Your Preference In Les Paul Neck Pickup Tone?

Classicplayer

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I realize the question revolves around the type of music you play and with what types of amps you like for that music. Is neck pup tone more important over a Les Paul bridge pickup, to you? Should the neck be warm, full, bright or thin in your assessment of what you prefer?

I never have issues when adjusting and dialing in my Lesters' bridge pickups, a few height adjustments and it’s ready, but neck pickups are not that easy to get exactly the way I think it sounds its best. By best, I mean clear, even bright, but capable of warming up with volume and tone knobs on the guitar. What is your procedure to dial in your Les Paul's neck pup for its best tone?


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MCT

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What you’re describing seems to be a common sentiment, but I’ve personally never had that problem. I generally keep the neck pickup low-ish (barely breaking the plane of the top of the mounting rings). As long as I keep the tone knobs between 5-8 and volume around 7-8 for rhythm (and higher for leads, obviously), I’m fine. On this setting, my necks are clear, crisp and “well rounded,” with a good amount of “thump” and “chug” but not terribly distorted or “woofy.” If anything, the neck gets muddier for me when I crank the tone to 10 when the volume isn’t also near 10. But then again, I play through very bright amps (Hiwatts), so muddiness is almost never a problem. In fact, it’s usually the bridge that I have to tweak more than the neck.
 

Classicplayer

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What you’re describing seems to be a common sentiment, but I’ve personally never had that problem. I generally keep the neck pickup low-ish (barely breaking the plane of the top of the mounting rings). As long as I keep the tone knobs between 5-8 and volume around 7-8 for rhythm (and higher for leads, obviously), I’m fine. On this setting, my necks are clear, crisp and “well rounded,” with a good amount of “thump” and “chug” but not terribly distorted or “woofy.” If anything, the neck gets muddier for me when I crank the tone to 10 when the volume isn’t also near 10. But then again, I play through very bright amps (Hiwatts), so muddiness is almost never a problem. In fact, it’s usually the bridge that I have to tweak more than the neck.
Thank you for this. One of my Les Pauls has a Seth Lover neck and the other Lester has a Burstbucker I. A2 magnets in both, but due to the natural differences in pots and wiring, one guitar is clear sounding on 8' and the other has to be on 9.....at least at home TV levels. Both neck pickups sound better to me with their respective tone pots are near 10'.....bright and clear toned.


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MCT

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Thank you for this. One of my Les Pauls has a Seth Lover neck and the other Lester has a Burstbucker I. A2 magnets in both, but due to the natural differences in pots and wiring, one guitar is clear sounding on 8' and the other has to be on 9.....at least at home TV levels. Both neck pickups sound better to me with their respective tone pots are near 10'.....bright and clear toned.


Classicplayer
Interesting. So much depends on the rest of your setup, as you rightly pointed out. I tend to run my amp at the cusp of breakup and don’t use overdrive pedals, I just use my volume and tones to alternate between lower and higher gain settings. What’s your usual set up?
 

MCT

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Also, maybe a video says a thousand words, this might explain what I’m talking about better- this starts out with the neck pickup on V-8, T-7, then up to V-10, T-10.

 

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My setup is similar, but my amp may be different than yours. Mine is an Orange Dark Terror and one does not need pedals for this as it has 4 gain stages and plenty to use. I'm just tweaking the amp for “crunch”. If my neck pickup is at TV reasonable volume my single V30 speaker is quite clear and bright with the neck BB I set at 9' on its volume knob. At 8 darkens more than I want, even with tone knob full up. Picking hard gets the gritty clean and less pressure does clean it up.

My tone is my own and I believe I've tweaked it so my neck pup sounds as food as I can get it; given my amp's e.q. being tweaked for a bright tone. I hoping that MLP members who respond here, will write that it's about the same way that they tweak to get the ideal tone for their favorite amp.

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Uncle Vinnie

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Jazz/standards player. 99.9% of the time I'm on my neck pup, volume depending on how late at night it is and whether my wife is sleeping, tone is < 5.

My amp has a lot to do with the tone I prefer.
Treble - 4
Midrange - 8
Bass - 6
 

cooljuk

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Because of where the neck and bridge pickups are physically located in a guitar and under the strings (compounded by the fact that humbuckers tend to have a warmer sound, overall) bridge pickup positions are generally FAR more forgiving, for dialing in a great sound. This is why many, myself included, suggest setting the more particular neck pickup and amp to each other first, then setting the more forgiving bridge to balance.

What often happens is someone decides that since they mostly play on the bridge, they will dial that in first. It'll get you stuck in the mud, spinning tires, like this...

You set your bridge pickup up for a clear and detailed sound with lots of rich harmonics. Your ears / brain equate more treble as more clarity and/or better, at least to an extent. So, that clear and detailed position you just dialed the bridge into is likely the brightest position in the pickups range of adjustment. Now, when you tweak your amp and/or neck pickup to that, your neck sound is a mud bucket and can never be adjusted to balance with the treble of your brightly adjusted bridge pickup. Tweaking your amp to make the neck brighter makes your beloved and often used bridge sound harsh so you scrap that idea and end up with a bridge sound you love and a muddy neck.

Set the neck pickup first, to avoid this.

Here's an article I wrote on how I dial pickups into a guitar, with more detail: https://www.re-wind.net/Setup.html
 

cooljuk

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Neck pickups dial in nicely if you don't mind NOT setting the volume on 10. Just MHO
Totally agree, and I'll add to back the tone knob down a notch or three for some extra clarity, as well.

In the right rig with the right harness / pickups, that's how it works. If you think the tone knobs just roll off treble, you're missing out!
 

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Totally agree, and I'll add to back the tone knob down a notch or three for some extra clarity, as well.

In the right rig with the right harness / pickups, that's how it works. If you think the tone knobs just roll off treble, you're missing out!
Spot on.....I use the tone control to cut into the mix better when a volume boost is not needed.
 

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About dialing in the neck pickup to your amp first: This is what I actually have been doing, and after experimenting with its height locations, it does really help in achieving a brighter and balanced neck tone by keeping at its ring/surround level; usually the 1st. string side just above the ring. Both of my Lesters' neck pups appear to be alike in this regard.

Of course, owing to wood variations, wiring and pot specs variances, what may be balanced and clear with one neck pup is not quite the same with the other. Any disparities usually can be compensated for with guitar volume and tone knobs....or at the amp's e.q....... at least in my case.

Does this seem like the sensible method? I try and refrain from swapping in improvements in caps, pots, harness schemes, and coil taps or the like. I just like to be able to pick up a stock Les Paul and use what the guitar has provided me.


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Oldskoolrob

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Blues/Classic Rock player here.
I don't have the expertise of the others here, only my experience. Which is to have the neck pickup (SD Seth Lover) really low and the bridge (SD Seth Lover) set a fair bit higher. I've also discovered I get a nice 'articulate clean sound' dialling back the bridge volume and tone, and a nice 'warm clean sound (think Jazz)' on the neck pickup when dialled back. I only use the Neck pickup at full tilt / distorted if I'm high on the fret board. Usually. There are no rules. Heck, most times I don't even know what I'm going to play until it's over.....
 

Classicplayer

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Blues/Classic Rock player here.
I don't have the expertise of the others here, only my experience. Which is to have the neck pickup (SD Seth Lover) really low and the bridge (SD Seth Lover) set a fair bit higher. I've also discovered I get a nice 'articulate clean sound' dialling back the bridge volume and tone, and a nice 'warm clean sound (think Jazz)' on the neck pickup when dialled back. I only use the Neck pickup at full tilt / distorted if I'm high on the fret board. Usually. There are no rules. Heck, most times I don't even know what I'm going to play until it's over.....
I could not have said this any better........... Seth Lover here, too.


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Pappy35

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My only experience with Les Pauls (in over 40 years of playing) is this one Epiphone 60's Standard I bought in March so I resisted even posting on here as a neophyte. I've had three set in it: the OEM Burstbuckers, SD Hotrodded set, and now the Seth Lovers. Hands down, the Lovers are the best money I've spent in gear (other than the guitar itself) in a long time.
 

LeftyF2003

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I have a classic '57 in the neck that I initially found too wooly. I removed the pickup cover, lowered the pickup and raised the pole pieces until I got something I was happy with, I.E. something resembling a vintage PAF. Having changed to 50s wiring I find I can roll off the tone a bit to get a warmer tone if I'm going for a jazz sound, or leave it wide open for a clear bluesey tone. Folks don't I think realize how much of a difference there is when you spend the time to get the height and pole piece settings dialed in. A bit of trial and error and you can liven up most pickups just with a few adjustments.
 
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Liam

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I have a classic '57 in the neck that I initially found too wooly. I removed the pickup cover, lowered the pickup and raised the pole pieces until I got something I was happy with, I.E. something resembling a vintage PAF. <snip>
This, but remembering vintage PAFs vary a bit. Some can still be impossibly dark in the neck position.

Get the neck pickup sounding as clear as you can, by whatever means you can, with volume and tone rolled off a bit. (Includes dialling the amp in for the neck pickup and ignoring other settings temporarily). Everything else sorts itself out pretty easily after.

Can still remember halting a rehearsal to remove the cover from a 490R back in the early 1990s. When I equipped the same guitar with 57 Classics the covers came off before I even got to the rehearsal studio, and I took along a flat blade screwdriver to adjust pole heights.

The OTPGs that were very specifically wound for that very same guitar many years later still have covers fitted, but the poles are raised a little on the neck pickup. OTPG also suggested clipping the bottom off the pole screws to brighten a bit more, but he just makes them, and doesn't have to consider the loss in their ludicrously high residual value. :laugh2:

All joking aside, there is at least as much to be had from experimenting with what you already have as there is with changing stuff. For those talking about Seymour Duncan pickups, I never did try a set of Seth Lovers yet, but have been seriously impressed with a few sets of Gibson and Fender SD Antiquities that I have tried. I would probably be trying some different magnets if I had SD Seths, but that doesn't mean I'd end up loving them more (A4 first, A3 second ;) ).

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Classicplayer

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Often wondered about this particular performance whether it was Slash squeezing out that inherent Les Paul neck tone with just a jack'd Marshall, or if there was a pedal in there somewhere; or both. In any event I can just about hear the “makings” of the liquid tone begin on both of my Les Pauls with just enough amp gain and volume when playing up around the 12th fret area on the neck pickup....this without a pedal. I imagine the “right” pedal would complete the picture.


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