Hugo Salvado

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Guitar FAQ

It is a passion I share with many other guitarists and enthusiasts, this maniac obsession of everything that has to do with the electric guitar, from its conception and construction, to the specs and build.

But it doesn’t stop there: you have amps, effect pedals, rack units, digital vs analogue, anything and everything.
One thing is for sure: there is always something more to learn, and I love the process as much as I love the subject.

The idea here is to share contents I have learned, mostly by picking information up on print and online.

Guitar woods

Although the pickups play the most decisive part in the guitar sound, the woods give identity to them. In my personal belief, the fingerboard and neck woods are more important than the body, given the sound transmission made via frets; the only bridge construction that actually provides real contact between the strings and the body is the string-thru and, even in that situation, the contact is made below the bridge.
A good topic for discussion…

On to the woods:

Guitar woods

Guitar woods

There are good, extensive articles on the subject, either from luthiers/builders/manufacturers (Tom Anderson, Seymour Duncan, Warmoth, etc.) or publications (Guitar Player, etc.), and you will never run out of opinions just by googling your needs and finding endless forum posts on what you thought was an unique wood combination for body, neck, and fingerboard.

There are many stories about guitar woods, such as the use of korina by Gibson in the late 50’s and early 60’s, when it was considered a “super-mahogany”.
Since then, the Flying-V model reissues with a korina body have become highly sought-after.

Guitar pickups

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Typical guitar pickups can be either passive (not requiring external power to produce a signal that could come up to the 500mV region) or active (tipically requiring a 9v battery to power an internal preamp).

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One thing you have to consider is the pickup placement, in order to maximise the string vibration. When you build your guitar, you can choose where to place them, and you should avoid using locations where the strings vibrate less (myth bust: the point where the 24th would be is NOT a good location), as the photo explains:

Guitars and Pickups - vibration waves

Guitars and Pickups – vibration waves

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Humbucker, single-coil, piezo, MIDI, etc.

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Passive pickups

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The AlNiCo league

Here is a quick comparison:

  • Alnico-II – tipically built for low/medium outputs, they have good mid frequences, not much treble, loose low end, and subsequent vintage dynamics; used both in the bridge and neck.
  • Alnico-III – similar to an Alnico-II, but with more treble and less low end; used mostly in the neck slot, with potential for fattening up the bridge.
  • Alnico-IV – flat EQ response, and for that reason considered bland; lets the natural EQ of the guitar come through; moderate output, good in the neck or bridge.
  • Alnico-V – the most popular Alnico these days; fairly high output, lots of treble and bass, scooped mids; great in the neck slot (if not too bassy), and can be thin in the bridge.

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Active pickups and sustainers

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Piezo pickups

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MIDI pickups

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Special/custom connections and components

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For exemple, Seymour Duncan has the Triple Shop pickup ring which allows 4 connection configurations per pickup.

Seymour Duncan Triple Shot - positions detail

Seymour Duncan Triple Shot – positions detail

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Hardware, bridges, tuners, frets

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Links to guitar resources

Other musical instruments’ related links

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