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Tag: electric guitar pickups

Electric Guitar Pickups

by on May.04, 2009, under General, Guitar Talk

Electric guitar pickups are the feature on electric guitars that pick up the sound and send it via electronics to an amplifying system. The pickup was first introduced commercially in a partnership between Les Paul and Gibson, and also around the same time by Leo Fender. These pickups revolutionized both guitars and the music industry, as they essentially created instruments capable of whole new levels of sound that had been impossible to even imagine before.

The types of electric guitar pickups

There are two kinds of pickup. Both use different principles of electronics and sound wave manipulation to send the sound to the amplifier. The oldest type are the magnetic pickups. These pickups consist of a magnet encased in hundreds of turns of copper wire. The vibrations from the strings of the guitar are picked up on the magnetic field that runs between the magnet and the strings, which is always the same when a string has not been plucked. When a string is plucked, the field is changed, and an electric pulse is created which is transferred to the amplification unit.

One issue with magnetic pickups is that the electronic field can create a hum on the low frequency end of the vibration. This hum is picked up by the amplifier along with the sound. To combat this effect, the double coil pickup was created, which has two magnets instead of just one. These pickups are also called humbuckers.

It is possible to make your own pickup, but it takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. In addition, you will not know if you have coiled the wire properly until you feed the power in, and if it does not work that is more hours spent wrapping and figuring out where you went wrong. Still, if you feel confident with this type of activity, there are kits that you can purchase to create your own pickup.

The other, more recent type of pickup is the piezoelectric pickup. Piezo electronics uses crystals to manipulate electric fields to generate voltage. In order to ensure the full response of the sound field, it is necessary to fit the guitar with a buffer, since they are in series. Due to the frequency of the series version of piezoelectric pickups, they are often labeled hexaphonic pickups. This is erroneous, however, as hexaphonic pickups can be used in both piezoelectric and magnetic pickups. The term merely refers to a pickup modulator located under each of the six strings of a guitar (in the case of a piezo electric device, there would be six crystals).

There are dozens of electric guitar pickups available, including those that are built in to electric guitars and those that serve as replacement pickups. Just like with the bass guitars, though, different people will find that some pickups work better with different guitars. Generally, the lower the output of the pickup, the cleaner the sound.

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