The Birth of the Vintage 8 String Pickup
The word “vintage” by definition refers to an object that is dated to a specific time period, usually in reference to the time period in which it was produced or when it was first used. Today it is used to refer to something that has aged to its prime like a fine cheese or a great wine. In the guitar world we usually refer to a guitar that is more than 30 years old as ‘vintage’ because the wood has aged to a resonant perfection. It is also used in reference to vintage pedals because the materials that were used in the early circuits and capacitors were made with metals that are not necessarily available today. There is a complete industry that is dedicated to reproducing the sounds of these early pedals with the “modern” replacements of these metals. With all that being said, the notion that something can be “born vintage” is somewhat of an oxymoron but we have indeed succeeded in birthing what I believe to be the first of its kind, a vintage 8 string guitar pickup.
If you have spent any amount of time on this website you have no doubt come across several articles about Nordstrand Pickups and our relationship with the company. It was through Carey Nordstrand and Pete Chiovarou that we got our opportunity to have our very first guitar display at NAMM 2015 this year. We featured several guitars with Nordstrand pickups that covered a variety of musical styles.
One of our absolute favorite pickups to use in our guitars are the Nordstrand NVH Vintage “Hot” Humbuckers. This is the Nordstrand version of the classic Gibson style PAF pickups that were first created back in the late 50’s but they are so much more than just “old sounding pickups”. The term vintage here refers to the output and the character that the pups resonate in relation to the early tones of rock n roll but these pups have their own distinctive voicing to them. The sound is not overly distorted like the EMGs and other modern Metal Pickups but they are balanced with the right amount output and breakup but will still clean when you roll off the volume. These pups absolutely kick ass and offer a unique voicing that no other pickups we have tried feature. They are capable of covering a huge amount of tonal variations and are pound for pound some of the best boutique pickups in the world.
We recently contacted Nordstrand to help us in our quest to meet the musical demands of Drew Creal when we set out to design his custom Pasquale Revelator 8 Guitar. Drew sought to replicate the sound of all of his other guitars in one single instrument which meant that we would need a pickup that could cover the ground of Dimarzios and EMGs as well as any other pickups that he had in his arsenal. We immediately went to the NVH Hot set as our “go to” sound but we needed them in an 8 string version.
Since Nordstrand Pickups is a custom shop, the crew at Nordstrand delivered with a unique custom set of pups that deliver a killer tone with a complete set of musical variety. They are a custom 4 wire set which allowed us the ability to split the coils as we needed to get the variety that Drew was looking for.
The biggest factor that we had to overcome was the absence of a middle single coil pickup in the new guitar. Drew had requested that we only use 2 humbuckers because he didn’t want to have to deal with hitting the middle pickup with the pick during complicated picking patterns. We had to replicate the sound and feel of a middle pickup without actually having a middle pickup. The 4 wire set up allowed us to be able to split the coils on the humbuckers in order to capture the single inner coils of each one to get the sound we were looking for. In addition to this we were also able to still keep the warmth that comes from having both humbuckers running at full coils together because we ran the entire set up into a 5 way switch which let us get 5 usable positions. Position 1 was the bridge humbucker with both full coils. Position 2 gave us the bridge humbucker with the inner single coil only. Position 3 gave us both humbuckers at full coils. Position 4 gave us the neck pickup inner single coil and Position 5 gave us the full neck pickup.
This set up allowed the NVH Hot set to really shine. We were able to coax all the clear and pristine sounds we needed from the single coils as well as the warm single tones we need front the neck pickup. As far as the heavy tones go, there is nothing sweeter that a Nordstrand NVH humbucker running at full speed through a guitar rig.
With our middle pickup issues resolved we were still concerned about capturing the low additional low end frequencies that would come from the 7th and 8th strings as well as the additional baritone frequencies that would come from the 27-1/2” fret scale. We did not want these low frequencies muddied up because of the high output of a “modern metal” pickup. Our choice of the Nordtrand Vintage set was perfect because we got all the breakup we needed for the heavy tones but we didn’t lose the clarity of each note because of excessive output. The pickups run hot but they are not muddy.
All in all the Nordstrand NVH Custom Hot Set was the perfect choice for this project and we could not be more satisfied with the performance.
We can’t wait to get some demo videos of this sweet sounding set up on our webpage and You Tube channel.