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Quack and Twang, the connection

Let's talk about  quack, twang and growl. The three are connected but twang is more or less optional. Twang can be sharp or not so sharp and when enough volume/gain is applied turns to a defined growl. Don’t overlook a pickup just because it’s twangy since twang indicates exceptional dynamic range and that might just be a good thing, especially if you want growl.

To get twang a pickup must first be capable of producing it. However it's one of those characteristics that can be encouraged or discouraged by picking technique and other factors and is not necessarily mandatory in a high performing pickup. Twang is inexorably linked to dynamic range (expression factor), you can’t have one without the other in rod magnet pickups such as Strat, Jazzmaster, Telecaster, Jaguar, Gibson 480 Staple, DeArmond/Gretsch Dynasonic etc pickups (but not Filtertrons).

Now authentic position 2 & 4 sounds, commonly known as quack, require high-peak performance but although those pickups produce twang naturally, it can be minimized by your picking technique. The things that impact on twang or not are, generally speaking …..

  1. the pickups ideally should be a Fender non-noiseless or at least one that has Alnico rod magnets.
  2. type of strings (steel wound produces most and nickel wound produces less)
  3. picking distance from the bridge (over the neck pickup produces less twang, close to the bridge produces more)
  4. picking technique (a plectrum that flexes and flicks the string produced more, a stiff plectrum that pushed the string around produces less)
  5. brand of amp (Fender, Musicman, Vox etc are great for twang)
  6. amp eq settings (lots of treble and presence produces more twang)
  7. amp volume settings (set loud or with high gain twang turns to growl)

Now let’s talk more about quack … it is characterized by less solid and less bitey, tinkly highs and a large midrange scoop impacting on the twang frequencies. It's produced by 2 identical high-peak Fender type pickups running in parallel and in-phase. When one of the pickups is different in some way the quack gets compromised to varying degrees. The greater the difference the less quack. Having 2 different types of pickups (such as Strat pickup and the other a single or twin rail or one with steel poles instead of rod magnets) there is little hope of achieving any kind of meaningful quack. Even if the two different pickups are non-noiseless Strat type but one is hotter than the other will cause a compromise, but one that is probably acceptable providing the difference is not dramatic (coil resistance measuring no less than 5.7K and with no more than 2k Ohms difference. These figures are different for noiseless pickups).

Lighter gauge strings 9~42 and no heavier than 10~46 produce the best quack.

This all serves to illustrate that quack between two pickups without twang in either one is contradictory. Lesson learned: Don’t overlook a pickup just because it’s twangy because under gain twang turns to growl.