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Electric Guitar Manual

Pickups GUIDE for Electric Guitar: 12 Differents Types

GUIDE of Pickups Types for Electric Guitar: Single Coil, Humbucker, Lipstick, Mini Humbucker, P90, Stack, Rails, Active, Sustainiac, Multivoice, Deathbucker and Gold Foil.

This time I will show you a complete guide to electric guitar pickups, in which their different types of manufacturing appear in general. Since there are normally an infinite number of different models of each type of pickup in particular.

Single Coil Pickups

Vintage-style single-coil pickups are characterized by low output, strong string attack, a crisp and bright tone, and a characteristic ringing known as a twang sound. Something very characteristic of Fender guitar models.

This type of electric guitar pickups can be found in a Staggered version (with staggered pole-pieces), aimed at more curved classic fingerboards between 7.25 and 9.5 inches.

Single Coil Pickups: Staggered vs Flat

And in a Flat version (with leveled pole-pieces) for modern flatter fingerboards larger than 9.5 inches.

In general, this type of guitar pickups mounts alnico magnets for the classic models, and ceramic magnets for modern-style models with higher output. Although we can also find single-coil high-output pickups mounted with alnico magnet.

For high gain sounds this may not be the most appropriate type of pickup. Since due to their single coil construction, they are prone to picking up external interference at high levels of distortion.

Pickups GUIDE for Electric Guitar: Lipstick

These pickups are covered by metal casings, to provide shielding against interference, and were developed by the Danelectro brand. Although they have subsequently been reproduced by other legendary brands in the manufacture of guitar pickups such as Seymour Duncan.

Lipstick Pickup for Electric Guitar

These types of pickups are single-coil models, have a low output level, and are made with alnico magnet. The Lipsticks offer us a defined, crystalline sound and with a characteristic twang sound. Very suitable for all kinds of genres in need of good clean and overdrive sounds.

P90 Pickup for Electric Guitar

This type of pickup is also a Single Coil model, but with high output. With a bold sound and great sustain, but with the characteristic bright and twang of a single coil pickup.

P90 Pickup for Electric Guitar

The P90 would be soundwise somewhere between a standard single coil pickup and a Humbucker, but with its own character and personality.

Pickups GUIDE for Electric Guitar: Humbucker

These types of pickups are also known simply as PAF, if they are models in the purest vintage style. The humbucker is very characteristic of Gibson guitars, and it would be one of the most popular models of electromagnetic pickups for electric guitar, along with the Fender-style single coil pickups.

The design of this pickup model focused on sustain and background noise reduction, using two coils connected in series with reversed polarity and winding.

As a result, the output level of a standard single coil pickup would be doubled, losing the typical clarity and definition of a single coil. On the other hand, the sustain and low frequencies are increased, obtaining a sound with a lot of body and more punch, and the signal-to-noise ratio is significantly improved.

Humbucker Pickups for Electric Guitar

These pickups can be found uncovered or covered with a nickel lid. The nickel top affects the guitar sound slightly.

The same pickup with a covered will have a slightly warmer tone, and without a cap the tone will tend to be a bit brighter.

Active Pickups for Electric Guitar

While double coil pickups or Humbuckers were designed for the benefit of sustain and low noise, active pickups were developed to go one step further in terms of sustain and interference elimination.

The design of the active pickups is based on a capsule that outputs a low impedance signal, processed through a preamplifier built into the circuit.

This preamplifier powered by a 9V battery increases the output signal without being affected by external interference.

Active Pickups for Electric Guitar

Consequently, a stronger output is achieved than that of a passive pickup, through less powerful magnets that can interfere with the vibrations of the strings, significantly increasing the sustain of the instrument.

In this way, an unbeatable signal to noise ratio is achieved. In addition to obtaining a signal that is not degraded by many meters of cable that exists between our guitar and the amplifier.

Rails and Little humbucker Pickups

This pickup model is simply based on cramming a Humbucker into the space of a single coil pickup. Thus they are very easy to install in the replacement of a single coil.

Rails and Little humbucker Pickups

There are also models of Humbuckers in Single Coil format (image above right) like some Seymour Duncan models.

Stack Pickup for Electric Guitar

Stack Pickup for Electric Guitar

It would also be a kind of humbucker, but instead of being two parallel coils, they would lie one on top of the other. In this way, background noise is eliminated, but we would move away from vintage sounds, and approach more modern sounds. Highly recommended for use with enough saturation, without the noise problems characteristic of a traditional single coil pickup.

Pickups GUIDE for Electric Guitar: GOLD FOIL

The Gold Foil is a pickup model with a personal and characteristic penetrating sound. Models widely used in hollow body guitars, but this type of pickup is also often seen in solid body models such as the Strat.

Gold Foil Pickup

The style of these pickups is very ’50s and ’60s, and they are often used for clean sounds in genres like Jazz, Swing, and Rockabilly. But if we add distortion to its sound, other styles such as Classic Rock can develop.

Pickups GUIDE for Electric Guitar: Mini Humbucker

The mini-humbuckers double coil pickups are characterized with respect to traditional humbuckers, by their brighter, more direct sound, and with a twang style. Very suitable for genres such as blues, rock or hard rock.

Mini Humbucker Pickup

We could say that in terms of sound, they would be between a single coil and a P90, or somewhere between a Gibson tone and a Rickenbacker tone.

Sustainiac Pickups for Electric Guitar

The Sustainiac pickup incorporates a system that when activated, the capsule emits electromagnetic impulses that ensure that the strings never stop vibrating. In this way, the sustain of the instrument is increased to infinity, hence the name Sustainiac.

But when this system is activated, the sustainiac pickup stops capturing sound, to limit itself to emitting electromagnetic impulses. In this case, it would be the bridge pickup that captures the sound of the strings, and which will be provided with infinite sustain.

Sustainiac Pickups for Electric Guitar

When the system is disconnected, the microphone behaves like a normal active pickup, the circuit being also powered by a 9 volt battery.

Multivoice Pickups for Electric Guitar

Fishman Multivoice Pickups

From Fishman Fluence multi-function active pickups, we can get the classic warm sound of PAF double-coil pickups, modern high-gain sounds, and the defined sound of a single coil pickup, but without the characteristic hum of this type of pickup when subjected to at a high level of output.

Deathbucker Pickups for Electric Guitar

The Deathbucker, as the name suggests, are very popular among metal musicians, and are developed by the American brand Lace. High-performance passive pickups with an anti-noise capacity similar to active pickups, but without the need for an external power supply, like the classic battery for active systems.

Lace Deathbucker Pickup

Another advantage of the Deathbuckers is that they can be used in split mode with a single coil pickup, with no drop in volume and no added noise of any kind.

In addition, these pickups can be installed in most guitar models, and can be used in conjunction with other models of passive pickups.

The qualities of the Active Pickups make it another very appropriate pickup model for Superstrat Guitar.

Pickups for Different Guitar Models