Fitting a floating Charlie Christian pickup to a 1980 Ibanez JP20 arch top

I won't write too much, and let the pics do most of the talking - just a mini project really. The guitar is the one I've owned longest - bought new in about 1983/84 from Ivor Mairants in London, although from the serial number, it was made in 1980 - a Joe Pass JP20 model Ibanez, Japanese made. It's a lovely thing, from the "golden era" for Ibanez of late 70s/early 80s. The issue with this model, which I didn't understand when I bought it, is the stock humbucker pickup was placed too far towards the bridge to get a really great warm jazz tone. Joe Pass apparently asked for it like this hoping to get a more "acoustic" tone quality. He did use the model for a number of years, at least when touring, but I don't think ever really liked it that much himself. The shape was "inspired" by one of Joe's D'Aquisto arch tops - Jimmy D'Aquisto never received acknowledgement or financial recompense for this, which I believe led to him falling out with Joe for a while, though they did get back on good terms in the end.

Anyhow, it is a terrific guitar, just let down by the pickup location. I once tried a Kent Armstrong floating humbucker in the gap, and made a new pick guard (which I've now used again) for that job - it was an improvement, but I still had other guitars I liked better for jazz tone. When I saw the John Anthony Guitars slimline floating Charlie Christian style pickup though, I had to do it. So, pics!

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Comments

  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,877Member
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,877Member
    edited November 30
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    Above - Had to trim the tab on the pickup so as not to stick out the other side of the pickguard. Also had to make a spacer to get the pickup at the right height.

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    Above, pickup + spacer glued onto the pickguard with a 15 minute epoxy - I don't want it to move! The final gluing was actually done with me holding everything in place fitted to the guitar, to be sure the alignment was spot on.

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    And above, the result.
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,877Member
    So, to the wiring - I chose to leave the volume and tone circuitry in place, and simply make all the necessary connections and hide the resulting lump under the pickguard! (life is too short) :D There is a hidden mini 3 way switch that as usual selects either pickup or both together. At this point I did also choose to swap the existing humbucker for a lovely gold-cover one from Ben Fletcher.

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    Above, a mess of fiddly connections, covered with heat shrink to prevent short cuts. And then below, I've tidied up a bit with cable ties...

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  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,877Member
    And then it was really just put everything back together, fit some strings, get the setup back to rights, and...

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    I used to use fairly heavy strings, but have tried a set of GHS Brite Flats 11-50 gauge (these are actually a ground smooth "half round" type, not tape wound) and they are lovely. :)
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,536Member, Moderator
    As ever, Megi, your mods are inspiring and a lesson in planning and execution. Well done.
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,877Member
    Lester said:

    As ever, Megi, your mods are inspiring and a lesson in planning and execution. Well done.

    And as ever, you are a gentleman and too kind Lester, but thank you very much!
  • ReaGeorgeReaGeorge Posts: 103Member
    Looks good... So now let's hear it! :wink:
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,877Member
    I cheated, this isn't me playing :D but you can hear the guitar, here used with just the CC pickup - certainly the first part is just the CC, not quite sure if the playing after 0.57 was just the CC pickup, or mixed with the humbucker.


  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,877Member
    Another video to come, which compares the sound of both pickups together with the humbucker on it's own - takes a while to upload.
  • ReaGeorgeReaGeorge Posts: 103Member
    Sounds nice... I'd love to get myself a Hollow-body at some point [sigh]
    So is this your guitar being played by someone else or someone else wit hthe same guitar and mod?
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,877Member
    A friend playing my guitar Rea :)
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,877Member
    And another video, this time demoing first both pickups together, than the Ben Fletcher humbucker on it's own. Due to the pickup location of the humbucker being less than ideal, it's not really a fair comparison, but I think you can still tell the the humbucker is doing a fine job - it's a low-wind (6.7K) alnico 3 Paradise model - it has a bit more of a modern tone than the CC imo, and brings out a lot of acoustic detail in the tone. When sat in the room, the sound was generally a bit lusher and fuller than on the recording (just done with a tablet camera and built in mic) but I hope it gives some idea.


  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 718Member
    Megi said:

    Lester said:

    As ever, Megi, your mods are inspiring and a lesson in planning and execution. Well done.

    And as ever, you are a gentleman and too kind Lester, but thank you very much!
    Isn’t he just? I often find myself thinking “what would Lester say?” when drafting a reply here, but don’t tell him I said that...

    Yup, beautiful work, Megi. Impeccable. The gold cover looks so good too. Very nice!
  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 718Member
    edited December 3
    Re: the video, I can hear what you mean about acoustic detail. That is a fabulous tone. Nice job! I think I prefer the Christian pickup on its own. I couldn’t hear a whole lot of difference between the fletcher and both pickups together, but the second video has great tone too. It’s like you’ve got a selection of the best jazz tones you could ever need!
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,877Member
    Thank you Nick - I wouldn't want to embarrass Lester, but yes, a true gent, and a good influence on me too.

    Re the guitar, I too prefer the CC pickup on it's own - and if you could hear the guitar in the flesh, I suspect you'd really really prefer it - the difference is more pronounced than apparent on the video. The CC has this great combination of rich, full kind of sound, but with that single coil thing bringing out detail and texture - you can hear the string windings, as someone put it once. I describe it as a rich fruitcake of a pickup (I may myself be a fruitcake, but not rich...) , so perfect for Christmas. :D

    But also, yes, the humbucker does very good things, and not just an inferior version of the tone from the CC, but something with it's own character. It's a tough job for any pickup in that compromised location on the guitar, but I am very pleased with the result from Ben's pickup, which functions as a useful extra, rather than just an unwanted hangover from the guitar's original design, which could easily have been the case.
  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 718Member
    I can only imagine how great it would sound in real life. From your descrption it sounds like there's a lot of detail in the sound. I find that with hand wound pickups in general. Yup, like a fruitcake, you can taste the ingredients! I sometimes compare other foods like salsa. The store bought ones just taste bland and all mushed into one flavour compared to home made salsa.

    It's great to hear you speak so positively about Ben's pickups. When I ordered my last one from him, he was really busy, which is great to hear too.
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,877Member
    To push the analogy too far, the CC pickup has the richness of the fruit cake, but also brings out the texture, and flavours, and you can really appreciate those walnuts and almonds... :D

    I do feel guilty re Ben's pickups - he made a gold cover set for my semiacoustic, which weren't bad, but I now feel not quite right in the guitar. And I did ask him for a neck pickup that would have clarity, detail and bring out the acoustic aspect of the guitar, while still sounding sweet. And then I put that pickup in my jazz archtop, and lo and behold... :o
  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 718Member
    Bare Knuckle do a CC pickup that includes notes of cinnamon, drunk uncle ramblings and the smell of crackers being pulled. That's why they're so expensive.

    I can sense your guilt too. I wouldn't worry. I'm sure you'll make good use of it elsewhere. I think that's very conscientious of you :)
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,877Member
    Bare Knuckle do make some ridiculous claims don't they? There I was making a sensible point about fruit cakes and almonds, and they just go and say something daft like that! Re Ben's fine pickups, I will doubtless be back for more, and it is great that I found a good use for the pickup.
  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 718Member
    I don’t get it. I think the law of diminishing returns has to come into effect with pickups. How can you really pay that much for what is essentially the same thing? I think price makes you hear things that aren’t there. I mean, if I spend more money it WILL sound better than anything else. To me.
    I hope.
    Wouldn’t it?
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,877Member
    I absolutely agree Nick, and it's an individual decision as to where to draw the line. Personally I would always struggle to justify the cost of a set of BK's, and there are other makers with similar high prices - they are able to charge that because over time they have built up a very good reputation, which I'm sure is justified, but I also believe there are equally good, and less pricey options, from less well known people. I tend to buy from people I like, and an exchange of a few emails generally allows me to find this. I have sometimes enquired with a pickup maker, only to be treated very brusquely and with little apparent concern or interest - and they didn't get a sale.

    And what sounds good or bad is a subjective thing, and of course it's entirely possible that something inexpensive to make/sell, will still do the job well. (Although I admit to recently testing this theory - I bought a set of zebra coil humbuckers on ebay for £12!, only tried the bridge pickup, it works is OK, but definitely unrefined and lacking compared to the hand wound pickups I've become used to. Didn't work out anyhow, worth a try.)
  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 718Member
    Yup. You really are buying into the brand when you pay those prices. Quality in a pickup can only go so far, and there are only so many other variables. You’re right, there is so much competition that you can’t pin down one brand to being The One, no matter what the forum gossip says!
    I like your method of choosing a pickup maker. You are at the end of the day buying from a person, so that makes sense. I’ve had good email chats with Axesrus and would buy from them again if they offered something Ben couldn’t do. But then, going the non-hand wound route, I’m very happy with my Irongear pickups.

    I bought a rails pickup from Amazon for about £4, put it in the neck of my Number 6 partcaster (I have three scratchplate for it) and it sounds amazing. It has a nice, fat yet flutey single coil ish tone, not quite as fat as a humbucker but nicely focused. Perhaps I got lucky. I’m sure their quality control isn’t amazing. Something else you pay for with the big brands.
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,877Member
    Cheers Nick - yes, bargains are out there, such as your £4 rails pickup. I do still believe that. At the other end of the scale, to be fair to BK, not long ago I did send an email enquiry to them, and got a considered, thoughtful reply back - so it would seem good people, just out of my price range I suppose.
  • Mark PMark P Posts: 2,241Member
    A wonderful looking guitar and it sounds wonderful played by your friend in those videos. Almost makes me want to get the semi acoustic out. But (a) not the same thing and (b) while I can appreciate the quality of others on electric, I seem to have lost that appreciation of what I do.

    I think you're doing a good job of hitting that perfect point in the graph where the lines of quality and value for money are optimum. Avoiding the diminishing returns trap!
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,877Member
    edited December 15
    Mark P said:

    A wonderful looking guitar and it sounds wonderful played by your friend in those videos. Almost makes me want to get the semi acoustic out. But (a) not the same thing and (b) while I can appreciate the quality of others on electric, I seem to have lost that appreciation of what I do.

    I think you're doing a good job of hitting that perfect point in the graph where the lines of quality and value for money are optimum. Avoiding the diminishing returns trap!

    Thank you very much Mark! It is a terrific guitar, and now, finally, I have it sounding how it should. I've had the guitar 30-something years, but it feels a bit like having a new guitar, and it's suddenly getting played a lot - guitars look happy when they get used and appreciated don't they?

    Not the same as a semi-acoustic, you're absolutely right, although the two do have some overlap in terms of what they can cover.

    As to diminishing returns - what I have now is a wonderful instrument for playing jazz amplified, which would be hard to improve on. There is the class of hand carved top archtops, tuned for the finest acoustic response (which do sometimes have floating pickups fitted). These can cost an absolute fortune - perhaps something I'd look at if funds allowed, but then again, maybe not. And there are a few jazz greats who used a telecaster... :D
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