In a recently published video for his SWOLA segment, famous guitar YouTuber-tuned-guitar-builder Ola Englund answered one of his community members’ questions — can you use single-coil pickups for metal music? After thanking his follower Nicolas, who asked the question, Ola replied (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):
“Single-coil in metal… Shit, you just caught me completely off-guard. Oh, what’s this? Oh, a single-coil guitar, holy shit. *Pulls out a fine-looking Fender Telecaster* I did not plan for this but there was just one on the floor right here.”
After pulling the guitar out and plugging it in, Ola continued:
“You know what I like about single-coil metal? Is that it’s not that common that you hear it. The thing I like about single-coils in metal is that it has a very distinct and edgy tone that you can’t really get with a humbucker. Unless you split the humbucker, obviously. A lot of guitars, you can split the humbucker and make it sound like a single-coil.”
“But it’s very distinctive. And it really cuts through, like glass almost. However, it might not necessarily work all the time.”
“Obviously, you’re not going to have as much gain as a humbucker. You’re gonna have this lower-output twangier tone.”
After playing a few metal riffs and licks through his Fender Telecaster, Ola continued:
“So, very much… Very twangy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. I like this sound. I think it sounds cool.”
“It automatically sounds like country metal for some reason. Very twangy, very funky.”
“You have to work a little harder. Or just, you know, dial up the gain a little bit, man. I do really like single-coil in metal. It’s just not for me. But when I hear bands that play with it, it sounds kickass, basically.”
Reflecting on the guitar that he was playing for this demo, Ola explained that this is Fender’s Ultra Telecaster. According to Fender’s official website, the guitar comes with a pair of Ultra Noiseless Vintage Tele single-coil pickups. We’re looking at Alnico 5 pickups with a polysol wire.
Of course, the idea here is to have a vintage-style tone. While this isn’t necessarily something that modern metal musicians are looking for, it’s not impossible to get some decent tones with them.
Other than that, the guitar that Ola played on comes with a rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets. What’s more, it comes with a compound radius, measuring 10 to 14 inches. So it’s not actually a bad option for a lead guitar in hard rock or classic metal, giving some vintage-ish feels with a modern twist.
In a video that he posted late last year, Ola Englund looked back on how he navigated through the music industry over the years. Although now famous as a guitar-based YouTuber and a founder of Solar Guitars, he’s also known for his work in Feared, The Haunted, as well as Six Feet Under. Asked by a fan how the present-day metal scene compares to the 1990s and the 2000s, Ola said:
“I can probably not answer this question because, during the ’90s and 2000s, I wasn’t really in the music industry, or in the music biz. Sure, I had bands. And the bands that I had, we tried to get a record deal. That was the thing about the late ’90s and the 2000s was that, you know… The point with playing in a band… Obviously, we loved playing in a band, but… to exceed to the next level, we wanted to be signed by a record label.”
“And that was like OK, until then, we’re gonna record demos, and update our sound, new songs that are fresh… We were developing as a band as we went on. So, doing a full album and then release that, that really wasn’t a thing for us, that we needed to make an album.”
“So we did demos. We worked on our sound, I was working on my production skills as well. Because I was producing these and learning how to record and produce. Record a drumkit, and guitar tones and all that. So it was a learning process a little bit. And I wouldn’t wanna release an album while I was learning and while the band was developing.”
“But we did our demos and we played our shows and all that. And then eventually we got a record deal and we did an album. But it sucked ass. Not the album, but the whole process sucked ass.”
“And then that’s when I decided to start my own thing and do Feared, and you know, go back to basics of… Why I would make music in the first place, and it’s… To have fun.”
“So, eventually, that was when I started YouTube as well. And all of that kinda kicked off. And now I’m in The Haunted, which is under a record deal and a record label. It’s changed a lot.”
“10 years ago, or like 5 to 10 years ago, when I was out doing clinics and stuff, I was talking a lot about how bands could get themselves out there today using social media and YouTube, and how they would do this. But nowadays… The industry works so quick, and the business side is changing so fast. None of the stuff I said 10 years ago it doesn’t make sense today.”
“I mean, fine, you still need to be on social media and be very active on social media and stuff, but… It’s become less important and maybe it’s going back a little bit about you know, just having the raw talent and actually making kickass music. That is more important now. Because people are getting sick and tired of social media.”
Photo: YouTube screenshot