Most guitar enthusiasts are familiar with the sound of Rickenbacker Guitars and Basses. John Lennon played a Rickenbacker 325 Capri on The Beatles 1964 debut on the Ed Sullivan show; Paul McCartney used a 1964 Rickenbacker 4001S FG Lefty Bass (he preferred it for recording and for the Magical Mystery Tour), and George Harrison played a 360/12 FG "New Style" 12-string electric guitar. The characteristic Rickenbacker 12-string jangle is the notable feature of the music of Roger McGuinn of The Byrds and on early recordings by The Who. Today the distinctive sound of Rickenbacker guitars and basses figure prominently with artists such as Ezra Koenig and Chris Baio of Vampire Weekend, Chris Martin and Guy Berryman of Coldplay, James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins, Eric Judy of Modest Mouse, and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.
Adolph Rickenbacker is credited with inventing the guitar pickup, originally used in the Rickenbacker “frying pan” lap steel guitar. Rickenbacker (then known as “Electro String”) applied the invention to a Bakelite Spanish Guitar, an Electric Violin (Paul Ash still has one in his collection), and even an electric harp built for Harpo Marx, long before building the guitars that Rickenbacker is known for today.
Rickenbacker Guitar and Bass Design
Rickenbacker instruments are known for several important features. They use dual truss rods in the neck to allow the correction of the curvature and twists for a terrific playing experience. Some Ricks, such as the Rickenbacker 360 and Rickenbacker 360/12, as well as the vintage Rickenbacker 381V69 and the classic Rickenbacker 4003 Bass are equipped with an extra stereo output to allow the pickups to be connected to different effects units or amplifiers.
Standard model Ricks are available with three distinct pickups: Hi-gain, single-coil Toaster Top, and Humbucking. All share the same footprint, making them interchangeable. Toaster Tops have the bright, clean sound of the classic Rickenbackers and can be found on the Rickenbacker 381 V69. Humbuckers have a warm tone similar to Gibson's mini-humbucker. Most models today, like the Rickenbacker 330 and the Rickenbacker 360 have the Hi-gain pickups as standard equipment, for the higher output demanded by modern players.