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How did Leo conceive of/intend the original/vintage Tele and Strat pickups to differ?

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by RoscoeElegante, Oct 30, 2015.

  1. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    What were his ideas for each guitar's fundamental pickup design(s) and sound(s)?

    Also, how, in terms of poles, windings, pots, etc., did he materially achieve these conceptual differences?
     
  2. Derek Kiernan

    Derek Kiernan Friend of Leo's

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    A lot of his choices were about making use of what already existed in terms of his own work (both instruments and amplifiers) and buying low cost surplus for magnets and other materials. I'm a huge fan of the aesthetics with the body shape and find the necks really comfortable, but I wouldn't give tons of credit to the "design" part of his industrial design work. There's a lot of historical contingency to how well it was all able to work out, down to the wire of the era and how it easily avoided the shorts through the heat treatment process the coils demanded at the time, with results few are able to get now due to material changes and the needs of modifying production to accommodate.
     
  3. 24 track

    24 track Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    the first plank body tele style guitars were released in '52-53 intended for students you can see this by the no frills design early telecasters had the 3 pole shared saddles cost effective but an intonation nightmare on some individual guitars, there was no carving of the body at all, Leo had secured a contract for some schools to teach lap steel style playing and he supplied guitars and amps at a discount (don't forget clean country tones were huge then) that is why Leo placed a lap steel pick up in the bridge position of broadcasters, no-casters, esquires, and then tele casters. the very early ones did not have a TONE control it had a Blender circuit for both pickups.

    Strats were higher end and had a carved body of sorts and individual adjusted saddles made their appearance in '54 and once some players started to discover that you could get the in between tones off of the 3 way switch the idea of the reverse wound middle pickup came into being, he was hooked on the clean country tones of the time and listened to a lot of the musicians of the day the strat as we know it was born from a lot of their input

    the Jazz-master had the P-90 style single coil pickups to try to compete with the gibson models of the time, it wasn't until 58-59 Seth Glover released the Humbucker design Gibson pushed out the Les Paul models before the patent was realized and the PAF (patent applied for) were released this is one reason why the 58-59 les pauls are desirable to collectors also the first incarnation of the sunbursts were released close to this time as well, prior to you get any color you wanted if it was black or gold top .

    This just historical drivel don't over think it , there was a series of events technologies and component supplies, and most of the big names in guitar manufacture had an influence on each other , Les Paul using a voice coil of of an old telephone for his first pickup . Rickenbacker coming out with the first portable lap steel ( the frying pan) using a horseshoe magnet pickup etc. the real important details are the fact that guitars and components were hand made at that time not cookie cut as they are today time was spent on each instrument, however the assembly line mentality was in play here.

    hope this helps
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2015
  4. amplifiedhermit

    amplifiedhermit Tele-Meister

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    I'm curious, where did you get the info that Jazzmaster pickups were meant to compete with P-90s? That would surprise me a little since they're very different designs. P-90s were big fat single coils with high output and a bar magnet along the bottom. JM pickups were actually very similar to Strat pickups. They used AlNiCo magnets as the pole pieces and had a similar number of coil winds, its just that Strat pickups were tall and skinny and JM pickups were thin and wide. Both had relatively low output compared to P-90s.
     
  5. 24 track

    24 track Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Fender and Gibson had competition with each other even if it was in appearance and not in spec. take a look at the jazzmaster and the reversed firebird is there some similarity there in design?


    this I got from wikipedia on Jazzmasters


    The body is larger than that of other Fender guitars, requiring a more spacious guitar case. The Jazzmaster had unique wide, white "soapbar" pickups that were unlike any other single coil. Jazzmaster pickups are often confused with Gibson's P-90 pickups. Although they look similar, they are constructed differently. Whereas the polepieces of the Jazzmaster pickups are magnets, the P-90 has its magnets placed underneath the coil. The JM coil is wound flat and wide, even more so than the P-90. This is in contrast to Fender's usual tall and thin coils. This "pancake winding" gives them a warmer thicker tone without losing their single coil clarity. The Jazzmaster has a mellower, jazzier tone than the Strat, although it was not widely embraced by jazz musicians. Instead, rock guitarists adopted it for surf rock. The Ventures, The Surfaris, and The Fireballs were prominent Jazzmaster users.

    don't forget in ' 58 most people did not have a clue as to what was inside the pickup casing or the specs for each pickup, same is true for the Fender humbuckers they are offset 3 poles on each phase , gibson 6 on one side but they look similar to the layman, that was my point not the specs for each item, too close it becomes a legal issue.
     

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  6. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I don't see how that Wikipedia article says that JM pickups were to compete with P90s. That quoted bit just says they looked similar, but weren't.

    Regarding speculation on body shape similarities, don't forget how close the JM is to the Strat. It's documented (Forrest White's book, I think) that Leo wanted an offset waist, to accommodate seated players. The whole contour body idea began with the Strat. Based on what Gibson had been making to that point, the firebird looks like a 'me-too' offering to compete with the previously ridiculed upstart Fender slab body.
     
  7. 24 track

    24 track Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I AGREE WHOLE HEARTEDLY, which is my point exactly the reverse Firebird was Gibson's offering to same market share that Fender was trying develop with the Jazzmaster the pickups looked so similar that the layman would not be able to tell the difference, as I said earlier if was too close there would be legal issues.
    even down to how Fenders humbuckers resembled Seth Glovers on the outside, until you noticed the Offset screws

    why would two giant companies try to mimic each others PHYSICAL R&D (not Spec) if not for any reason but to compete for the same market share.

    Fender was a brilliant man who was always looking to come up with a new technology , point in question look at his individual saddle height adjustment for each string individually as well as string distance individually, a simple solution to a major problem for intonation,
    I cant help but feel that the fact these two pick up designs resembling each other is an R&D co-incidence, Physically (not in SPEC.) P-90's were out on early Les Paul guitars and the fact that Fender developed a SOAP-BAR PICK UP with a plastic cover ( albeit more square than a P-90) to be a co-incidence, yes the specs were different.

    and this is my only point
     
  8. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Well, we can speculate endlessly. I still feel that any copying was primarily from the Gibson side. Look at Leo. A true inventor. Happy in his lab, with his ideas, and his musicians to bounce ideas off of. So many things he did were completely original, wildly divergent from the traditional guitar industry. He was a ridiculed upstart at first. By the late '50s Gibson was certainly paying attention to the 'surprising success' of the solid body guitars that looked like firewood...

    Now it's certainly possible that cosmetic copying may have been spearheaded by Fender Sales and Don Randall. He was the aesthetic sense of the company.

    My guess. As good as any...
     
  9. chezdeluxe

    chezdeluxe Poster Extraordinaire

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    I disagree.

    The first guitar with an angled pickup.... Gibson ES300 1940-41

    The first guitar with 3 pickups .....Gibson ES 5 1949.

    Leo wasn't even the first to develop an electric bass guitar....

    "In the 1930s, musician and inventor Paul Tutmarc from Seattle, Washington, who was manufacturing lap steel guitars, developed the first electric string bass in its modern form, a fretted instrument designed to be played horizontally. The 1935 sales catalog for Tutmarc's electronic musical instrument company, Audiovox, featured his "Model 736 Bass Fiddle", a four-stringed, solid-bodied, fretted electric bass instrument with a 30 1⁄2-inch (775 mm) scale length.[8] The adoption of a "guitar" form made the instrument easier to hold and transport than any of the existing stringed bass instruments. The addition of frets enabled bassists to play in tune more easily than on acoustic or electric upright basses. Around 100 of these instruments were made during this period.

    Around 1947, Tutmarc's son, Bud, began marketing a similar bass under the Serenader brand name, prominently advertised in the nationally distributed L. D. Heater Music Company wholesale jobber catalogue of '48. However, the Tutmarc family inventions did not achieve market success."

    The headstock shape synonomous with Fender instruments was a much older European style ...Stauffer being an obvious and familiar maker and Paul Bigsby, a California contemporary of Leo Fender.
     
  10. 24 track

    24 track Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Leo was one of my hero's The man was incredibly intuitive and had a knack to find simple solutions to major problems, I cant tell you how many early Fender guitars I owned in the day there was a magic feel for each one, early pre 60's Telecasters, 60's Jaguars (X2) Bronco basses black face Supers Black face Bassman 50's, matching 2x15 cabs, and 2X12 cabs, and each one was fantastic to own. There was much more as well

    I have nothing but respect for the man, did you know his first patent he applied for was an Auto changing turntable for records, he did this right after the war but never developed it commercially because he did not think the time was right and felt no one could afford it.

    You maybe right on the copying of the designs from Gibson's side of the fence. But as I said earlier this is just historical drivel, don't over think it.
     
  11. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

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    This got far away from the OP's question. Let's bring it back. Here is what I have read in the several books:
    I think that with the telecaster he was using a pickup that was a (more or less) modified version of his lapsteel pickups – so his idea about that was either to get a similar tone to his popular lapsteels or just use proved technology.
    If I remember correctly Leo didn't saw a need to add a second pickup, this requirement came from marketing & sales. BTW the telecaster (braodcaster/esquire) was not meant to be a student model, he worked with seasoned pros like danny bryant from day one. Leo was a fan of country swing and cowboy bands so providing appropriate tones for these would likely be his idea about how his pickup sounded: clear and bright. The telecasters neck pickup tone may be (I am speculating here) the direct result of trying to replicate an archtop tone with that solid body guitar.
    Clear and bright was always his idea for amps also - so he developed them into that direction. He didn't really succeed with the tweed amps (though with 50s stage volume the pro and twin might have staid rather clear) got better with the brown and blonde combos and eventually found the "ideal" tone with his blackface designs. But that was much later than the stratocaster.
    So I think that striving for clearness and brightness was the idea for the pickups of the stratocaster. While the contours and the tremolo were based on players requirements (there seem to be a lot of exchange happening, players wanted more comfort and they wanted to mimic pedal steel licks so they could charge double for studio sessions and do double duty on stage), the adding of the third pickup again may have been a marketing decision – just to have more pickups, more versatility to get ahead of the competition (advertising lingo of this times often speaks of "Fender Firsts").
    The actual design of the pickups was "trial and error" (according to A.R. Duchossoir's The Fender Stratocaster page 6). The staggering of the pole pieces was meant to balance the output of the strings better (not a real innovation, other makers had adjustable pole pieces by the time – and the staggering works for the sizes and strings of the time while "unbalancing" what we use today). As for the actual configuration they did a lot of experimentation with Bill Carson doing a lot of guinea pigging for fender. According to Duchossoir they were experimenting a lot with wire size and the numbers of turns on the coil until they were satisfied.
    I think more brightness and clearness were Leo's ideas for the pickups – while 50s strat pickups may sound a bit too bright and weak with todays amps plugging them into a 50s tweed combo sounds just like that – if you are not playing too loud in Leo's world ;-)
     
  12. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    EVERYTHING uncle leo and company offered was based on his business's ROI. design parameters were based on cost effectiveness of materials and labor. it didn't hurt none to "borrow" from others ... lots of "others". the result became a happy accident of sorts, where being at the right place and time, having good marketing strategies, picking the right price point, and lady luck converged.

    the tele bridge pup was borrowed from the lap steel. the idea of the original single pickup tele was a lead guitar for country sounds. later, when the covered tele neck pup was added and tricked out with onboard caps, its job was in some manner to replace the upright string bass and also offer a rhythm alternative.

    strictly born from marketing brain storming, the strat just had to have 3 pickups, and wound with the ubiquitous 42 wire, which meant a bobbin larger than the tele neck pup but smaller than the tele bridge pup. this was great for the strat neck pup tone and anaemic for the strat bridge pup tone. hence, the tele had the righteous lead twang and the strat lived on the neck pup.
     
  13. tele12

    tele12 Friend of Leo's

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    Exactly. The design was based on cost. If they wanted three pickups they needed to get the cost down, no metal cover on the neck and no plate on the bridge pickup. All three pickups were the same to give him better economies of scale.
     
  14. Chewy

    Chewy Tele-Meister

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    Exactly, one design that is supposed to work equally well in all positions. Good business.
     
  15. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    yep, good business cents ... but in reality, having one exact pup design AND build function well in all 3 positions just ain't gonna happen, as well all know it didn't in the matter of output.

    if both the neck and bridge pups were raised up for that ballsy bluesy tone and good output, the bridge output was wimpy in comparison to the neck.

    reverse the above, and the neck pup lost its edge and sound more acoustic-like, whilst the bridge pup got some balls back, it still could match the output of the neck pub due to the larger excursions of the strings more mid-board.

    there's also the matter of the 2/4 (or notch) positions, where pup height of all three coils can either help or hinder the lovers of the quack tone.

    using the same bobbin and coil wire, it takes *thousands* of turns to give the bridge pup the edge over the neck pup, while allowing *both* to have some serious edge to the tone.

    it's all about compromise and personally subjective sonic tastes. :cool:
     
  16. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Yes, I was aware of that. He and Doc Kaufmann sold it for $5k to finance budding lap steel production. RCA eventually produced a very successful record changer (basically on every turntable, everywhere). They used Leo's and Doc's design, but the boys got nothing, because Leo, thinking records didn't have a bright future, decided not to pay the $30 fee, and the patent application lapsed. Leo estimated he lost $1 million in royalties. Oops!
     
  17. AJ Love

    AJ Love Friend of Leo's

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    As others have said, Leo put the first Broadcasters/Nocasters/Esquires/Telecaster in the hands of Country guitarists and looked to them for their feedback on how the guitars sounded.
     
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