I’m delighted with this demo of my Cruel Mistress Tele pickups from Brett Kingman in Aussie.
There is nothing like the high end snarl of a good Tele bridge pickup. However, Tele Pickups are complicated. It’s a sound that needs to be just right – too much treble and it can sound grating and obnoxious, too little and it just isn’t a Tele. The treble needs warmth while still cutting through a mix like a zombie banjo.
With the “Cruel Mistress” -hot Tele wanted to make a pickup with a bit more power to drive an amp harder while keeping the Tele character. My biggest concern was not losing what a Tele is all about. In my repair work I come across quite a few replacement Tele pickups that just don’t sound like Teles. Bridge pickups need grit and the neck a chimey clarity and together they should be full and open and matched well enough to create almost a reverb sound with the switch in the middle position.
The “Cruel Mistress” -hot Tele uses AlnicoV magnets to help with the attack and AWG43 wire to help with the snarl.
The neck pickup on a Tele needs to be smooth and warm and have a great balance with the bridge pickup so that the middle position rings with an almost reverb-like tone. The difficulty with Telecaster neck pickups is there just isn’t much space under that cover. As a result it can be a hard pickup to get right and there were a lot of experiments and disappointments on the way. Eventually I came on a design that has enough bottom end to sound full but not so much to sound boomy. And the final pickup was a great match to the bridge.
I had help from the ears of a couple of my regular customers who were generous enough to let me load their guitars with prototypes. The whole process takes time and only after many road tests and versions did I fix on a design. As a result, each of my designs have been developed over many years of subtle changes and road tests. Having help like this means my pickups are trialed through many different amps and playing styles. The neck/bridge balance as well as dynamics/compression need to be tested in as many situations as possible to find a pickup that will work for most players.