A Cool New Pickup

August 24, 2009 at 3:02 pm 2 comments

I have this L4-C that I bought in September, 2004. It’s very cool, and has a clean, well articulated tone that is yet a little darker than my Orchid archtop, though not as dark as my L4-CES. 1949 was the first year for the cutaway L-4. The standard construction for an L-4 (even today) is a carved spruce top, laminated maple back and sides, and a one-piece mahogany neck. This one seems to have mahogany sides, which is interesting.



This guitar had a Johnny Smith pickup installed — which cannot be original, since the first year for those was 1961, but it had clearly been on there for a long while. It was really a bit too big for the space under the strings near the neck — it actually was digging into the top a bit. In other ways the pickup installation didn’t look professional — the pickguard was cut clumsily to allow room for the pickup, the 1/8″ jack was in a screwy place, and there was a non-functioning endpin jack. The pickguard itself was mounted at a crooked angle.

So when I got the guitar, I got an repro pickguard from Pickguard Heaven who have a great assortment of repro guards available, and a super-slim “2D” Kent Armstrong handmade pickup from archtop.com to put on. It also allowed me to mount the pickup under the “24th” fret, which is usually where they go.

The guitar still sounded good with the new setup, though I kept the Johnny Smith pickup and original pickguard; at some point in the future I may have a use for it.

In the summer of 2009, I decided to address some other issues. Although the guitar sounded very good, the string to string balance was not right. Specifically the 4th and 5th strings were just too loud and notes on those strings really had a tendency to feed back — even at low at-home volumes. Performance volume was impossible.

I have two other Kent Armstrong handmade pickups (on separate pickguards) for my Orchid archtop — a PAF and P-90. These have adjustable pole-pieces, which I knew I would need on this guitar to solve the balance problem. I also decided to have a new installation professionally done. So I ordered an interesting Kent Armstrong handmade single coil pickup that is tappable between 8k DC resistance (like a P-90) and 13k (like a DeArmond Rhythm chief). I delivered this and another Pickguard Heaven pickguard to Mannella Guitars where the work was done.

So far I am very pleased with the results. I have set the polepieces to balance the strings, and I very much like the tone I get from the “Rhythm Chief” position. The switching is accomplished by the small toggle switch just above the volume knob.

Pikcup Closeup

Pickup Closeup

Following is a recording I made with this new setup.  This is also a “new” arrangement of sorts. I’ve done “By the Time I get to Phoenix” before, as it’s one of my most favorite  tunes. However, this is a jazzed-up chord melody version, with quite a few additional substitutions beyond what I’ve done before.

I think the guitar sounds pretty good. The recording was through the POD Pro, using the Twin Reverb simulation with the tone controls set “flat” (treble off, mid all the way up, bass off), which is how I run my Allen Accomplice. The POD does a very good job of sounding similar.



Entry filed under: Guitar, Jazz, Music, Oldies, Smooth Jazz, Vintage Instrumentals.

Just the Three of Me Pro Tools 2: Smooth Jazz Funk Trio

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Smooth Jazz Redux « Jazz and Classic Pop Music  |  July 31, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    […] So here is the result. As with my other quartet recordings, for the backing tracks I played the bass and programmed the drum & keyboard parts. I think the main guitar recorded particularly well here — I am very pleased with the sound. It is my Orchid archtop sent through my old reliable POD Pro 2.0. This is the guitar that recently went through a re-fret and pickup replacement, It now sports a Kent Armstrong handmade single coil — the same as I discussed in a prior post. […]

  • 2. Quincy Schlicher  |  December 24, 2010 at 10:11 am

    The author dealt with some curious points in this posting. I came across this article by using Google and I’ve got to admit that I already subscribed for your website, it’s very great 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 166 other followers

August 2009


%d bloggers like this: