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How to choose an electric guitar pickup?

How to choose an electric guitar pickup?
19 October 2020 Cecca Guitars
Différents micros de guitare électrique, Humbucker, P90, simple bobinage, P90 format Humbucker...

Here is a question that every guitarist asks himself at one time or another in his musician. “Which pickup to choose for my (new, old) guitar”. Reasons for this desire for change are many and varied: changing the sound, switching to humbuckers, putting good microphones on a kit guitar, needing to upgrade an entry-level guitar, need more output…

Choosing this pickup or set of pickups will depend mainly on two criteria:

  • the guitar model and what the lutherie allows
  • the type of music and the type of sound
  • the type of bridge for the technical concern

Choose your pickup according to the guitar model

Indeed, we will not be able to install the same pickup if we have a strat equipped with 3 single coils or a Les Paul with two humbuckers. You also have to see what the lutherie allows: will it be possible to install a humbucker in the bridge position of my Strat? Is the cavity big enough? If not, am I ready to enlarge the cavity myself or with the help of a luthier?

An example: I want to put humbuckers on a Jazzmaster, is it possible? A priori, the cavities designed to accommodate the very specific single coil pickups of the Jazzmaster allow this. However, the pickguard only allows you to put these pickups, so it will have to be changed to install doubles. The operation is quite possible.

When you have answered these questions you will already have a better idea of the pickup format you can put on your guitar.

A pckup yes, but to play differently?

You must then determine for which application you want to change the pickup: to have a more open sound, to have more power, a pickup to play Blues,a pickup to be mounted on a semi-hollow or a solidbody … Again, the question is vast and of all its importance.

Today you can do just about anything in terms of a combination. You can find a P90 or a single Strat-type pickup in Humbucker format. You can find a humbucker pickup in Stratocaster or Telecaster format. Similarly, you can change the microphone contours of your Epiphone Dot to include FilterTrons. Everything is possible.

The choice according to the bridge/tremolo

An important technical data concerning the choice of the bridge pickup is precisely the type of bridge which equips the guitar. If you have a Tune-O-Matic or T.O.M type bridge like on most Gibson or Epiphone guitars you can choose a bridge pickup with E to E screw spacing of 49.2mm or 50mm. If on the other hand the bridge is of the hardtail, telecaster, Stratocaster or Floyd Rose vibrato type, it is necessary to opt for a spacing of 52mm. The neck pickup spacing is more typically 49.2 or 50mm for humbuckers and P90 pickups on most guitars. Stratocaster pickups have a standard 52mm (or 52.4mm for US model) spacing for every position.

The role of the magnet in the sound of the pickup

The magnet will mainly act on the output level but also on the general equalization of the pickup


Once you have defined the pickup format and the type of sound you are looking for, there are still points to be clarified. It is interesting to understand what type of magnet will match the desired sound.

Although the most commonly used magnets are AlNiCo 2 and 5 and Ceramics 8, there are many other magnets available for a wide variety of sounds. In the AlNiCO family, 2, 3 and 4 are generally used for vintage sounds. In contrast, the 6, 8 and 9 (and yes, 6 and 9 exist!) are for modern sounds. The AlNiCo 5 can be used for both vintage and modern. Ceramic 8 will be used for more modern sounds and is involved when high output is needed. Those who need a high level of output can also turn to Neodymium or Ceramic. If you want to learn more about magnets, read our full article on them.

Go to the store and use the filters to find THE microphone that suits your instrument and your style.

If you can’t find what you are looking for, simply request a custom mic. Indeed, the tailor-made is quite affordable and will make your guitar a unique instrument!