Tele clarity with humbucker growl?

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by digitalMagnetics, Apr 30, 2021.

  1. jonzer

    jonzer Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Jun 23, 2005
    I have a 2003 MIA with stock single coils. I play hard-driving punkish garage music that's kinda poppy. I play my guitar through a Rat into a DRRI. It growls.
    When we started recording my album, we double-tracked with the tele and my Epi Dot. For the second half of the album, we just did it all with the tele on one track. We realized it was best to keep it simple. It's thick, it's clear, it's growling.
  2. GuitarsBuicks

    GuitarsBuicks Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 16, 2020
    Somewhere between here and there
    Whenever we talk about humbuckers I always talk about the Ibanez Jet King guitars, specifically the Jet King II. The original pickups in my Jet King II are as clear as those a good Telecaster. I believe the bridge is either a Super 58 or an Axis Humbucker II. Now keep in mind that this guitar has coil-splitting, which I have posted in-depth about the possibilities...anyhow, those humbuckers are great examples of what Humbuckers can be. If you are wanting Telecaster twang from a Humbucker, those would be my recommendation.

    On the other hand if you wanted to make a Telecaster roar consider changing the pickups, I would highly recommend the Custom Shop '51 NoCaster set. Those things will compete with any humbucker any day. If you don't want to go that much you can always get a set of Bootstrap Original Recipes or the Extra crispy variant. I really like my originals, although next time I would go for the Extra crispy set.

    Sometimes it just comes down to getting different magnets in a guitar. I have noticed that Alnico 3 pickups tend to sonically act more like a humbucker than...say an Alnico 5. A lot of newer T-style guitars tend to have A5 pickups which leads to having less of that Tele growl and are usually lacking in their ability to roar. The Nocasters and the Original Recipes both have A3 pickups and have that Telecaster sound to them, as well as readily being able to get down as far as you want into the weeds, dirt, and mud.

    Just one players opinion to another...The Bootstrap pickups are only about $50 for the whole set...they are a bargain price wise, and sound wise they easily compete with the Custom Shop Nocasters in my other guitar.
  3. skunqesh

    skunqesh Tele-Holic

    May 17, 2008
    West Coast
    Not sure if it's been mentioned already, but I love the original Seth Lover designed WRHBs - for twang to roar sounds.

    There are modern versions, but spendy.

    Guitar Fetish has a "Mean 90" (P90 in a std HB shape) that has excellent twang/roar.

    I made a partscaster for my son and put one in the neck. I find I now 'borrow' his guitar frequently, just to get that sound :D
  4. TeleUpNorth

    TeleUpNorth Tele-Meister

    Jan 14, 2021
    I did a build attempting to get in the ballpark of an original WRHB after borrowing a friends ‘76 Thinline for two years. I find that A2 pickups are the closest I find. I was in budget territory and ended up building a Deluxe style. I used the GFS Surf 180. I think they get some of the humbucker compression (not an absurd amount), but have the jangle. I have plenty of pricier guitars on my wall, but I pick up the Deluxe often. Those pickups were “close enough” to that sound for me to not feel like I needed a $3500 guitar (he offered to sell it to me). Just my experience. Best of luck on your journey.

    Attached Files:

    Controller likes this.
  5. 1Mudman

    1Mudman TDPRI Member

    Dec 24, 2020
    Edmond, OK 73034
    You may want to try a Humbucker with alnico 8 ceramic magnets. They seem to be in the high gain guitars these days. You may want to try swapping different magnets in you pickups would be the most economical way to find a tone you like.
  6. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Apr 29, 2013
    near Arnold's
    Great song. Great album art. Great sound. Thanks for sharing.
    telemnemonics likes this.
  7. Ron C

    Ron C Tele-Holic

    Sep 12, 2006
    Long Island, New York
    As others have said, I recommend spending some time with an EQ pedal, plus an OD of some sort to see if that gets you to where you'd like.

    I did a lot of pickup swaps over the years as my preferences changed from thin to thick tones and back again over and over. But I'm beginning to think that I could have skipped all that if I had just gotten comfortable with an EQ pedal or two.

    Here's why I've changed my tune: In the last year I got comfortable with GarageBand and set up some patches for my archtop and Tele, nearly all based on silverface Fender emulations. I'm just stunned how much the EQ and gain adjustments can help me go from Carlton to Paisley to Page wannabe on the same bridge pickup, just by switching tracks and usually without even adding a pedal emulation to the mix.

    So, I suspect I could've covered a lot more sonic ground in my live playing days with something like 2 eq pedals, or maybe that Boss EQ-200 programmable one. Member @JL_LI has posted about that pedal.
    chris m. likes this.
  8. Doc92392

    Doc92392 TDPRI Member

    Jan 2, 2010
    Velvet Hammer VHTBX
  9. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 2, 2010
    This exactly.
    Anyone who is in the surprisingly large group of players who can't get heavy growling sounds from a stock Tele, hasn't tried hard enough.

    There are plenty of OTHER heavy growling sounds available from plenty of OTHER pedals, this is just one example.

    I think option overload is more what makes us think you need one guitar type for clearer sounds and another guitar type for heavier sounds.
    I've concluded over many years of an endless stream of guitars amps and pedals that the guitar just needs to be as clean and clear I I want to be able to go, and for less clean and less clear, there are a million circuits to add heavy and dirty to clean and clear.

    No circuity really adds clarity to pickups that lack clarity though, and pickups that are sort of in between my heaviest and lightest target sounds cannot get quite as clean and clear as if I start with a great clean clear pickup I love,then add dirt and thickness to taste as needed.

    An interesting factor to throw in the mix is the Tele (and Strat) bridge pickup angle.
    The high E string having the pickup so close to the bridge, gets a brighter thinner tone than the same notes played on the G or even B strings.
    That's why for example Rev Billy had a custom bridge plate made by Glendale, with no angle to the pickup.
    He also uses a Lil '59 Tele size HB with those bridge/ Esquires, but I find it helps a lot to eliminate that angle, then my fairly bright clear bridge pickup has similar tone on all strings, and my high E isn't overly bright in comparison.

    Many players but hot over wound bridge pickups just for that high E!
    Move the pickup further from the high E saddle and that shrillest string warms up, eliminating the need for a pickup hot enough to dull the high E tone, but also dull the rest of the strings and add mud to the bottom strings.

    Regardless of the angled bridge pickup, there are plenty of pedals and amps that deliver heavy thick sounds with a plain old stock Tele on the bridge pickup.

    A couple of years ago a new member joined up and started a thread saying you can'tplay Rock on a Tele.
    How in hell do players shop and play and use different gear without finding massive heavy Rock sounds with a Tele?
    Or listen to recorded guitar and never find heavy sounds played on a plain old Telecaster?
    Many players do choose the Tele when they want a leaner more cutting Rock sound, but so much can be done with that versatile guitar.
    MilwMark likes this.
  10. otterhound

    otterhound Poster Extraordinaire

    Dec 14, 2008
    Manheim Pa.
    My Rosewood has it . Neck/dark position and lots of amplification . Hooked to my '66 Bassman head , the fat/growl will scare anything into the weeds . You just need to feed it some juice .
    telemnemonics likes this.
  11. Socalsupermoto

    Socalsupermoto TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

    Apr 15, 2016
    Stay Classy San Diego
    Slap p90s in your guitar, or perhaps t type humbuckers? Low output humbuckers may give you what you want
  12. Willy-son

    Willy-son Tele-Meister

    Jun 23, 2011
    NJ USA
    Seymour Duncan Seth Lover. Sounds amazing. Unknown.jpeg
  13. Ian T

    Ian T Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 11, 2013
    Tampa Bay
    I have to chuckle and shake my head when I see yet another thread of somebody wanting their Tele to sound like a humbucker guitar or something else. It's seems like people are attrached to Teles for their aesthetic more than their tone. Thread after thread of people wanting that magic tele bridge PU that sounds like a humbucker. What's the point? I've been there too before wasting a grand or so on faddish boutique winds and ending up right where I started from. There is no magic pickup. All tele single coil vintage type winds can be very harsh and icepick-y. That's just the nature of the beast.

    Teles are harsh and strident, and you have to learn to work with it, and use it to your advantage. Learning how to control that icepick is what the journey is all about, at least for me. Play that bridge PU at high volume to where even moderate attach is harsh. and you'll likely start to play with a lot more control, and become more nuanced in pick attack. It has made me strive for cleanliness, better intonation, and to be a lot more sensitive in right hand.

    Just get a good vintage wind and make it work for you, that would be my advice.
    mandofrog and telemnemonics like this.
  14. BlueGillGreg

    BlueGillGreg Tele-Meister

    Jul 30, 2013
    New England
    You probably have too many good suggestions in here already.

    Have you ever split your signal and sent half through an overdrive and eq into a cranked dirty little amp and the other half unprocessed into a bigger amp set clean and bright?

    If you want to go over the top, consider wiring a Tele bridge and a low output humbucker neck to separate outputs and use two amps.
  15. beanluc

    beanluc Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 27, 2020
    California Bay Area
    There's one simple mod which I'm convinced solves the "two opposite desires" problem.

    You want clarity but also growl? But mud seems to be making it impossible when turning the tone down?

    Add a bass-cut tone control to the guitar (a la Reverend's "bass contour," G&L's "passive treble and bass," or Joe Gore's "focus knob").

    Or follow other people's suggestions of using an EQ pedal before overdrive - but I love having this control right on the guitar. My avatar pic has a three-hole Tele control plate for the third knob, as well as slightly undersized knobs, since full-size Tele knobs get a bit too crowded when there are three.

    I also have a six-way switch because the series option kicks so much awesome (this is what most people do with a 4-way, as mentioned several times).

  16. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

    Oct 22, 2006
    Marion, VA
    First step, no matter what else you do, put in a 4-way switch. You add B+N in series to what you already have. Output in the series position is +6 dB compared to the existing setup. You get a middle pickup humbucker sound which will be noise canceling if your current pickups are RWRP.

    And it's cheap. A $15 part and a half hour of bench time. Easy DIY if you can solder.
    mandofrog likes this.
  17. Jay Jernigan

    Jay Jernigan Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 11, 2013
    I have said it before and I will say it again: tone control.
    My number one play anywhere Tele has a DiMarzio Virtual Hot T (same as "Area") in the bridge. Great pickup. Sounds like a Tele when you want it to and with proper manipulation of the tone and volume it can go to BFG land in a heartbeat.
    The neck pickup is a GFS low wind mini humbucker. I have put off trying a more expensive unit because that one works very well for cleaner, jazzier tones, and that's primarily what I was after.
    The main reason it's a go anywhere guitar is that it's very quiet. I had to do some extra shielding to get it that way, but, it's there now.
    Truth: any time that 60 cycle hum is not an issue, just hand me my A3 single coil Tele and I'm a happy camper.
  18. Doctor Blue

    Doctor Blue TDPRI Member

    Sep 16, 2006
    If you can afford them, try the Jason Lollar low-wind Imperial humbuckers. They voodoo'd some single coil sparkle into a rich humbucker. If you want to keep the humbuckers you have, you could put in a treble bleed on the volume pot. It's a tiny capacitor, that stops the volume knob from sucking out all the treble when you roll it down. Sprague "Orange Drop" 0.001 capacitor on the volume pots will do it, cheap as chips. And if you don't like it, you can take 'em off and no harm done.
  19. benderb9

    benderb9 Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 3, 2011
    St Petersburg,FL
    Lots of great choices for sure.
    Maybe call Becky and Shannon Lawrence @Wilde Pick ups and describe what your looking for. Both are VERY knowledgeable and friendly and will really do their best for you. They are still making them just as Bill "THE Godfather of replacement pick ups" did. He has had a hand in more guitar electronic design than you'd believe, many patents granted, he was also a mentor to a lot of current makers. I have a bunch of guitars with different combinations in them and they're all excellent. I've put them in a lot of clients guitars and they have always been well received. They record beautifully and sound great with any pedal I've ever thrown at them whether loud or soft. My $.02 worth, P.S. they are a bargin in the booteek catagory
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