Last weekend, I decided to spring for a $500 dollar guitar that would be fun to own and one I could bring on Spring and Summer vacations, not worry too much if it got lost or beat up.
This week I purchased an Epiphone ES-339 Pro guitar in Cherry. Really enjoy playing it and looking at its spangly color and finish. I’m quite staggered at how much fun this low-cost guitar is to play. It sounds creamy, and has those ES-335 tones, even with their stock humbuckers.
My new un-modded Epiphone Es-339
Anyway, I have decided to mod this guitar with new pickups and hardware. And as I embarked on the process, I was relatively clueless as to what that would entail.
Starting on the premise that the stock pups needed upgrading (took me a while to realize that “pups” was short for “pickups,” D’oh.), I went online to surf the forums and see what other ES style guitars people owned and modified. My research affirmed that the guitar I had purchased was indeed a pretty good $400-$500 choice. Many people reviewed and talked about the Epiphone ES-339 Pro when it debuted in November of 2011. And it seemed to be sold out online, another good sign, whereas I found mine at Rudy’s Music on 48th Street.
At one forum many guitarists weighed in on what pups would be a good fit for an ES-339, and I came up with a short list:
- Gibson Classic ’57s
- Seymour Duncan JB and Jazz Humbuckers
- Seymour Duncan Seth Lover Humbuckers
The Gibson Classic ’57s are what Gibson uses in their own ES-339s, and, of course, Epiphone is a division of Gibson, so that means this is a good choice. The JB and Jazz set of pups is supposed to bring you a neck pup that mimics some of Jeff Beck’s tonality, the bridge pup gives you warmer, jazzier tone; this also sounded like a good choice.
Lastly, who is Seth Lover, why is his name on a pickup? Thrash metal guitarist? Shredder? Jazz player? Nope, Seth Lover is the inventor of the famed P.A.F. (‘patent applied for’) pickups first used in the Gibson Les Paul and their semi-hollow line, the ES guitars.
Seth Lover pictured with one of the first PAF pickups
Wikipedia notes that Lover is ‘most famous for inventing the humbucker or hum-cancelling electric stringed instrument pickup, most often used on the electric guitar.’ The iconic Fender Stratocaster has single coil pickups, and the construction of all single coil pups creates a certain humming feedback that is not desirable. Again, turning to Wikipedia:
First PAF (Patent Applied For) Pickup invented by Seth Lover
Before Lover, electric guitarists were forced to cope with the 60-cycle hum inherent in single coil pickups. It was in the mid-’50s, while working as an amplifier designer at Gibson Guitars, that Lover figured out how to wire two coils electrically out of phase and with reversed magnetic polarities. The effect was to cancel the hum before it reached the amp and the result was the birth of the humbucking pickup.
Lover applied for the patent on the humbucking pickup in 1955 and it was finally granted in 1959 (U.S. 2,896,491). During this five-year period, Gibson adhered a “Patent Applied For” sticker to the underside of their humbucker pickups. These “P.A.F.” pickups are the most collectable and desirable pickups today, fetching upwards of $1,000 each among vintage guitar collectors.
Seymour Duncan and Seth Lover
Seymour Duncan, renowned guitar pickup designer and manufacturer, considered Lover his ‘humbucker’ mentor and in 1994 he joined forces with Lover to release an authentic re-creation of the “Patent Applied For” humbucker. So after years of toiling without much recognition, the partnership brought him minor fame and acknowledgement.
After talking to the knowledgeable Jeremy and his colleague, Ullrich, at Rudy’s Music Repair Shop, I ended up purchasing a pair of these Seymour Duncan Seth Lover Humbuckers, $115 each. These are coming in the mail today from MacDaddy.com.
Next, I saw some mention of other mods, and realized it would be good to replace the nut, the tuners, and even the bridge. So in discussions with the Rudy’s repair team, I found out that they have tuners, either grovers or gotohs, and they make their own nuts. All I needed to do was purchase the right bridge.
Again in discussions with Jeremy and Ullrich from Rudy’s I purchased a Gotoh bridge with the specs that fit for an Epiphone ES-339. These are ordered and come in the mail tomorrow, then Friday I drop off the hardware and the guitar and hope to have it back next Monday. Sweet! I’m sure that after my efforts and expense, I’ll not want to lose or beat up this lady in red.