Not quite the same

I've had my baby (the nice black guitar at the top of the page) in the shop a few times lately. The bridge pickup has been cutting in and out. I had the pickup swith replaced and that fixed it for a while. Finally, I was getting next to not output from it (sound was very weak). So I brought it in again and this time they figured out that one of the coils in my bridge pickup must have broken (rare, but it happens). Bascially the pickup was toast and needed to be replaced.

I was big time sweating when I go this news. Any little thing can change the sound of a guitar and a pickup change could MAJORLY change the sound. This is my baby! It sounded perfect the way it was! I was really in a quandry what to do since no one makes pickups like the ones in the guitar. No one, that is, except for Yamaha. As it turns out, they issued a 30th anniversary edition of the SBG2000 with the same pickups mine has. So I called Yamaha and they had them in stock and were kind enough to ship one to me after I paid them for it.

I brought the guitar in 2 weeks ago to have the new pickup put in (the shop was REAL busy). So today I finally got to pick it up. Mind you, I was still concerned that it wouldn't sound the same. Even though it's an OEM pickup, it's over 20 years newer than the one it was replacing. So after I got the guitar (BTW, the shop was totally cool and didn't charge me anything to put the pickup in since they felt bad for taking so long to figure out what was wrong. THAT'S why I shop there). Before I left the shop, I wanted to give it a try to make sure everything worked. So I plug it in to a Fender amp similar to mine. Play the new pickup. Sounds pretty good. Play both pickups. Still not bad. Play just the neck pickup.

It was louder. Obvioulsy louder. And had WAAAAAAY better tone. Uh oh. So I go back to the bridge pickup (the new one). It's definately not as loud. And kind of thin sounding. Not as nice as it used to sound. SHIT!

I picked it up at lunchtime so I had to leave messing with it more until after work. So after dinner I plug it into my amp in the clean channel. I'm not sure I like the sound of that new pickup. Definately thin. I tweak it a little (well, much as I can). Still not much better. Now I'm not happy at all. I try putting it through my high gain rock and roll setup. Sounds ok, I guess, but I'm still not sure. However, I had to take Grasshopper to his soccer game, so I couldn't mess with it any more.

At this point, I'm almost ready to cry. My baby wasn't right, and there's no replacing it. I don't care what anyone says, guitars are unique. Each one, even if the same model, plays and sounds different. This has been my instrument for 20 years. Other guitars have come and go, but this is the one you have to pry from my cold, dead fingers. If it isn't right, I don't know what I'd do.

So after the game, I set up my usual gig configuration and started playing around, all clean. I tried a few different settings, even plugged it into my little practice amp. And while I'm not 100% pleased, I think the pickup is starting to sound better. There's no getting over the volume difference, but it's minimized. I played a few different things, and I still get really nice tone out of the guitar. When playing clean, I don't normally play out of just the bridge pickup since it's just too bright. You get a much warmer sound playing out of either both pickups or just the neck. But when I need to rock, it's all just the bridge pickup.

I'm going to keep messing with it. The real test will be a gig. We have one coming up in August, so we'll see then. In the mean time, I may see if I can find some vintage Yamaha pickups for it. They come up occasionally on ebay, so I might have a shot.


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