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 !

9 Responses to “Telecaster – Replacement Bridge Pickup”

  • makaveli.o2 says:

    What is the model (telecaster) of Kurt Cobain? Did he replace the two pickups with another? (can you give me their names please)

    Thank you!

  • Griff says:

    As far as I know his Telecaster is a vintage model.

    The pickup in the neck was left standard, but he replaced the bridge pickup with a Seymore Duncan Hotrails.

    The hotrails really is a very, very hot pickup and can put the guitar's sound out of balance.

    If I were replacing my pickups again, I would choose a pickup with more treble for the neck (maybe a Jazz?). Or else leave the '59 in the neck and fit something with less treble in the bridge, like a "Little 59".

    I hope that helps :)

  • Kader says:

    Great!

    Im wondering if you know these pickups and even if you can talk about them;

    Dimarzio super distortion
    Seymour duncan JB

    and the 59'

    Thanks dude

  • Griff says:

    Hi Kader, I sure can :)

    The JB is the pickup Kurt used in his Mustangs, Strats and his custom guitar – the Jag-Stang.

    It's quite hot and had a good mid range. Walker has got one in his Strat and it sounds lovely!

    My Jag-Stang is still using the stock pickup, but I would replace it with a JB if I was going to.

    Check out my MP3 section, you can hear the JB used on "Dive", "Sixty hour week" and "Otherside"

    The Super Distortion is what Kurt used on his Jaguar. I belive the "KC" model Jaguars from Japan use this pickup. I haven't got any first hand experience of it, but if you want an idea – just listen to Nevermind.

    The 59 is the pickup I use in the neck position of my Telecaster. This is the pickup which does the solo/introduction on "Sixty Hour Week" you can also hear it clean AND dirty on "Tree". It's a great pickup, based on the PAF pickup. It give the Tele a slightly Gibson sound while still retaining the Tele twang.

    It's important to use the right strings with these pickups. Kurt used 11s on his Mustang/Strat/Jagstang, and 10-52s on his Tele. I use Ernie Ball strings wich you can get in the unusual 10-52 size.

    Hope that helps :)

  • Kader says:

    Hi Griff,

    thank you very much
    I've heard to your songs,I love "other side" with the dirty JB and the solo! great

    I think, Im gonna buy a Tele usa, and replace the bridge pickup with a hotrail

    but the amp, do you know a great amp at -400 gbp

    great rock band! for sure!

  • Griff says:

    What kind of music are you playing? What's you're style? These are important questions.

    Personally, I prefer a Fender amp with some kind of distortion pedal up front. I use a Mashall Guv'Nor II pedal infront of my Fender RocPro 1000.

    Walker plays a Mashall 2×12 with a Boss DS-1 up front. This gives a very punk sound, but it can be a bit thin if you're not carefull. I also find I don't like Marshalls so much for clean or crunch.

    Just my own personal taste!

    If I had the money, I would by a Fender Tweed/Deluxe and have a *Vintage* Tubescreamer pedal. But both of these can be very expensive, and certainly not under £400 :(

  • Kader says:

    Im playing a lot of Nirvana, Sonic youth…and other stuff like Aerosmith, Beastie boys…

    Yeah I like fender amps too, like the Fender Twin reverb, I should test a Fender with a good clean sound and put a pedal maybe the boss DS 1 infront of it.

  • Kader says:

    Hello!
    I like the singer of your group, she took any singing courses?

    I would like to sing too!

  • Griff says:

    No, she's not taken any courses, she's a natural :)

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