Telecaster – Replacement Bridge Pickup

Following on from my previous post, where I fitted a new Telecaster neck pickup : That’s been the setup pretty much since 2002 till now, but I’ve always been unhappy with the bridge pickup since fitting the Duncan 59 to the neck. It’s a common situation and not entirely unexpected. Many people recommened changing both pickups at once, otherwise the guitar can become unbalanced. And this is exactly what happened. Setting my sound up for the neck pup,I found that when switching over to the stock bridge pickup, the sound was thin, quiet and totally useless. Conversely, when setting up for the bridge pickup, I found that switching to the humbucker made the sound thick and wooly, and distorting in all the wrong places (mainly the bass range).

As a result, I’ve pretty much been using just the neck pickup all the time, but recently I’ve been craving some lighter tones from the bridge, so I made the decision to finally get the bridge pickup replaced.

Again, I wanted to stick with Seymour Duncan. There are many choices of direct replacement. Including stacked single coils, as well as single coil sized humbuckers. Outside of that, you can replace the bridge plate with one from somwhere like StewMac (Stewart Macdonald) which accepts a full size humbucker.

I didn’t fancy routing out the guitar, and I knew I wanted a humbucker, so this gave me two choices. The Little ’59 or the Hot Rails.

The Little 59, as the name suggests, is again based around the PAF pickup, but in a single coil sized package. It has to be said, it looks pretty damn cool! It’s attraction was that it should pair off nicely with the existing 59 in the neck, and still keep some of the original telecaster twang. It was very higly recommeneded on the Telecaster Forum and on Harmony Central.

It’s a little known fact that for a couple of years, Kurt Cobain actually played a Telecaster at most of his concerts, and his Tele was fitted with a Hotrails. So this was natrually my second option.

The reviews for the hotrails were not so favourable. Many people say it was too harsh and you loose the telecaster sound, this put me off to start with, but I soon started to think that I actually didn’t care about loosing the telecaster sound, and was it really a good idea to have a similar pickup in the neck (Lil 59)? The more I thought about it, the more I realised that keeping some dynamics in the setup would be a good idea, so I bought the hotrails.

What can I say? What a great idea what was! I have a lovely clean sound from the neck, which responds well to crunchy overdrive, and I’ve got a totally shred-tastic ceramic humbucker in the bridge. With some rectifier style overdrive, this thing sounds like death! I LOVE IT! It’s the ideal Telecaster pickup for grunge or metal.

The total unforseen bonus is the combined setting, when both the neck and bridge pups are selected, you get the most fanstastic clean sound, which turns into a Stevie Ray Vaughan type sound with a bit of overdrive. I’m absoloutly over the moon.

This cheapy Tele is fast becoming my preferred guitar !