Use for Middle Position in HHH LP

zizyphus

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Hey!

I just wanted to share a recent success I've had tinkering with one of my axes

TL;DR: put in a humbucker sized p90, did a magnet swap, and added a high pass capacitor to create a p90 'bridge' pickup tone

This guy is a second hand Chibson that I, understandably, got for dirt cheap from a buyer who bought it on eBay without understanding just how much work it would take to make it play and sound great. (Ethical considerations aside, paying a tech to do everything I had to do to it would have cost much, much more than a solidly built Epiphone would have, but for me, this purchase gave me an inexpensive and beautiful axe to experiment with – and the experiments turned out great. But that's not what this post is about... more on that later in a separate post...)

In my experiencing, a middle pickup often sounds like a poor man's neck pickup, whether you're talking about the middle pickup on a strat, or as in this case, on an LP. It just can't pull off the bright, tight sound of a bridge humbucker if you want to crank your gain, and its nod optimally positioned for those beautiful, deep, singing tones that a neck pickup provides. With this cheap HHH LP, I wanted to find a use for the middle position that would actually open up new tonal options for the guitar, rather than being semi-redundant and mostly inadequate.

With that in mind, I tried a GFS Mean 90 in the middle position. Nice! I have a Seth Lover in the neck, and a JB in the bridge, so having a p90 sound as a third option was pretty cool. The lover gives me gorgeous clean tones and smooth, vocal leads, and the JB lets me get aggressive when I want to rock. The humbucker sized p90 gave a nice additional option that was very usable, with more more bite and more edge than the ultra-smooth Lover.

Still, I found I wasn't using the Mean 90 very much. It sounded good, and different from the Seth Lover, but I found myself just choosing to use the Lover every time I was in a position to use both. Again, we have the "poor man's neck pickup" problem. At the same time, in the bridge position, while I love the JB, there are some raw, mid-gain sounds that it can't do perfectly. It's a "hot-rodded humbucker," not a "edge of breakup" type of pup. Could I find a way to fill the gap left by the JB's shortcomings with the middle position p90?

I wanted to get a raw, bridge p90 sound out of the middle position, even though it naturally sounds much more like a neck position would. I needed to tighten the bass response and add a little extra attack. There are humbucker replacement magnets all over my fridge at the moment, so I grabbed of pair of full-sized ceramic 8 bar magnets, and replaced the two, parallel, half-width p90 bar magnets in the Mean 90. This gave me a huge boost in output while staying BRIGHT and CRISP, relatively speaking. Nevertheless, there was still just too much bass to maintain clarity and tightness, and the increase in output made it too overpowering. Next, I added a 0.00022mF cap in SERIES to the tone pot for the middle pup, to serve as an aggressive bass cut that also serves to drop the output enough to balance the middle pup with its neighbors. I reversed the wiring of the 1st and 3rd lug of this tone pot, too, so it functions in reverse. That means that at 10, its at MAXIMUM bass cut, and a turning toward 0, you've DECREASED how much bass you've rolled off. This means that this pot still functions fairly intuitively – your tone gets darker as you go from 10 to 0 – but it accomplishes this by lessening the bass roll off, rather than increasing the treble roll off.

Now, I have a f#@$ing phenomenal middle pickup tone that is completely different from my bridge and neck positions! The JB gets me crunchy rock tones, the seth lover gives me beautifully smooth cleans and singing leads, and the middle "Meaner 90" gives me a bright, raw, snappy p90 growl with the single-coil sparkle that neither 'bucker can get on its own.

I highly recommend trying this!

Also, for anyone whos interested, the guitar has a 6-way Freeway toggle switch, so every pickup combination is available on tap, and each pickup is wired to a 1 Meg concentric volume/tone pot (see pic). The fourth pair of concentric pots is a spin-a-split for both the JB and the Seth Lover, and the DPDT switch you see is to reverse the phase of the p90.

All the tones on tap. ALL THE TONES.
 

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