So most people that know me know I started playing guitar when I was 12 but really didn't get serious about it till I was 14, leap forward to today and I am 26 years old so it has been an ongoing love affair, in fact it is the only thing I have dedicated any serious time in my life to...guess that speaks wonders about my life!
Anyways a common question I get asked by friends interested in picking up the instrument is "What guitar should I buy?" and its a great question to ask, because you really don't want to go out and purchase an instrument without a little knowledge first. This will kind of serve as a self serve guide for all. Unfortunately this is written in regards to traditional 6 string guitars as I personally don't have much experience with 7 or 8 strings.
I usually start by explaining its a multi-question based response as you really need to know what the person wants achieve with their instrument, generally I will ask the following questions:
-What type of music do you want to play? -Are you interested in electric or acoustic -Is this a hobby or are you looking to join/make a band?
I then break to explain to them just exactly how hard it is to learn how to play guitar and that it certainly wont be like guitar hero and actually requires some dedication. Then I proceed to finish off with the following two questions:
-Is it something you think you will dedicate time to, seriously? -What their budget is?
Once I have all this info is quiet simple to suggest a plethora of various guitars that would suit them anywhere from cheap players packs for the completely unsure right up to top of the line guitars for those that are extremely dedicated. But never do I recommend someone purchase a guitar that would be a frivolous waste of money.
I'll cover the first question the most as it is the one that generally matters the most for everyone, because obviously you want to purchase a guitar that is going to suit your needs. No sense in purchasing an acoustic guitar if you want to play viking death metal! The most common answer I get for this question from younger people is Metal (Metallica, Pantera, Slipknot...) and with older people its usually Classic Rock/Blues Rock (Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Hendrix...) but for the purpose of this post we will tackle this question by genre and not age as music doesn't have age limits.
For playing metal you will need you preferred style of guitar (Stratocaster, Les Paul, Explorer...) with the hottest available pickups, generally this means they will be humbuckers over single coils, but it doesn matter as most of the time you will be employing a distortion pedal to achieve the gain levels required. Most of the time I tell people to see if they can find a model with a 24 fret neck as a lot of metal utilizes the full second octave of the guitar.
Controls on a guitar for Metal generally don't matter as most of the time the guitar is just run full out. The guys wanting to play Metal will also have to come to the decision of having a Floyd Rose or not, upside is of course dive-bombs; however it unfortunately comes with a little more time and effort for string changes and setup.
Lastly depending on budget range will be Active or Passive pickups, tons of manufacturers are producing guitars that come with active pickups off the shelf which tend to be the preferred pickup for heavy metal as they can provide blistering amounts of controllable gain but usually push the price of the guitar up another $100 or so and require a 9V power source inside the guitar that the owner must be aware of, a dead battery means the pickups will not work.
This is my specialty area as it is where I fall for playing music. There are three main staple guitars that almost EVERYONE knocks off; Les Paul, Telecaster and the Stratocaster. Almost anyone who has been on any top 100 guitar players list will be playing one of these guitars, with the majority probably using a Les Paul, I don't know actual numbers but a Les Paul is almost synonymous with Rock.
For this genre you will want low to medium out put pickups, the general preferred flavor seems to be humbuckers; however single coil pickups do work as Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton have proved, so its based on personal preference. Single Coils tend to be brighter sounds then humbuckers but also do not produce as much distortion as a humbucker, also under larger gain loads a single coil will be extremely susceptible to its dreaded hum.
I would almost recommend only purchasing a guitar with individual tone and volume knobs for Rock as a lot of player especially from bands in the 60s and 70s really made use of the variety of tones available from their pickups with just a volume and tone control. Jimmy Page was a wizard with this doing soft clean acoustic like parts on his neck pickup and then crunchy distortion on the bridge pickup. Ramble On is a perfect example of this, amazingly this trick works through overdrive and distortion pedals as well as Jimmy pretty much always had his Tonebender on.
Pickups really do not have much room to mess around with here, best bet is a set of passive pickups modeled after a PAF pickup which is considered the Holy Grail pickup, it was the originally humbucker created by Seth Lover in 1955. Of course you can't get an authentic PAF without shelling out a lot of money, but tons of manufacturers still make them to those exact specs, Seymour Duncan make a Seth Lover pickup which is actually still made on the original winding machine that Seth used while employed with Gibson. This is a medium output pickup, and defined an entire Genre of music that went on to inspire several other genres. Saying this you can use a hotter pickup with success for rock you will just have more gain on tap at your guitar; however I would stay away from active pickups for this genre, this is personal opinion and not a written law or requirement.
When it comes to Strats and Teles there isn't really much that will vary from the factory, there are certainly tons of aftermarket pickups for these guitars however the only real difference I have seen from the factory is Standard Pickups and Noiseless Pickups, which do not hum but retain the single coil tone as it is a completely different tone in comparison to a humbucker.
I don't play any country but I have seen enough country players on TV and in magazines and stuff to say that the Telecaster is pretty much the staple guitar for country music. The Telecaster has a uncommon scale length to it and unique pickups that give it a real twangy bite.
Aside from personal customization of the guitar the only thing that really varies is if the guitar has a B-Bender or not. In country music sometimes the guitarist will play that typical country lick that sounds slightly banjo like, well its a B-Bender. A B-Bender is a device installed into the guitar that attaches to the high B string of the guitar and to the front strap button. When the player presses down on the neck of the guitar it pulls the front strap button up which in turn pulls on the B string changing it's pitch. This device however can only be used while the guitar is hanging on a strap on your shoulder.
Acoustic, Jazz, Prog, Free form:
Form here a lot of other genres of music are pretty free form so there are no real specifics that I can get into, plus these are the genres where people generally know what they are looking for already. Now you might say "But, Lucas, you only told us what electric guitars are good for these genres what about acoustic?" and I will say "you're right" however guitar parts arranged for an acoustic do not require much difference in the acoustic guitars that is the beauty of them.
For the most part when purchasing an acoustic you have to decide what shape and size feels best for you and most importantly if you want an Electric Acoustic or not. Electric Acoustics allow you to plug the guitar into an acoustic amplifier so you can project your guitars sound over a larger distance; however these pickup systems can not be compared to an actual electric guitar so don't expect to play viking death metal on a electric acoustic!
Guitar Price Points:
So everyone knows that guitars come in all shapes and sizes and can cost anywhere from $100 to $10,000 or more. This is one of the things that baffles most new players, but in reality it's like a Honda Civic and a Ferrari Enzo.
Lower price guitars are generally mass produced via CNC machine with inferior quality parts and woods to keep manufacturing costs down which keeps the overall price of the guitar low. High quality guitars like Gibson Custom Shop guitars are all strictly hand made by master luthiers, use the highest quality parts possible resulting in extremely high priced pieces of art.
All price points of guitars have their place in the market and it is actually the cheapest guitars that sell the most because a lot of people purchase a guitar play for a month or two and quit after realizing it's not as simple as guitar hero . The following will break down what price point is suitable for a specific player.
Low Price Point:
The low price point will include any guitar you can purchase for $299 or less in my books, and will most contain all the "players packs" that a lot of companies sell. These "players packs" are general a guitar and all the accessories needed to play. Packages can be acoustic or electric, with the electric kits coming with a small 5-15 watt solid state practice amp.
These guitars are usually made out of wood, but some can be plastic or other cheap materials, and are produced offshore. Do not expect it to sound amazing as it is a cheap guitar but they are great to learn the basics on and don't cost a lot if you decide the instrument is not for you. Once setup properly they will play great and last a long time if maintained properly.
The low price point guitar is best suited to young children, people who unsure if they will stick with the instrument or those confined to an extremely tight budget.
Mid Price Point:
This is the section that the majority of guitars in any store will fall under they generally range from $299-999. These guitars are usually modeled after a high price point guitar; however they are produced via CNC offshore in China, Korea and Indonesia being some of the largest, and are produced with licensed products. This means a company (ie Floyd Rose) has licensed an offshore manufacturer to produce an item to the original manufacturers specs and put the original manufacturers name on it even though it wasn't built in their facility, this gets you that awesome product at a lower cost.
These guitars are made out of proper tone woods, though some of the woods are not sourced from the same locations at their high end counterparts however it is still the same species of wood. They are all made to the original specs via CNC machine allowing mass production. The parts will either be name brand or the manufacturers offshore version of the high end counter part. For example Epiphone is owned by Gibson so they use Gibson specs to make a lot of parts; however again they are made offshore. Which honestly isn't that big of a deal anyways, offshore factories are getting good at making products and they only continue to get better.
The mid price point guitar is best suited to young adults, hobbyist guitar players, people confident enough to modify their own guitars and musicians on a budget. Another unique aspect of mid priced guitars is the offshore signature models, lots of famous guitarist have signature series guitars from respectable factories and they most certainly fall into the high price point and are generally unobtainable to most.
So the offshore factories make a run of these guitars as well; however since its assembled offshore with a large portion of offshore parts the price point is considerably lower allowing amateur collectors and average joe superfans of those guitarists to purchase this replica as well; however not all guitarist issue a offshore signature model.
High Price Point:
This is it the cream of the crop, the big daddies, nothing can stand up against one of these guitars, but get ready to mortgage your house in order to purchase one! Well Not really but these guitars will cost anywhere from $1000 and up. High price point guitars come from Well known American Manufacturers, Custom Shops, Custom Factory Orders and Independent Luthiers.
Well known American manufacturers are your companies like Gibson, Fender and PRS, this is just naming three. These guitars are best suited to the committed player or the collector, they are not cheap. They are a mixture of both hand and machine made, rough "blanks" are made out of the corresponding woods using the aid of modern machinery, such as CNC machines making bodies. These are then finished by hand by apprenticing luthiers and sometimes but not often master luthiers. This is the first tier in high price point guitars.
Custom Shop models are suited to the hardcore fan and/or collector. They are replica guitars that are built to EXACT specifications, they take the guitar they are replicating ("master") and measure every aspect of it and build the replica like that. They will even add aging to the guitar and the exact wear marks as the "master" guitar had, every ounce of detail is put into it. Some also replicate guitars like the iconic 1959 Les Paul, in the case of this guitar it will come un-aged and with no wear as a new Les Paul would have in 1959. Depending
on what want this can be the middle of the road for high price
point guitars, but if you get real fancy it can get easily get higher. Custom Factory Orders are exactly that, most guitar factories will take your own personal order for a guitar allowing you to pick body style, pickup configuration, neck profile and all those fine details so you can create you own dream guitar. Generally there is a long waiting list, were talking years here, and the cost starts getting phenomenal; however we are talking a one off guitar here.
Independent Luthiers do not work for any of the large guitar manufacturers, although some may have at one point. These are some of the finest master luthiers around and they will make anything you want. Some may work completely on there own or they may work for a small guitar company. Again the same options as with a custom factory order apply here, but you tend to get a little finer attention to detail and some will even do some outrageously wild work that one of the larger manufacturers do not offer.
Not many, but some larger Independent Luthiers do have less expensive "production" run guitars that can be had from the lower end of the expensive scale. They are harder to find in shops and even more so the stocks are never filled as fast as any of the large manufacturers can. So you tend to wait to get one but they are certainly worth it as you get every penny you paid for.
As you can see to me purchasing a guitar is a big thing to me, then again I fall into the budding collector category. I still play my guitars and will play all of my guitars; however I tend to like collectable guitars I see them as an instrument and a piece of artwork. But I am also sometimes held back by my budget and will spring for a cheaper offshore model just so I have it there to play. Hopefully people can draw some good information from this and make an awesome choice the next time they purchase a guitar, or better yet if it helps you purchase your first one.
I doubt anyone really comes by and reads this but I like tossing up info now and then, anyone who does actually read this I thank you for taking time to and I apologize if I don't post enough, but the music is just more important. One thing I have done is decided to write in depth unbiased reviews or guitar and audio production equipment. I have had a musical interest ever since I can remember, it really took hold 14 year ago when I was 12 and now its become a hobby and an obsession. I am going to start doing reviews and any guitar or audio production equipment I end up purchasing or use for a period of more then three months. Sometimes stuff does not work out for me so I do return it but none the less I will review it so any potential buyers can get the down right dirt on the item, like many others I fanatically research items on the internet before purchasing them so I can appreciate a well thought out review that doesn't read like a sales sheet. I do not work for any companies, I am not endorsed or sponsored by any of them and my source of income has nothing to do with the music industry so I wont be bull shiting anyone to make a commission or anyone, just pure fact. I havent really decided, but I may start incorporating YouTube videos as well but my video production skills need some work.
So the other day I was in grabbing new sets of strings for my guitars and I walked over to the pick section to see if they had finally gotten in the style of pick I have been loving. Dunlop was kind enough to send me every flavor of .88mm picks they have, and I quickly fell in love with the Dunlop Tortex III before that for the past eons I have used the standard Tortex Sharps. The thing I look for in a pick is a nice sharp pointed end; however the downside to the sharp was how drastically it sharpened, I didn't like the lack of the material on the pointy tip but lived with it. Then I tried the Tortex III that has a similar pointed tip but more of a standard round tip feel, I quickly burned through the freebies Dunlop gave me and was left wanting! To my dismay it's not a pick my local music store kept on hand despite all my harassing, so I was left to hunt for a pick that I could replace the Tortex III with.
As a musician I am always on the hunt for simple ways to change, modify or ruin my tone and strings and picks are a pretty dang cheap place to start for under $20 you can totally change the tone of your guitar, heck a $3 metal pick will make a noticeable change. I watched a Guitar DVD by Paul Gilbert where he was talking about constantly getting asked what kind of pick he used, and according to him most people are surprised when he tells them its a standard orange Tortex (.60mm). So down to the local music shop I went to purchase a $3 player pack of orange Tortex picks to see what Paul was talking about.
He has mentioned most people would toss out the pick thinking "WTF!" most shred players tend to use a very thick pick sometimes even over 2mm which is a beast. Right away I realized what he was talking about, the flexibility of the pick made alternate picking and other forms of fast picking feel kind of weird, but I must say the response of the pick off the string was much more pleasant to my ear then the .88mm so I continued to use them for quite some time.
Jump forward a few months and back on track with the current story when I was picking up strings I went to grab some picks and of course the .88mm Tortex III's werent there so I defaulted to grabbing a pack of .60mm orangies, but whats this Out of Stock...NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Now it was all the way back to square one, so I literally sat down in front of all the picks and started grabbing ones from the bulk section and was flexing them, taping them, twisting them and feeling how sharp they are. As I mentioned I am pretty picky on my picks, BA DUM TISS.
Tucked in the back shelf of all the bulk picks I saw a bunch of Dunlop "Signature Series" Black Fang picks, these are made for James of Metallica and normally I am not a huge fan of artist marketed stuff as its generally a ploy for more money. I grabbed a 6 pack and the price was like 20 cents more then I would normally pay, but they have a similar shape to the Tortex III I enjoy. I got a pack in the lightest size which is .73mm a gauge I haven't tried until now and must say I really like it. Being made out of Ultex they wont wear down too quick, and I like the Spider or Snake graphic on the front, the Metallica spelt Hetfield on the back is a little cheesy but hey who cares if it does the job right.
I just think I might keep purchasing these picks till they stop stocking them or some other weird freak accident takes hold...like they start stocking Tortex III's
So the last couple weeks have been pretty cool I have been checking out lots of new music slated to hit shelves in stores across the world or that may already be in stores now. It's always a pleasure to take a sneak peek at music and most importantly for me it allows me to know what music I want to actually purchase.
First on my chopping block is Brendon Small's side project away from Dethklok.
Most people know Brendon for his work on Home Movies and for his hit cartoon Metalocalypse. But most people don't know he was a musician long before a comedian. Brendon had a bunch of music that really didn't suit the Dethklok namesake. By chance when they were heading into the studio to work on the second Dethalbum, something cause them to run into a snag with production on Dethalbum II. So instead of scrapping his studio time he paid Bryan Beller and Gene Hoglan to lay down some flavor on his track and thus was the birth of Galaktikon. Small has said himself this project has nothing to do with Dethklok and he has no intentions of crossing the two over, which is great. Of course hardcore Dethklok fans were a little pissed with the album, but as a music aficionado I am glad he put out other music unrelated to his main project, WAY better then seeing it stuffed away and forgotten about.
The album is a melodic tale of an intergalactic space hero named Triton who is served divorce papers then proceeds to go on an anger filled space adventure. I am not going to do a huge write up on the album there are tons online that can be read.
Triton is the opening song and for some reason the first thing it reminded me of was Black Fire Upon Us but it's most likely just similar chords as the song quickly takes on it's own style. The heavy chord riff in Deathwaltz reminded me a lot of like an old Audioslave style rhythm very chunky, like the peanut butter by the same name. Dangertits, ok not only does this song have the best name of all the songs on the entire album, but it's my favorite piece simply because its one hell of an instrumental and I am a sucker for instrumentals. The closing track On My Way has an evident vocal presence that highly resembles Pickles, which I enjoyed. Overall each track has a little bit of vocal difference and a ton of melodic differences leaving Galaktikon with a ton of re-listening value. This was one of my more awaited meoldic metal/rock albums I was looking forward to and I was certainly no let down.
Second Album Up: Slash Apocalyptic Love
So I just got finished taste testing this album in full, its what actually prompted me to write this blog entry. I have never been a huge Slash fan, he is a great musician but hasn't really done anything that seriously struck a note with me since Appetite, I know I am cruel but honest. And I had never heard of Myles Kennedy until Slash's first solo album, again just not generally my cup of tea.
Well I know people will hate me for this but I really couldn't get into the groove this album. For once I was really down with the riffs Slash was playing but the vocals drew the line for me. I REALLY liked Back to Cali from his first solo album but I guess for me a full album with Myles was a no go. Every time I felt I was getting into the groove of the music the vocal killed it for me which is kind of sad. I wont really say much more about this album as its isn't one I would purchase but mainly because of the vocals, I skimmed through the tracks a few times just listening to the music and I totally enjoyed that. Hardcore Slash or Myles Kennedy fans will love this album, certainly an awesome piece of work.
Some people might wonder why I even bothered, well A) because it only cost me some time of my life and B) I am always intrigued to hear new music from any genre whether or not I like it in the end is always a different story. But mostly it's the best way to be introduced to new artists.
Act Three: Tenacious D Rize of the Phenix
Guess what...there BACK! Tenacious D was around for quite some time but really didn't get noticed till the release of the motion picture The Pick of Destiny. Tenacious D is back and on the hunt for a masterpiece song so sayeth Jack Black. Which is extremely strange cause I thought 'The Metal' was a freaking badass song, anways I digress.
The acoustic duo start the album off with the title track, which tells the listener the cruel story of how Tenacious D fell off the map after The Pick of Destiny and how they are going to make the comeback of comebacks. Low Hanging Fruit has some of Jack Black's famous lyrics like this line "oosmar and a flipflorp bidily florp orshack shackaor ee qwow shikika
kway shikika kway shikika kway shikika qui qui qui gwo gwo GWOW (fart
noise)" not even kidding! The song Rock Is Dead speaks an eerie truth, what used to be classified as rock is long gone, though the D does a good job of channeling the feel in this song, the ripping solo certainly helps the cause. Maybe rock is not as dead as we initially thought.
Overall the album has that classic Tenacious D feel, but a little more refined there is less joking and skits on this album, certainly taking the business a little more seriously, but as they both said they want a charting song and I don't blame them! If you are a Tenacious D fan I would certainly say this album should be on your list of music to check out. Foo Fighter/Dave Grohl fans take note, Dave was the drummer on this album so that means it should be in your collection :P
The next one might be an unlikely victim to be on this list, the new album from Santana entitled Shape Shifter; however it is a awesome soothing album and I have been a fan of Carlos since Abraxas. Santana albums generally speak for themselves I don't think there has been a bad one. There is only one song on the album that has vocals and that track Eres La Luz the rest are instrumental songs and well that makes me biased. If you are a fan of relaxing latin blues rock this album should certainly consider this album its a no brainer.
Last mention goes out to Jack White's solo album Blunderbuss, personally I never got on the White Stripes train, I did like a few songs; however I was more of a Raconteurs guy! When I heard Jack was doing a solo album I was really interested to see what he would come up with. In a way I was slightly let down as I was expecting it to be WAY more blues influenced. That being sad once I did sit down and listen to the album I was not as let down.
I heard the single Sixteen Saltines a couple times before hand and really like that song, the other one they were streaming was Love Interrupted which I thought was a little out there for Jack but it suits the album pretty well. When I rolled around to the title track Blunderbuss I was kind of hit by the Jack White blues feel I was going for but nowhere near as heavy, and more blues rock, tasty. Tracks like Weep Themselves To Sleep have that classic Jack White rock sound provided by none other then that lovely Big Muff of his.
In my opinion for Jack this was the right step to take his music, I really enjoyed the vast variety of songs and styles he had going on compared to the minimalistic style of White Stripes. I think you will find a lot of people listening outside there normal genre of music with this album. I mean it's one of very few albums that have made it onto my iPod and has been played completely through all in the song on the first go.
So as a guitar player my largest influence for picking up the guitar was Jimmy Page. My mom had kids young, were talking 20 years old young so we were naturally always introduced to there favorite music. This being stuff like Zeppelin, The Who, Eagles, Steppenwolf, Joe Cocker, Beatles, Santana, Clapton...I could go on but you get the point. As a kid and to this day, I enjoy fantasy. Wizards, dragons, elves and magic you know the typical shit, and it was probably my enjoyment for J.R.R Tolkien's works that drew me so deeply into Zeppelin; however I have digressed from the main point here.
I recently purchased an Epiphone Les Paul Plustop PRO/FX, yeah I know its not really a Jimmyesque Les Paul but its features made it irresistible for the price. After the initial guitar love had passed and the ideas of mod's starting becoming reality I immediately said "Well off comes the cover for the treble pickup" as many have seen on Page's #1 the treble pickup is generally missing the cover, its been on and off a few times but spent the majority of the time off. Jimmy said this was to add a brighter more airy sound to his PAF. Some people debate this actually does anything; however having Alnico II PAF replica pickups similar to what Jimmy would have had in his guitar after removing the cover I noticed an enjoyable increase in highs with the cover off. With the cover on it was noticeably darker and muddier sounding in comparison. Combined with the Ernie Ball Cobalt strings I am testing out I get real nice bite through the treble pickup.
The following was a step by step procedure on how I removed the cover off my pickup. I wish I had of taken some pictures to document it along the way but its fairly straight forward. As always if you consider this mod be careful while handling your pickups as they are slightly fragile.
Step 1: Removing the Pick Up
This is where I was in a bind, I decided to remove my pick up cover two days after I put a fresh set of string on, being a cheap bastard I didn't want to replace the strings so I kinda cheated.
Being a Floyd equipped guitar I loosed off the locking nut and unwound the strings to the point of them being as slack as possible without falling off the tuning pegs. This allowed me to slip the pickup out while gently pulling up on the strings. In most cases people would do this mod during a string change rendering this pointless.
I proceeded to then loosen the pickup while it was still attached to the pickup ring, wait until the entire unit is out before removing the pickup ring from the pickup this will prevent the screws from possibly falling into the depths of your guitar body as not all pickup height screws are permanently attached to the pickup ring.
At this point I put the pickup on a old t-shirt I had covering the top of the guitar body, certainly wouldn't want to damage your finish! Now that the pickup is out the REAL fun begins.
Step Two: Establishing how bad the solder is!
Ok this part seriously sucks, because you are going to get one of two things, first is a small blob of solder on each side which is an easy job. Second is two large blobs of solder on each side which is a hard job.
On my Epiphone it was the latter, there was enough solder on there to solder a fuzz pedal circuit, my buddies Epiphone Les Paul Standard was the same way too, possibly a product of the offshore manufacturing. But it doesn't make it impossible, either way the steps are the same one just takes a little more time and finesse.
If you have a soldering iron or soldering station preferably around 40+ watts this will be pretty easy otherwise hold on.
Take your soldering iron and place it on the blob of solder, I like to spread the solder out a bit more if its in a large clump this generally makes it easier to remove especially if you are using solder wick. For those of you who use solder wick you will understand this, those new to soldering I honestly would urge you to spend the $30 on a good solder sucker as wick is just too old school now.
For those that want to know anyways, solder wick is basically a thin metal weave that you lay on top of the solder then heat with the soldering iron, when the solder melts it gets trapped in the thin mesh which allows you to pull it off.
The solder sucker method, and my personal favorite is much simpler. You following the same basic steps however instead of using wick you use a sucker which is exactly what it sounds like. A little mechanical vacuum that sucks the molten solder away at the press of a button. I think these are actually sold as a De-soldering pump, but throughout my electronics courses the teacher always called it a solder sucker so it stuck. I am not endorsed by them but for all my soldering equipment needs I stick with Weller anyone serious about soldering will agree there stuff in top of line, but mostly for me its a Canadian company that I deal with through work so DISCOUNTS!
Once you have all the solder removed do not try to remove the pickup yet, they are generally potted in wax inside the cover so it will stick to the sides of the pick up. Take your Xacto knife and carefully slide it in the space between the pickup and the cover and carefully cut along the long sides of the pickup. Be extremely careful at this point as you can cut through the wire coils of the pickup and its garbage at that point.
Now you can remove the pickup and be shocked at how much wax is or isn't coating your pickup, more to come on this later in this posting.
Step 3(b): The Xacto method...
So if you dont have access to a soldering iron and really really want to do this mod you can do it with just an Xacto knife, I have done it before and it worked, just took a bit longer.
All you have to do is score (cut) the solder with the Xacto knife and keep on doing this till you are finally through all of the solder then you can follow the same steps as above to remove the pickup from the cover.
Step 4: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaax!
So below you will find a picture of the actual pickup from this mod, when I removed it I was amazed at how much wax was on it so I snapped a picture with my iPhone.
To remove this wax I think the easiest way about it is to take a hair dryer and blast the pickup for a couple minutes at a time to melt the wax and it will slowly seep out and will eventually come out, this wont hurt your pickup. Some people say the wax keeps the microphonics down but on a low output Alnico II pickup I haven't run across this, plus them holy grail original PAF pickups were not potted.
Step 5: Fin!
If you have made it this far without and issues and hopefully you have, you are now home free. All you have to do is put the pickup back into the cavity, just don't forget to put it in with the pole pieces facing the proper direction or it wont sound the same!