What makes a Charlie Christian pickup a Charlie Christian pickup?

Discussion in 'Pickups' started by SpinWheelz, Feb 24, 2009.

  1. captcoolaid

    captcoolaid Senior Member

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    Yeah it really was a great post, one of the few that really have some great info. I read this a couple years back while testing some stuff with 38 and 40 awg. This helped a lot in what I was hearing.
     
  2. icantbuyafender

    icantbuyafender Senior Member

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    I really want to put a CC pup in the neck position of my cherry 2003 melody maker.

    its got a TOM a bridge p-90 and I added a guard. Just need the CC and a toggle and Ive got a John Lennon esque rig going. Hell, even just a topmount immitation one would be cool. Just for the work i do with a mellow rock outfit around the blues bars. I can play it and sport my army green jacket too!!
     
  3. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    I ordered a few pounds of 40AWG and 38AWG last night. :naughty:

    I don't expect to be building actual CC pickups, but I do like the results I got comparing 41 against 42, so why not take it further in light of how great these pickups sound?
     
  4. captcoolaid

    captcoolaid Senior Member

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    James do a bucker with an offset of only 100 turns for the bridge. You should be able to pound around 4k turns maybe a bit less per bobbin. Should read around 5k or so if i remember right. Very clear and crisp.
     
  5. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    My thick wire showed up. :naughty:
    [​IMG]

    Are you saying an offset of only 100 turns just so that I can physically get as much as possible on the bobbins? I generally like a greater offset than that on most buckers.

    I'm thinking about using taller bobbins on a humbucker for this wire to allow me to keep the turn counts up. I know that will brighten the coils up a bit too. Fine by me. ;)

    I have some single coil designs I want to try the thicker wire on too too. That 38AWG should be nice.
     
  6. captcoolaid

    captcoolaid Senior Member

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    The tone of the wire is much different than what we normally use. It is much brighter as heard through some of the old CC pups. balance is your best friend with these.
     
  7. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    ok, gotcha.

    From what I've played with so far, I'm finding more headroom and much cleaner bass response. ...the cleaner bass response could be attributed to upper harmonics of low notes though. I haven't graphed out a response spectrum or anything yet.
     
  8. geetarfreek82

    geetarfreek82 Senior Member

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    James! The Buckhummers would probably sound AWESOME with some 40 or even 38 AWG wire! :dude:
     
    1 person likes this.
  9. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    I fully agree, Noah. The Buckhummers are evolving in a few ways! I'll PM you, as to not detract here, but one change will be heavier wire.
     
  10. lifelonggrtgeek

    lifelonggrtgeek Junior Member

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    Hey All;

    I am a new member from the mid-west, soon to be back to the Denver area. I recently acquired a fantastic collection of some rare vintage parts.

    I am mainly hoping to get some more information on a pickup that I have, and perhaps reviving this thread will help me. I was told that it is an original Charlie Christian from the 30's or 40's (at least part of it anyway). The previous owner is not certain if all or some of it is original.

    The pickup just feels and looks old. The wires are very delicate, and there is some cloth-ish material around the bobbin portion.

    I have not been able to determine exactly what I have. I have emailed Gibson and Curtis Novak, but haven't been able to come up with any information yet. I'm hoping you all can help me. I've attached some pics so that you can see what I have.

    Feel free to PM me as well.

    Thanks in advance to anyone who can help!!
     

    Attached Files:

  11. Bluefox

    Bluefox Senior Member

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    it looks like a Bar Gibson pickup for Lap Steel. Those made for Lap Steel, compared to the Charlie Christian for guitar, had the shorter magnets.
    Since we revive this thread I may add some information about the development of those pickups.
    The first version, made from 1935 to 1938 had AWG 38 wire wound to have about 2,5k/3,5k DCR.
    In 1938 Gibson started experimenting with wire gauge and switched for a while to AWG 41 and the latest examples were about 9000 turns of AWG 42.
    The one with a huge magnet under the bobbin as in the picture posted in the previous page was one of the later models for Lap Steel.
    The 70s Gibson replicas used AWG 42, I think, as the few I had the chance to check had a DCR of about 7,5k.
    As for the Charlie Christian sound, I guess he had one with AWG 38 in his first ES 150, but when he acquired the ES 250 probably it had the AWG 41 or 42 version, as it was a 1939 model.
    I tried to compare the recordings from the different years, but is impossible to get any conclusion without being sure exactly which guitar he used on any specific recording session. Is also difficult to say how much the amp coored the tone, as unfortunately I never had the chance to try one of those early Gibson amps.
    I tried a Lollar CC in my Telecaster and I must say he comes fairly close, with AWG 38 and A2 magnets, even if I may try to replace the magnets with A3 just to see if I can get still closer.
    I love those charlie Christian pickups and whenever James would come up with something with AWG 38 I would be really interested.
     
  12. JimR56

    JimR56 Junior Member

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    Hi guys, I bookmarked this thread in 2009, but hadn't been back to read it for a few years (never became a member of this forum). I just registered so that I could post in this thread. I don't have as much technical knowledge about pickups as some of you guys, but I hope my contributions here will be worthwhile in perhaps a different way.

    First of all, when I started listening to jazz in the 1970's, although I had owned or heard recordings by Charlie Christian, T-Bone, Oscar Moore, Barney Kessel, Jimmy Raney, and a few of the other guys who were using CC's in the 40's and 50's, it wasn't until I heard a jazz record called "Guitar Groove" (Jazzland; 1960) by Belgian jazz guitarist Rene' Thomas (a Jimmy Raney disciple, who also used an ES-150) that I really began to crave that tone. Thomas had a very similar playing style to that of Raney, but his attack and tone were a bit edgier... with more bite.

    [​IMG]

    Then I began to really focus on the player who got me interested in jazz in the first place- Kenny Burrell. At first, I wasn't as focused as I would later become concerning the subtleties and the evolution of his tone via the different guitars he used. I just loved his style and conception in addition to his tone, but at some point I began to notice how his tone evolved over the years. As some of you will know, he used CC's on a couple of custom Gibsons. Somewhere in the very late 50's or very early 60's, he had a 175 with a CC, but by the time he recorded his most famous album, "Midnight Blue", and really began to make a name for himself as a headliner/leader, he had a custom L5 with a CC. He of course went on to get a D'Angelico New Yorker (also a fantastic sound, with a DeArmond 1100), and later started using Super 400's, but for me, his sound with that L5/CC was the absolute pinnacle of archtop guitar tone.

    [​IMG]

    "Midnight Blue" is the album everybody knows, but he used that guitar on other recordings in that time frame (1962-65ish). One of my favorite examples was a Columbia LP called "Bluesin' Around". It was later released on a Euphoria CD titled "Moten Swing", and then again more recently on a european CD titled "The Bluesin' Around Sessions".

    [​IMG]

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU_w42AXoi4

    So, after getting on the internet circa 1995, I spent a number of years searching for details about CC pickups. It didn't take me long to realize that the details in terms of specs had not been very well documented. Some of the info in this thread had been posted in another forum many years ago, and I had saved it, but lost all of it to a hard drive crash several years ago. So I was glad to see this thread.

    Like I said, I don't have a lot of technical knowledge myself, but one thing that I had always been aware of was the fact that the (non)availability of cobalt, due to scarcity or prohibitive costs (or both), had had an important impact on the decline of the sound CC's between the 30's and the 70's reissues. I remember when the 175CC's came out, and although I never played one, it was widely reported that they didn't measure up tone-wise to vintage CC's. Anyway, I did some research on cobalt, and from what I could gather, it became very expensive largely because it was in such high demand due to being used in so many industrial applications. Back in the 80's, I was an "antiques" (actually, 1930's/40's/50's decorative arts) dealer, specializing in Art Deco. Cobalt glass and cobalt glass mirrors were a big thing, and certain types of cobalt glass carried a premium over similar pieces in other colors. I didn't fully understand why at the time, but it was the same market phenomenon at work. They stopped using cobalt to make blue glass, because it got expensive and/or scarce. At any rate, I'm putting this information out there for whatever it might be worth in terms of looking at the history and evolution of these pickups. I'd love to learn more if anybody can add more details about this.

    In terms of my own quest for tone over the years, and some of the guitars I've been fortunate enough to own... I've owned three Gibson archtops with CC's:
    An unlabeled (circa 1954, and probably an "employee guitar", according to what George Gruhn told me) ES-350N:
    [​IMG]

    1940 ES-250N:
    [​IMG]
    I bought this in 1990, and ended up selling it to a friend because I found a dream Super 400CESN that I thought I wanted more (good investment, but not a great choice tone-wise).

    For several years (late 90's, early 2000's), I was looking for another guitar with a CC. Although I came across a few nice examples of the very rare L4CC's that Gibson produced in the late 50's, I never managed to buy one. I found one L5 with a CC, but it turned out to be a modified L5C where someone had compromised the bracing when they installed the CC.

    In 2004, I found this 1966 custom ordered L5. It says "L5N" on the label, but I like to think of it as an L5CN/CC:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    It gets very close to the sound of Burrell's L5, or at least as close as I'm ever likely to get.

    Finally, I wanted to post an article that I found online many years ago...

    =====

    FOOD FOR THOUGHT: 
CHARLIE CHRISTIAN BAR PICKUPS

    by Phil Emerson of Phil's Guitars

    Have you noticed how profound the influence that the old Gibson Charlie Christian bar magnet pickup has had on tone? It is a pickup that is instantly identifiable when heard. Everybody (including me) just goes crazy for that light, but dark, warm but steely, hot but mellow tone. Warm - but clean, punchy - but transparent, it's all the above and more. (I could go on because it really is a pickup of diverse description). Isn't it curious that the greatest sounding jazz guitar pickup was developed at the very beginning of electric guitar evolution, and was in existence before 99% of the rest of of electric guitars and pickups were even developed!
    Watch this pickup start having a bigger and bigger influence on what what happens to pickups from this point on. The Golden Age of arch-top guitars is just starting. There are 100 or more luthiers making arch-tops, more and more showing up all the time. Yet no one has really tried to develop the Charlie Christian Pickup sound at all. Certain pickups have a really cool sound... the DeArmond Model 1100 "Super Chief" pickup has a punchy, clean, classic tone, and is the 2nd of the three holy tones for archtops. (The Gibson P-90 being the 3rd). Notice that all three are single coil, not humbuckers. There's something in the design of a humbucker that causes the loss of the "direction" and "transparency" of the sound. It is harder to hear the "center" of each note. With a Charlie Christian pickup, the pitch is dead on, and each note sounds separate from the other, not a muddy blending of notes together.
    The Charlie Christian pickup was used by the likes of Charlie Christian (of course!), Jimmy Raney, Barney Kessel, Dennis Budimir, Oscar Moore, Hank Garland, Kenny Burrell (on an L-5), among others. Listen to the sound these guys got. It just doesn't get any better! The DeArmond 1100 was used by Billy Bean, Billy Bauer, John Collins, Chris Flory (on an L-7). Killer sound! The P-90 was used by Herb Ellis & Jim Hall, both on ES-175's. Early on Kenny Burrell used an old blonde ES-175 with 2 P-90s. Then he had a Charlie Christian installed in the neck position for a tighter, more mid-range kind of sound than his L-5 had with the same pickup, mostly because of the shorter scale length of the neck. Hank Garland had an even tighter clean sound, because he used a Byrdland with a Charlie Christian pickup which had an even shorter neck, but the shorter the neck the harder to tune, and keep in tune.
    Physics always gets you somehow: you improve one thing and give up another, you never get it all. The single coil pickups have the sound, but they also have the buzz. Lose the buzz, e.g., humbucker, and you lose the special thing that makes the single coil so incredible. It will be interesting to see how pickups develop from now on. For years the emphasis in archtop pickups has been to lessen the buzz with a clean top end, e.g., the Johnny Smith. But now these gorgeous new archtops sound tinny and irritating by comparison to the old bar pickups. Hopefully, someone will capture the old sound as it's too important to be ignored any longer. Then the new Golden Age of archtops will be complete.
     
  13. SpareRibs

    SpareRibs Senior Member

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    Hello,
    All of the sounds people are swooning over were recorded on 78 RPM records, in a studio. To replicate the actual sound it would have to be played on a turntable, through a studio mixing board, broadcast over the airwaves, picked up through an RCA or Motorola floor model radio.
    Then it would sound Sweet !!!
     
  14. S_G_D

    S_G_D Senior Member

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    Welcome to the forum. Great post. Thanks for the contribution.
    I had forgotten about this thread. Reminded me I thought this style pickup would be interesting in a baritone.
     
  15. JimR56

    JimR56 Junior Member

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    That's only true concerning the earliest recordings mentioned in this thread (Charlie Christian himself; Oscar Moore, T-Bone and a few others). The recordings I particularly swoon over for tone are later- mostly from the 1950's and 60's, when the CC pickup was still pretty popular amongst some players.

    Thanks, it's nice to be here. Hopefully this thread will see some more action, maybe even from some of the guys who had posted here in the past...
     
  16. JimR56

    JimR56 Junior Member

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    One thing I didn't really mention is that playing style comes into play in terms of creating something special with regard to tone. One of the biggest reasons that Kenny Burrell stands out for me is the fact that he not only plays quite a few chords when he solos, but plays them with a good deal of force (attack, volume). They're accentuated even more when he plays them in higher positions on the neck, bringing out a nice treble bite to go along with the rich midrange and bass tones that he got out of his Gibsons. The Youtube link that I posted above is a great example of a tune where he made the most of this aspect of playing chords in his solos, and just KILLING it tone-wise.

    I also love the other CC players mentioned here, but many of them focused more on playing single lines when they were soloing, and the tonal variety when playing that way just isn't as notable or memorable, imo.
     

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