Music

Pole Position pickup rides the rail for tweakable tone

Pole Position pickup rides the...
The single humbucker block can be moved back and forth along the rail with a just light touch
The single humbucker block can be moved back and forth along the rail with a just light touch
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The single humbucker block can be moved back and forth along the rail with a just light touch
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The single humbucker block can be moved back and forth along the rail with a just light touch
The Pole Position prototype in action
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The Pole Position prototype in action
When not sliding along the rail, the pickup block will stay put at a desired position until moved again
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When not sliding along the rail, the pickup block will stay put at a desired position until moved again
That cavity does look like a bit of a dust trap that could prove awkward to clean
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That cavity does look like a bit of a dust trap that could prove awkward to clean
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Mike Canavan is on a mission to bring guitarists the "greatest possible range and control over their tone" on a single instrument. The patented Pole Position Sliding Pickup System allows players to change the position of a guitar's pickup relative to the strings on the fly. This means a string-picker can opt for a bright bridge tone or a fat, warm neck tone, or anything inbetween – all with just a light touch from the picking hand.

Canavan reports that the Pole Position guitar has been two years in development, with several prototypes being created, including mechanisms with wood sliders and metal poles, before the current single rail setup was installed in the carved out pickup cavity of a Strat-shaped guitar. He says that the single humbucker block can be moved back and forth with a just light touch and players can look forward to wide changes in tone and subtle accents. When not sliding along the rail, the pickup block will stay put at a desired position until moved again.

For the final production model, Canavan intends to use maple or ash for the body, and a maple neck topped by a maple fingerboard. He's aiming for an overall weight of under 5 lb (just over 2 kg). Future plans include tremolo system options, the introduction of a model which allows a player to switch the humbucker to single coil operation and a hollow body version.

That cavity does look like a bit of a dust trap that could prove awkward to clean
That cavity does look like a bit of a dust trap that could prove awkward to clean

The Pole Position system is certainly an interesting idea, but that cavity looks like a bit of a dust trap that could prove awkward to clean. It's still in development though, and perhaps that open design will change ahead of the projected consumer release in the (northern) summer of 2016. Before that, Canavan is raising funds on Kickstarter for the push to market availability.

To get one of the first Pole Position guitars out of the shop, backers will need to pledge at least US$350. If all goes to plan, delivery is set to begin in July of next year. The video below shows Canavan demonstrating the system.

Sources: Canavan Musical Products, Kickstarter

View gallery - 4 images
3 comments
Keith Reeder
In other news, Dan Armstrong did pretty much exactly this, forty years ago with the "London": http://guitarz.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/1970s-dan-armstrong-london-with-sliding.html
windykites
Well spotted Keith. So what about Patent infringement? I can only imagine that Mike did not do any research, and thought he had come up with a totally new idea.
The thing is, it did not catch on at all. What chance now? With modern effects pedals you can get a huge range of tonal effects.
Reference patents, I designed a kite in 1987, which sold well in Europe and the USA. I did not patent the design, but in 2001 two rip-off merchants got a US patent, then tried to stop the sale of my design. My two licence holders told them to stuff it, and carried on selling. The US Patent office obviously didn't do their homework! You cannot patent something that has been on public sale (in my case for 14 years).
mjcanavan63
Yes, moveable pickups have been done before (even before Armstrong or Wilkes), but they were all used as "settings" - you put the pickup where you wanted, then played. The Pole Position is the first to have a handle so that the sliding pickup can be used on the fly, as part of your playing. You couldn't change your pickup setting on any previous guitars without stopping. That is a very big difference to a creative player, and the basis for the patent. Thanks. Mike