be? Someone must have entered my home and edited that issue when I wasn't looking :p

Urban myths grow over time.... and this one started before the internet. I suspect it was an "off the cuff" comment from another player about how good Eric's ears are.... that quickly morphed into "you should hear what EJ claims". Billy Gibbons loves to stretch the truth.... let's blame him for this one :D
 

Alex W

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Over at the Les Paul Forum, I read the wise saying, "Long tenon, short tenon...once the drummer kicks in nobody cares." Having seen Eric Johnson in concert, I can attest that it would be appropriate to broaden the adage to include trem cover on vs trem cover off.
 

kennl

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Don't forget having to wire the entire recording studio with the correct "directions" of the cables.
He's an INCREDIBLE guitarist and all......but I simply don't buy it. ;)

I purchased some original raw Monster Cable from an audio store decades ago to build some patch cables. The jacket had a directional mark ->. I asked the store owner, who supervised high-end installations for studios, homes and businesses about that. He pointed out that, on a coaxial cable, if the direction of shield wrap were random - versus consistent - on all cables in the system, less than optimal noise rejection and phase coherence could result. Possibly not detectable, but possible to eliminate, by running cables in a particular direction.
 

chris m.

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I purchased some original raw Monster Cable from an audio store decades ago to build some patch cables. The jacket had a directional mark ->. I asked the store owner, who supervised high-end installations for studios, homes and businesses about that. He pointed out that, on a coaxial cable, if the direction of shield wrap were random - versus consistent - on all cables in the system, less than optimal noise rejection and phase coherence could result. Possibly not detectable, but possible to eliminate, by running cables in a particular direction.
The store owner was Eric Johnson's brother, right?
 

arlum

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The early EJ's, like mine, are some of the best sounding strat pickups out there. I have never thought of changing it out, but I have thought of putting them in my custom shop. Seriously, they are as boutique as you can get IMHO.

I agree with you completely but, in my case, (my EJ is from the first or second year of production), I fell in love with it because it was the lightest solid body alder Strat I'd ever found and remains so. The entire neck with the set back head stock, (no string trees), neck back shape, radius, frets and quartersawn maple was / is shear perfection. The bridge block and electronics setup is again excellent. The pickups were never the reason I purchased it. I normally don't want to own signature guitars because I want the guitar to reflect me rather than someone else. That said .... all those original reasons for my purchase were just too good to pass up. I kept the EJ stock for the first dozen years I owned it and then decided to make it mine. The simplest changes were cosmetic. My EJ was white and had the quickly aging / yellowing pick guard and white knobs. I switched these out for a black pearl pick guard and a set of Q-Parts black UFO knobs with purple abalone top inserts. I replaced the trem arm with a custom model than has a sharp bend in it that moved it to my preferred trem to hand position while also keeping it below the strings when in use. I, as I've done on all the Strats I've owned, replaced the bridge saddles with black Graph Tech saddles. I tried these back in the early 2000s and they've become a standard for me. They do slightly darken the tone but I like them. Lastly, I needed to get my own tone coming out of the guitar so I replaced the EJ pickup set with my own choice for each position. A Klein '63 Epic series in the neck, a Klein '57 Epic series in the middle and a Klein S-8, (Klein's Gilmour), in the bridge.

Now my EJ has all the stuff that made me love it at first play but has a solid stamp of me when I play it. I, of course, have not discarded or sold any of the original parts. They'll stay where I can lay my hands on them when and if I choose to use them in another build. I have no plans on changing anything on my EJ / Rick guitar. I think it's the best Strat I've ever owned and will own it for the rest of my life. Note* Klein pickups are mega fantastic perfection. Note** When you order Klein pickups from three different series your wait time will run around two months. As I wrote to Mr. Klein ..... The '63, '57 and S-8 sets are all great but I have a need to be different so I wanted to buy my favorite for each position and that required one from each set. Hmmm. Possibly during one of our meetings a bit of Eric Johnson rubbed off on me. I'm starting to wonder. I don't have any active electronics in / on the Strat but maybe if I carve out a battery box on the back of the instrument and stick an EverReady zinc-carbon based 9v battery in it ...... well ...... hmmm.
 
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hopdybob

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I wonder why he even haven't tried that at all, such a bona-fide Hendrix aficionado that he is.

View attachment 929065
he can't because than would not be picture perfect:lol::D:lol::D:lol::D

i wonder, when you have so much things that bother you every time, you find something that is not right in you ears and has to be set to your standards, how unlucky you really are.
does he play live?
why i ask, how will he hear those little things, how will he ever have the sound he creates on albums?
i think i feel sorry for him, because all his 'stress' will rob him joy in playing
 

loudboy

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I purchased some original raw Monster Cable from an audio store decades ago to build some patch cables. The jacket had a directional mark ->. I asked the store owner, who supervised high-end installations for studios, homes and businesses about that. He pointed out that, on a coaxial cable, if the direction of shield wrap were random - versus consistent - on all cables in the system, less than optimal noise rejection and phase coherence could result. Possibly not detectable, but possible to eliminate, by running cables in a particular direction.

You do realize that audio signals are AC and they go both ways, equally?

no :)
It made sense to me. After all, if you reverse wind a pickup coil, you can reduce latent noise. (RWRP wiring).

By creating a faux-humbucker, as it only works in positions 2 and 4 on a Strat. Nothing to do with directionality.
 

MatsEriksson

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May 1986.... Guitar Player Magazine. (not really, please keep reading)
A couple years ago I would have told anyone that Eric discussed batteries and cable direction in that article.

HOWEVER, upon re-opening that issue and reading that article since.... NONE OF IT IS THERE!
How can that be? Someone must have entered my home and edited that issue when I wasn't looking :p

Urban myths grow over time.... and this one started before the internet. I suspect it was an "off the cuff" comment from another player about how good Eric's ears are.... that quickly morphed into "you should hear what EJ claims". Billy Gibbons loves to stretch the truth.... let's blame him for this one :D

And he's getting the nod and fully acknowledgement from Josh Smith these days, they might start a flat earth society together, or really, flat battery society:

Skärmavbild 2021-12-16 kl. 18.25.07.png





I agree with you, because that's exactly what I started doing even some 15-20 years ago when the internet started to spread this myth. Back in my mind, I thought..."naaah...hang on, where have I read this, about batteries, it wasn't that..." and started to probe deep into my basement mothballed magazines of yore. And nope... nil..zilch... nada...the only thing I found remotely even close was hearing difference between fresh and stale batteries, but c'mon, doesn't anyone? I did know that already, and so did everyone else I knew back then and know of now. And inside the fuzz face, well he didn't even favor cheap carbon ones, he favored the slightly more stable alkaline ones. Most people I know of favors the carbon ones, see all of the video of Josh Smith, above. I haven't weedsmoked my brains out, or drank my memory away, so I knew that "hey, no...this isn't right".

I do think people started to mix up TYPE of battery with BRAND of battery. Totally apples and oranges.

today this is called fake news.
 

MatsEriksson

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Ok here's things what I read and heard (recently) him whine and bicker about, and tries to remedy, which makes any battery thing totally pededstrian. Walk in the park.

1. Batteries. fresh and stale. Yawn. You and me can hear this, if the voltage drops how it affects certain pedals. Just put them in a penlight and see how the light fades as the batteries slowly drains. But this is the most publicized myth of his. Totally not guilty himself of spreading that one, that turned from stale/fresh batteries to hearing difference between brands of batteries.

2. Chrome plugs vs Brass plugs. I do have read that he hears difference between these, and he favors chrome for chimey clean chords and strumming, and brass plugs for distorted lead tone, especially his violin sound. I certainly do that too, hearing difference, but frankly, I couldn't care less.

3. Frets direction. A fairly new one on the internet but impossible to find now. They may have retracted it? He made that some 10 years ago. Not only does he feel the difference but hears it. Agreed, I feel too, different alloys, but hearing ...? naah...my take: snake oil.

4. He has stated in interview (I can look that up and scan it for you) he hears difference between soldered and solderless plugs/cables if everything else equal. How now one can solder onto George L plugs for comparison. My verdict: snake oil.

5. Direction of cables. This is yes and no. If everything else down the chain is wired from the get go, you can hear it too, it's about letting the ground/earth go at one end. You do hear hum. Or no hum. But few other things like amps, studio consoles are wired like that. But to hear something else beyond hum, beats me. He does hum a lot live on stage when he kicks in his grand 100 W cranked plexi anyway. So why does he care? I call snake oil on this one.

6. Back plate spring cover on a strat affects tone. This is stated in interview and no myth. It might, and might not, and if so, so subtle that it is neglible and not worse, just different. On his Virgina, most recent signature, he actually kept the plate on at the back, one can wonder why he kept it this time around and not the others?

7. Washer nut as in above video. Hey, if there ever was one worth thinking "now, he's at it again, what have he been smokin'?" it's that one. Me? snake oil.

8. If he screws off the chassis of his amp heads, and removes speakers from cabinets, he keeps track of where the exact location of the screws went and the same screws must get into the same holes again. He claims hearing differences. Me? snake oil.

All the rest, pickup windings, output, and one piece necks, one piece body wood, and "bloom" inherent in wood compression on strats or other solid body guitars, we really do hear too. Not only him.

But if we make it a top priority or down on the list is what differs. Me myself can't bother because especially with distorted tube amps and electronics there's so much that changes from day to day even during hours we play, there's so much else in the way so it's kind of futile and moot to keep on sweating this small stuff. At some point it is a law of diminishing returns. And this is it. Because if he fixes this or that with the washer, something else - the gremlins of the day - gets in the way in the chain that it is impossible to do anything about and will overshadow anything above.
 
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MatsEriksson

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I believe that, in general, vulcans generally have more acute hearing than humans.
:D:lol:

Back to pickups and design them for Eric Johnson. I do think sometimes he's barking up the wrong tree, and while focusing obsessively in some small areas, he ought to have a helicopter view instead.

If I would design a single coil set for strat it would be something like this:

1. Bridge pickup slanted the other way, as if you turned it upside down and played lefty, so the high-e string pole piece ended up under the string further in. Not only that:

2. The Telecaster original has a further angled slant than the strat equivalent. You should have the slant like a reverse slant telecaster bridge pickup. 15 degrees or whatever it is.

3. Which will have to make them longer, almost for 7 string guitar. And I am adamant about the polepiece ends up right under the string, so the string passes abote it right in the middle. For all pickups.

4. The stagger should be re-designed. The G-string pole piece should be even below flush lever with the pickup cover. The high e-string pole piece as tall as the for the D-string.

5. Output, and how hot? I like the DiMarzio HS2. Actually as it is today... but

6. Like SD 5-2 pole pieces, the 3 pieces for the spun lower strings are the Alnico which has slightly more treble and the plain string has more mid and slightly less treble. Alnico 2 and 5 in a mix.

7. Potted/Waxed.

8. Shielded with the Suhr/Ilitch Hum cancelling system, either at the backplate at the rear or something else.

9. Balance/calibrate the middle pickup to be hotter than both bridge/neck pickup combined. Because it gets in the way for Erics in-out brushing pick technique. He has said this too, that the mid pickup is too weak, and screwed further down than the others. So he very rarely uses the in between positions, 2-4 and not ever soloed the mid pickup. He either uses neck or bridge pups.

10. If possible, direct coupled with the body wood if possible, screwed down all the way to bottom and, if EJ thinks the back cover interferes with sound, what does not the pickguard do? Get rid of that and have yet another superflous thing making its impact to the sound gone.
 

hopdybob

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2. Chrome plugs vs Brass plugs. I do have read that he hears difference between these, and he favors chrome for chimey clean chords and strumming, and brass plugs for distorted lead tone, especially his violin sound. I certainly do that too, hearing difference, but frankly, I couldn't care less.
if curly cable will eat your chimey high by higher capacitance, than some plugs could do that to?
i can't find the chart anymore where a list of plugs were shown with their own value of capacitance.
the famous neutrik had a high capacitance than some other.
more plugs (read pedals) more negative effects
i thing, but i could be so wrong:rolleyes:
 




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