Pickup is a core component of the guitar, just like its strings, the wood its body is composed of, or the amplifiers. Choosing a pickup for guitars requires a serious effort because the pickup acts as the microphone of a guitar and it’s also one of the main factors affecting the sound of the guitar.
There are multiple types of guitar pickups, depending on the size and construction. Guitarists use the pickups to produce specific tones according to the music they want to play. For example, the pickups used to play rock, metal or country will be different, and you cannot use a single pickup for each music style because the tone produced by each pickup will vary greatly.
To make the choice easier for you, we have created this guide which includes comprehensive information about multiple guitar pickups.
Definition of a Guitar Pickup
We called pickup as the microphone of guitar, but what is it in reality? And how it works? The pickup can be defined as a magnet wounded by copper wire, and this magnet converts the vibrations produced by strings into electrical signals.
We will explore pickups for an electric, electric bass, and acoustic guitars.
Electric Guitar Pickup types
We have three types of guitar pickups for electric guitars: P90, Single Coil, and Humbucker.
As the name suggests, the Single Coil pickup has only a single magnet, but we can’t define its exact tone because this pickup is used widely. But to get a general idea, we can say that the tone induced by Single Coil is brighter in comparison with P90 and Humbucker. You can use it to play surf or county, but the only downside to this model is that it cannot handle higher distortion levels.
Humbucker consists of two magnets with different directions, or we can say that two single-coils work together to form a Humbucker pickup. The name Humbucker originates from the ability of this pickup to buck the hum. It offers a thicker and smoother sound than the single-coil. It provides a higher output and handles high distortion levels effortlessly.
Most often, musicians use this pickup for the Jazz genre, but it can almost perform well in any situation(within its output limits).
The last pickup in the electric guitar category is P90. This pickup can be called the jack of all trades because it delivers a balanced path between humbucker and normal single-coil pickups. P90 offers higher output than single-coil but lacks in front of the humbucker. The tone P90 delivers somewhat brittle, warmer, and thicker and can play country, blues, and even vintage metal.
P90 is a versatile pickup and can help you play a vast range of music but is prone to some noise issues.
Electric Bass Guitar Pickup types
There are 4 categories for the Electric Bass Guitar Pickups: Split-Coil Pickups, Soap Bar, J-Pickups, and Dual-Coil Pickups.
Fender was the first person to use J-pickups in 1960 with jazz bass because of which the J-pickups (jazz pickups) are eternally connected with the instrument. Nowadays, artists usually use these single-coil pickups to play jazz due to their warm and clear tone, but some also use J-pickups for the rock genre.
Split-Coil pickups are, in fact, a type of double-coil pickups (humbucker), but both coils are separated from each other or split apart hence the name split-coil. Due to the split, one coil comes under a pair of strings rather than a double-coil covering all four strings at a time. These pickups have a punchy tonality and are often used by punk and rock musicians.
Double or Dual-Coil pickups, also known as the humbucker pickups, are used especially for their hum reducing abilities and high outputs. These pickups are not very common when comparing with Split-coil or J-pickups. Their tone is inclined more towards the vintage bass, and they do not have the clarity that the pickups mentioned above provide.
The SoapBar pickups have a wider housing and are enclosed in a casing that has the appearance of SoapBar hence they are called Soapbar pickups. The casing provides protection to the pickup from the damage and degradation process. These pickups are easily tunable through the pins available at the bottom of the casing.
Acoustic Guitar Pickups
There are 3 categories for Acoustic Pickups: Soundhole, Transducer, and Piezo
These pickups give realistic representation to the tone of an acoustic instrument by converting the vibrations from the soundboard to electrical signals. The only downside you can face using these is their extra sensitivity.
Pieza pickup is also a transducer, but it is placed under the saddle rather than the soundboard. They very clearly hear the strings because of their positioning and produce a more synthetic sound. They are not overly sensitive so that they can be used at bigger events.
The name of this pickup is self-evident; the soundhole pickup is placed in the guitar's soundhole. Its tone has an electric vibe to it, but high-end pickups offer a very lifelike feel. This pickup functions very much like a microphone but without sensitive feedback.
Active and Passive Types of Guitar Picks
All the pickups we have discussed until now fall into two major categories: Active and Passive.
The first invented pickups which do not boost the sound of the instrument are known as passive pickups. These pickups have warmer tones and are very versatile in usage. The only con passive pickups have is the lack of distortion handling ability.
These pickups have a proper circuit system embedded in them through which they can boost the signals and enhance the output relatively. These pickups are mostly used for metal and hard rock genres.
All pickups explained above have different functionalities, so to play various genres of music perfectly, you must choose the most suitable pickup that can support you.
Will there be any difference if I use a Pickup?
Yes, it will make a huge difference.
Is replacing pickup difficult?
No, replacing pickups is almost a straightforward process, especially if you choose the same type of pickup.