Your pickup is the essence of your guitar. Without it, the guitar’s sound will be barely audible. But wait for a second; that doesn’t mean you should get the first guitar pickup you encounter. There are different types of guitar pickups for various purposes.
If you don’t use the proper pickup for your guitar, you can expect messy results. Your sound will hardly come out as you intended it to be—all because of that small device we call the pickup.
In this article, we’ll run down all the types of pickups you need to know for electric, acoustic, and bass guitars.
Types of Guitar Pickups – Electric
Electric guitars need three types of pickups: single coil, P90, and humbucker. Each one is suitable for a different purpose.
Single coils are called like that because each one uses a single magnet. They’re highly versatile, so it’s hard to standardize or define their tone. Generally, they’re brighter than their counterparts, and they’re more suited for country genres.
Single coil pickups will work for most genres, but they can’t handle metal or hard rock because they have a low tolerance for high distortion.
If you want to know what a single-coil looks like, you can check the pickup on a Fender Stratocaster.
P90 guitar pickups are at the center of the scale between single coils and humbuckers. As a result, their output is higher than that of single-coil pickups but lower than that of humbuckers.
Likewise, their tones are warmer and more profound than signal coils, but humbucker pickups still offer warmer tones.
Guitarists choose P90 pickups for blues, rock, and similar genres. However, they’re not the best option for hard rock and genres that require high distortion.
A humbucker pickup is basically two single coils working in collaboration. Guitarists choose humbucker pickups for most genres because of their warm tones. They’re perfect for jazz and similar genres, and they perform better than single coils for metal and rock. That said, they’re not the best option for country genres. Single coils outperform them in this case.
Single coils have 60-cycle hums. As a result, the amp receives the background electrical noise and vibrations. Meanwhile, humbucker pickups buck the humming, which is evident from their name.
Types of Guitar Pickups – Acoustic
Acoustic guitar pickups are entirely different from bass and electric ones. An acoustic guitar has a different playing concept, so it’s only normal that it has different categories.
There are three guitar pickups for acoustic guitars; here’s a roundup of them.
Transducer pickups work simply; they’re installed on the guitar’s soundboard, and they work to translate the guitar’s response into electric signals. Their output is an accurate representation of acoustic tones.
The transducer pickups receive your guitar’s responses and react to the vibration, so their output is precise and clear. That said, their accuracy makes them too sensitive, so they may catch unnecessary feedback.
Piezo pickups are another type of transducer pickups. However, their placement is different. They go under the saddle instead of the soundboard.
Piezo pickups are designed to catch the vibrations of the string rather than the guitar’s sound. That’s why their output is plain synthetic, and they have a piezo quack, which is another way to describe a high mid-range hump.
Soundhole pickups are actually electric guitar pickups, but they’re designed to fit into the acoustic guitars’ soundholes. As a result, their output has an electric quality to it, and high-end models result in lifelike sounds.
That’s because high-end pickups utilize technologies similar to how microphones work. They catch the guitar’s response, but they ditch the unnecessary feedback. In fact, one of the best aspects of soundhole pickups is their feedback resistance, making them in the center of the scale between piezo and transducer pickups.
Another good thing about them is that they’re non-invasive, which means they don’t need significant changes done to your guitar.
Types of Guitar Pickups – Bass
There are four types of bass guitar pickups: split-coil, dual-coil, J-pickups, and soap bar pickups. Here’s a roundup of them and what genres they’re best for.
Split coils have a somewhat weird concept. They’re two halves put together of a single pickup, but that doesn’t make them similar to single coil pickups. One half of the two rests higher than the other—closer to the neck. As a result of the placement, the split coil gets the guitar ones to be punchy.
Because of that, split-coil pickups are suitable for punk and hard rock, contrary to single coil pickups.
As you may have caught on, dual coils are two split coils, which is the same concept as humbucker pickups. They have a similar humbucking effect, but they’re not too common among bass guitarists.
These pickups have warm tones, so they give vintage vibes. However, their output isn’t as clear as that of split coils.
J-pickups are mostly associated with Fender’s Jazz Bass guitars, up to the point that most people believe they’re made explicitly for them. That’s only because they were first used on Fender guitars, but they can be used on any other device.
They’re known for their warm tones, and that’s why they’re mostly the choice of jazz guitarists. Their clear tones also make them ideal for rock and similar genres.
Soap bar pickups are the same as J-pickups, but they have wider housings. On top of that, they’re sealed, so they’re much more durable than their counterparts.
Soap bar pickups also have pins protruding from their bottoms, so they can accommodate different wiring combinations just fine.
To Wrap Up
Learning about all the different types of guitar pickups is crucial for all guitarists, beginners and professionals. If you don’t have enough knowledge, you may choose the wrong pickup for your genre.
Choosing a single pickup for a hard rock performance will result in chaos, I’m telling you!
Now that you know all the basic types and their uses, I trust you’ll make the right choice.