Another amazing video from Andy Marra using MrGlyn’s “Bellbird” vintage Strat pickup set.
The Stratocaster has been around since 1954 and the legend continues. Reading the internet (!?) tells me there have been good and bad years or decades, guitars to avoid and ones worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’ve been repairing guitars since 1995 so I’ve played a lot of old Strats and analysed a lot of old pickups. Vintage pickups aren’t all great but the good ones are fantastic.
I’ve based my vintage Strat pickup set on the best of the old pickups I’ve had the pleasure of playing through . So I use AWG42 heavy formvar insulated wire – there’s something about the thickness of that insulation that just works with an old Strat pickup.
I’ve aimed for that old quacking chime that makes Strats wonderfully percussive but with a singing quality that’s so musical. Warm and clear with beautiful almost reverb-like clean tones – that’s what I want out of an old Strat. The neck needs to be fat, round and clear, the middle pickup needs to quack and the bridge a cut through twang without thinness. The all important ‘in between’ sounds in positions 2 and 4 must be balanced and characterful. Nothing says Strat more than these sounds.
The Bellbird set has been designed mainly for clean tones but they’re certainly not afraid to perform with a bit of gain. As part of a HSS set they’re great with one of my ‘Integrity’ humbuckers in the bridge position.
I agonised for months over names for my Strat pickup sets then during a camping trip to Tauwharanui Regional Park I heard my first Bellbird and realised that was the sound I had been looking for when I was designing this set. The comparison in tone between the Bellbird and the more common Tui seemed exactly what I had in my head when designing my Strat pickups. Bellbirds don’t just go tweet, there’s a depth and warmth in the tone. It’s so hard to describe sound and the difference between pickups but I think the difference between the Bellbird and the Tui sum up the difference between my vintage and hot Strat pickups. So I called them the Bellbird and the Tui.