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Electric guitar pickups


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Electric guitar pickups

Electric guitar pickups generate an electromagnetic field which is modified by the vibrations of the guitar's partly steel strings. The magnetic field is then transformed into an electric current sent to an amplifier.

In order to create this magnetic field, the microphones are composed of one or more magnets and one or more windings of copper wire. There are many configurations and many types of mics.

The different electric guitar microphones

In chronological order, the main microphones are:

  • Charlie Christian pickups, named after a pioneering electric jazz guitarist
  • Gibson's P90 pickups, consisting of a coil and two magnet bars
  • Stratocaster type single coil pickups created by Léo Fender. They are made up of 6 cylindrical magnets around which a copper wire is wound.
  • Double coil pickups, called Humbucker because their construction allows them to eliminate background noise, “hum” in English.

There are a very large number of variations made from these microphones. The single coil pickups of the Jaguar, for example, are very similar in their construction to those of the Stratocaster but notably with a metal base which surrounds the base of the microphone. The Jazzmaster's pickups are modeled on other Fender single coils but in a format reminiscent of Gibson's P90 while being wider and flatter than the latter. Last example, the Gretsch Filtertron is a humbucker but with specific characteristics and a different look from Gibson Humbuckers

Most electric guitar pickups generate the magnetic field passively, that is, without an external power supply. Since the end of the 70s, there have also been active microphones, most often powered by a 9v battery. These microphones are most often used by Metal guitarists and bassists. They allow a higher output level and variations of voicing by an electronic system directly incorporated into the microphones.

The composition of electric guitar pickups

The passive microphones, which you will find on this site, are mostly composed of magnets called “AlNiCo” which designates the alloy of Aluminum, Nickel and Cobalt of which they are made.
There are different gradations of Alnico from 1 to 9. For the manufacture of microphones you will find Alnico magnets 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9. They all give a different output level and a sound character specific to the microphones that they equip. The microphones equipped with Alnico 2, 3 and 4 magnets have a very pronounced vintage coloring and a moderate output level. The Alnico 3, which has the lowest output level and more pronounced midrange, is very suitable for equipping a Jazz guitar. It is also used for high-end models, notably the Les Paul and Gibson ES-335.