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Electric Guitar Manual

Seymour Duncan Pickups for LES PAUL Style Guitars

PICKUPS Seymour Duncan for LES PAUL Style Guitar (Humbucker and P90): SH-4 JB, SH-2 Jazz, SH-1 ´59, SH-6 Distortion…

To begin with, I want to clarify that when I speak of a Les Paul model, I am referring to any brand of guitar with Les Paul characteristics. It doesn’t have to be Gibson necessarily.

Humbucker Pickups for Les Paul Guitar

The most popular pickups in this type of guitar are called humbuckers or double coil pickups. Also known simply as PAF if they are models in the purest vintage style.

humbucker pickups

The design of this pickup model focused on sustain and background noise reduction, using two coils connected in series with reversed polarity and reversed wound.

This system would be similar to the one used to reduce noise in Stratocaster models, by combining two pickups with reverse polarity and wound, with the difference that in a Strat the pickups would be connected in parallel, and in a Humbucker they are connected in series.

Consequently, the resulting sound would be very different, since the output level of a standard single pickup would be doubled, and the clarity and definition typical of a Single Coil would be lost. But the sustain and low frequencies would be increased, obtaining a sound with a lot of body, more punch, and the signal-to-noise ratio would be significantly improved.

Covered vs Uncovered Humbucker Pickups?

Covered vs Uncovered Humbucker Pickups

These pickups can be found uncovered or covered with a nickel cap. It is very common to find the same pickup in different colors to adapt to the aesthetics of our guitar or to our personal taste, and in an uncovered or covered version. The same pickup with a cover will have a slightly warmer tone, and without a cover the tone will tend to be a bit brighter.

Pots for Humbucker Pickups

The potentiometers that these pickups usually mount are those of 500 kilohms. But if we notice that the sound is somewhat strident, we can mount 250 kilohm potentiometers to obtain a slightly softer and warmer tone.

Seymour Duncan Pickups for Les Paul

Seymour Duncan Pickups for Les Paul

A classic set of pickups for a vintage Les Paul guitar would be the Seymour Duncan SH-1 ’59 Two-Pickup Set (Seymour Duncan SH-59 Set Vintage Blues) based on the Vintage PAF Humbucker from the late ’50s.

The low output of these pickups makes them very appropriate for genres such as Blues, Jazz, or Rock. In short, the authentic vintage sound of the old school, although the thick tone of a 59 in neck position, makes it very appropriate for genres such as Metal.

If on the contrary, the tone of the ’59 is somewhat dark, we can opt for the Seymour Duncan SH-2 Jazz. Very similar in output to the ’59 and also with Alnico V magnets, but with a slight increase in treble, and a slight cut in bass compared to the SH-1.

Different Sets Seymour Duncan for Les Paul

For more punch in the bridge position and in excellent combination with an SH-1 ’59 in the neck, we have one of Seymour Duncan’s most iconic pickups: the SH-4 JB. Very typical set for a modern classic style Les Paul.

The motto of the SH-4 JB is versatility, since we can play with this model from Blues to Metal, and it adapts to practically any musical genre.

This pickup is characterized by having a great presence due to its load of midrange and treble. But if we don’t want it to be so aggressive, we can sweeten its tone by mounting 250K potentiometers.

Seymour Duncan SH-JB Hot Rodded

If on the other hand the tone of the SH-1 ’59 in the neck position is somewhat thick, we can install the Seymour Duncan SH-2 Jazz in that position together with a JB. With which we will obtain another of the best classic sets of Seymour Duncan pickups: the Seymour Duncan SH-JB Hot Rodded at a price of about $260.

The Seymour Duncan APH-1 mount alnico II magnets, and have a low output and a warm and sweet tone, in the purest vintage style. Although the sound of the APH-1 is similar to the SH-1, the low power of the alnico II gives it a slight boost in the lows and mids, and a softer attack compared to the ’59.

This pickup model is preferred by Slash. However, the guitarist has his own set of custom pickups on the market: The APH-2S. The price of this set is 250 dolars, and it provides a slight increase in midrange, and something more output compared to the APH-1.

Pickups Slash uses on his Les Paul Guitars

At the opposite extreme in terms of tone and output we would have the Seymour Duncan Distortion SH-6. A classic high-output pickup mounted with a ceramic magnet, designed to drive a good tube amp to full saturation, as its name suggests.

The sound is similar to that of a SH-4 JB but even more powerful, and with even more midrange and treble load, so as not to lose definition in low tunings, or in heavily distorted sounds.

This pickup model would also be very appropriate for aggressive style guitars such as Flying V, or Explorer.

If we are interested in a more versatile pickup configuration, we can install an SH-2 Jazz in the neck position, together with a Distortion in the bridge position.

Seymour Duncan Set Humbucker Modern Classic

P90 Pickups

Early Gibson Les Paul models had P90 pickups. So this type of pickup would also be very appropriate for a classic Les Paul type guitar. But being a single coil pickup, we would lose noise cancellation when used separately.

The noise would only be reduced when both pickups are activated at the same time, in the event that one of them has reverse wound and polarity. These pickups are referred to as RWRP.

Although there are also P90 Stack pickups with noise cancellation due to its double overlapping coils, and a vintage-style medium output, such as the Seymour Duncan STK-P1.

These pickups feature four wires for various wiring options, and are slightly taller than the standard P90. So it would not hurt to check the depth of the cavities of the pickups, or if we would have the possibility of reducing the wood a little at the bottom of those cavities before making a purchase.

The classic P90 is a high-output single pickup, boasting higher output than Fender-style pickups, but with that bright and twangy touch of a Single Coil pickup. This type of pickup would fall somewhere between a standard single coil pickup and a humbucker soundwise, but with its own character and personality.

P90 Single Coil Pickup

Seymour Duncan P90 Pickups

The Seymour Duncan SP90-1 is a great mid-output traditional P90, with a bold sound similar to the classic pickup developed by Gibson in 1946. The SP90-1 has alnico V magnet and the bridge model has a bit more output.

Sets of Seymour Duncan P90 Pickups

For a more versatile and aggressive configuration, we can install the Seymour Duncan SP90-2 with ceramic magnets in the bridge position. Which will provide even more punch, sustain and power. And for a Hot configuration, we can mount the equivalent RWRP with reverse polarity in the mast position.

Also we can opt for Seymour Duncan’s most powerful P90: The SP90-3. This model mounts ceramic magnet and has extra winding.

Humbucker-Sized P90 for Les Paul

Humbucker-Sized P90 for Les Paul

If our Les Paul has humbucker pickups, but we want to change them for P90s, we can install the set of two SPH90 pickups. These pickups have a medium output and are mounted with alnico II magnets for a vintage sound very close to that of a classic P90, but with humbucker like appearance and size.

Some custom models mount next to a humbucker in the bridge position, a P90 in the neck position to obtain a more defined tone in that position. For example, the Yamaha Pacifica 611HFM is a magnificent guitar assembled with a Seymour Duncan SP90-1 on the neck, and a Seymour Duncan TB-14 Custom 5 on the bridge.

Set Seymour Duncan P-90 and Humbucker Yamaha Pacifica 611HFM

A great guitar with a very competitive price for its components and finishes. Although this guitar would be outside the typical standards of a classic Les Paul, as it is a long-scale guitar, and with a bolt-on joint between the neck and body.

Pickups for Different Guitar Models