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BFMN Exclusive: An interview with M.J., Manager of the Custom Shop at Seymour Duncan

  01/27/10 03:00, by , Categories: NAMM 2010, BFMN Exclusive , Tags: barefootmusicnews, dan grigor, frank butler, mj, namm, seymour duncan

Maricela Juarez, the manager of the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop, has hand-wound more guitar pickups used on gold and platinum records than anyone in the universe. During her tenure with Seymour Duncan she has literally wired the sound of practically every single one of your favorite guitar songs.

Click through for the video

She shares an attitude with everyone I’ve met that works there. It is a laid back, easy, Seymour kind of an attitude; a way of thinking that includes a fanatical attention to detail and quality. There is something else though, something that, without a doubt, defines Seymour Duncan pickups as the best in the world. There is a dedication to the pure Art of the process.

When Mr. Duncan was young, Seymour just starting out, his first love was restoring the sound of a vintage pickup. Letting out the wire between his fingers, adjusting the wrap to be just right, this many layers of that many wraps, this close or that far apart. After 40 years or so he is still at it, hand rewinding vintage pickups back to perfection. His experience comes from studying the masters, by taking them apart and recreating specifications so as to be able to recreate forgotten tones. He has passed this art and knowledge on to his workers, people who, for some strange reason, love to go to work every day…

Maricela, or MJ as she is known, is Seymour’s right-hand at the custom shop. Her dedication to her craft rivals the dedication of the players for whom she creates pickups. Just as they practiced and learned and played and performed, MJ has, for 27 years, been winding the pickups used for our favorite songs. Every single gold record she participates in has a bit of her in it. Sometimes a bit of her flesh, always a bit of her soul. She is the Tone Master and heart of the Custom Shop.

Her job is to talk to a client and find out what tone they want and then create it. Think about that for a second. Try and say out loud, using words, what sound you want; describe your “tone.”

“Well, let’s see, I want it to be loud, I want it to be clean and a little bassy, but enough high-end to cut through. I want its aura to be blue and the chakra associated with it to be instantly realigned…”

Can you imagine with all the crazy creative guitar players in the world what kinds of things she must hear? She somehow translates this information into a tone. They decide on materials and size of wire and all the parts come together in her hands and before you know it she is feeding wire to a machine that is spinning what will soon be a pickup with that unique tone. “I want purple lows and azure highs” or, more seriously, “I want this to sound like it did when it was new in 1956 and I want 6 more new ones just like it for my other two guitars.”

That is the word they use: Tone. They create and recreate the tone of the desired pickup. They can even age it as in “I want a 10-year-old middle pickup out of a ‘68 Strat. They can do that, right down to the cream-colored plastic, yellowed with age. Is it clean, or overdriven? Is it crispy or chunky sounding? The windings determine the tone. More wraps is more powerful at the cost of some treble, for instance, one of thousands of variables. All create different tones.

No one harnesses them better than Seymour Duncan, easily the most trusted name in reproductions and repairs as well as the largest distributor of OEM pickups in the world. They spend every day providing pickups and parts for every popular guitar brand and all the top stars in the industry.

Stay Tuned! DanG
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This entry was posted by and is filed under NAMM 2010, BFMN Exclusive. Tags: barefootmusicnews, dan grigor, frank butler, mj, namm, seymour duncan

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