The Kōkako Strat Pickup is is strongly influenced by the Fender Stratocaster pickups of the 60’s but with a little more. It has a full yet clear bottom end , smooth highs and clear mids. It’s aimed at players who love the sounds of Frusciante and Hendrix.
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If you take an early 60’s Fender Srat pickup, add a little bottom end, take a wee bit of treble off the top and add a touch more power then you’ve got the Kokako.
The magnets are specially made alnico 5’s with my own stagger to suit modern string gauges and fretboad radiuses.
The Kōkako Strat Pickup Story
The Kokako set was spawned by a few things coming together in November ’22.
For a while I’ve been offering my Bellbird Strat set with various winding options – 5% under, 5% over or 10% over wound. I’ve been playing with a 10% over wound set in one of my own Strats and for me they have ‘that’ vintage Strat tone that’s perfect with a little dirt be it fuzz or overdrive.
I was sent a Strat pickup to re-wind and the customer told me his ideal sound was Hendrix.
I’d just read an article saying how Seymour Duncan had wound some pickups for Hendrix and the spec of those pickups looked very similar to the 10% over wound Bellbirds.
That got me thinking.
The same day a customer contacted me wanting advice about my pickups and which one would be best for a John Frusciante sound.
Well, it’s the Bellbird +10%.
I thought this was too good to let go.
I could have left the pickup as a version of the Bellbird but decided it needed its own life.
Here is a short video in which I explaim my thinking behind the Kokako pickup design.
My Strat pickups are named after native New Zealand birds like the Bellbird and the Tui; I chose the Kokako because its song reflects the tonal characteristics of the pickups. I wanted a bird that has a song fatter and fuller sounding than the Bellbird but not as aggressive as the Tui – so Kōkako Strat Pickup it is.
Thanks to Andy Marra for this “Bellbird” Strat Pickup Demo. It’s a privilege to have him using my pickups.
Strat Pickup Demo
I’ve based my Bellbird Vintage Strat set on the best of the old pickups I’ve had the pleasure of playing through. If I were to give you a year I’d say ’63 Strat. I use AWG42 heavy formvar insulated wire – there’s something about the thickness of that insulation that just works with an old Strat pickup.
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.
Thanks to Andy Marra for this “Bellbird” Strat Pickup Demo.
The Bellbird vintage Strat pickups are a vintage voiced strat pickup strongly influenced by the pre-CBS Fenders of the early 60’s. Clear and chiming, low powered and pure. Suitable for a huge range of styles, ideal for that traditional tone.
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Bellbird vintage Strat pickups demos
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.
In the 90’s there were a lot of old Fender pickups around and they were cheap back then. I got to work on and repair so many vintage pickups. There was very little available information so I had to figure everything out. Looking back I think it was such a good way to develop an instinct as to how to get a great sound. With all the old spec now available I’ve really enjoyed topping up my knowledge.
I’ve become a huge fan of the L series Strats. Every one I’ve played (particularly ’63’s) have been great guitars. It’s just a shame they’re so expensive now and very few of them get played at gigs.
I’ve based my Bellbird vintage Strat pickups on the best of the old pickups I’ve had the pleasure of playing through and studying. 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 pickup sound 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.
Bellbird Neck Pickup
The neck pickup on a Strat is the ‘go to’ setting for a lot of Strat players. In designing this set I realised this is what I had to get right first. In using heavy formvar insulated wire I’ve kept to tradition. I use heavy bevel alnico V magnets with my own custom stagger to suit modern string gauges.
Bellbird Middle Pickup
I love the quack of Strat middle pickups. I’ve worked hard to achieve that distinctive middle tone. There’s something great in that sound. The magnets are so important in achieving just the right percussive snap without harshness. The other factor with middle pickups is how they work alongside the neck and bridge pickups. Those all important in between sounds are the essence of Stratocasters. The Bellbird middle pickup is the ideal partner for both neck and bridge.
Bellbird Bridge Pickup
On the original early 60’s pickups all 3 were wound the same. I’ve chosen to give the bridge pickup a little extra, more like a late 70’s Strat Pickup. I want to reduce the ping of the attack and add a little more bottom end to make the bridge pickup more usable. I feel that makes this pickup set more suited to the modern player.
Under or Over Wound
At the checkout I have given you the option of having your Bellbirds under wound or overwound by 5% as well as the standard wind. I don’t offer this for all pickups but the Bellbird is an equally good pickup in any of the 3 options. The early Fenders often varied within this range.
The standard wind is the closest to the early 60’s Fenders. This is my personal favourite and all the demos are of the standard wind
The minus 5% wind is for players wanting a super clean Strat sound. It has very clear treble and a little less bass than the standard wind. Suited to a very clean sound
The extra 5% of windings gives a little more bass and slightly smoother treble along with that bit of extra power.
The Bellbird vintage Strat pickups has been designed mainly for clean tones but they’re certainly not afraid to perform with a bit of gain or fuzz. 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.