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James Burton's out of phase in between sounds on his Tele

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Digital Larry, Dec 2, 2020.

  1. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Friend of Leo's

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    Occasionally I read something in "print", by which I mean "on the internet" that just throws me out of whack for the rest of the day.

    Witness this article wherein it is claimed:

    "One of the earliest “mods” for expanding Telecaster tones dates back to the ’60s and James Burton, who discovered the out-of-phase glories of his stock-wired, late-’50s Telecaster by accident while backing up Ricky Nelson. He found that by carefully placing the 3-way pickup selector switch between its prescribed “clicks” (similar to what Strat players did to achieve positions 2 and 4 before the 5-way Strat switch became the standard), he could coax a thin, out-of-phase sound from his Tele. You can hear this sound on many famous Ricky Nelson recordings, including Burton’s solo parts on “Travelin’ Man.”"

    https://www.premierguitar.com/artic...ickups-Tele-super-switch-series-parallel-mods

    So I'm sitting here wondering, "wait a minute, how is that possible"? I can't think of any way that a two pickup guitar with a 3 way switch delivers "in between out of phase sounds". However, rather than suggesting that the author quoted above has had his potato baking too long, I thought I'd ask our panel of experts.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2020
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  2. JRShotgun

    JRShotgun TDPRI Member

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    I am no expert but I believe the early teles wired stock were:
    Front= neck with cap. (dark)
    Middle=neck with tone.
    Rear=bridge with tone.
    I think perhaps James put his switch halfway between Middle and Rear positions resulting in an "out of phase" thin sound.
    I think all teles were originally wired that way until the mid-'60s
     
  3. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Friend of Leo's

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    Ah. So this is more or less what I (not being into vintage stuff other than, well, myself) would currently consider the stock middle position on a Tele? Upon further thought, seems not...
     
  4. Blues Twanger

    Blues Twanger Tele-Holic

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    And as on a strat, not out of phase.
     
  5. fendrguitplayr

    fendrguitplayr Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I used to do it and called it a "notched" position.
     
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  6. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Friend of Leo's

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    Well, yes and no. "Phase" is probably not the right word to use when comparing two pickups on a guitar, because there's more to it than that.
    a) magnet polarity
    b) direction of winding
    c) cancellations or enhancements of certain frequencies based on the positions of the pickups along the string, and which fret you're holding down.

    What's not clear to me now (after having learned something about vintage Tele wiring) is whether they even cared about (a) and (b) relative to the two poops since there never was any intention of the poops being used at the same time. So, maybe some were built "in phase" and some "were not"?
     
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  7. notroHnhoJ

    notroHnhoJ Tele-Meister

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    Later on I think James had a kind of early “stacked” or “dummy coil” lead pickup courtesy of Red Rhodes.
     
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  8. AAT65

    AAT65 Friend of Leo's

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    Phase is a perfectly relevant and correct word to use. There are different factors that determine which way up the signal comes out (which is why there are RWRP pickups) but you can look at the signal from each pickup simultaneously on an oscilloscope and you’ll see that they are slightly different but will very clearly be in phase (the large-scale movement goes up at the same time in both, down at the same time in both) or out of phase (when one is going up the other is going down). (Or in between if you mess about with capacitors, which is where “half out of phase” comes into the picture.)
    Whether a 1950s-wired Tele had the pickups in-phase or not is an interesting question — as you say they weren’t expected to be heard at the same time. Winding will probably have been consistent because of the way the winding machines worked, but the magnet orientation may or may not have been controlled.
    Good question for a Fender historian...
     
  9. wabashslim

    wabashslim Friend of Leo's

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    Leo wisely chose to use "make before break" switches so there wouldn't be a momentary silence when switching p'ups like there would be with "break before make" switches. So there was that little spot where you could "catch" two p'ups together. Being as how those pickups weren't originally meant to be on together it's possible they were wound out of phase, not intentionally, it's just how they came out, and maybe not all of them were. But by catching them together in that magic spot that's the sound that resulted. Later somebody, either at the factory or some players, discovered the cool in-phase sound and Fender started wiring them that way instead instead of the (dumb, IMO) forward "bass" position...besides, Leo was building actual bass guitars by that point and didn't want his Telecasters competing with them.
     
  10. Blues Twanger

    Blues Twanger Tele-Holic

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    Are there any good recordings or YouTube vids of Burton with this sound? It might be worth a listen to see if it sounds like an in between sound or truly out of phase. My ear can usually tell after many years of pickup swaps, to me there is a huge difference sonically between the strat notch positions and truly out of phase pickups.

    As others have said since the original pickups weren't intended to be used together there is a chance they would be out of phase. However knowing what I know about Leo and 50s Fender manufacturing and original strat pickups being all alike I would wager the Tele pickups were wound same direction and polarity to each other as well.
     
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  11. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Friend of Leo's

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    Well, here's the recording in question.



    IMO it sounds super-twangy, no-bassy, rather than mid-scoopy or quacky, so I guess I'll vote for this being "really out of phase".
     
  12. Blues Twanger

    Blues Twanger Tele-Holic

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    Thanks, I'll give it a listen with the good cans on when I get home later.
     
  13. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

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    This sounds plausible to me. I could imagine (I'm guessing) that they didn't pay particular attention in the factory to phase, since the pickups weren't meant to be together.

    The recording sounds pretty out of phase to me as well.
     
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  14. Blues Twanger

    Blues Twanger Tele-Holic

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    If it had something amiss from the factory but being on together wasn't intended in early wiring it wouldn't show itself in a QC run-through once assembled. It would be a cool coincidence that it ended up as his guitar though.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2020
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  15. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    My guess is that it was a middle position-- both neck and bridge-- in phase, not out of phase. Two thin single coils wired out of phase would sound horribly nasal and thin and not really be good for anything.

    Lots of people mistakenly call the 2 and 4 "quack" positions on a Strat "out of phase", but they are not out of phase. They are the two pickups in parallel, in phase. (If you wire one pickup backwards to yield out of phase you know it because it's a pretty un-useable sound when it comes to Fender single coils, IMO. In contrast, if you have some fairly beefy humbuckers then wiring them so they are out of phase when combined can yield a useful sound-- kind of single-coil-ish-- e.g. Peter Green's LP.
     
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  16. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

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    To me at least, that recording DOES sound pretty thin and nasal. Without hearing him playing each pickup by itself, it's harder to be sure, but that's my best guess.

    It's also possible he turned the amp up louder to compensate for the drop in volume from being out of phase.
     
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  17. Wildeman

    Wildeman Tele-Meister

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    This. Ive swapped pickups in telly's and had them outta phase before and it sounded just like James on that recording. The Baja has this tone available in its switching.
     
  18. wabashslim

    wabashslim Friend of Leo's

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    I put a phase switch on one of my Teles - the 52RI - and I can attest that Burton's sound is absolutely positively out of phase. I also have a 4'way series switch and OOP it sounds a a bit thicker as expected but it's just as nasal. No mistaking that sound.
     
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  19. Blues Twanger

    Blues Twanger Tele-Holic

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    Umm, it doesn't sound out of phase to me. It sounds like the lead pickup is dramatically overpowering the other, hence the brightness.

    In my opinion on a recording from that era if you had two pickups out of phase it would be so nasally and hollow there would be almost no tone left to be heard.

    I don't want to deny those who have Bajas or other modern units with phasing options or get really deep in the weeds but the OOP sound seems really pickup dependent to me. Vintage winds OOP would not sound exactly like Twisted Tele pups OOP. The cocked wah effect moves with different pickups.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2020
  20. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Friend of Leo's

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    I did put a phase reverse switch on a Yamaha SSS guitar once (just for something to do). It was on the middle pickup. With all 3 on, it sounded pretty nice, faux-acoustic mid-scoopy. M+B or M+H was super bright and harsh - but it didn't disappear. In context, for a little lead on a Ricky Nelson song? Maybe OK. Far as anything else, didn't like it. Sold that one a couple years ago.
     
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