How Many Types of Guitar Pickups Are There?

how many types of guitar pickups are there

Your choice of guitar pickups will have an enormous effect on the tone and sound of your electric guitar. Their construction, strength and weaknesses all play into how well they produce sound for you guitar.

The three primary types of guitar pickups are single-coil, humbucker and P90 models. Each offers unique tonal characteristics suitable for specific musical genres.

Single Coil

Single coil pickups can be found on Fender guitar models like Stratocasters and Telecasters, where one copper wire wraps around six pole pieces (see picture below). Single-coil pickups are distinguished by their crisp, articulate tone when playing clean; their high-end response excels, making them great for expressive playing styles or for cutting through band mixes; they even work especially well when used with dense and effect-laden tones like Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine uses.

Single-coil pickups may cause 60 Cycle Hum and feedback when played close to other instruments or amplifiers due to their construction; their pole pieces may pick up magnetic interference from objects within range of your strings (e.g. drums and cymbals).

To reduce interference and stop hum and squeal, most manufacturers of single-coil pickups employ shielding materials around their coil to minimize interference and stop hum and squeal. They may also use magnet material with reduced interference. Vintage-style single-coil pickups offer various levels of output and impedance – adding turns increases output while decreasing impedance levels; which may help achieve that classic, twangy sound characteristic of older guitars.

If you want to maximize the potential of your electric guitar, a great place to begin is by studying what kinds of pickups your heroes use and mimicking them. For instance, John Mayer uses guitars equipped with neck humbuckers and bridge humbuckers; for country artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan or Jimi Hendrix it takes single coil pickups at both neck and bridge positions for their distinctive sounds; there are even hybrid guitars that feature both single-coils and humbuckers which provide more options! Alternatively there are hybrid guitars which offer everything at once!


Pickup types are key in defining the tone of any guitar. That is why guitarists regularly experiment with different sets until they find ones that suit both their musical taste and playing style.

Single coil guitars are ideal for country and pop music, due to their more natural tone and higher frequency response at the treble of strings (which produces more jangly sounds). But they’re often found in rock and metal guitars due to their thicker, darker tone that adds a dash of edge into any song or style.

Humbuckers function differently from single coils, yet still produce similar sounds. They utilize two coils each equipped with its own magnet but featuring opposite north pole orientation – one having its north up, while the other down. When connected together they cancel out any potential single-coil hum while providing fuller, thicker and hotter tones than their single-coil counterparts.

Single-coils tend to be louder and noisier than dual-coils due to the bass and mid frequencies they project more of; this reduces high end feedback when used with tube amps; however they lack clarity in their treble strings which makes them less suitable for playing different styles like classical and jazz music.

One way humbuckers can be altered is with coil split, whereby a single coil is cut in two, giving you the choice of using either coil separately. Another popular modification method is coil tapping; where one coil runs simultaneously through two coils for a “tapped” effect.

As well as its type of coil, other factors that impact guitar tone include magnet size and configuration; how many turns there are on its coil(s), insulation method used, wire type wrapped around bobbins and type of insulation material applied can all have an effect. All these factors can alter its overall tone by either making it brighter, warmer or darker than expected; more muffled or crisp and natural sounding or more vintage or modern than anticipated.


Professional guitarists have long taken pride in the sound quality of their guitar, so experimenting with various pickups and tone-shaping pedals is one of the fastest ways to customize your own tone. Finding an appropriate combination of gear is also essential in developing your personal sound and style.

P-90 pickups are an excellent choice when it comes to selecting an excellent guitar pickup. These unique pickups differ from single coil versions by using a larger coil with thicker tones, ideal for adding power and thickness in lead playing or increasing distortion levels. P-90s are extremely versatile as well; being useful across country music styles as well as rock, punk and blues music genres.

P-90 printers come in various variants, but its basic design includes one bobbin with either a bar magnet or series of magnetized pole pieces attached. It is then wrapped with hair-thin copper wire which may vary in gauge depending on its manufacturer, while turning length usually ranges from 42 to 44 inches.

Gibson’s original P-90 was introduced as the P13 pickup in 1940 for use on their ES-100, ES-125 and EC-250 guitars. Prior to World War II they then switched over to non-adjustable version that featured fixed bridge with small screws in each corner for easier tuning, similar to what could be found on some electric mandolins and tenor guitars.

After World War II, Walt Fuller combined a P-13 guitar with a short diagonal pickup from Lyon & Healy and produced the production model P-90 in 1946 – eventually used on ES-125 and Les Paul Goldtop guitars as well as lap steels, tenor guitars and mandolins.

P-90 pickups are great additions for anyone seeking more character in their guitar tone, from classic to modern styles. Perfect for players of any genre and hollow body guitars alike. While most may recommend vintage-style P-90s, Bare Knuckle has taken an alternative approach with their Supermassive 90 model that delivers modern tones for added punch to your tone.


Piezo guitar pickups must first be understood from their workings perspective. Made of crystalline materials, piezo (pee-ay-zo) pickups detect vibrations which are then turned into electrical signals and amplified. Common applications for piezo pickups are on nylon stringed guitars or for converting traditional acoustic instruments into electric ones.

Piezo guitar pickups function differently from magnetic pick-ups, which amplify sound based on magnetic fields created between coil and metal strings. Instead, piezos use vibrations as power, then convert these vibrations to electrical signals for transmission to PA systems allowing everyone in the stadium to hear your song “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”

Preamps are essential to producing an excellent piezo signal, which is why most acoustic-electric guitars include them as standard equipment. Preamps help strengthen and shape sound while controlling feedback – something acoustic pickups often exhibit due to their large amounts of sympathetic resonance that could result in show-stopping feedback howls if volume increases too far.

Piezo pickups can be installed on guitars in several ways, depending on their model. They’re often integrated into the bridge of an acoustic guitar, though you can purchase stand-alone units such as Dean Markley Artist Transducers for use through sound holes. You may even find hybrid instruments equipped with both magnetic and piezo pickups for you to switch between or blend acoustic and electric sounds at will.

Piezo guitar pickups often produce an unpleasant “quacky” sound that can be difficult to EQ out. This is due to not capturing all the tones of an acoustic guitar as accurately as a microphone would, thus sounding artificial and plastic during live performances – this is why many acoustic guitarists opt for microphone recordings instead of piezo pickups for live performances.

Piezo pickups can add an acoustic touch to an electric guitar without mics or amps, perfect for backing singers with strumming chords or creating the percussive acoustic sound of fingerpicking and slapping.