If you play guitar, or happen to know about the work dynamic of it, the term, ‘pickup’ isn’t lost on you. In the given article we will learn about the two types of Guitar Pickups, their uses, advantages and their differences.
However, in order to highlight the difference between the two, an essential understanding of the same becomes of vital importance. Which is why, we will start with a brief introduction as to what a Pickup, actually means.
What is a pickup?
A guitar pickup is a device that performs the function of converting the vibrations produced by the guitar strings, into electrical signals.
There signals are further carried off towards an amplifier, which boosts it to a level where the sound becomes audible to us.
How does it work?
A guitar pickup works through the principal of, ‘electromagnetic induction’. On further elucidation, it means that, when one or more magnets are inserted inside a bobbin and wound with a conductive wire.
This device undergoes the process of turning mechanical energy into electrical energy. It then flows into the guitar amp, where it is then transformed back to mechanical energy, in the form of sound waves.
Importance of a Pickup in guitar.
Pickups can easily be termed as one of the most important part of a guitar. It can also in exaggerated terms be called, “the heart of a guitar”. A pickup gives the guitar its character tone.
They are also helpful in determining one’s playing style as different kind of Pickups produce different sounds. They offer variation to the listener whereas, options to the player.
Now that we know about the basics of a guitar pickup, let us take a deep dive into the two types of pickups that are, a neck pickup and a bridge pickup.
What is a Neck Pickup?
A neck pickup in a guitar is located right next to the fretboard. As the name itself suggests, this pickup is located at the very end of the neck of a guitar. Each pickup is located differently and performs in a different manner. A neck pickup produces a warm and liquid smooth sound, that is quite commonly used for making melodies and performing solos. In other words, a neck pickup produces a gentle sound.
When should you use a Neck Pickup?
- It should be used while playing a rhythm, so that the darker tone produced by the neck pickup, allows a melody on top of the guitar sound.
- It should be used as a dark background for the solo tune whenever you need to follow up, with a sweater tune.
- It can be used as an echo for some other part of the guitar.
Cons of using a Neck Pickup
- It may get stuck due to poor technique.
- They might sometimes produce a more bassier sound.
- Can not be used to play metal riffs in most cases.
- A too strong megnatic field can result in causing a pull on the guitar strings which may, pull them out of tune.
What is a bridge pickup?
As the name suggests, a bridge pickup is located near to the bridge, on a guitar. A bridge pickup produces a sharp cutting edge sound. It is clear and can cut through noise easily due to the clarity in its production.
This pickup is closer to the anchor point, which gives the strings less time to vibrate of distribute the sound through vibration, which makes the sound concentrated, high in pitch, and bright in nature.
When should you use a Bridge Pickup?
- It should be used when trying to cut over some other rhythm or sound, as due to its high pitch, it can easily do that.
- It can be used to make the transition from a lower to a higher pitch after a drop out in a performance.
- It can be used to provide a front to the echoing sound of the other bridge as it is clearer and sharp. The contrast will result in a good sound.
Cons of using a Bridge Pickup.
- Due to its cutting edge sound, it may often appear too loud.
- It may often overshadow other rhythms if not properly played in sync
- A little harder to control as the sound produced should be loud but not shrieking.
Neck Pickup vs Bridge Pickup
- Both Neck and Bridge Pickups are positioned differently. Their position is what gives them their distinctive features. A bridge pickup on a guitar is angled slightly, while a neck pickup is located straight.
- The Bridge Pickup when in use will produce a very sharp but clear noise. This is due to the greater tension around the its location. On the other hand, the Neck Pickup’s position helps to produce a gentler sound as the strings have less tension surrounding them.
- When it comes to construction, both the picks are quite similar. Both include magnets that have a copper wire wrapped around them. However, the magnet of a Bridge Pickup has more turns in the wire wrapped around it, than that of the Neck Pickup.
- Due to its soft and smooth tone of sound, the Neck Pickup is often used in playing lead lines. On the other hand, the Bridge Pickup is more often used for setting up a rhythm or even, for playing heavy riffs in metal music.
Manufactural structure of Guitar Pickups
- Wire – The wire used in the making of a guitar pickup is very essential to the way it functions or sounds. Each different type of wire used will produce a different type of sound.
- Magnet – The magnet is a vital part in an electric guitar pickup. It may seem pretty simple to understand, but for the electromagnetic induction to work, the magnets are a necessary presence. The strength of the magnet impacts the sound of the pickup.
- Core – The core is what creates the magnetic field for the pickup to work. It’s strength determines the sound of the pickup.
- Packaging – The packaging which can also be called the housing of the pickup. The better it’s packed, the better it will be preserved and as a result, it’ll sound good. A better packaging helps to reduce unwanted noise that may be caused by, outer interference or even, internal parts.
To wrap it all up, while both of these may share the same category, their functions are apart and equally important.
A Bridge Pickup cannot be used as a replacement for the Neck Pickup, and vice-versa. While some players may build their art piece around one of these, to provide contrast and to elude stagnation of rhythm, both the Pickups are equally important.
It’s all a matter and the question of preference. Now that you’re aware and familiar with the two of these, I hope that the selection and execution becomes easier.
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Setting up the proper Pickup height might just be the most important, but often ignored step. The process however, is quite simple. One must first press the Lower E string, down to the highest fret.
Maintaining the same pressure, keep holding it while you determine its actual position. After that, measure the distance of the E string, from the end to the Top of the Low E string pole. Finally, repeat the process for the High E string.
No pickup essentially is better than the other. It all depends on the need as both of the above stated, plays different functions. Their use and application differs and what whenever needed, should be used accordingly.
As interesting as the idea may seem, when used as such, it may produce a dark, fat or in other words, it may sound unpleasant. However, certain jazz players do so in order to achieve added warmth and fullness.
Certain such examples of use include, “I know a little”, “The thrill is gone”, “American woman” etc.
Some good quality brands include –
6. Fralin Pickups
It can be assumed that the single pickup guitars are more advantageous, as they eliminate the necessity of choosing. It also forced one to use volume and time control for a more creative output.
It also happens to be relatively less complex as there aren’t many switches and knobs for distraction. It can be used as a beginner guitar at that. A single pickup guitar is a great learning tool for beginners.