The Difference Between Bass and Guitar Pickups

difference between bass and guitar pickups

Bass pickups are an integral component of your bass sound. Consisting of a magnet surrounded by copper wire coils, they create vibrational disturbances within their magnetic fields which cause small voltage variations within their coils that then feed back to your amp and are translated into sound by vibrating strings.

String spacing

Bass guitars feature unique string spacing compared to guitars, so it is essential for their pickups to accurately amplify all strings. Unfortunately, some 6-string basses may experience issues whereby certain pickups don’t pick up all vibrations of each string and result in a weak sound; to address this, measure string spacing with a ruler and make adjustments as needed.

Construction can have an enormous effect on a bass or guitar pickup’s tone. Double coil pickups with anti-hum technology often used on bass guitars are known as humbucking pickups, while split-coil pickups with one double coil under each string allow for greater tonal variations and cancellation of hum. These pickups are known as humbuckers.

One difference between bass and guitar pickups lies in their pole piece arrangements; bass guitars typically use wider pole pieces than guitars that are spaced further apart to pick up more vibrations from strings and produce fuller sounds.

Apart from string spacing, bass and guitar pickups have several other distinguishing characteristics that vary between them, including number of strings, type of strings, placement of pickups, active vs passive circuitry (with guitar having more options available to them than bass pickups), preamp capabilities that add an additional depth to their tone, as well as active/passive hybrid pickups that offer added tonality to their instruments.

Some bass pickups have fixed positions while others can be adjusted by moving them to different spots on the guitar body. This feature can help players alter the tone of their bass without purchasing an entirely new pickup. However, changing a fixed pickup’s location is not advised, as doing so could damage or distort it and produce uneven sound across strings – therefore it is best to stick with its original pickup for optimal sound and tone quality.

Pole pieces

The pole pieces that sit beneath your strings have an enormous influence on the tone of your bass guitar. They create the magnetic field that attacts and magnetizes your strings, then converts this signal to an electrical signal sent to an amplifier. They may be made from rod or bar alnico or ferrous steel materials and may have different shapes depending on which pickup system is in use – alnico pole pieces create brighter tones while ferrous poles offer fuller, warmer sounds.

Your bass’s sound depends heavily on the pickup you choose. There are various kinds of pickups, such as single-coil, humbuckers and piezoelectric pickups; single-coil pickups tend to produce brighter tones suitable for note articulation and aggressive styles while being more sensitive to string tension changes so as to respond more efficiently with EQ adjustments.

Humbuckers are an extremely popular choice among bass guitar owners, and can come in various forms and shapes. From two single-coil pickups joined together into a humbucker configuration to split-coils or even stacked coils – whatever kind you have it’s important that its height be correctly set; otherwise it could alter your tone significantly as well as cause unwanted feedback from your instrument.

One major distinction between bass and guitar pickups lies in their number of pole pieces; bass pickups tend to have only one or two per string while guitars usually sport six; this is likely because pole pieces on bass pickups must be more closely spaced due to wider string spacing.

Magnet type also plays a significant role in your pickup’s sound. Alnico magnets, an alloy composed of aluminum, nickel and cobalt are often found in bass pickups – these sweetly musical Alnico 2 magnets range in sound intensity to bolder Alnico 5 varieties.

Piezo pickups may not be common on bass guitars, but they can offer distinctive sounds. Piezo pickups recognize string vibration rather than magnetic fields created by metal coil pickups; however, in order for these pickups to function effectively they require a very specific preamp setup in order to operate successfully.

Coil size

Coil size is one of the key differences between bass and guitar pickups. Bass pickups tend to feature larger coils than their guitar counterparts, giving them greater power that enables them to pick up vibrations from strings more effectively, producing richer tones in return. Furthermore, this extra power gives bass pickups greater control over their sound output – most commonly seen with the humbucker bass guitar pickup type.

These dual-coil pickups are specifically designed to eliminate the hum and noise produced by single-coil guitar pickups, known as electromagnetic induction. These devices work by turning each string’s magnetic field into an electrical signal which is transmitted to an amplifier where it’s converted into sound by electromagnetic induction – this process also applies to bass guitar and guitar pickups.

Though it may be possible to use a bass pickup on a guitar, the results may not be as impressive due to its smaller coil and inability to pick up as many outer strings and therefore cause them to sound less powerful and clear. Furthermore, bass pickups require larger magnets in order to generate sufficient magnetic fields that create them.

Another difference between bass and guitar pickups lies in their pole pieces – steel screws that form magnet poles of a guitar pickup and which form six poles on a single-coil pickup, while most guitars only possess four strings and thus only require four pole pieces for magnet poles.

Bass pickups have become immensely popular due to their crisp sound. Perfect for fast-paced styles like funk and jazz music, bass pickups can be found both passive and active basses. To install one on an existing bass guitar, or as upgrades or modifications for one already existing, first remove your strings using string cutters or wire snips and unscrew both mounting screws on each side – once done so you’ll be ready to mount your pickup!


Bass and guitar pickups consist of various magnet types that have an immediate influence on tone and response, along with additional factors like string spacing and pole pieces which play an integral part in creating their sound. An electric guitar would likely feature more pole pieces and wider string spacing, because bass pickups require pole pieces positioned correctly to capture vibration from each string, otherwise sound would become uneven. Many innovations in bass pickup technology have also been introduced recently, such as optical pickups. Optical pickups use light to convert vibration of strings into electrical signals for pickups; though currently nonexistent on any bass pickup models they could become popular soon.

A major distinction between bass and guitar pickups lies in their respective pole piece counts; bass pickups typically contain one or two per string while electric guitars have up to six. These pieces are located underneath each string to capture vibration, and ensure accurate detection. They also create fuller, richer sounds due to more even spacing of pole pieces on a guitar than those found in bass pickups; this prevents uneven output between strings.

There are various kinds of magnets used in bass and guitar pickups, each offering their own distinct sound. Alnico magnets are one of the most widely used options available. This material comes in various alloy forms like aluminum (Al), nickel (Ni) and cobalt (Co), which can be arranged into rod or bar shapes arranged around rod or bar bodies; additional output may be adjusted via screw adjusting which makes these an essential choice for some styles of guitars.

Ceramic magnets are slightly stronger than Alnico magnets and produce higher frequencies with sharper responses, making them popular with guitarists who utilize distortion. Humbucking pickups frequently employ ceramic magnets; however, due to their higher output levels they may sound hollow when used for clean tones.