The Complete Guide to Guitar Pickups

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The Complete Guide to Guitar Pickups

Whether you have waited for years to own your first electric guitar or have just added a new one to your collection, you may find that the tone of the instrument does not meet your expectations. Alter the tone or distortion on your guitar by swapping out the original pickup for a brand new piece. Before you make your choice, find out more about how guitar pickups affect sound and discover the different types of guitar pickups that are available.


The Importance of Guitar Pickups to the Overall Tone

A guitar pickup detects or picks up the movement of the strings. You can see it just under the guitar strings. Pickups have tightly wound copper wire and a magnet, which create a magnetic field. When you play the guitar, the strings change the magnetic field and alter the current flowing through the copper wire. From the pickup, the sound or current moves through the guitar output to the amplifier, eventually reaching the listeners' ears. If you want a different tone for your guitar, changing the pickup is one way to accomplish that goal.


Single Coil Guitar Pickups

The first kind of guitar pickup that you should be aware of is the single coil guitar pickup. These pieces emit a significant hum, which gives them a vintage sound like that of Telecasters and Stratocasters. If you enjoy playing softer rock or retro music, a single coil works well. However, this kind of pickup is not as well suited to punk, metal, or modern rock music. If you want the hum reduced, try a noise-cancelling single coil pickup from Seymour Duncan.


Humbucker Guitar Pickups

Another kind of guitar pickup is the humbucker. In essence, a humbucker is a doubled single-coil pickup, with wax potting that minimises the buzz or humming that comes with a single coil. One popular brand of humbucker is Gibson. Humbucker pickups from Gibson typically output double the power of a single coil pickup.


Hot Rod Guitar Pickups

Many modern guitar pickups hold the title of 'hot rod' pickups. They still fall into the single coil or humbucker category, but they feature unique materials and designs that dramatically alter the resulting sound coming from the guitar. One of the original hot rod pickups was the 1970s DiMarzio Super Distortion humbucker, which uses a ceramic magnet and double the usual number of wire windings. Top hot rod pickups such as the Seymour Duncan Jeff Beck (JB) continue to attract modern guitarists.


Active Guitar Pickups

In addition to hot rod pickups, guitarists often use active pickups such as the EMG pickup. Bass guitarists in particular enjoy the sound that EMG pickups allow them to access, with beautiful high ends and crisp clarity. The type of active pickup you select usually depends on the sort of music you like to play. For instance, heavy metal requires an EMG 85, while blues sounds better with an EMG 60.

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