rickenbacker suicide, part 2

Back in May of 2009, I wrote this post about opening the case and finding my once-trustworthy Rickenbacker 12-string to have a broken tailpiece, snapped in two by the tension of the strings.

I found rumors on the net about inferior alloys used by RIC in the late 80’s as well as the unusually high tension of the Pyramid brand of strings I was using. With a new tailpiece and the guitar tuned down a whole step (from EeAaDdGgBBEE to DdGgCcFfAADD), I figured I was in good shape.

Lo and behold, I opened up the case last month and strings were everywhere—the tailpiece had apparently snapped again. Fortunately it was not the floating “R” logo tailpiece this time, but the clasp screwed onto the body that the “R” piece hooked into. In other words, the other half of the older equation, rumored to have the faulty alloy.

I have a hard time believing that it could be the Pyramid strings when I had the guitar tuned down a whole step. Nonetheless, lots of Rickenbacker-obsessed people who spend a lot more time with this sort of thing than I do all seem to be recommending switching strings, so I ordered some Thomastik Infelds just in case, and as a lower tension will make for easier string-bending.

Apparently Rickenbacker corporate hates Pyramids so much that they refuse to let anyone mention them by name on their website, and replace the word “pyramid” with “tetrahedron.” Likewise, using the name of a popular compression pedal that people use to get that Byrdsy jangle (even endorsed by Roger McGuinn himself) is verboten: “JangleBox” becomes “Jingle Bells.” Why they dislike the pedal isn’t entirely clear, aside from vague intimations of copying the built-in circuitry of a unit that’s no longer even made.

Very odd indeed.

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6 Responses to “rickenbacker suicide, part 2”

  1. andrew dalio Says:

    Strangely enough, I used to use Pyramid Gold flats on my old Precision (mostly ’cause Phil Lesh and Macca used to use them…), but use Thomastik Jazz flats on my Rick and my Lakeland Hollowbody… The Pyramids were good for a dubby thump, but DAMN, they’re high tension! The Thomastiks just feel more balanced and a lot easier playing…

  2. aleatoric Says:

    Thanks, Andrew. You’re talking about the Rick 4001 bass? I had never even heard of Thomastik until the other day.

    Meanwhile, I found this interesting article about the Rickenbacker “toaster” pickups, and how you can unwind them to make them sound more vintage, like the Byrds’ and Beatles’ era sound.

    It’s written by a guy named Ted Breaux, who it turns out is also from New Orleans, and it seems, is the guy who brought absinthe back to America.

  3. andrew dalio Says:

    Yep, the 4001. You’re not really supposed to use roundwounds on the 4001 (apparently due to the softer alloy in the frets), so they introduced the 4003… Anyway, I’ve had the Thomastik Jazz flats on the Rick for about 10 years, and they’re still in good shape! They’re regular gauge on the g, and light gauge on the d, a, and e (43, 56, 70, 100). I have Thomastik Acousticore strings on the acoustic bass guitar that I play in Archipelago. They’re pretty nifty: bronze windings over a nylon core (so they’re like really big classical guitar strings). Unfortunately, they were around $65 when I first got the bass (it’s from 1999), then they went up to around $80, and currently go for $95 from Juststrings.com…

    RE: Ted Breaux. The first absinthe I ever had was his Nouvelle Orléans. Tres yummy! Apparently he reverse engineered an old bottle of Pernod (or something…) to get the formula. He’s also the guy behind Lucid…

  4. andrew dalio Says:

    RE: Rickenbacker p’ups. My electric guitar is a Rick Turner model T. I guess he designed it for slide work, but I just use it for regular playing (although I’m using heavy gauge strings w/ a wound third). Anyway, he cloned the original Rick horseshoe pickup, and it sounds fantastic. There’s also a nice push/pull volume control, that lets you bypass the vol/tone controls and go straight from the p’up to the output jack. Very noticeable high end increase! http://originalsite.renaissanceguitars.com/modelt.html

  5. aleatoric Says:

    I am guessing those are not cheap guitars, based on the fact that there are no prices listed anywhere on his site! I would love to try one of those pickups on my lapsteel.

    Rickenbacker has been making “vintage” pickups that meet the 60’s standards now for almost 10 years, it turns out. Unfortunately they cost $250 each, but maybe I’ll have to find somewhere that has them so I can see the difference for myself.

  6. andrew dalio Says:

    IIRC, I paid about $1600 for it (but they made it in custom grape/purple…). Of course, I wasn’t married , had a child, or in debt back then… 😉

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