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  1. #1

    3 pickup LP Custom questions

    It seems to me that the middle pickup selector position on the 3-humbucker-equipped Black Beauties is senseless (too strong a word perhaps?). The same or similar out of phase sound could have been achieved with two pickups ala 345, 355. What was the justification of the middle pickup on this instrument? Moreover, what was the reasoning behind wiring the instrument so that when the pickup selector is in the middle position, there is no volume (or tone) control for the middle pickup?

    Further, what modifications (not including Jimmy Page [old or new]) have players done to their 3-humbucker-equipped Les Paul Black Beauties that kept the middle pickup alive and useful?

    Here are my thoughts: Rewire the instrument so that the middle pickup is governed by the neck volume and tone controls but leave everything else the same. The neck pickup would remain under control of the neck volume and tone knobs. This would essentially make the instrument function like a 345/55. One could be playing in the middle pickup selector position and have the OOP sound with volume controls at the same level and the simply turn either volume up or down to get less OOP sound - just like on a 345/55. This makes the middle pickup somewhat independent. I wonder what a Black Beauty sounds like with only the middle pickup?

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member StSpider's Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    I think the main reason to have the custom have three pickup was to make it "special", a cooler model with more features, more refined looks and so on. Gibson had been doing so for quita a while before this actually, and kept on doing afterward (Firebird V / Firebird VII).

    I think probably the most interesting wiring would be to have three independent volumes and a master tone, with the middle pickup always on, so that you could mix it or take it out anytime, and also have it by itself. Or not have the volumes independent but have the volume knob for the middle be a push-pull so that you can take it out.

    In phase or out of phase with the others, that's a matter of taste.
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  3. #3
    Les Paul Forum Member TM1's Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    It's only magnetically out of phase and that is due to the middle pickup being in such close proximity to the neck and bridge pickups. It's like the in-between sounds on a Strat. Even though the pickups sound OOP, they are actually not. It's magnetic interference causing the OOP tone.

  4. #4
    Les Paul Forum Member mingus's Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    It wouldn't surprise me if the three-pickup LP Custom came into being at the request of the Gibson marketing department. The more pickups, the better, right? Sales of Fender Stratocasters were good and Gibson needed to have a solid body model that could match up. The sales of Les Pauls were rather weak (which is why they were later discontinued), so they kept changing/tweaking the design in hopes of improving sales. You have to remember how the late '50s was an era of futuristic/space-age designs that were somewhat excessive (tail fins anyone?), so the addition of another pickup (despite the goofy wiring/switching scheme) would have been in line with the marketing and design trends of that time.
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  5. #5
    Les Paul Forum Member TM1's Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    Quote Originally Posted by mingus View Post
    It wouldn't surprise me if the three-pickup LP Custom came into being at the request of the Gibson marketing department. The more pickups, the better, right? Sales of Fender Stratocasters were good and Gibson needed to have a solid body model that could match up. The sales of Les Pauls were rather weak (which is why they were later discontinued), so they kept changing/tweaking the design in hopes of improving sales. You have to remember how the late '50s was an era of futuristic/space-age designs that were somewhat excessive (tail fins anyone?), so the addition of another pickup (despite the goofy wiring/switching scheme) would have been in line with the marketing and design trends of that time.
    Sounds pretty right to me! Look at some of the Harmony's that had 4 pickups..
    I do really like my 3-pickup Custom with the solid Mahogany, one piece body!

  6. #6

    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    I would wire it the way I have wired vintage Strats for some customers. I call it the "Billy Squire Mod" because it was in a Vintage Guitar interview with him that he spoke of this. You wire the three way toggle as if it were a two pickup guitar, rythem, treble & both (neck & bridge) then use the neck pickup tone control as a volume for the middle pickup only. This way you can have all pickup choices by blending in the middle pickup. It works very well with Strats that still have three way switches, so I guess it would work well with a tripple pickup LP Custom!

  7. #7
    Les Paul Forum Member Ed Driscoll's Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    what modifications (not including Jimmy Page [old or new]) have players done to their 3-humbucker-equipped Les Paul Black Beauties that kept the middle pickup alive and useful?
    Jimmy's ultimate mod for his Custom, before it was stolen, was, shall we say, rather invasive.

    Incidentally, the three volume-knob, one tone knob wiring works great on my '83 Custom with three pickups. But does anybody know of a YouTube clip or MP3 where you can really hear what that original "out of phase" sound is like on a vintage Custom?

  8. #8

    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    I don't have any MP3s, but my vintage custom sounds like what TM1 said.
    The in-between strat sound, only in a PAF sort of way.

  9. #9
    Les Paul Forum Member J.D.'s Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    Quote Originally Posted by TM1 View Post
    It's only magnetically out of phase and that is due to the middle pickup being in such close proximity to the neck and bridge pickups. It's like the in-between sounds on a Strat. Even though the pickups sound OOP, they are actually not. It's magnetic interference causing the OOP tone.
    Actually in the middle position the bridge and middle pickup are in parallel, giving a similar tone to a humbucking single coil pickup. All pickups are identical and not "out of phase".

  10. #10
    Les Paul Forum Member J.D.'s Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions


  11. #11
    Les Paul Forum Member JJ Blair's Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    I love the sound of the middle and rear pickup. I would not classify it as senseless at all. Sometimes it is just the perfect sound to cut through.

  12. #12

    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    I love the sound of the middle and rear pickup. I would not classify it as senseless at all. Sometimes it is just the perfect sound to cut through.
    The lack of control of the middle pickup is senseless, the sound is awesome. I love the OOP sound.

  13. #13
    Les Paul Forum Member TM1's Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    I love mine and use the middle position alot!

  14. #14
    Les Paul Forum Member JJ Blair's Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    Quote Originally Posted by brandtkronholm View Post
    The lack of control of the middle pickup is senseless, the sound is awesome. I love the OOP sound.
    I see what you mean, as opposed to how on a Standard, you can balance the two.

  15. #15
    Les Paul Forum Member J.D.'s Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    Buy a Switchmaster.

  16. #16
    yeti
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    Quote Originally Posted by J.D. View Post
    Buy a Switchmaster.
    Now you're talking!

  17. #17
    Les Paul Forum Co-Owner TW59's Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    I like the two humbucker versions better.

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  18. #18
    Les Paul Forum Member Monroe's Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    What about the Mickey Baker wiring mod?

  19. #19
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    Well, who used or uses three pups les pauls?
    -Jimmy page which i think he said he liked the "out of phase" middle position option of his custom
    -Ace frehley Dont know if he uses his middle pup.
    -Frampton, i think his has the mid pup always on.
    -Steve clark dont know how he used it but had two so i guess he liked them
    -Mickey baker i think his was the one with one master tone and three volumes,
    I dont remember anymore at this time , i know many have used them but then they didnt keep using them.

    I am curious on what kind of pup you can put in the middle, normally they put a pup that resembles the bridge, right, or am i wrong? How would a different pup like a p94 or a wilde 6xxs series pickup (single coil, jazzmasterish or p90ish sounds) affect the tone?

  20. #20
    Les Paul Forum Member StSpider's Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    Ace typically just used the bridge pickup, most of the times the other two pickups were either dummys or not wired..I know Clapton used one for some time but I wouldn't know for how long, Keith richards too for a period, also another player known for playing a 3 pickup custom quite a bit was Danny Gatton.

    I also saw pictures of Randy Rhoads with a three pickup (vintage I think) custom.
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  21. #21
    Administrator MikeSlub's Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    I agree, the setup is goofy. I hate the middle switch position. Way too quacky for my taste. I turned the middle pickup, and to my ears it made it a bit less quacky, but I still hate the thin sound!

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  22. #22
    Administrator MikeSlub's Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    Quote Originally Posted by mingus View Post
    It wouldn't surprise me if the three-pickup LP Custom came into being at the request of the Gibson marketing department. The more pickups, the better, right? Sales of Fender Stratocasters were good and Gibson needed to have a solid body model that could match up. The sales of Les Pauls were rather weak (which is why they were later discontinued), so they kept changing/tweaking the design in hopes of improving sales. You have to remember how the late '50s was an era of futuristic/space-age designs that were somewhat excessive (tail fins anyone?), so the addition of another pickup (despite the goofy wiring/switching scheme) would have been in line with the marketing and design trends of that time.
    This makes a lot of sense, and if you think about it, with the space-age, contoured lines and body cutaway of a Strat, the Les Paul must have been perceived as an outdated, clunky looking hunk of timber in the late 50's - which probably led to the dropoff in sales.
    Mike Slubowski

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  23. #23
    Les Paul Forum Member TedB's Avatar
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    I use the center position for certain rhythm passages, and I don't find it 'quacky'. This is with Tom Holmes PAFs (1X453 - 2X450), and 50s spec wiring and components. What some describe as 'quacky' with 50 year-old guitars may be due to artifacts of age, as I'm not convinced we're hearing the same thing.

    FWIW, my 3-pickup LP Custom is my 'go to' guitar.

  24. #24

    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeSlub View Post
    I agree, the setup is goofy. I hate the middle switch position. Way too quacky for my taste. I turned the middle pickup, and to my ears it made it a bit less quacky, but I still hate the thin sound!
    When I first got mine, I felt the same way. Way to thin and quacky. I found out the middle & the bridge pickup were out of phase. I turned the magnet over in the middle pickup. Which put both pickups in phase.
    Now the guitar is very usable in the middle position. It has a strat type sound with out the thin quack.
    Last edited by retrobob; 07-08-11 at 05:02 AM.

  25. #25
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    Re: 3 pickup LP Custom questions

    I just read that Steve Clarks (def leppard) lp customs had the normal positions bridge-middle+bridge-neck but had a volume push pull that coil split both humbuckers when in the middle position, so i guess he used it.

    I dont know about electronics, can you do what brandtkronholm wrote about rewiring the instrument so that the middle pickup is governed by the neck volume and tone controls leaving everything else the same? Anybody has tried it? And in case you would want to hear the middle pup alone could you have a push pull to deactivate the bridge pickup when in the middle position?

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