Guitar-Bass-Pickup Types


There is an assortment of bass pickup types on the market today, each boasting their own distinct characteristics that make them more suitable to specific genres and playing styles.

Passive pickups have been at the core of Motown, surf rock, and James Jamerson’s funk lines for decades – they feature low, punchy tones as well as resistance to ambient noise.

Single Coil

Single coil pickups are one of the most widely utilized types in bass guitars. Their basic design is straightforward and offers great flexibility depending on how your amplifier settings change. Furthermore, pedals may alter its sound as well as choosing between single or humbucker coils can change how your licks come through.

A basic single-coil pickup consists of two horseshoe-shaped magnets, a copper wire coil, and an apparatus to stop its magnetic field from shifting or moving (called a bobbin). When metal strings vibrate over this setup, their vibration disturbs this magnetic field, inducing current in the coil which in turn produces your tone.

Single-coil pickups are well-known to deliver a brighter, cutting tone than their dual-coil counterparts, making them suitable for many styles of music – particularly rock and punk music genres. Their high output can cut through mixes while bringing out intricate musical passages in detail – ideal features that make single coil pickups popular among players wanting clean, crisp sounds. Their popularity also extends into jazz, blues and any other playing style you might encounter!

Single-coil basses can be an invaluable resource when combined with five-position switches and the appropriate EQ settings, giving users access to an expansive palette of tones. They make for the ideal tool for exploring all the possibilities offered by their amplifier. Unfortunately, however, single-coils may be susceptible to feedback as a result of having exposed pole pieces; this may result in high-pitched whine or shrieks when hit hard using lots of gain or distortion.

The J pickup is an innovative variation on the classic single-coil design found in several bass manufacturers’ bass guitars, distinguished by larger pole pieces that alter frequency response and harmonic properties, as well as heavier Formvar wire that produces fuller-sounding lows, punchier mids, and smooth highs – qualities which make this pick ideal for funk and jazz playing styles alike.


P, J and Humbucker pickup designs have long been staples on bass guitars, each offering distinct characteristics which lend themselves to certain genres and playing styles – yet all share similar elements as well.

The core component of any bass pickup is its coil. A coil consists of thousands of turns of copper wire wrapped tightly around an object known as a bobbin, held securely with pole pieces beneath each string and enclosed within a protective cover to guard against damage to it.

Humbuckers offer musicians an additional advantage: two signal-producing coils have opposite electrical and magnetic polarities to one another, eliminating any possibility of hum and producing only an audacious sound valued by musicians.

Humbrickers typically produce richer and thicker tones due to their emphasis on bass and lower mid frequencies, giving them a richer, thicker sound compared to their single coil counterparts. Humbuckers are frequently chosen by metal and heavy rock guitarists but can be utilized across styles thanks to their natural hum-cancelling properties.

Once the covers have been removed, it’s evident that humbuckers contain two coils each equipped with six small metal inserts known as pole pieces – most humbuckers have adjustable pole pieces to allow you to make adjustments and customize your sound.

There are various pole pieces available, ranging from non-adjustable standard slugs to adjustable Filister screws found on Seymour Duncan Invader pickups by Seymour Duncan, to Filister screws used by Filister guitar pickups by Seymour Duncan, as well as adjustable Hex screws used on Filister pickups used by Seymour Duncan, each offering unique effects on how the sound of your pickup changes with adjustment – this may either strengthen or diminish its sound depending on how it’s set up! Each adjustment either amplifies or alters your pickup’s sound depending on its specific characteristics – giving your sound amplification/alteration depending on its effect and position on how adjusted.

Which bass pickup should you choose? That depends entirely on the music genres you play, your individual listening preferences and budget. Many guitars feature both single-coils and humbuckers so you can experiment before settling on one option – once you get used to their differences you can always change them out at will!

Split Coil

Split-coil bass pickups are among the most sought-after, offering warm tones with bite and clarity that are great for rock and punk styles of music. Each half of a single coil pickup sits underneath two strings on a four-string bass, creating an intimate yet robust tone ideal for both these genres.

Split-coil bass pickups can be wired in various ways to produce an array of tones. A popular method is pairing one with a humbucking pickup in the bridge position (known as a P/J combo). This gives you both classic P-bass sound from Leo Fender as well as punchy tones from a humbucker pickup.

Some bassists opt for solely split-coil basses, while others favor using multiple types of pickups – for instance pairing middle position split-coil pickup with J-bass bridge pickup to produce an array of tones.

Split-coil guitar-bass-pickups typically offer higher output than their humbucker counterparts and may even prove louder in certain applications, making this type of pickup suitable for jazz, blues and funk musicians alike.

Alongside wiring options, other factors that influence the sound of a split-coil bass pickup include alnico magnet type. Alnico 4 magnets offer balanced highs and lows.

Note that split-coil pickups can be used in both humbucking and single coil configurations; to do this, simply detach the coil attached to your switch and connect it with longer wire instead. However, keep in mind that this won’t completely disarm your pickup; rather it may serve to reduce its power instead.


Optical pickups use light to convert string vibrations into electrical signals that mimic soundwaves, feeding into a bass amplifier for reproduction as audio. Unlike traditional guitar-bass pickups that utilize magnets or coils, optical pickups utilize LED strips under your strings with sensors on either end to monitor your shade as you vibrate; photodiodes then convert that motion into electrical signals that feed back into your audio amp for reproduction as audio sound waves.

Use this system to effortlessly switch between the two most popular bass pickup styles: single-coil and humbucker. In terms of tone, single-coil pickups tend to produce bright and twangy tones suited for jazz, reggae, and funk music; on the other hand, humbuckers provide warmer tones with thicker sounds that work great for rock, punk, and metal music.

Not only can your pickups have an enormous effect on your tone, but their placement also plays a crucial role. A single-coil bass pickup close to the bridge will produce thinner sound that’s great for quick note articulation and soloing; conversely, having a humbucking pickup near the neck produces deeper, fuller sounds which provide great chord work opportunities and create a solid aural foundation for any band.

One of the most widely-used pickups for bass guitar is known as a P pickup, and can be found across a range of manufacturers’ basses. Used across musical genres such as Motown grooves by James Jamerson to slap and pop bass lines from Larry Graham or Rage Against the Machine’s Tim Commerford from Rage Against the Machine’s Tim Commerford; P pickups also often provide bassists looking for an expansive bottom end sound that cuts through any mix with ease.