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Electric Guitar Manual

Pickup CONFIGURATIONS: TYPES of Combinations

HSS Pickups

The different Pickup Configurations on the Electric Guitar can give us some objective clues about the sounds we can get from a particular guitar.

Pickup CONFIGURATIONS: How Does Pickup Position Affect Sound?

To begin I will explain in a simple way the behavior of a guitar pickup, depending on its position. Let’s start for example by placing a pickup in a central position. In this case, the pickup would offer us a sound that is neither too bass nor too treble.

Well, as we move that same pickup towards the neck, it will tend to reproduce a warmer sound. And if we move the pickup in the direction of the bridge, its sound will tend to be increasingly trebles and penetrating.

Similarly, as you move a pickup between different positions, it will pick up and bypass certain harmonics. But to settle the issue of the most convenient position for a pickup, these situations have been determined depending on the harmonics that the pickup captures in each position, and have become a standard.

Different Pickup Configurations for Electric Guitar

There is a wide choice of configurations, marked with an H for Humbucker pickups, and S for Single Coil pickups.

Single Pickup Guitars

The simplest configuration would be the one that can integrate a guitar with a single pickup, either H or S.

This type of single-pickup configuration has the advantage of less magnetic field interaction than a multi-pickup guitar. This favors the vibration of the strings, and therefore the sustain of the instrument.

Single Pickup Guitar

On the other hand, the versatility of the guitar would be very limited. Although these types of guitars are famous for doing the job they are entrusted to do very well, which is to rock like real damned.

In fact, the first model sold by Fender was a guitar with a single pickup: the Fender Esquire.

Configuration SS

After the creation of the Fender Esquire, it would be the turn of the Fender Broadcaster, which would be renamed the Telecaster with two single pickups. The SS configuration is born.

The Telecaster has three different sounds, including the “Quack” sound, when you engage two traditional single pickups at the same time.

SS Configuration

We also have the possibility of connecting both Telecaster pickups in series, to obtain another additional sound, with a four-position selector. In this way, the signal is doubled as it would happen in a double-coil or humbucker pickup, obtaining a sound with more body and output.

Appearing this configuration in other Fender models such as the Duo Sonic, Mustang, or Jaguar. The queens of Alternative Rock.

Originally Gibson opted for the same pickup configuration in its first models. Placing the famous single-coil P90s on his early Les Paul models. Since humbucker pickups did not yet exist.

Guitar Pickups H vs S

Another matter would be to know the characteristics of the different pickups, to know if they are single or double coil pickups.

For example, in the Danelectro 59 we also find an SS configuration, as this guitar has Lipstick pickups.

Rickenbacker pickups would also be single-coil pickups, although at first glance they can be confusing.

Iron Maiden’s Dave Murray’s Strat, however, installs an HHH configuration. In the case of double coil pickups with the size of a single coil. Like the Stack models, and the mini humbucker pickups. Although in these pickups the term humbucker clearly appears, which reveals its type of manufacture.

Configuration SSS

After the SS configuration of the Telecaster, the SSS system would appear on the Stratocaster model. Increasing the versatility of the instrument up to the 5 different sounds that its pickup selector can offer.

SSS pickup Configuration

A guitar model with a pickup configuration that has marked the history of music, from Funk to Rock, passing through other genres such as Blues Rock and Alternative Rock. For a reason it has been and continues to be one of the most used electric guitar models in history.


Many guitarists find it very convenient to have more power in the bridge position, creating the HSS configuration. Generating one of the most versatile pickup configurations on the entire market. Since we will have Stratocaster-style sounds, but with the additional punch of the Gibson-style bridge pickup.

But if we want to maximize the versatility of this configuration, it would be best to have a Coil Split system for the double humbucker coil pickup. In this way we can use the humbucker as a single pickup, so as not to leave anything behind.

HSS pickup Configuration

I want to add that not all humbucker pickups can be split. Since four wires are needed that come out of the pickup, to be able to carry out the division.

In conclusion, if we want to play different styles, from the softest to the Hard Rock, without having to invest in several guitars, the HSS configuration is what we are looking for.

Configuration HH

Following the advent of humbucker pickups, Gibson would create the HH configuration. A very suitable layout for genres like Blues, Rock, and of course Metal.

HH pickup Configuration

And while this configuration is less versatile than the SSS or HSS, there are plenty of sounds that can be created by mixing the volume and tonality of each pickup separately.

Configurations Custom

The Gibson brand would use the HHH configuration on some custom models, to offer a wider range of possibilities. Among these models is the Gibson LP 57 Black Beauty, or the Gibson SG 1963 Custom.

When we use the word custom on a guitar, the possibilities skyrocket, and on the subject of pickup configurations it was not going to be less. For example, the SH configuration is typical of Telecaster Custom models, with which to add a Gibson touch to a Fender model.

Or the HS system used on Richie Kotzen’s custom Telecaster model. Featuring a Classic-style Dimarzio Twang King in the neck position, and a Modern-style DiMarzio Chopper T pickup in the bridge position.

Another HS configuration that attracts a lot of attention is that of the Yamaha Pacifica 311H. With a humbucker in the bridge position, and a P90 in the neck position.

Configuration HSH

A pickup configuration that is very given to installing coil-splitting systems is the HSH configuration. Very used in Superstart models.

With this arrangement of pickups, together with the coil splitting system for the humbuckers, we can enjoy both Stratocaster and Superstrat style sounds through its double coil pickups.

HSH pickup Configuration

Very particular sounds can also be obtained by mixing the sound of the humbuckers, with the single coil in the center position. Although many models to simplify, mount a 5-position pickup selector, directly activating the humbucker pickups in Coil Split, when combined with the central pickup.


There are some models that go one step further as far as guitar pickup configurations are concerned. As in the custom model built by Music Man for Steve Morse with an HSSH pickup configuration. Although this type of configuration is something very rare.

These would be the most used configurations, although I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some rarities as in the case of Steve Morse’s custom model.

Why Guitar Pickups Are Angled?

Some of you have asked me why slanted pickups appear on some models, whether single or double. The question has a lot to do with what was commented at the beginning about the placement of the pickups.

For example, the typical Stratocaster bridge pickup is slightly in angled, to get a little more bass, while maintaining good treble.

Angled Bridge Pickup for Stratocaster Electric Guitar (Strat)

Gradually moving the pickup poles away from the bridge, as the thickness of the strings increases. So why weren’t all the pickups on the Stratocaster bent?

Well, it is simply about experimentation. Fender reaching this conclusion for the Stratocaster model in particular. Twisting the pickups differently on other models to offer variety, like the Fender Mustang or Duo Sonic.

Pickups for Different Guitar Models