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Single Thunderbird pickup bass?


shoulderpet
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Anyone have experience of a single pickup Thunderbird (if such a thing exists) or a bass (of any shape) with a single Thunderbird pickup?

I am working on a parts bass build and will be using a p bass body but am thinking it would be cool to do something that is tonally a little different so am thinking of getting the body routed for a single Thunderbird pickup and I know someone on here must have a bass that they have routed for a single Thunderbird pickup

Thanks

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Which Thunderbird pickup?  Original 60s, Bicentennial, TB+, Epiphone Probucker?

 

A single pickup Thunderbird does exist, but it's pretty rare - the Gibson Thunderbird II made in reverse body 1963-65 and non-reverse body 1966-69.

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1 hour ago, LeftyJ said:

I was unaware they ever made a bass of that! Very cool. I've always had a sweet spot for the guitar version, but never played one.

 

The guitar version great. I have an Eggle-era custom model. 

 

I've also tried the original bass version which IIRC had an EB3-style pickup arrangement. That was ridiculously large and horribly unbalanced. It didn't sound brilliant either.

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2 hours ago, Machines said:

the headstock dive was an Olympic WR.

 

 

FKV41SM_1_1024x1024.jpg

 

 

 

Oh god, I bet. It makes my shoulder hurt just looking at it. 

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On 01/07/2022 at 00:37, neepheid said:

Which Thunderbird pickup?  Original 60s, Bicentennial, TB+, Epiphone Probucker?

 

A single pickup Thunderbird does exist, but it's pretty rare - the Gibson Thunderbird II made in reverse body 1963-65 and non-reverse body 1966-69.

 

Pretty much all this.

 

Bear in mind the original Thunderbirds had lap-steel pickups in them; Gibson had a surplus, the lap-steel market dissolved and in the spirit of not throwing stuff out, they stuck them in Thunderbirds, so they're not specifically designed for bass.  I think this extended to the '70s bicentennial models too.

 

Perhaps your post should just have read; "I'm looking to build a P-bass with a single <insert desired pickup manufacturer here> Thunderbird-style pickup in the sweet spot.  Any advice?"

 

I've chased tone since most people here were in short-pants, so I know what it's like to be driven by a desire to do this sort of thing, but honestly, what are you expecting of this pickup? 

 

If you're just looking for something that just looks the part then go for it, but if you're of the belief that installing a vintage part or throwing £££ at something that purports to be a Thunderbird replacement will somehow transport you to 60s Gibson tone heaven, then forget it.  You'd be better off buying a Sansamp BDDI to control how you sound.

 

Lest we forget, about 30 bassists here couldn't tell a Precision bass from a Thunderbird from a Rickenbacker in a blind shootout. 

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I was under the impression that the current Les Paul Jr Tribute DC Bass used a single extended range TB pick-up, I may be wrong!

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Here is my Epiphone classic pro that I had changed to a single pickup. The wiring is obviously different to a 2 pickup thunderbird so turning down the bridge pickup on a 2 pickup model doesn't give you the same  sound as the one pickup does.

 

Overend Watts used to have a shop in Hereford and I spent many hours talking to him about music and basses. He always said he felt the single pickup Thunderbirds cut through better than the twin pickup models. That to me sums up the difference perfectly. 

IMAG1200_remastered.jpg

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Two pickups, so not strictly OT, but on the pickup choice thing, mine's got Dingwall pickups underneath those chrome covers (I know, odd one, but (long story, involving enormous goodwill and credit to Sheldon Dingwall), I had two Dingwall pickups spare), and one of them (the neck) is even a split-coil P-Tone, sooooo, with a bit of faffing, anything's possible...no laughing at the upper fret access, I knowwwww...

 

Oh, and I never use the bridge pickup...

 

620861480_2basses.jpg.b5acd7beba838c18ae18b56dd475522d.jpg

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On 01/07/2022 at 00:37, neepheid said:

Which Thunderbird pickup?  Original 60s, Bicentennial, TB+, Epiphone Probucker?

 

A single pickup Thunderbird does exist, but it's pretty rare - the Gibson Thunderbird II made in reverse body 1963-65 and non-reverse body 1966-69.

Honestly I have loved the tone of pretty much all of the Thunderbird basses I have heard but I have heard the modern ones are darker sounding and I think that characteristic seems to suit Thunderbird basses well, I also played a friends Epiphone Thunderbird at a gig (the more inexpensive model not the pro) and that had a gorgeous sound. 

 

That being said I know that dropping a Thunderbird pickup into a random bass will not make it sound like one but I am perfectly happy with a bass being its own thing

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7 hours ago, NancyJohnson said:

 

Pretty much all this.

 

Bear in mind the original Thunderbirds had lap-steel pickups in them; Gibson had a surplus, the lap-steel market dissolved and in the spirit of not throwing stuff out, they stuck them in Thunderbirds, so they're not specifically designed for bass.  I think this extended to the '70s bicentennial models too.

 

Perhaps your post should just have read; "I'm looking to build a P-bass with a single <insert desired pickup manufacturer here> Thunderbird-style pickup in the sweet spot.  Any advice?"

 

I've chased tone since most people here were in short-pants, so I know what it's like to be driven by a desire to do this sort of thing, but honestly, what are you expecting of this pickup? 

 

If you're just looking for something that just looks the part then go for it, but if you're of the belief that installing a vintage part or throwing £££ at something that purports to be a Thunderbird replacement will somehow transport you to 60s Gibson tone heaven, then forget it.  You'd be better off buying a Sansamp BDDI to control how you sound.

 

Lest we forget, about 30 bassists here couldn't tell a Precision bass from a Thunderbird from a Rickenbacker in a blind shootout. 

 

Have to say I never knew that about the lap- steel pickups, but it’s what manufacturers did at the time, using up surplus parts in other instruments.   Gibson had huge amounts of tonewoods for mandolins stockpiled during the mandolin craze of the 1920’s (which faded out during the depression years), which they then had to use for guitars,

 

I’m lucky enough to own a 1965 Thunderbird IV (twin pickup), but have always thought that the single pickup T’bird II is probably the coolest looking bass ever made.    

There is a recent signature Thunderbird model (non Gibson) with the bridge pickup moved up to the P bass “sweet spot” and the neck pickup moved right up against the end of fingerboard.   I can’t for the life of me remember the name or find any images, but TBH that twin pickup arrangement would be my preference.

8B697580-FB62-42E3-A9A9-8AC1C7D81AE6.jpeg

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On 02/07/2022 at 15:17, shoulderpet said:

Honestly I have loved the tone of pretty much all of the Thunderbird basses I have heard but I have heard the modern ones are darker sounding and I think that characteristic seems to suit Thunderbird basses well, I also played a friends Epiphone Thunderbird at a gig (the more inexpensive model not the pro) and that had a gorgeous sound. 

 

That being said I know that dropping a Thunderbird pickup into a random bass will not make it sound like one but I am perfectly happy with a bass being its own thing

 

IIRC Lull make (or made) a "P-Bass" with (their) Thunderbird pickups in and I'm pretty sure @Happy Jack has both one of those and a Lull "Thunderbird" so he might be well placed to comment?

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I've had two Lulls that were fitted with twin Thunderbird pickups, and they sound absolutely lush.

 

When playing in a 4-piece or larger, my Lull T5 remains my go-to bass. Strung with flats, the bottom end is just enormously rich and room-filling, with no harshness.

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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, BigRedX said:

 

IIRC Lull make (or made) a "P-Bass" with (their) Thunderbird pickups in and I'm pretty sure @Happy Jack has both one of those and a Lull "Thunderbird" so he might be well placed to comment?

 

Ok...this post might get long and I will ramble (it's late, I'm tired and I've had a couple of glasses of a very nice red).

 

I have two Lulls, a JAX-T4 and an NRT5;  both oversized Thunderbird bodies (reverse/non-reverse), both have a pair of Lull Thunderbird pickups in them.  (These were supposedly reverse engineered by Mike Lull from Gibson's 1950/60s lap-steel units.)  Concerning tonality - and this is a point I've posted about previously and will continue to reiterate time and time again - while for me these basses deliver what I want, they do not sound significantly different from any of my other basses.  (Other basses sport a variety of pickups; Warman, Delano, EMG, 80s DiMarzios, Bartolini.)  From a design/visual perspective, the Lull pickups look right and work well with the overall aesthetic of the instrument(s) and the chrome hardware.  That's it.  It wouldn't unduly bother me if these basses were carrying P/J/MM/any other pickup.  Remember that pickups are just one element in the entire signal chain; fresh strings make a difference, different amps/cabs/outboard kit makes a difference, even with the same settings a different person playing the instrument can make it sound different ('It's all in the hands.').

 

Going back to the OP, over the years, I've been fortunate enough to have owned about a dozen Thunderbirds; I was more in love with the shape (still am) than what pickups were in it.  The shape was simply the epitome of cool and just throwing one over my left shoulder made my 50+ year old body feel like I was 20 again.  It was like magic.  Nobody in the circle of bands we gigged with played one and just popping open the case would make other bass players just go, 'F*cking hell, Paul that's lovely.'  For these guys it seemed to be an aspirational bass to own (despite the rarity thing at the time, they weren't that popular and by consequence they really weren't that expensive - I was picking them up for £800-900 a pop, hence my ability to hoover up a load of them). 

 

I'm going to contradict myself here (a little) by saying out of all of these, only one seemed to excel, it just played better and went through several different sets of pots/caps before I was 100% happy with it, it just had something a bit extra going on.  It was just a bit hotter, grittier (although this was in part down to the super-low action rattling off the frets).  That said, all the others sounded more or less the same as each other and were distinctly underwhelming when you just pushed them (unaffected) into the front of an amp.

 

I think from the perspective of musical instruments the whole original/copy thing is a subject for a whole different level of discussion.  Despite not owning a single Gibson at the moment, I'll continue to vehemently defend my purchase choices over the past twenty-odd years.  While the '60s models were the originals, I feel that Gibson is much like Ford; of the belief that every new iteration of product is (questionably) for the betterment of the design and functionality; it would be hard to deny the basses Gibson have mass-produced from the early 90s (when production restarted) have much in common with the 60s models, aside from looking similar and, like Epiphone now, are just copy/facsimiles of the original run(s).

 

I really can't grasp what people really want from pickups to be honest.  For me, I just don't care, it's more of a visual aesthetic.  I put a Delano in my Precision because I liked that it looked different.  I stuck EMGs in one of my Hamers because they were a good deal/cheap.  I've put P90s, humbuckers and Strat pickups in basses to see what would happen (not much difference from pickups 'designed for bass' to be honest; end of the day they're just magnets with copper windings). I've screwed loads of different pickups into various old bodies, because they were just in my box of parts and the basses just made an acceptable noise.

 

Time for bed.

 

 

 

Edited by NancyJohnson
Chubby finger syndrome.
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