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Thread: Steve Morse's thoughts on guitar construction

  1. #1

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    Steve Morse's thoughts on guitar construction

    A Deep Purple fan asked Steve which guitar properties affect “tone and sustain most, body/neck/fretboard wood-type, neck joint type, pickups, bridge/saddle design, nut, anything else?”

    Steve's Answer: I can answer some of it. I tend to have an analytical approach to sound changes on guitars. Right off the bat, the fact that every one is different due to the density of the wood comes into play. It’s difficult to do a true A/B comparison of each change.

    First for me is the pickups, then the bridge, then the density of the wood body. Neck and fretboard don’t change the sound much on a solid body electric to my ears. My old frankenstein telecaster had a tune-o-matic bridge with nylon bridge wedges instead of metal. When I changed it for a metal one, it was such a drastic tone difference that I immediately switched back.

    Likewise, when I don’t need a whammy bar for a song, I will gladly change back to a hardtail bridge, simply because they sound better to my ears. The whammy bridges that I have are high quality and have plenty of sustain…but they do not have the lively, reactive feel of the simple bridges I prefer.

    Pickups are very important, in the same way that the preamp settings on your amplifier are important. They are basic tone coloration, especially the position of the pickups. On my guitar, the neck position pickup needed to be exactly where it is, which meant limiting the number of frets, which was a compromise in favor of tone and roundness over having frets 23 and 24 on the fretboard.

    Setting the distance of the pickups from the strings is very important, too. On almost every signature Music Man that I have signed or played, I would bring down the single coil pickups farther from the strings, almost to the pickguard. It doesn’t look symmetrical to the eyes, but it works for me. Keep the humbuckers closer to the strings. The reason is that single coil pickup(s) work best with the guitar volume on 3 or 4, when their naturally brighter sound makes up for the loss of square wave harmonic (apparent) high end when you turn down the guitar to clean it up. Also the farther from the strings they are, the less likely they are to overload the input of the amp…….which is how I can get clean sounds from the amp without having to switch channels on the amp.
    I’ve never been able to make a scientific comparison of through-the-body neck design versus bolt on, but I have switched necks back and forth. While one neck may sound different with different frets, or even the slight differences in the height or angle of the nut affect open chords, the sound will be virtually the same. Adding a great deal more mass seems like it could affect it, of course. Instinct tells me that the wood type of the neck would change the sound, but I have never experienced it in a true scientific, A/B test.


    From WoodyTone! - Morse’s Tone Thoughts

    Wow... I didn't see that bit coming about the single coil setting. That's a great idea! I'm asusming this applies to the Y2D as well?
    Last edited by whitestrat; 05-05-2009 at 07:33 PM.
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  2. #2

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    like this....
    Last edited by tommyindelaware; 05-05-2009 at 07:44 PM.
    tommy in delaware
    (renegade redneck hillbilly geetar player )
    life 's what happens while your busy makin plans
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tommyalderson/

  3. #3

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    Show off

  4. #4

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    Tommy what kind of pick holder is on top of the guitar like steve has??

  5. #5

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    I think I can hear all the pickup height screws turning right now, haha.

    Keep in mind tho, he's talking about doing this so he can keep his amp on dirty, and get a cleaner sound by rolling off the guitar volume. It may be a very different scenario for someone playing mainly on cleaner channels.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by douglasspears View Post
    I think I can hear all the pickup height screws turning right now, haha.
    I've already done that years ago !!!
    In fact, I spent quite some time investigating all the photos of Steve, trying to measure the pickup height
    Thanks to Tommy, the quest is over !

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ernieballplayer View Post
    Tommy what kind of pick holder is on top of the guitar like steve has??
    it's simply a strip of velcro w/ a leather top. i make them for all his guitars.just take a 7"x1" piece of male & female velcro........stick it on.....cap it w/ a matching strip of leather on the adheisive top.......& yer done. the pick just gets shoved in between the boy & girl point first. he's used these for decades.
    tommy in delaware
    (renegade redneck hillbilly geetar player )
    life 's what happens while your busy makin plans
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tommyalderson/

  8. #8

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    i recently documented the #1 guitar & the #1 y2d pickup heights for dudley . i will post them soon.
    tommy in delaware
    (renegade redneck hillbilly geetar player )
    life 's what happens while your busy makin plans
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tommyalderson/

  9. #9

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    Thanks tommy, any chance I can buy one?? Ha I don't know if I can make one, for now I made mine out of tape a while back.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by tommyindelaware View Post
    i recently documented the #1 guitar & the #1 y2d pickup heights for dudley . i will post them soon.


    main y2d pickups are currently as follows.
    neck=5/32
    bridge single=4/32
    bridge hummer=4/32

    #1
    6/32 neck humbucker
    6/32 slanted single (pickup cover is flush w/ the pickguard)
    9/64 bridge single
    9/64 bridge humbucker


    this varies on the y2d on the bridge hummer pickup from time to time (slightly)
    tommy in delaware
    (renegade redneck hillbilly geetar player )
    life 's what happens while your busy makin plans
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tommyalderson/

  11. #11

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    Excellent- thanks!

  12. #12

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    Makes me want to put an oscilloscope at the input of me effects pedal.

    I'm such a geek.......

    jack
    7/29/04 EBMM Sub1 X11376 oil/wax neck, gloss black body, faux binding, HSS w/5 way and silent circuit
    keep in mind that you are talking about four pieces of wood two pots one switch a trem along with springs two pickups and some wire.....BP

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by tommyindelaware View Post
    main y2d pickups are currently as follows.
    neck=5/32
    bridge single=4/32
    bridge hummer=4/32

    #1
    6/32 neck humbucker
    6/32 slanted single (pickup cover is flush w/ the pickguard)
    9/64 bridge single
    9/64 bridge humbucker


    this varies on the y2d on the bridge hummer pickup from time to time (slightly)

  14. #14

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    is that the distance from the pick guard to the top of the pick ups?
    2003 Blueburst SM Stoptail
    2013 Purple Sunset Y2D Stoptail

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Simple Simon View Post
    is that the distance from the pick guard to the top of the pick ups?
    I believe from the top of the pickup to the strings
    blueburst Steve Morse Standard, Jan 03, 2005 pix
    pinkburst Albert Lee, Jul 13, 1994 pix
    cinnamon SUB1, Mar 08, 2004 pix
    vintage gold reflex, June 22, 2011 pix

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