How Do Guitar Pickups Work? Think of pickups as the heart of the guitar, and you will have a better appreciation for them! The right pickup will contribute to your better performance in terms of crystal clear sound, blooming harmonics, and greater sustain.
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In technical terms, pickups are a type of transducer, a device that captures mechanical vibrations and converts them to electrical signals. The electrical signals are then enhanced or increased in volume by an amplifier before these are finally converted into audible sounds through the speakers. Without pickups, there will be no sound for your ears to pick up, especially in electric guitars.
The Types of Pickups
There are three main types of pickups that guitarists from Prince to James Hetfield use. The kind of guitar also influences the kind of pickup it has. For example, most electric guitars have magnetic pickups, while acoustic guitars use piezoelectric pickups.
First, magnetic pickups consist of permanent magnets wire coils. The magnets produce a flux field that, when a string is plucked, picked or strummed, it moves in response to the vibration. The pickups then transform these vibrations into electrical signals.
Magnetic pickups are the more common type because these allow for equalization of the sound. Depending on their placement, these can give guitar players a choice between treble and bass middle. These can also be adjusted based on height to give different mixes to the sound.
Second, piezoelectric pickups convert the strings’ physical vibration into a signal through a compressed crystal. These are made of older technology, but these are considered as the better choice for feedback purposes. These also have a bright and trebled tone that appeals to many guitarists.
These also come in a wide range of designs, with the under-saddle design being the most popular. But consider that you might need to perform guitar modifications to install piezoelectric pickups. (Try the Luvay Acoustic Guitar Pickup, Piezo)
Third, transducer-based pickups pre-amplify the vibrations and, thus, create a fuller sound. But due to the pre-amplification, these are more sensitive to feedback, an issue when you want clear, crisp sound all the time.
There are also many other types of pickups, most of which are hybrids of two of the major types.
Tips On Getting The Right Pickup
Keep in mind that there’s no right or wrong choice when picking up pickups for your guitar. You can choose the Teisco Del Rey clip-in magnetic pickup or the Luvay piezoelectric pickup, and you’re making the right choice. It’s a matter of what type of sound you want to hear from your guitar.
But there are a few things to think about when choosing pickups for your guitar:
- Choose the pickups based on size, particularly for your guitar. You may have to watch instructional videos, too, when installing them.
- Consider the type of pickups you want and their placement. Different pickups will produce different tones depending on their placement.
You may want to consult with a guitar technician before choosing and installing pickups on your guitar. You can’t be too careful with your choice unless you’re in an experimental mode.
Your choice in guitar pickups will influence the way you play, so it’s a choice you have to make carefully. In the end, your sound will be better or worse for it.