Bass pickups are straightforward electronic components that convert vibration from guitar strings into electricity and send it directly to your bass amplifier. They come in an assortment of styles and designs.
There are three basic designs of coils: single coils, split coils and humbuckers (also referred to as double-coils). Each has its unique advantages.
Single coil bass guitar pickup coils are an excellent choice for those seeking to customize the tone of their instrument. Not only are they easy to install, but they come in various shapes and sizes as well.
Single coil pickups work like all other pickups by using magnets to ‘pick up’ the frequencies of strings. To make these pickups effective, however, manufacturers must create the proper combination of wire wrapping and magnet type.
When it comes to magnetic pickups, there are various types of magnets available, each with their own distinct qualities and strengths. These characteristics can have an enormous effect on the sound and performance of a pickup.
For instance, certain magnets can create bright and crisp tones while others produce fat and full ones. These distinctions play a significant role in determining the sound produced by your pickup and its compatibility with other parts of your guitar.
When selecting your pickup, it is essential to take into account the position of the magnets within its coils. This helps guarantee that your tone remains consistent across all positions.
The position of the magnets will influence how well a pickup sounds, so it’s essential to pick one that matches your style of play. Some players might prefer a pickup close to position 1 on their guitar while others might enjoy using one closer to position 4.
Single coil pickups are commonly used in both neck and bridge positions of a guitar. Although they come in various shapes and sizes, their characteristic twangy, bell-like tones are popular across many genres of music.
These pickups typically have a lower frequency response than humbuckers, making them more sensitive to the center tone of notes played. As such, they make great choices for bass guitarists who like their basses to stand out in the mix.
Coil splitting is a wiring modification that converts humbucker pickups into single coil pickups. It involves taking one of the two coils from a humbucker and shutting it off with the push-pull action of a tone knob. This allows guitarists to quickly switch from the humbucker sound to single coil sound without having to replace their guitar.
Split coil bass pickups are a type of pickup commonly found on Precision basses. Their name comes from the fact that they are actually double coil pickups split in two. These pickups offer an extensive range of sounds from soft to powerful.
Contrary to a single coil pickup, which has its bobbin of wire wrapped around it, a split coil pickup uses pole pieces underneath the strings and an internal magnet for shaping sound and creating distinct tones.
Split coil bass pickups come in a variety of forms, from those made with just the coil wrapped around a bobbin to fully overwound models.
These pickups feature a strong low end and powerful midrange growl. Furthermore, they possess exceptional clarity with good top end definition, making them perfect for heavy rock or metal styles of playing.
This type of pickup can be used on any bass, but they’re most frequently found on P-basses due to their staggered set of pickups that provide an even tone from string to string.
These pickups possess a distinct tone character that depends on the model and manufacturer. They can range from an open, clear sound ideal for blues guitar, to more muted, powerful sounds with some twang. Furthermore, they produce plenty of midrange growl and even an occasional honk. This versatile pickup has become very popular amongst many guitarists; it can recreate many different single coil sounds perfectly, making it a must-have addition to any bassist’s arsenal.
Bass guitar pickups generate electrical signals that can be amplified and converted to acoustic sound. They come in various shapes and sizes, with their sound dependent upon the magnets they contain.
Humbucker pickups are a common type of pickup, often found on basses with smaller bodies and fewer strings. Humbuckers feature larger coils positioned closer together than single-coils, giving them more dynamic range in tones.
Humbuckers tend to produce a murkier sound than single coils when amplified, especially when used with amplifiers that lack bass headroom. This may be an issue for players who prefer subtle sounds or who use amplifiers with limited output levels.
Humbucker pickups often feature “coil splits,” which allow guitarists to customize how much signal is produced from the second coil, from pure single coil up through full humbucker and everything in between. In some cases, this can be accomplished via a series/parallel switch.
Another popular humbucker style is the Z-shape pickup, designed to partially reduce hum without cutting into high end content of sound. This pickup type can typically be found on Fender bass guitars but other brands have produced variants as well.
The P-style pickup is a popular option among bass players and jazz guitarists alike. Its distinctive design produces crisp tones on the attack while producing smoother sounds in the low midrange frequency range.
Ceramic magnets give these pickups their rich, textured sound that spans multiple styles and genres. They’re great for blending different guitars and styles with bass instruments as they can deliver plenty of volume without any noise or hum.
Bass humbucker pickups are an ideal choice for metal and hard rock musicians seeking a powerful bass tone with plenty of bite, punch, and articulation. Furthermore, these pickups can handle various heavy tones without compromising low-end fatness or clarity.
P-style bass guitar pickup coils offer the classic P bass pickup’s warm, vintage tone. These pickups boast fixed pole pieces for even string response, high-grade pickup wire and Alnico 5 magnets for added performance.
They feature an iconic design, similar to vintage bass pickups such as Memphis Soul pickups which were influential in creating some iconic bass sounds such as Duck Dunn’s Stax sound.
This pickup is an ideal choice for players who desire the classic sound of the originals but want to save some money. These split-coil pickups use Alnico 5 magnets in the same style as their older counterparts, giving them that signature warm tone that the Memphis Soul is known for.
These P-style pickups are some of the finest available today and make for a great choice for players seeking that classic warm bass sound. They’re ideal for bassists playing styles such as surf rock, Motown, and funk with ease.
The P-style pickup is a split coil design, meaning two strings are picked up by one coil and the remaining two by the other. While this layout is often found on P-style basses, it’s not the only style available.
Humbucker bass pickups come in a wide variety of size and shape, many featuring stacked coils for versatility.
These stacked humbuckers are usually wound and wired so the coils are polarized and reversed, canceling out mains hum and producing a warm, smooth low-end sound with no annoying feedback.
Another popular style of humbucker bass pickup is the J-style. This single coil design has staggered pole pieces for each string, giving off a scooped low end sound with additional midrange growl and treble boost. These pickups can be found on Jazz basses.
Modern J bass pickups are typically configured as double-pickups, where both the neck and bridge pickups are wired together. Some even feature switches that enable you to quickly switch between them. Some of these switches even feature active EQs that enable you to blend the sounds of both pickups or dial in just one for optimal sound.