types of guitar pickups

Types of Guitar Pickups Unfolded and Explained

It is really hard to know which types of guitar pickups are the best for you. There are so many different types and brands out there that it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which one will fit your needs. 

We all want a guitar with great sound, but most of us don’t have time to do tons of research on our own and we don’t always get the answers from salespeople when we ask them questions about pickups because they usually just try to sell us whatever they happen to carry in stock.

At Guitar Exclusive, we want to arm you with knowledge on how to choose a pickup based on your needs and preferences, so that you can have an easy time finding the right one for you.

Now you may be looking for a guitar or looking to upgrade your existing guitar with a new set of pickups. 

Regardless, we are here to help! 

This article breaks down the details of the different guitar pickups types along with the pros and cons of each. 

This will allow you to make an informed decision based on your needs. 

You’ll learn about single coil vs humbucker pickups, passive vs active pickups, ceramic magnet vs alnico magnet, full size vs mini-humbuckers and more! 

Once you’ve read this guide you’ll be able to know exactly what you want! 

The first step in choosing the best pickup for yourself is to understand what each type offers and how they work individually. Once we go through this process together, then we can start thinking about what specific features matter most to us personally as well as our playing style.

What are the Types of Guitar Pickups?

Guitar pickups are small devices that convert the vibrations from your guitar strings into an electric current. 

The type of guitar pickup you’re using will determine how much output you have and how each string sounds.

The most common types of pickups for guitars are single coil, humbucker, P90, soapbar, and piezo-electric (piezo). You may also come across some other less common variations like the “humbucking” single coil or a double-coil.

Now let’s take a look at the different types of pickups and some Guitar Exclusive best choices if you are interested in exploring more. 

Single Coil Pickups

The single coil pickup is a guitar’s most common type of guitar pick up. It gets its name because it has only one winding around the bobbin, which makes for an airy and bright sound that was popular with blues musicians in Chicago when they originally used them.

The Single Coils are usually made from magnets wrapped by wire or copper coils wound on bobbins to make electromagnets (the pickups) capable of sensing vibrations caused by strings being plucked near their metal pole pieces; these electric signals pass through cables into an amplifier where they can be heard as amplified sounds coming out speakers often mounted inside guitars themselves: this is why you might hear people refer to “guitar tones

The Fender Stratocaser is the first that comes to mind when thinking about the guitar that’s most iconic and uses single coil pickups. 

You will see country, blues, and folk guitarists use single coils to really perfect their sound! 

Below are out picks for the best single coil pickups available. 

Fender Tex-Mex Strat Pickups

The Fender Tex-Mex Strat Pickups are first up on our list for best Stratocaster pickups. The Tex-Mex is what will give you a title grit and some super clean tones. This is why they are perfect for both blues and rock style guitar.

With installation hardware included, these pickups will give you everything you need. These pickups are well balanced even with an increase of gain. 

You will also notice the noise that your stock pickups had will be no more with this set. This will give you that full range of “Strat Tone” which is highly sought after. 

The bridge pick up will get pretty heavy which makes it great for rock guitar and the enhancing of the natural sound of a Strat will be where you get that blues sound. 

At a great price, these pickups cannot be beat if you are looking for a great way to upgrade your sound. 

Pros

Pros: 

  • Affordable price.
  • Installation hardware included. 
  • Perfect for a blues and rock guitar.
  • Polysol-coated magnet wire.
  • Upgrade your Starts sound. 
  • Wide range of tones.

Cons

Cons: 

  • May be too bright for your liking. 
  • Not ideal for lots of overdrive. 

VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Seymour Duncan California ’50s Strat Pickup Set

The Seymour Duncan California ’50s Strat Pickup Set is a perfect choice for country music, blues, and rockabilly.

These pickups are made with Alnico-5 magnets arranged in a vintage arrangement pattern to get the best sounds out of your warm toned guitar!

Seymour Duncan pickups let you keep your own individual sound while giving some authentic vintage tones. 

Replacing just the neck, bridge, or middle pickup can open up a lot of tonal possibilities and transforms your Strat into an entirely different instrument. 

Whether you’re looking for warmer tones with more sustain from a softer wood body, or want to retain clarity on a rosewood Telecaster. 

You’ll never have to worry about selecting the wrong tone ever again! Innovative design paired with our exceptional build quality ensures these are some of the most free-thinking pickups around.

Pros

Pros:

  • Capture those amazing tones from the 50s and 60s. 
  • Perfect for country, surf, rockabilly, blues, and ska. 
  • Great tonal flexibility. 
  • Full sounding highs and clear bottom end. 
  • Bright tone. 
  • Provides that classic Fender sound. 

Cons

Cons: 

  • Lacks bottom end warmth. 

VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Fender Pure Vintage ’65 Stratocaster Pickups

The Fender Pure Vintage ‘65 Strat Pickups are another great option if you are not only looking for an upgrade but also that blues and rock sound for your Strat. 

With these pickups, you will get that warm tone with a perfect balance. The enamel-coated magnet wire and Alnico 5 magnets will add a great overall sound. 

If you like those Jimi Hendrix tones these could be the right pickups for you. If you research, you’ll find out that most Hendrix’s music was recorded with a 65’ Strat. 

These pickups will enhance your sound over the stock pickups. These handle distortion very well to where it does not sound overwhelming to your ears. 

With moderate gain on an amp, the bridge pickups will more than likely be your sweet spot for that blues and rock sound that you’ve been wanting. 

If you wanted to play some different genres these are also great for funk, jazz, and country guitar styles of music. 

With the enhancement of your Strat tone with great mid sounds and perfect tone on the low end, these are without a doubt pickups that you want to seriously look at. 

Pros

Pros:

  • Enamel-coated magnet wire. 
  • Provides a brighter and more dynamic tone. 
  • Vintage sounding.
  • Ideal for a variety of styles of music. 
  • Wax-potted to reduce hum. 
  • Great for upgrading your Squire or Mexican Stratocaster. 

Cons

Cons:

  • No reverse-wound middle
  • 2nd and 4th positions do not combine with middle to make it noise-free.   

VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Humbucker Pickups 

A humbucker pickup has two coils, which generate the noise and enables it to have an intense tone.

It’s created by electromagnetic coil or magnet vibrations in its magnetic field that generates sound waves when they are picked up as electrical signals from strings near them, but not actually touching their metal surfaces.

The name of the product comes from how it bumps or cuts out any interferences, such as neon lights and outside disturbances. This can help to reduce annoying feedback while also improving clarity in tone for musicians.

Think of your Gibson and Epiphone model guitars that are known for their Humbuckers and the sound it creates. 

Below are some of our choices for best Humbucker pickups available. 

Seymour Duncan Distortion Mayhem Set

Seymour Duncan makes high-quality, durable pickups to fit any tone need. 

These Distortion Mayhem set humbuckers for a moderate output and are perfect for aggressive playing styles. 

Seymour Duncan has been making pickups for a long time, which is the reason they’re considered some of the best in the industry and have expanded into other areas such as amplifiers. 

They manufacture these pickups with ceramic magnets, hot coil windings and tough construction to make them an all around excellent pick to use if you want your music to sound awesome while being played at high volumes! 

The Seymour Duncan Distortion Mayhem Set will work well if you’re looking for an overdrive pedal because it provides both high volume while maintaining clarity that characterizes Seymour Duncan pickups so well.

Pros

Pros:

  • Perfect for aggressive style of play. 
  • Recommended for metal, punk, thrash, garage rock, and other heavy rock styles. 
  • Perfect for drop tunings. 
  • High output while still maintaining clarity. 
  • Great for riffs and lead playing. 
  • Creates clean tones amidst the aggressive nature of the pickups. 

Cons

Cons: 

  • Not ideal for twangy styles of music. 

VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker Alnico & Ceramic Pickups Set

You may never experience pickup sounds so dynamic and lifelike. 

Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker Alnico & Ceramic Pickups set offers two distinctively different humbucking voicings that will let you explore your creative potential. 

The active electronics deliver a modern, noise-free tone that is designed to enhance the natural sound of your instrument from one moment to another without compromising quality or dynamics. 

If you are tired of the same old humbucker sounds, then these may be the right choice for you! 

With the innovative Fluence Core, a single guitar can play three different voicings—modern active humbucker with noise-free tone, wide range vintage sound alnico pickup for classic bluesy/rockabilly tones, and high output ceramic pick up pickups that rock when distortion is your goal. 

The sound is no longer trapped in one alnico or ceramic pickup. 

Experience the power of modern technology combined with legacy voicings turned on their heads!

Pros

Pros:

  • Modern and noiseless tone. 
  • Power supply = 200 hours of use. 
  • Strong punch and clarity. 
  • Great for rhythm and lead playing. 
  • Sounds great in all positions. 
  • Perfect for heavy styles of music. 

Cons

Cons: 

  • Wiring and installation is challenging. 

VIEW ON AMAZON

 

P-90 Pickups 

The P90 guitar pickup is a type of electric guitar pickup that uses the back coil wire and magnets to produce its sound.

The first time these pickups were used was in 1952 by Gibson, who developed them for use on their solid-body Les Paul.

P90s are generally mounted onto one side or both sides near where different strings will be going over metal saddles. They can also just go around all six slits between each string’s two posts inside an electric slot machine of without being glued down.

Think Gibson SG and Les Paul’s as the guitar that utilize the P-9 pickups. 

Here are our choices for P-90 pickups. 

Seymour Duncan P-90 Single-Coil Pickup

The Seymour Duncan P-90 Single-Coil Pickup Cream is an aged single coil pickup that delivers the sound of a Gibson P-90. 

You can give your guitar the look of one worn by years on stage and experiment with new tones! 

This pickup is designed to be a drop-in replacement for any standard Gibson soap bar model and blends in perfectly with vintage finishes. 

The enamel mag wire, bobbin, and flatback tape not only replicate vintage materials, but also offer a toneful output without noise interference.

Whether you’re at home or on stage we know every guitarist is looking for that one special sound. Seymour Duncan knows what they’re looking for and with all these features it’s easy to see why their products have been sought after by professional guitarists. 

Pros

Pros:

  • Re-creation of the classic Gibson P-90 single coil. 
  • Drop-in replacement. 
  • Vintage look. 
  • Hum cancelling. 
  • Full range of tone. 
  • Great for a pickup upgrade. 

Cons

Cons: 

  • Sold as a single pickup. 
  • Wiring may be tricky based upon skill level. 

VIEW ON AMAZON

 

FLEOR Alnico 5 Single Coil Pickup P90 Pickups

The FLEOR Alnico 5 Single Coil P-90 Pickup Neck & Bridge is an upgrade or replacement for Les Paul guitars with P90 pickups. 

These pickups offer a stronger, fatter sound because of its alnico magnets. The pole spacing and resistances are both adjustable (Neck/50mm, Bridge/52mm; 6.5-7.5K). 

The P-90s are a perfect pickup to go from that humbucker feel and opt for something more tonal. 

Definitely popular among lovers of distorted sounds but guitarists with clean amplifiers like them too. P-90’s are known for their punchy, bright top end tones, which makes any player on stage stand out in live performances. 

These pickups pack an even bigger punch than your standard P-90’s because of an upgrade in  magnet size. 

Pros

Pros:

  • Budget friendly. 
  • Clear and articulate sound at low volume. 
  • Great for Les Paul model guitars. 
  • Wax potted to eliminate unwanted noise. 
  • Neck and bridge pickups included. 
  • Available in black, chrome, or cream. 

Cons

Cons: 

  • Lack of thickness creates a challenge when trying to get the right distance between the strings and the pickup. 

VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Piezo Pickups

Piezo pickups are a type of guitar pickup that uses the piezoelectric effect. 

The Piezo pickups are small devices that convert vibration into electricity. They were originally invented in the 1880s, and they can be found on many objects such as cameras or phones today. 

Piezo is a Greek word meaning to press tight and it was named for its ability to generate an electrical current when pressed against any object with vibrations like fingers tapping on tables or drums being hit by sticks.

The development of this technology has played a key role in making our world more accessible due to their accessibility, affordability, versatility among other qualities

It’s basically what most people call “the modern day soundboard” because it literally amplifies and changes vibrations or acoustic signals into electronic sounds which can be manipulated with any sort of effects pedal you want! 

The amplification of an acoustic guitar is where you will see a Piezo pickup in action. 

Here are our best picks for Piezo pickups! 

TraderPlus 2Pcs Piezo Contact Microphone Pickup

The best way to amplify the sound of your guitar with perfect clarity is by using a piezo contact microphone pickup! 

With this, you’re able to eliminate external sounds interference and not be influenced by sound reflections from nearby objects. 

Stop fighting the feedback of your live performance and capturing studio recording with this cool piezo contact microphone pickup for guitars, violin, banjo, mandolin, ukulele- you name it! 

The 10.6″ cable provides plenty of space to put some tape or self adhesive velcro on for maximum effect while the 1/4″ jack fits in any amp perfectly and eliminates external sound interference from occurring. 

All you need to do is plug it into your amp, bass amp or other recording equipment — BOOM! Perfect clarity to be heard!

Pros

Pros:

  • Cost effective. 
  • Amplify your guitar, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, violin, and cello. 
  • Eliminates external sounds. 
  • Comes with double sided tape and velco for mounting. 
  • Easy to install. 
  • Can be removed at any time. 

Cons

Cons:

  • Adhesive is not as sticky to stay mounted for long periods of time. 

VIEW ON AMAZON

 

KNA NG-1 Piezo Pickup for Nylon String Guitar

The KNA NG-1 piezo pickup for nylon string guitar delivers the natural sound of your instrument to be heard as it should be. 

No modification to your instrument necessary, this lightweight and unobtrusive pick up features a wooden sensor casing that’s easy to use and quick and easy to install. 

Plus with 8 feet detachable cable, you’ll never have an issue bringing music with you wherever life may lead!

It’s no secret that most acoustic nylon string guitars are naturally quiet instruments and don’t have great sound fidelity to begin with, so why go through all the pain of installing some cumbersome mic when there’s an easy solution? 

Pros

Pros:

  • Natural sound for your nylon guitar. 
  • Lightweight and easy to install. 
  • Detachable. 
  • Comes with an 8 foot cable. 
  • Clear and clear sound.
  • Great alternative to tonewood amp.  

Cons

Cons: 

  • Prone to feedback. 
  • Fragile. Need to handle with care. 

VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Active and Passive Pickups

There are active and passive guitar pickups are used to amplify the sound of a guitar. 

Active pickup systems, which use an onboard preamplifier that amplifies signals from both strings (one signal is usually turned on or off when not in use), offer more tonal variety as well as power than passive ones; they also require battery operation for this amplification function.

Passive types provide less flexibility but can be plugged into any amplifier designed for acoustic instruments without modification since it contains no electronics at all – like microphones with internal circuitry designating them “condenser mics” vs. “dynamic mics.” 

Frequently Asked Questions 

 

Do Guitar Pickups Really Matter?

Guitar pickups really do matter for the sound of your guitar. However, you must know that not all guitars are made with an equal quality pickup and it is a subjective choice to decide which one will be best suited for what music style or genre.

The right pick up on your instrument can make such a difference in how well you play songs live and/or recordings. 

It impacts the overall tone too! Some people say they feel as if their whole craft has improved when they switch from one type of guitar pickup over another because suddenly everything sounds amazing again while other say its just fine to have whatever was already installed on there before

Why are some Fender guitar pickups slanted?

The pickups are slanted so that the listener can hear a broader range of frequencies. The sound waves will bounce off the walls and ground, which in turn increases their volume due to constructive interference.

The reason why some Fender guitar pickups have been designed with an angle is because it enables listeners to experience wider ranges of sounds. 

By reflecting off surfaces such as floors or tables on its way back up towards them from whence they came forth after striking said surface at high velocity faster than any human ear could perceive. 

How do I choose between the different types of guitar pickups?

The sound you want is the first thing that you need to consider when choosing your guitar pickups. It can be hard enough just trying to figure out what kind of music style and tone are going for!

If it’s a clean, articulate sound with lots of blues tones in mind then single coil or Stratocaster pickguards might work best. 

If you’re into rock ‘n roll, heavy metal riffs on distortion pedals may make more sense than crystal clear notes—a humbucker will do better at drowning out ambient noise without making all other frequencies too muted as they’d have been by an overdriven amp used during recording sessions like this one.

Why are there 3 pickups on a guitar?

When electric guitars were first introduced, they had just two pickups to reproduce the sound of an acoustic guitar. 

But as time went on and tastes changed, other pickup configurations became more popular for different reasons. 

Some players wanted a louder tone from their instrument; others preferred the original configuration because it was easier to play lead lines with fewer strings below them while also using less distortion in order not to make that much noise away from home or at practice sessions. 

The three-pickup setup is for more versatility and flexibility in your overall tone and sound. 

Conclusion 

In the end, it’s all about what sound you want. For a classic rock tone, an Alnico magnet will be best for your guitar. But if you are looking to emulate some of those funky tones from 1970-1980 there is no better option than a ceramic magnet pickup that can really add some grit and character to any song! 

After reading the product reviews and frequently asked questions, you should have a better idea of which types of guitar pickups will work for your sound. 

Let us know what kind of sounds are appealing to you in the comments below so that we can help find out which pickup is best suited for your needs.

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