Pickup Choices are Soooo Confusing!

Guitarist1983

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I've finally discovered that I don't know how to choose a bridge pickup for a Tele. It must stem from the fact that Teles are used on all styles of music, and no one bridge pickup is ideal for all styles. I have yet to find the perfect pup for me. So, if you are interested in helping a brother out: here's my story and I'll eagerly consider your suggestions.

On a tele, I play rock and pop styles of Praise&Worship, funk and R&B, too. Plenty of emphasis on gritty, growling tones. I use light and medium OD pedals, and Marshall, Fender, Vox edge of breakup style amp models. Real amps are Morgan AC20Dlx, Fender Princeton, and Silvertone Twin12. I do not play twang, jazz, or metal (though I enjoy that sound). I do not use heavy distortion or fuzz. I like the classic middle position bright sound, but want my bridge pup to have a confident voice, that can (must!) produce a convincing power chord.

I only have 3 bridge pups available, now. Jerry Donohue, Fender Noiseless N3, and the SD Jr HB 59. The 59 is too dark, the N3 is too clean, and the Donohue is a tad weaker than I'd like.

What do you suggest I try?
 

beyer160

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I'd look for an Alnico V pickup, the Donohue is A2 which doesn't have the top end bite A5 does.

The Duncan Vintage 54 and Antiquity II fit that bill, but honestly any vintage strength A5 bridge pickup will get you in that ballpark. I have a cheap GFS '50s Tele bridge pickup that sounds great.
 

dougstrum

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Tone Rider TRT2 Hot Classic is A3 and is a fit pickup.
The other bridge pickup I really like is the good old DiMarzio pre b-1.
Both are powerful pickups that still sound like a Tele.
I also have a Duncan Donahue in a Tele which sounds great; it's not as loud as the other two i named.
 

Guitarist1983

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Tone Rider TRT2 Hot Classic is A3 and is a fit pickup.
The other bridge pickup I really like is the good old DiMarzio pre b-1.
Both are powerful pickups that still sound like a Tele.
I also have a Duncan Donahue in a Tele which sounds great; it's not as loud as the other two i named.
The Tone Riders are affordable enough to try on a whim. But tone--not saving money--should not be the deciding factor (I'm such a cheapskate
💰
💰
).
 

Boreas

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I just guess, choose one, and live with it. My favorites are Fender Pure Vintage 64 Telecaster pickups. They nail down the Tele sound I prefer MOST of the time. If not, I lean over and tweak my amp.
 
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pedro58

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The irony will be that you will get a bunch of different suggestions here, all of them good and earnest. And that will muddy the waters all the more.

There are lots of good choices. But have you learned how a basic Tele "works?" You set the amp for a bright, clean neck pickup tone, and then you'll have to back the tone off when switching to the bridge pickup. Turning the volume down can have a similar effect.

That's how I do it, anyway. I still like my neck pickup to have enough top end to still cut in a mix, though. So, I have been through a couple of those in one guitar. I need the bridge to have enough push and fatness... And on and on.

Two builders that have impressed me: Cavalier and Harmonic Design. Check them out.
 

bottlenecker

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I've finally discovered that I don't know how to choose a bridge pickup for a Tele. It must stem from the fact that Teles are used on all styles of music, and no one bridge pickup is ideal for all styles. I have yet to find the perfect pup for me. So, if you are interested in helping a brother out: here's my story and I'll eagerly consider your suggestions.

On a tele, I play rock and pop styles of Praise&Worship, funk and R&B, too. Plenty of emphasis on gritty, growling tones. I use light and medium OD pedals, and Marshall, Fender, Vox edge of breakup style amp models. Real amps are Morgan AC20Dlx, Fender Princeton, and Silvertone Twin12. I do not play twang, jazz, or metal (though I enjoy that sound). I do not use heavy distortion or fuzz. I like the classic middle position bright sound, but want my bridge pup to have a confident voice, that can (must!) produce a convincing power chord.

I only have 3 bridge pups available, now. Jerry Donohue, Fender Noiseless N3, and the SD Jr HB 59. The 59 is too dark, the N3 is too clean, and the Donohue is a tad weaker than I'd like.

What do you suggest I try?

50s and 60s telecaster pickups have been used for the largest number of different styles of music, I think. And for all the sounds I like best. I realize there's a lot of variation in just 50s tele pickups, but there weren't any stacked coils, mini humbuckers, active, noiseless, or heavilly overwound pickups that only sound good for beer commercial lead playing.
I could probably use any typical traditional 50s style tele pickups and be fairly happy, even if I like some better than others.

Why I would recommend staying in the realm of traditional telecaster pickups to you:
1. You use overdrive pedals, so you don't need high output. You might not need it anyway, but with pedals I really don't see the advantage to tonally limited pickups for rock sounds.
2. You have a tone knob if you want to bleed off some treble, but that treble is good for chimey sounds if you're not into twang. Some chime coming through overdriven rock sounds makes it more interesting.
3. Traditional pickups can hum cancel in the middle position with no sacrifice to the sound.
4. And mostly, why play a telecaster if it's not going to sound like one?

Beyond my vague recommendation of traditional telecaster pickups, I'm not going to nitpick or guess which magnet you'll like, or who should wind them. I do like seymour duncan because they're consistent and their descriptions are fairly accurate, but there are lots of pickup winders out there.
 

Cali Dude

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I really like the custom shop Texas Tele pickups. I think that they might satisfy your requirements. They are bolder than standard Tele pickups, and sound like slightly hotter vintage.
 

nojazzhere

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I've finally discovered that I don't know how to choose a bridge pickup for a Tele. It must stem from the fact that Teles are used on all styles of music, and no one bridge pickup is ideal for all styles. I have yet to find the perfect pup for me. So, if you are interested in helping a brother out: here's my story and I'll eagerly consider your suggestions.

On a tele, I play rock and pop styles of Praise&Worship, funk and R&B, too. Plenty of emphasis on gritty, growling tones. I use light and medium OD pedals, and Marshall, Fender, Vox edge of breakup style amp models. Real amps are Morgan AC20Dlx, Fender Princeton, and Silvertone Twin12. I do not play twang, jazz, or metal (though I enjoy that sound). I do not use heavy distortion or fuzz. I like the classic middle position bright sound, but want my bridge pup to have a confident voice, that can (must!) produce a convincing power chord.

I only have 3 bridge pups available, now. Jerry Donohue, Fender Noiseless N3, and the SD Jr HB 59. The 59 is too dark, the N3 is too clean, and the Donohue is a tad weaker than I'd like.

What do you suggest I try?
I have one choice.....on both my Teles.....the Bootstrap Pretzel bridge. Most P-90-like Tele pickup I've ever heard or played.
That said.....most Tele bridge pickups can sound good, if you play around with the pickup height. A very small adjustment can make a big difference.
 

Endless Mike

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I've finally discovered that I don't know how to choose a bridge pickup for a Tele. It must stem from the fact that Teles are used on all styles of music, and no one bridge pickup is ideal for all styles. I have yet to find the perfect pup for me. So, if you are interested in helping a brother out: here's my story and I'll eagerly consider your suggestions.

On a tele, I play rock and pop styles of Praise&Worship, funk and R&B, too. Plenty of emphasis on gritty, growling tones. I use light and medium OD pedals, and Marshall, Fender, Vox edge of breakup style amp models. Real amps are Morgan AC20Dlx, Fender Princeton, and Silvertone Twin12. I do not play twang, jazz, or metal (though I enjoy that sound). I do not use heavy distortion or fuzz. I like the classic middle position bright sound, but want my bridge pup to have a confident voice, that can (must!) produce a convincing power chord.

I only have 3 bridge pups available, now. Jerry Donohue, Fender Noiseless N3, and the SD Jr HB 59. The 59 is too dark, the N3 is too clean, and the Donohue is a tad weaker than I'd like.

What do you suggest I try?
Have you considered trying the Cavalier pickups our own Rob D makes? I used to get option anxiety with pickups until I tried Rob's. I haven't used another brand since 2010. That's not an exaggeration. His pickups are that good. Before Rob, I think I'd tried at least one of every known brand, including most of those by SD and Dimarzio, as well as Lawrence, Tone Rider, Rio Grande and countless others.

Rob will work with you on custom winds, without any extra charge. you can get it dialed in just so, and he knows how to make it happen.
 

SPUDCASTER

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Call Rob!!

A Cavalier Nashville, Fat or Huge Lion might fit the bill. Plus, he has quite a few neck options too.

I have a Bakersfield/Fat Lion that works for me very well. You might like a tapped Nasville/Huge Lion.

I have been using Cavaliers since about 2010 just like Mike. Rob is gem to work with and his turn around time is phenomenal.

Warm enough for you down there Mike. My son lives in VanAlstyne.
 

mad dog

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What do you suggest I try?

I suggest you call Rob Distefano, Cavalier p/us. Rob understands teles, tele p/us, all the sounds you might want to get. He'll steer you to the right choice. Most important, his p/us are truly fine. There are many other good choices I'm sure. So far, to my ears, none better.
 

old soul

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Something with a low output is what I'd be sniffing out....alnico 2 or 3 most likely.
Next ones I want to try are the Wilkinson low gauss Nashville set. About $30 per set, and they're ceramic btw
 

Jakedog

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My favorite “do it all” tele bridge pickup is the SD Hot Stack Lead. It’s kinda in between a traditional Tele pickup and a P90 to my ears. It’s not as dark as a regular humbucker, but it’s got more nuts than a vintage style single coil. I’ve used them for country, blues, pop/rock, everything. It never gets muddy, but it’s not shrill. The top end is open, but not ice picky, and the lows stay nice and tight. To my ears, it’s voiced kind of mid forward, which helps with scooped amps like Fender designs.

People shy away from it because it doesn’t look traditional, but IMO it’s a highly underrated pickup.
 

Killing Floor

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First I’d say there is no best.

Then I’d email Fralin, Lollar, Bootstrap and maybe a couple others. Because the folks that have the reputation as great winders earned that by asking and listening, not by pursuing OEM contracts. I think you’ll be surprised how many pickup makers will reply or call you. Good luck.

I like Fralin stock wind but hybrid stagger to compensate. But it took me a while to figure it out. And the differences are subtle. It’s all preference.
 




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