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Do you care if positions 2 and 4 cancel the hum?

  • Not at all. I use those positions primarily for the tone.

    Votes: 8 29.6%
  • It's a nice benefit, but I could live without it.

    Votes: 5 18.5%
  • Yes! I want/need/use the hum cancelling benefits.

    Votes: 14 51.9%
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently wound a set of strat pickups that I am loving, and I was struck by an unexpected thought while playing through them today. It occurred to me that while I love the 2 and 4 positions for that classic strat quack, I actually don't like the fact that it cancels the hum in those positions. It's kind of distracting hearing the hum come in and out when switching between positions. For that reason, I probably won't bother doing RWRP on the middle pickup anymore.

Curious if I'm the odd man out here... The tone is great in 2 and 4, but does anyone actually care if they are hum cancelling? Wouldn't you rather have the hum be somewhat consistent? Or, could you care less either way?
 

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I used to use positions 2 and 4 to kill hum between songs or any other time I wasn't actually playing but a threw a noise gate on my board a while ago and that took care of that problem.
 

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I only use those positions with a fairly clean tone. I've never noticed much hum, and I have a sort of OCD habit of zeroing the guitar's master volume anytime I'm not actively playing.

It's sort of a manual noise gate.

So, I voted "not at all".
 

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Not enough to care, I guess. Still one of the most versatile designs in guitarland. It would be difficult for me to get along without a Strat style guitar.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
For those who are voting yes. I'm really curious to know when/how you're using the hum cancelling to your benefit? I'm struggling to think of a scenario, other than just keeping the hum down between songs while playing live. Which, I get. I lean towards a gate, mute pedal, or volume knob, but I can see using the switch.

It's good having the option when recording.
Out of curiosity, how does it benefit you while recording?
 

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I actually don't like the fact that it cancels the hum in those positions. It's kind of distracting hearing the hum come in and out when switching between positions.

Curious if I'm the odd man out here... The tone is great in 2 and 4, but does anyone actually care if they are hum cancelling? Wouldn't you rather have the hum be somewhat consistent?

I agree wholeheartedly. It's almost like I avoid positions 2 and 4 when they are hum cancelling. It's like it sucks the life out of the guitar.
Nothing scientific here, just how I feel.
Weird I know.
Now a full set of noiseless pickups is a different thing. Don't mind them at all.

In a sort of related thing....I'm old enough to have been around before 5-way switches were a thing. I used to just remove the spring in Strats to make it easier to get positions 2 and 4. then 5-ways were made. I put one in my Strat and I swear it did not sound as good in ANY of the positions but, was notably different in positions 2 and 4. It has lost something.
As the years went by I tried this in several Strats and the result was always the same. I've told many of my pals about this and I feel like they politely acknowledge then as they turn away I get the roll eye sequence, hahahaha. I don't know....I'm totally open to thinking it's just me and....I'm ok with that.
 

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I personally hate the sound of 2/4. Diluted quacky terribleness. The only time I use them is for pseudo acoustic strumming stuff.
 

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For those who are voting yes. I'm really curious to know when/how you're using the hum cancelling to your benefit? I'm struggling to think of a scenario, other than just keeping the hum down between songs while playing live. Which, I get. I lean towards a gate, mute pedal, or volume knob, but I can see using the switch.

Out of curiosity, how does it benefit you while recording?
I find that when recording with single coil guitars and depending on the plugin that I may be using at the time I can get hum, in particular with high gain tones. Switching to position 2 or 4 doesn't always eliminate it but it can sometimes help minimize.
I'm certainly no expert on the science of pickup winding but from what I've read many pickup builders say there is no difference in tone with a RW pickup.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I find that when recording with single coil guitars and depending on the plugin that I may be using at the time I can get hum, in particular with high gain tones. Switching to position 2 or 4 doesn't always eliminate it but it can sometimes help minimize.
Yeah, single coils hum all the time. That hum is accentuated as you increase the gain. Using the 2nd or 4th position on the strat will kill the hum (coming from the guitar), but it also doesn't really sound like a proper bridge or neck pickup. A good humbucker would be a more ideal choice for higher gain tones, and would kill the hum.

I'm certainly no expert on the science of pickup winding but from what I've read many pickup builders say there is no difference in tone with a RW pickup.
There is no difference in tone, if you're just using the one raw pickup. However, when you combine them with other pickups, it makes a big difference in tone, and in hum.

Two pickups with the same polarity and winding direction gives you that standard quack sound but without the hum cancellation.

Two pickups with the same polarity but opposing winding direction will be out of phase. Even quackier tone and with hum cancellation, but much lower output.

Or, the standard method, two pickups with the opposite polarity and the opposite winding direction (RWRP middle pickup). You get that standard quack with hum cancellation.
 

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Jon,
Since I know you have the materials, and the equipment, consider winding a dummy coil that you can switch in circuit for positions 1, 3, and 5 (or at least 1). Perhaps you can try the "other" way of achieving equivalent (or close to equal) hum levels for even and odd switch positions - by reducing the hum.

Ideally, dummy coils sense the exact same EMI that the string-sensing pickup does, so positioning the dummy right beside the sensing pickup, facing the same way, gets you enough anti-phase EMI to provide good cancellation. But I've placed a dummy coil in the control cavity of a Tele, and gotten substantial hum-reduction. It doesn't kill the hum, the way positions 2 and 4 do, but reducing hum by 12db is a nice improvement. As I understand it (which may not count for much), more iron in a coil will raise its inductance and lower its resonant frequency. So, you can wind a coil around some form, without polepieces, but you could also use some form of mild steel (an assortment of possibilities to choose from at the Tool and Fastener Supply shop on Robertson Rd. or even at the nearby Lowe's) in place of polepieces.

Keep in mind that a usable dummy coil does not have to have the same number of turns, use the same gauge of wire, or even have the same dimensions as the actual pickup. All it needs to do is pull in the same amount of EMI, without adversely affecting the inductance of whatever it might be used with.

You could stick a dummy coil in the Strat's control cavity. The Suhr backplate system is also not beside the pickup, and works fine. Heck, if the body has a "swimming pool" route, there's plenty of space between pickups for a nice flat-n-wide dummy coil that'll pull in all the hum you want.

IIRC, the Hunter book I loaned you doesn't go much into the topic of dummy coils. It might. I just don't remember it as doing so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Jon,
Since I know you have the materials, and the equipment, consider winding a dummy coil that you can switch in circuit for positions 1, 3, and 5 (or at least 1). Perhaps you can try the "other" way of achieving equivalent (or close to equal) hum levels for even and odd switch positions - by reducing the hum.

Ideally, dummy coils sense the exact same EMI that the string-sensing pickup does, so positioning the dummy right beside the sensing pickup, facing the same way, gets you enough anti-phase EMI to provide good cancellation. But I've placed a dummy coil in the control cavity of a Tele, and gotten substantial hum-reduction. It doesn't kill the hum, the way positions 2 and 4 do, but reducing hum by 12db is a nice improvement. As I understand it (which may not count for much), more iron in a coil will raise its inductance and lower its resonant frequency. So, you can wind a coil around some form, without polepieces, but you could also use some form of mild steel (an assortment of possibilities to choose from at the Tool and Fastener Supply shop on Robertson Rd. or even at the nearby Lowe's) in place of polepieces.

Keep in mind that a usable dummy coil does not have to have the same number of turns, use the same gauge of wire, or even have the same dimensions as the actual pickup. All it needs to do is pull in the same amount of EMI, without adversely affecting the inductance of whatever it might be used with.

You could stick a dummy coil in the Strat's control cavity. The Suhr backplate system is also not beside the pickup, and works fine. Heck, if the body has a "swimming pool" route, there's plenty of space between pickups for a nice flat-n-wide dummy coil that'll pull in all the hum you want.

IIRC, the Hunter book I loaned you doesn't go much into the topic of dummy coils. It might. I just don't remember it as doing so.
While I always appreciate the enthusiasm, I think you may have missed the point of my post. Lol.

I was trying to ask the specific question, "Do YOU care if positions 2 and 4 cancel the hum?" Further to that, if you do care, why? What benefit are you getting from the hum being cancelled in those two positions? There seem to be several votes for yes, but very few explanations as to why.

In my case, if I wanted a hum-free strat, I would just make/use single-sized humbuckers or stacked coils. Or, if I had single coils, I would rather the hum be consistent in all positions. My preference would be to control it by turning my volume down, stepping on a mute pedal, or just using a noise gate.

BTW - Thanks for lending me the book. Enjoying it so far!
 

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I have been at gigs where the hum was so bad I used the 2/4 all night. Not that I wanted to, but in a pinch it's good to have the option. I recently put an Illitch plate on the back of my strat, but I have not tested it yet.
 

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While I always appreciate the enthusiasm, I think you may have missed the point of my post. Lol.

I was trying to ask the specific question, "Do YOU care if positions 2 and 4 cancel the hum?" Further to that, if you do care, why? What benefit are you getting from the hum being cancelled in those two positions? There seem to be several votes for yes, but very few explanations as to why.

In my case, if I wanted a hum-free strat, I would just make/use single-sized humbuckers or stacked coils. Or, if I had single coils, I would rather the hum be consistent in all positions. My preference would be to control it by turning my volume down, stepping on a mute pedal, or just using a noise gate.

BTW - Thanks for lending me the book. Enjoying it so far!
Yeah, I meandered a bit. :oops: I guess it was your question of "Wouldn't you rather have the hum be somewhat consistent?" and mention that "It's kind of distracting hearing the hum come in and out when switching between positions." that got me sidetracked. It created the false impression that the introduction and elimination of hum as one switched pickup positions was a bit of a nuisance, requiring a solution of some sort.

Of course, as a "basement warrior", for me hum-elimination is either not an issue, or else simply involves moving the chair over and pointing a different way.
 

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I absolutely appreciate the hum cancelling aspect of positions 2 & 4.
In fact I'm not really sure why that would even be a question.
I almost exclusively use position 4 so I appreciate that it's quiet. Of course I've also considered getting a pickguard made up to run just the middle and neck pickup. Kind of like a reverse Esquire.
 

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and I will take option 4. Hum cancelling and tone. Love the bridge middle combo position.
Same here....to me that is the quintessential Strat tone - not really something that any other guitar can authentically replicate (at least to my old ears).

John
thegrumpyoldman
 
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