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Pro Players & Duncan/Dimarzio

9/1/2004 8:15 AM
Josh Pardes
Pro Players & Duncan/Dimarzio
Well here is something that I have been curious about. What gives with all these big name pro's endorsing Duncans, Dimarzio's, and to some degree, EMG pups? They all have their specific models that they rave about or that bare their names, yet to no surprise, the pups sound nothing like them. I understand the whole studio magic ordeal, and yeah, they usually play through "God's" rig, but in a lot of cases I am still boggled. I've tried a lot of different models from these companies and not one of them lived up to my expectations. Can these pro's really be that tone deaf? (kind of a rhetorical question. I think a lot of them are but they are lucky to have good techs) I really think that these companies put some extra special attention into the pups they are making for pro musicians. I don't have any supporting evidence, but I would not be surprised if they handwind them, handpick the magnets, and even go so far as to make a few different ones with similiar specs and a/b them to find the best sounding one before Eddie Van Satriani gets his hands on it.  
Either that or they get these guys to put their junk in one of their axes and pose for a picture before they deliver a dumptruck filled with money to their front door. Of course the guitar is set aside and never used aside from photo ops.  
I'm kind of cutting EMG some slack here because I think that they purposely make their pups to sound very bland since most guys that use them use a Sears Tower sized rack of effects to get their sound. I still think they sound like ass though :)  
I'm on a rant here. What do you guys think about all this?
9/1/2004 10:37 AM
Dave Stephens
Josh: man you can BET if some guitar player is getting alot of press that Seymour is going to hand wind that pickup for him/her. Jeff Beck doesn't have to buy stock pickups, duh. Then once the player gets the right tone, Seymour or whoever is going to go to the computerized winder and try to replicate it.  
Or they send the recipe and specs off to Korea and what comes back comes back. All of EMG's Select pickups are wound in Korea for example, they aren't active pickups and they universally suck. I suspect that most of EMGs coils are wound in Korea, I never saw any coils being wound when I was there but I could be wrong.  
EMG was my client for over 12 years and I know those guys inside and out. I find it funny that they now sell fully wired strat pickguards based on some known guitar player; when I was there Rob Turner would rant about "guitar whores" who would endorse anything they could get for free and he would have no part of it. He was kinda right, I saw some of our Shrapnel guys endorsing 3 different guitar company's products, and in reality they never played those guitars on stage or tour. But they got free guitars.  
For a pickup maker having a "name" is the bitch. Getting known is a huge hurdle. How long did it take Jason? 20 years or so right? Ouch. Being Shrapnel's album art designer for almost 20 years you would think I would have an "in" with their star guitar players that I deal with on a daily basis.....NOT. So far none of them will talk to me about it and its because I don't have a "name." I figure a minimum of 5 years to even start getting known unless you're the next door and best friend of the next guitar star. Weird business music is.  
Marketing pickups is really tough. What you have to do basically is convince your target audience that you provide the same service that Seymour Duncan provides Jeff Beck. REally thats what the small "boutique" hand winders do. ....Dave
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9/2/2004 5:40 AM
Sweetfinger Re: Pro Players & Duncan/Dimarzio(sorta long and rantish
When I go out and buy a DiMarzio FRED and slap it in my strat - there's a couple reasons why I don't sound like Joe Satriani. One is that I'm not putting my FRED(or whatever he's using) into JOE'S guitar(The one he picked out from a bunch and has gotten used to). I'm putting it into MY guitar! Even two identical models from the same production line can have different tones. Are you using the EXACT model and specs as your hero? String guage/brand? How close to the strings DOES Slash set those Alnico II Pro's?  
Another reason is that you're playing through your rig, not Vai's/SRV's rig. Amps are more varied and weird than guitars-Many electrical components are rated for 20% tolerance- A critical capacitor in Page's Supro might be 25mf while yours might be 42mf. Both values are within tolerance and both will work fine, but can sound noticeably different.  
I've seen a picture of Eddie's old Marshall and the output tubes are USA 6CA7's. That tube sounds NOTHING like EL-34's, and slightly different than 6550's. You just cannot account for all the variables.  
Are you comparing your tone live with their recorded tone? Have you heard enough of your hero's tone live to know just how they ACTUALLY sound?  
A big reason-(and the one that no guitar player ever wants to hear) is that it really IS in the hands! How hard you pick, the angle of attack, the distance from the bridge that you tend to play at. Do you artificially "pinch" the strings as you strum making you sound like Warren DiMartini? do you even USE a pick?  
No matter WHAT guitar, or WHAT amplifier, SRV always sounded like himself.  
It didn't matter if he was playing a Guild 12 string on MTV Unplugged, a spare strat through one of Jimmie Vaughn's Super Reverbs at a T-Birds show or his #1 through a Dumble. He always sounded like himself, and sounded great. I own a gazillion different guitars and amps and pedals. I always sound just like ME! You are always going to sound like YOU! One of the most difficult things to learn about playing guitar is how to imitate other players sound and style, not just their note choice. Note choice is easy, style requires some serious study and change of mindset. Sound requires requires a change in the way the guitar is physically played, as well as the correct guitar/effect/amp combination.  
Pro players use/endorse pickups/guitars/amps for a variety of reasons, Zakk Wylde, Vai, Slash, and all the others aren't tone deaf, but they may have very DIFFERENT needs and ideas regarding their pickups. Yes, I'm sure that in some cases, the need was to keep their name in public, get something for free, or make a quick buck, but I can assure you that the difference(if any) between the pickups you buy, and the ones that player "X" is using is not the primary reason that you aren't finding the "magic" tone.  
More than my 2 cents worth -Jim
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