The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    Another YMMV question I'm sure: Are P90 pickups too noisy for actual performance use (clean playing only)?

    I've had experience both ways in the distant past, with elderly Gibsons: a '58 LP Special presented no problem unless I turned on the Big Muff Pi, an ES300 was OK playing clean in a noisy bar, but an ES125TC buzzed like a mofo in a quiet coffeehouse. (I should never have sold any of these.)

    No P90 guitars since. but I'm still tempted. Noise gates, turning the guitar to different angles, turning volume down between songs - I know these concepts. I've observed more than one performer visibly embarrassed by their P90 buzz.

    And yet...

    signed, Indecisive

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Find one where the dual pickup setting is hum cancelling and preferably also with individual volume controls for each pickup. In noisy places the dual setting with the bridge volume rolled back a bit means problem solved. Think LP Special, SG Special, ES330 Collings 290, etc.

  4. #3

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    I gig with my 1950 ES-125 with P90 all the time. Only on two occasions the P90 picked up too much noise; both was in office buildings with dimmable lights and computers.

    So when I think there’s a chance of that happening I take my dual P90 ES-330, that has the pu’s wound reverse wound reverse polarity so the middle position is hum cancelling (like Oscar67 said).

  5. #4

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    I currently have -- and have had in the past -- modern guitars with P-90s; I love their sound, and I have never had the "noise" problem that people complain about! In fact, it kinda confuses me to hear such complaints!

    Current faves by Bare Knuckle in the UK.

    Come to the Dark Side ...

  6. #5

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    And the thing is...you can sound JUST like him if you purchase the ES-125 I happen to have for sale on this very forum.

  7. #6

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    I was using a Godin Kingpin for a while, and I know a few other people who have one of these or other p90 (or CC-pickup-equipped) archtops. For the most part I found the p90 noise to be manageable, but in some rooms it was really bad. In those spots, I would use an Electro-Harmonix Hum Debugger (a device specifically designed to nullify 60-cycle hum that works better than a noise gate). I also have a strat with single coils. It's quieter than the p90s and I haven't needed the Hum Debugger with it.

  8. #7

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    Get out of the bedroom and you won’t notice single coil hum anymore.

    Just my 2 cents.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by AllanAllen
    Get out of the bedroom and you won’t notice single coil hum anymore.

    Just my 2 cents.
    That is very definitely not my experience. I've played in many venues that have issues with wiring, light dimmers/switches/ballasts, HVAC equipment, etc., that make use of single coils problematic. There's a reason the humbucking pickup was invented.

  10. #9

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    The biggest gig i could think of would be Gray Sargent playing for years with Tony Bennett using a dual P-90 Godin.

  11. #10

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    I have used many SC guitars and there are times when I fight noise. I like to have a mute on my pedalboard for times I am not playing. Typically while playing it is ok to not noticeable(ish). However I do not do solo stuff.

    One thing that I can not do with a SC is computer stuff: recoding, compositional, using play along type programs, and especially online teaching. (There are times when I move back but sometimes it impedes the flow of the process I am involved in). The noise is too much. I always think about buying a noise gate.

    What makes a guitar not usable is when the ground wire becomes detached. My LPs like to do that now and again. I mention the ground wire because it is something to keep in mind if there are noise issues.

    Also having clean electricity is important. A funny experience I had, is when I was hearing AM radio through my guitar. I literally fixed that problem by plugging into a different outlet. A last issue is, having a ground lift if necessary.

  12. #11

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    The Hum Debugger is very helpful to have on hand. The Fralin P92s sound great.

    I do use standard P90s on a Heritage H-530 and have a Super Eagle with a custom wound single coil. Love the sparkle.
    Last edited by Marty Grass; 11-23-2022 at 07:38 PM.

  13. #12

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    The previous bigband that I played in, had a permanent space in a domelike stadium that also hosted ao an ice skating track. Single coil archtops, like a 50s L4 with a 60s floating DeArmond PU, even without any effects on, were simply too noisy. I had to use a noise gate pedal when I wanted to use a humbucker 335 with the slightest gain in the signal. I have never come to see that technical installation for cooling and lighting, but all together it must have been impressive both in size and power. I called it dirty electrical power. Never been able to determine if it was the power outlet that was contaminated and/or the EM field in the building..the majority of the band never had any problems (horns and drums) and could not understand. the only other player in the band with similar problems to some extend was the bass player. We were the noisy guys after a tune end, without playing...

    I left that band and thus that stadium and got to play in another bigband. Very recently I bought a Fender Jazzmaster, no P90s but nevertheless single coils. Works great for funk, latin and more modern tunes, even with a load of gain in the signal.

  14. #13

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    I played R@B, Funk, and Soul for years with my 66' Gibson ES125TC single pickup played through a Harmony 12" tube amplifier. However, our volume levels were not what the Rockers used in their gigs. Today, I love the intimate sound of the P90 with my fully acoustic instrument. How loud should Jazz be played??????
    Marinero

  15. #14

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    Tim Lerch plays a 1952 ES175 single coil. Absolutely incredible!


  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by wzpgsr
    Ah, one of my heroes. Such a great player. BTW his actual sound is way better than this. He plugs into a Fender Hotrod and the rest is in his fingers.

  17. #16

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    I seem to remember Herb Ellis saying something along the lines of, "Trust me... if you're in the studio with Billie Holiday, you don't want your amp to buzz!"

  18. #17

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    I play once a month with a big band at a ballroom with light dimmers and single coils are unusable. For that gig I use my gypsy guitar with a K&K Definity which is not susceptible to the bad power.

    For most other gigs/venues I use a Sadowsky FV with a Fralin HB sized p90 in the neck with no issues. It also has a humbucker in the bridge so if the venue has bad power, I can limp through the gig.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oscar67
    Ah, one of my heroes. Such a great player. BTW his actual sound is way better than this. He plugs into a Fender Hotrod and the rest is in his fingers.
    Saw him live several times. He’s great and sounds great. He plays LOUD though with a very firm right hand stroke.

    Also he uses an old Zoom effect pedal between his amp and guitar. This one I think:


  20. #19

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    My McCarty Soapbar has suprisingly clean and strong P90's . They are a PRS modified version of Duncan Antiquities from 2000.
    The newer ones are not as strong. While not a true P90 I have TV Jones Supertrons in 3 guitars and it's my favorite neck pickup.

  21. #20
    Thanks for the great replies.

    I tried a couple P90 guitars yesterday and my recollection is correct that it's not something that works for me. Whatever superiority the tone might have is negated by my diminished hearing anyway. HBs for me now.

  22. #21

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    Maybe something here might apply to your needs;

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by Little Jay
    He plays LOUD though with a very firm right hand stroke.
    The JOC is one helluva big band and far from quiet. He needs to be loud with all those horns blaring in his ears.

    Quote Originally Posted by Greywolf
    My McCarty Soapbar has suprisingly clean and strong P90's . They are a PRS modified version of Duncan Antiquities from 2000.


    Every PRS soap bar sounds great. Much to my own surprise, I keep going back to an early SE Soapbar. That thing sounds like nothing else.

  24. #23

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    Has anyone tried the Fralin alnico noiseless P90s?

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thoughtfree
    Thanks for the great replies.

    I tried a couple P90 guitars yesterday and my recollection is correct that it's not something that works for me. Whatever superiority the tone might have is negated by my diminished hearing anyway. HBs for me now.
    Nothing wrong with humbuckers! After all they were designed as the next evolution from the P90 and were not meant to sound very different. Actually, I don’t think they sound that different at all. The difference between a P90 and a Fender single coil is much bigger than the difference between a P90 and a humbucker to my ears.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oscar67
    The JOC is one helluva big band and far from quiet. He needs to be loud with all those horns blaring in his ears.
    He is also loud when he plays in a quartet [emoji6]

    (Not too loud, don’t get me wrong, just louder than I expected)