Thursday, 19 March 2009

A sliding pickup

There has been several attempts - by for example Westone and more recently Norton Guitars - to make a pickup that can be moved to the areas of the strings where different antinodes and their corresponding overtones are located. This gives you the sound of a neck pickup, a bridge pickup and everything in between. Though only one at a time.

The T-beam bass and the bracket for the humbucker pickup were too obvious a candidate to not trying something like this. And since I allow myself an impulsive and unstructured approach to my hobbies, I gave it a try.

The pickup bracket has nylon cable clips screwed to it. The clips grip the edge of the T-beam top flange and allows the whole thing to be slid easily along the beam. It was necessary to isolate the pickup from the vibrations of the guitar body (hence the rubber bands and foam padding). If not, the vibration characteristics of the string on the pickup's location would be hardly audible compared to the much stronger body vibrations also received by the pickup. Isolating the pickup also significantly reduced the noise of the nylon clips sliding along the T-beam... nice, because now it is possible to slide the pickup "in-tone" and hear the subtle changes of the timbre of the string.

The bracket and pickup is big and heavy, so one of the next steps will be making a sliding bracket for the much smaller between-strings pickup, which I made earlier. The small pickup should also be better at sensing a small section of the string, where the humbucker due to its length picks up a lot of vibrations - including the unwanted ones. With the big pickup, you can easily hear the difference up and down the strings, but the effect isn't exactly striking. I hope and believe that the small one will do a better job.

I had to rout a channel in the wooden sides for the nylon clips. With everything on, in the afternoon sun, it looks like this:

Thursday, 5 March 2009

A vertical pickup

I made a pickup that sits vertically between the strings. Since the bass is two stringed, the pickup picks up one string from each side. It works well, but I have to keep it towards the bridge end, otherwise the strings will hit it.

It is made from an acrylic sewing machine bobbin wound (on a sewing machine) with a very thin copper wire: 0,05 mm which is somewhere in the neighbourhood of AWG44. This wire is thin as human hair and very prone to snapping... it happened more than once, but I've learned to handle the delicate wire.

I measured the DC resistance to 2,3 Kilo Ohm. I'm not sure how much I can deduct about its impedance from that information, but it's only around one fourth of the resistance of the humbucker that I used earlier.

The center of the bobbin contains a stack of small neodymium magnet discs and iron cylinders. This allows me to vary the magnetic force by replacing an iron disc with a magnet if I want it stronger - and vice versa, of course.

I can rest my hand on the pickup while playing, but sometimes it's in my way. Still, I usually find my way around it and I really like the simplicity of having one small coil picking up both strings. I might recess it a bit into the aluminium and I might abandon it in favour of a more traditional pickup, but overall, I'm quite satisfied.

BTW, I also made two tuning screws from ordinary screws fixed in oak dowels with epoxy glue. They have just adequate friction against the fingers, but they'll have to do until I get a couple of knurled nuts. Still, compared to using a screwdriver when tuning, it's a great improvement.