If you play guitar or bass then you’ll undoubtedly know what a pickup is, but do you understand just how important they are in shaping your unique sound?
Pickups do just that, they ‘pick up’ the sound you make and turn that into a signal that can be amplified. They are essentially what allow your guitar to be heard. There’s a wide range of different pickups available and they each affect your sound in unique ways.
One of the most common pickup types, the single coil pickup is usually found on Stratocaster-style guitars in a set of 3 (neck, middle and bridge) and offer a chimey, bright, vintage sound. Commonly used with country, blues and funk music.
Commonly seen as the ‘in-between’ pickup, the P-90 pickup was created by Gibson in 1946. Though technically a single coil pick up the P-90 produces a warmer, more balanced tone. These pickups come in 'dog-ear' and 'soap bar' shapes and are used commonly in semi-hollow and Jazzmaster-style guitars.
Originally created to tackle the hum issues with single coil pickups, the Filter'Tron is found predominately on Gretsch and jazz-style guitars. The sound combines aspects of a humbucker with a single coil providing less 'muddiness'. The pickup is used by jazz, country and everything in between and has been described as the sound of rockabilly.
DUAL-COIL (AKA HUMBUCKER)
Another popular pickup type is the dual-coil (aka Humbucker). Commonly found on Les Paul-style guitars in a set of two (neck and bridge) the humbucker offers a round, full and powerful sound, making it the perfect match for everything from jazz to high gain rock. The name 'Humbucker' comes from its lack of mains hum, unlike single coil and P-90 pickups.
While passive pickups are commonly passive, there are traditional issues such as hum and control responsiveness. This is where active pickups step in. Active pickups come in a variety of single and dual-coil styles and provide a higher output. They require a battery to operate but provide lower impedance with wider tonal possibilities.
ACOUSTIC GUITAR PICKUPS
Acoustic guitar pickups work in much the same way as electric guitar pickups, however acoustic guitars have a rich and beautiful tone without being plugged into anything. A huge part of an acoustic pickup is its ability to help accurately capture that sound. The most common pickup types for acoustic guitars is the internal Piezo pickup and the soundhole pickup.
SO, THERE YOU HAVE IT
There’s lots of different types of pickups out there and choosing one can be daunting. It's important to consider your playing style, if it's a chimey, expressive clean tone then single coil pickups are for you. Going for a huge, high gain tone? Then active humbuckers are your weapon of choice. This article has hopefully given you enough information to go out and purchase the one that gives you the sound you’re after.