Pickups

Charlie Christian Pickups

1

I'm curious about Charlie Christian pickups....and those like them like the P 13s. There's a lot of people making CC pick ups these days. Is there a big advantage to the old style ones with the big attachment assembly? Is there a brand that you all like? I've never had one, so curious about whatever info I can get.

2

It's my understanding that the big horseshoe magnet is an essential part of the design, and that the various Vintage Vibes, Lollars, and other CC-style pickups don't really respond in the same way.

I had a 1978 ES-175CC with the real thing, and it was magnificent. I also have a hollow Tele with the Lollar version, and it sounds pretty great, too. I have no way of comparing my memory of one to the contemporary reality of the other, especially considering the radically different guitar designs.

3

Seadevil, you are so right about the horseshoe magnet. It's a low-wind, big magnet combo that makes a lot of Henries in a really translucent way. Maintaining this cumbersome and inconvenient construction is intrinsic to authentic performance.

The modern compact reinterpretations of the design have the same look to the part of the pickup that is visible; the deco top and blade and have a great sound but they're not a true Charlie Christian in anything beyond surface appearance.

John Lennon's Les Paul Jr. had a real deal CC pickup in it- routed in from the back. It's probably the only sensible, practical way to do it right in anything other than a hollowbody.

4

thanks for the info. Do you think the CC pick up with the big install is worth it? Meaning is the sound so much better than say a quality P 90 or P13? It would mean altering a guitar. I'm thinking of installing on one of a few arch tops

5

Another factor to consider is the gauge of the wire. If you get a more compact CC pickup make sure it's wound with thicker, 38awg wire rather than 42awg This will make a big difference to the sound. I have a Pete Biltoft CC Rider in one of my lapsteels and it is wound with 42awg. I wish I'd known to order it with 38awg instead.

The CC Rider is cool in that it comes with your choice of magnets plus a spare pair and they are super easy to swap. So for instance you can get a set of Alnico V and Alnico II and experiment. If you describe the sound you are after to a pickup maker they will be able to get you in the right ballpark.

6

That Noggsly dude is on the ball with his recommendation.

The real Charlie is so noisy and impractical in so many ways. If you're a swing/bop purist or totally into John Lennon, Four Freshmen, Hank Garland etc, do it with the real thing.

If you want a fat, clear, distinctive and real-world usable pickup with the classic look, go Biltoft or one of the other really excellent modern interpretations.

7

I have a couple of old P13s...very like dark P90s. Cosmetically one has a hump and the other has the hump and pole pieces. I also have some P13s made by a pickup maker called Dave Stephens. He mounts them in dogear P90 casings. I bought them after hearing the out of phase "T-Bone Walker" tone he demonstrates in a video.

Link

Link

8

For tone, it's hard to beat the Alnico Staple type pickups, but I don't know how good the modern knock-offs are.

9

these days, the only company making vintage authentic charlie christian pickups is-

http://www.ccpickups.co.uk/

the originals used two large but low gauss cobalt magnets that extended beneath the archtop body....apparently difficult magnets to source these days...the og cc pup also used a very heavy #38 wire ...the large magnets interact with a greater portion of the strings therefore giving it it's unique tone

without those large magnets its not a true cc pickup...only a blade pickup!

ccpickups in the uk make authentic reproductions...seymour duncan may make them via custom shop..he did at one point, but....the lollar version retrofits the older models but uses plastic instead of magnets..for mounting purposes only..it's only a blade pickup as well

of course the caveats of retrofitting og style cc is cost and installation!

cheers

10

ps- the trouble with using #38 wire on a smaller modern blade style pickup is that you are not going to have room for many winds...leaving you with a very low k output...the 3k range....not ideal for modern amps...unless of course you have octal amp like cc used...hah

cheers

11

3K range sounds perfect to me! But yes it's all worth considering. The amp is a very important part of the equation.

12

Weren't they thought to do better on hollo wbodies than solidbody .. sort of like HiLo Tron even tho those are very different pickups

Like all the Telecaster Slaves around here are all eaten up CC because Danny Gatton was into it...

Maybe some pickups just work better on solid vs. hollow, etc.

13

well 3k range was being generous....original cc pups were around 2.4k....but they only used #38 wire on the first year or so of originals...they soon went to #42...and that got the resistance up to about 5.5k....the massive cobalt magnets were/are the key...they pick up a lot of string vibration

cheers

14

Don't forget, to really nail Charlie Christian's sound, you'll need an octal tube amp, possibly with a field coil speaker. Tavo comes to mind, as well as Vintage 47. CC pickups certainly are unique looking, and sounding.

15

This is all great info...has anyone tried the TK Smith CC pickup? I've never played a guitar with his pickups but i hear a lot of folks rave about what he makes.

16

I have a couple of old P13s...very like dark P90s. Cosmetically one has a hump and the other has the hump and pole pieces. I also have some P13s made by a pickup maker called Dave Stephens. He mounts them in dogear P90 casings. I bought them after hearing the out of phase "T-Bone Walker" tone he demonstrates in a video.

Link

Link

– tabletop

How do you like those P-13 pickups from Stephens Design? Do they sound similar to your vintage examples? Don't know how long you've had them, but are they "keepers" for you?

17

This is all great info...has anyone tried the TK Smith CC pickup? I've never played a guitar with his pickups but i hear a lot of folks rave about what he makes.

– langtryville

I’ve got a TK Smith CC pickup, but I have yet to install it in a guitar. It was for a Tele project that has since gone in a different direction, so I’ll just have to use it for the next one!

18

I've been interested in buying the uk repro's. They make three versions,one with solid bar,one notched at the B string,the third notched over all six strings. Anyone know the differences in sound over the three,I emailed that exact question to them but never received an answer. I'm looking for the evenest signal over all strings using light gauge flats with a wound third. At about $350 US I'd like to know more before I pull the trigger.

19

How do you like those P-13 pickups from Stephens Design? Do they sound similar to your vintage examples? Don't know how long you've had them, but are they "keepers" for you?

– Lacking Talent

I found that Dave Stephen's ones are a little darker than the originals. I think in one of the videos he says its mostly down to the metal casings on the originals. They are keepers but I actually don't have them in a guitar at the moment. I found that the middle position out of phase was really the only sound I loved so always played it that way but it didn't make that guitar very versatile so I have different pickups in at the moment. I'm always looking for something I can put them back into or swap around with something else I have.

20

I've been interested in buying the uk repro's. They make three versions,one with solid bar,one notched at the B string,the third notched over all six strings. Anyone know the differences in sound over the three,I emailed that exact question to them but never received an answer. I'm looking for the evenest signal over all strings using light gauge flats with a wound third. At about $350 US I'd like to know more before I pull the trigger.

– Opie

the original cc pickup had a solid bar...however at that time a wound B string was still being used! ....with amplified guitars & changing string tech, lighter strings began being used and the plain B string became the norm...as the plain B is more interactive with pickup magnets than the wound B, a notch under the B string was added...as lighter strings and plain G's became the norm then the further notched version came about

so with a wound 3rd the notched B would be your best bet

the solid and the full notched are very similar, as the string to pickup magnet interaction can be evened out by raising or lowering the entire pickup

the type of string you use is also important...vintage monel or pure nickel have less magnetic response than nps, solid steel or cobalt

btw, here's barney kessel on cc pickups...he was from oklahoma..same as charlie christian and a huge fan

cheers

21

Barney Kessel is such a generous guy. I love hearing him talk about music. One of the best of the best and doesn't come across as egotistical. Thanks for sharing that.

22

I also like how Kessel emphasizes playing the music, less so about the instrument itself (although he has obviously made sure he has a perfect guitar). i love guitars, and I like owning several and looking at them etc etc, but most of all I like making music. I think we guitar players can fetishize the instrument itself a lot.

23

Don't forget, to really nail Charlie Christian's sound, you'll need an octal tube amp, possibly with a field coil speaker. Tavo comes to mind, as well as Vintage 47. CC pickups certainly are unique looking, and sounding.

– wabash slim

With that in mind, let me add that I nail the clean T-Bone sound with the oddest of guitar/amp combos......a '97 Gibson Firebird paired with a 60W Tech 21 amp(single 12" speaker). For a little dirt mentioned in an above post (different verbiage though), that combo plus Tavo's Jr. Barnyard nails it.

Slightly change the amp settings, and I am there again with my 5126, Tech 21....and then the Jr. Barnyard.

Some might say this doesn't make sense. Oh well, come over and listen as it makes "tone".

24

the original cc pickup had a solid bar...however at that time a wound B string was still being used! ....with amplified guitars & changing string tech, lighter strings began being used and the plain B string became the norm...as the plain B is more interactive with pickup magnets than the wound B, a notch under the B string was added...as lighter strings and plain G's became the norm then the further notched version came about

so with a wound 3rd the notched B would be your best bet

the solid and the full notched are very similar, as the string to pickup magnet interaction can be evened out by raising or lowering the entire pickup

the type of string you use is also important...vintage monel or pure nickel have less magnetic response than nps, solid steel or cobalt

btw, here's barney kessel on cc pickups...he was from oklahoma..same as charlie christian and a huge fan

cheers

– neatone

Love that clip of Barney Kessel.


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