DIY kit guitar Step 23 – Changing the pickups

Doing something just because you can isn’t necessarily the right thing…

DIY guitar kitLess than a day or two after having completed the Capri Orange SG kit, my stepson announced he was going to fish about in the attic for the guitar parts he bought a few years ago when he attempted to make his own guitar at school.

DIY guitar kitDown came a box of parts – including these Epiphone humbucking pickups. Should I? Shouldn’t I? I laid them out on the SG and to be sure they looked nice. Something inside me said “Don’t do it! You really liked the sound of the shiny humbuckers that came with the kit! Don’t mess with it!” But did I listen?

No. I decided to install the Epiphones partly because they were sitting there and I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could do it and partly because of hardware snobbery. They just had to sound better than the Chinese no-name things that came with my kit, didn’t they?

So I set out my guitar-soldering stall again on the dining table and opened up the back of the guitar and messily undid the good work I’d done putting it together in the first place. I had to extend the wires coming from the Epiphones to make it work but apart from that (and a soldering iron that managed to melt half the wires and brand my finger before soldering anything) it wasn’t difficult. I eagerly put it back together again and screwed the back cover on.

BurnFingerAt this point in the story, I should be able to report that this pickup change brought the orange SG to life, with rich, searing tones etc etc blah blah. Sadly, it didn’t. In fact what I got was a muddier sound than the simpler, shinier Chinese humbuckers. Damn. Now I really don’t have much experience in judging the tone of one set of pickups against another but I felt straightaway that I wished I hadn’t changed them out. The original pickups had a simpler, less confused tone. Please excuse the untechnical description! The Epiphones sound furry and less like the 60s than the supposedly cheap originals. That’s all I know. This leaves me with a feeling that before I’m finished with this SG, I’ll switch these pickups again – either back to the originals or maybe even something else.

Later this week I’m taking delivery of a Les Paul copy (by Harley Benton) which is fitted with P90 copies. By all accounts, this kind of pickup has a unique sound. I’m hoping that this will give me another perspective from which to judge the sound of my SG.

Things I did right: √ Tried something out 

Things I did wrong: X Burned my finger X Made a mess of one of the volume pots and melted a few wires being heavy-handed with the gas soldering iron

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