Many people have probably never heard of Peter Green. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t, but it would be awesome if you did.
Part of the charm of the instrument was the pickups. After removing the neck pickup for a while, Green eventually put it back in, only backwards. The magnet’s polarity was also reversed (likely an error at the factory - hey, it happens), making it magnetically out of phase with the bridge pickup. The result of this is a thin, strat-esque sound that is not common on a Les Paul when the pickup selector is in the middle position. As Greg Koch demonstrated on the Wildwood Guitars YouTube channel, the sound has a very thin tone to it (ideal for playing Albert King licks). The trick with this wiring and reversed polarity also lies in how the volume controls are used. Koch showed that rolling back ever-so-slightly on one of the volume knobs in the middle position thickened up the sound considerably, making for a very distinct and useable tone (kind of like a thicker single-coil pickup sound).
This tone and configuration are so distinct that people would take their guitars into the shop to have the “Peter Green Mod” done to them. This can be achieved through some fancy wiring and a phase switch to make the pickups out of phase. Consequently, this can be also achieved by taking a pickup apart and physically reversing the magnet (possible for those who are brave to take apart a humbucker but may be best left to your local tech). Pickup companies have also created humbucker sets with the reversed magnet, allowing players to get that Greeny sound as easily as swapping out their pickups.
It’s not often that such a tool has found its way into the hands of many great musicians. It’s also a testament to that tool when many are ready to modify their guitars to capture what was unique about them. If you ever have a chance to try a guitar like Greeny, you will find some magic in that middle position. You may just fall in love with it yourself.
By Kevin Daoust - instagram.com/kevindaoust.gtr
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