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Thread: Silent neck pickup

  1. #1
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    Silent neck pickup

    Hello, I am looking for some help trouble-shooting my Strat and it's neck pickup. I'll provide a lot of detail in hopes of answering questions in advance.

    I have a late '90s Mexican Strat that I outfitted with Texas Specials about 20 years ago. Early in the pandemic, so about eight months ago, I upgraded the electronics and wired it with a no-load master volume, no-load master tone, and blender control. I also went with a smaller cap on the tone control. All went just fine, sounded great, etc.

    Just before Christmas, I plugged in, and my neck pickup was silent. The other switch positions sounded just fine, except that the neck/middle position (I'm always confused whether that's 2 or 4) sounded identical to the middle-only sound. So I went under the hood hoping to find a broken solder joint that was easy to fix.

    I used a multimeter to test resistance at the jack. The middle and bridge pickups tested fine. The neck didn't register. I set the multimeter to test connectivity, and checked the output wire from each pickup (with the switch in a proper position) for connectivity with the volume pot's output lug. All tested as they should, including the neck pickup. I then checked each pickup's ground wire for connectivity with ground, and all tested as they should. All of my connections also look and feel quite solid.

    So, I'm about as sure as I can be that all of my connections are good because (1) the guitar worked fine a few weeks ago and (2) the multimeter demonstrates connectivity where it should. Yet the neck pickup remains silent.

    Could the pickup have suddenly gone bad on me? Are there other tests I should run? Part of me would welcome an excuse to get some different pickups (something noiseless, since I'm just playing at home), but I'd rather save the money if I can.

  2. #2
    Forum Member ch willie's Avatar
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    Re: Silent neck pickup

    Silly question, perhaps, but have you looked at the coil's threads to see if the pups have somehow gotten damaged? The wires to the magnet?
    If we'd known we were going to be the Beatles, we'd have tried harder.--George Harrison

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    Re: Silent neck pickup

    Quote Originally Posted by ch willie View Post
    Silly question, perhaps, but have you looked at the coil's threads to see if the pups have somehow gotten damaged? The wires to the magnet?
    Hardly a silly question. No, I've never opened these pickups. I was afraid that doing so risked more damage without yielding good information. But if it'll help, I will. Would I see something that I could fix?

  4. #4
    Forum Member Don's Avatar
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    Re: Silent neck pickup

    I'd consider connecting the pickup straight to a jack and testing it through an amp before looking for a bad winding, only because it can be hard to see.

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    Re: Silent neck pickup

    Quote Originally Posted by Don View Post
    I'd consider connecting the pickup straight to a jack and testing it through an amp before looking for a bad winding, only because it can be hard to see.
    I've never done that. Do I wire the output wire straight to the jack "hot," the ground to the jack ground, then? Do I do this outside the guitar and just use a screwdriver to test the pickup, or do I try to do this inside a strung-up guitar?

  6. #6
    Forum Member Don's Avatar
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    Re: Silent neck pickup

    Quote Originally Posted by papabear16 View Post
    I've never done that. Do I wire the output wire straight to the jack "hot," the ground to the jack ground, then? Do I do this outside the guitar and just use a screwdriver to test the pickup, or do I try to do this inside a strung-up guitar?
    You could either wire it straight to a jack or hold the leads to the end of a cord plugged into an amp if you have good enough dexterity. Then tap on it with a screw driver. Get help from a friend if needed. It's no more dangerous than playing the guitar itself.

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    Re: Silent neck pickup

    Quote Originally Posted by Don View Post
    You could either wire it straight to a jack or hold the leads to the end of a cord plugged into an amp if you have good enough dexterity. Then tap on it with a screw driver. Get help from a friend if needed. It's no more dangerous than playing the guitar itself.
    I wasn't worried about danger—I'll just have my kid hold it :). His name is Jack, so this will provide many opportunities for my dad jokes! Perfect, I can easily do this tonight. I even have an old jack, spare wire, and alligator clips, so I could make a test jack that I could use fo rthis in the future. Thank you!

  8. #8
    Forum Member ch willie's Avatar
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    Re: Silent neck pickup

    Quote Originally Posted by papabear16 View Post
    I wasn't worried about danger—I'll just have my kid hold it :). His name is Jack, so this will provide many opportunities for my dad jokes! Perfect, I can easily do this tonight. I even have an old jack, spare wire, and alligator clips, so I could make a test jack that I could use fo rthis in the future. Thank you!
    I recommend getting your ugliest kid to help you with the job. That way, if it gets electrocuted, you won't feel such a great loss. I had three ugly kids, two beautiful ones. I still have the two beautiful ones, and I'm grateful to the other three for their sacrifices--I can now plug the toaster up in the same socket as the coffee machine.
    If we'd known we were going to be the Beatles, we'd have tried harder.--George Harrison

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    Re: Silent neck pickup

    Quote Originally Posted by ch willie View Post
    I recommend getting your ugliest kid to help you with the job. That way, if it gets electrocuted, you won't feel such a great loss. I had three ugly kids, two beautiful ones. I still have the two beautiful ones, and I'm grateful to the other three for their sacrifices--I can now plug the toaster up in the same socket as the coffee machine.
    Ha! I'm totally doing something like this with the younger two. It won't work with my oldest, who's helped me enough with guitar stuff to know that nothing is live here (but watch out for the soldering iron!).

  10. #10
    Forum Member Don's Avatar
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    Re: Silent neck pickup

    Quote Originally Posted by papabear16 View Post
    Ha! I'm totally doing something like this with the younger two. It won't work with my oldest, who's helped me enough with guitar stuff to know that nothing is live here (but watch out for the soldering iron!).
    My daughter grabbed a hot soldering iron when she was little! Ouch!

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    Re: Silent neck pickup

    Quote Originally Posted by Don View Post
    My daughter grabbed a hot soldering iron when she was little! Ouch!
    That's about the only guitar tool I have (in a very limited tool set) that still scares me. The son who likes to help me is good with it and very careful, but accidents happen and those suckers are hot!

  12. #12
    Forum Member ch willie's Avatar
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    Re: Silent neck pickup

    Last time my son and I soldered, he was a little smarter and burned a place on my arm instead.
    If we'd known we were going to be the Beatles, we'd have tried harder.--George Harrison

  13. #13
    Forum Member Don's Avatar
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    Re: Silent neck pickup

    I taught my son to solder when we built a guitar kit when he was 12 years old. We replaced the electronics with good stuff. He said it was easy. I said it was because someone showed him how to do it. He's since become quite the fabricator.

  14. #14
    Forum Member ch willie's Avatar
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    Re: Silent neck pickup

    i've got a soldering job to do soon. Wish me godspeed on my attempt to do so without giving myself 3rd degree burns. Pardon the highjacking.

    This silent pickup is a mystery whose answer I'm dying to know.
    If we'd known we were going to be the Beatles, we'd have tried harder.--George Harrison

  15. #15
    Forum Member vinyl's Avatar
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    Re: Silent neck pickup

    Quote Originally Posted by papabear16 View Post
    Just before Christmas, I plugged in, and my neck pickup was silent. The other switch positions sounded just fine, except that the neck/middle position (I'm always confused whether that's 2 or 4) sounded identical to the middle-only sound. So I went under the hood hoping to find a broken solder joint that was easy to fix.

    I used a multimeter to test resistance at the jack. The middle and bridge pickups tested fine. The neck didn't register.

    Could the pickup have suddenly gone bad on me?
    Yes, the tests you've outlined suggest the pickup is open. But that only means you need to replace the neck pickup. If you're looking for an excuse to replace all three, I can't help you.

    Quote Originally Posted by ch willie View Post
    i've got a soldering job to do soon. Wish me godspeed on my attempt to do so without giving myself 3rd degree burns. Pardon the highjacking.

    This silent pickup is a mystery whose answer I'm dying to know.
    Willie, as long as you hold the soldering iron by the handle, you should be fine.

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    Re: Silent neck pickup

    Quote Originally Posted by ch willie View Post
    Last time my son and I soldered, he was a little smarter and burned a place on my arm instead.
    Nice. I bet he learned a few of your most favorite words!

    Quote Originally Posted by Don View Post
    I taught my son to solder when we built a guitar kit when he was 12 years old. We replaced the electronics with good stuff. He said it was easy. I said it was because someone showed him how to do it. He's since become quite the fabricator.
    That's awesome! My son now enjoys it quite a bit, too. He wants to help me build another pedal.

    Quote Originally Posted by ch willie View Post
    i've got a soldering job to do soon. Wish me godspeed on my attempt to do so without giving myself 3rd degree burns. Pardon the highjacking.

    This silent pickup is a mystery whose answer I'm dying to know.
    Me, too!

    Quote Originally Posted by vinyl View Post
    Yes, the tests you've outlined suggest the pickup is open. But that only means you need to replace the neck pickup. If you're looking for an excuse to replace all three, I can't help you.
    Oh, I know this will have limited persuasive value for me. And really, I don't need much—my wife will go along with it if I need to buy some new pickups. A quick fix for the neck has its own, cheap appeal, though.

  17. #17
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    Re: Silent neck pickup

    Well, I tested that neck pickup every which way. Sadly, it's dead. But my wife is supportive anyway of me getting some noiseless pickups since this is for around the house and our basement is VERY noisy, so I've got a Zexcoil Vintage Hot set on the way to try. Should be fun!

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