Pickup Vocabulary Inside the shop at Arnsparger Pickups

Bill Arnsparger has always been fascinated by the construction of guitar pickups.  A thin wire wraps around a bobbin, and leads to an odd-looking set of electronic components.  This takes the vibration from a metal string out to an amplifier and through a speaker.  For many of us, I’m sure, this has always been a bit of a mystery, but for Mr. Arnsparger…

…this system has been an inspiration.

“I had seen a book by Jason Lollar and I kept putting off buying it until around 2005 or ’06. One day I finally decided to get it.”

Arnsparger decided to build his own pickup winder based loosely upon the one he had seen in the Lollar book.

“I had used that winder for years going through different motors and a multitude of mechanical counters. I was always wanting to update it but not quite sure how to go about it.”

After years of making his own parts out of necessity, since parts for pickups were not as easy to come by as they are these days, Arnsparger finally decided to upgrade his winding machine to better suit his needs.  Presently, he is using the Mojotone Pickup Winding Machine in conjunction with his own apparatus for tension control.

As a product primarily of the sixties and seventies, Arnsparger regards “hot” pickups as a starting point.  Thus, I’ve given myself a nice segue into a very particular point I need to make about this pickup maker.  While Arnsparger builds a number of stock pickups, including his Strat style, Tele Style, and a wide array of Humbuckers, he seems to have quite the knack for building custom one-offs.

now to get back to my segue…

When Arnsparger is being commissioned for a custom build, he makes it a point to first align his vocabulary with the customer.  I mean, let’s be honest here people, we all tend to use words like…

Glassy                                            THICK

Hot                                        Fat

               Spongy                                          Warm

           tight                   spanky

BLUESY (BLUESEY?….nahhh)                                       CLEAN                                                     Buttery

             bold                                    Mcgoo                                  


Alright, so maybe “floppy” isn’t used all that often, but you get the point.  Arnsparger simply wants to make sure that when he and his customer refer to the word “glassy,” they are both getting at the same idea.  This concept, to me, makes a lot of sense.  We use all of these oddly colored words to drive home our point, but what does “CREAMY” really sound like?

look at some photos from his shop now…

Arnsparger has worked as a luthier for over 25 years now.  He knows guitars inside and out and has not yet met one he couldn’t save from the terrible things our axes endure.  He has spent countless hours deconstructing and reconstructing the most off-the-wall pickups to ever be invented.  Whenever a job comes along that another says cannot be done, Arnsparger humbly smiles and finds a way to make it work.  He is a thoughtful and resourceful man who invited me into his shop, made me a spectacular cup of coffee and took plenty of time out of his busy day to make me feel like a priority.

for this i am grateful

If you are looking to fit your guitar with a set of pickups that have been finely tuned by one of the six-string masters of the universe, you need to visit arnspargerpickups.com.  Now, as always, let’s raise a glass and knock one back for Bill Arnsparger, a true tone hero.


Steve Snyder


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