Types of Bass Guitar Pickups

Guitar pickups are essential components of the sound produced by bass amps, producing music to an audience. Pickups may either be passive – meaning no internal power source – or active with an optional battery-powered preamp for tone-shaping capabilities.

This humbucking bass guitar pickup is ideal for high-gain chugging. Additionally, its powerful clean tones offer plenty of harmonic response for powerful yet melodic tones.


A pickup is one of the key elements in a bass guitar, as it helps style and sculpt its sound to suit different styles of music you play. These upgrade pickups designed by physicist and luthier Bill Bartolini provide your instrument with its most natural, musical voice – whether that is deep vintage P-Bass tone or top end clarity for more contemporary playing styles. Available either single (S) coil or split (S/Coil), made with Alnico 3 magnets, enamel-coated magnet wire and traditional copper output wire.

This humbucking bass guitar pickup offers powerful bass tones with crisp high mids to cut through any mix.


Humbucking pickups consist of two single-coil electric guitar pickups wired in reverse polarity to cancel out interference (hence their name). These bass guitar pickups tend to be quieter than single coil models and feature well-rounded and large tones with higher gain potential depending on placement in a bass guitar; perfect for heavy blues rock music or styles that call for gritty tones!

Single-coil electric guitar pickups consist of a magnet wrapped with fine copper wire that, when vibrated by vibrating strings, disturbs its magnetic field and induces a small current in its coil of copper wire. When this current flows into your bass guitar’s sensor, it is picked up and converted into an electronic signal which travels via instrument cable to your preamp in your amp’s preamp, where it is amplified and translated into sound waves.

Soap Bar pickups have long been a favorite humbucker bass pickup choice, often seen on 5-string basses and often referred to as MM-style due to their introduction by Music Man in 1976. They are known for their natural sustain and ability to handle overdrive without sounding thin.

Wilkinson offers classic Dog-Ear humbuckers as another viable solution, providing high output, throaty tone and great harmonic response with low noise levels that allow it to cut through mixes easily.

Single Coil

Your pickups in your bass or guitar are an integral component in creating its sound, turning vibrational energy from guitar strings into electrical current. There are various kinds of pickups to choose from; each has its own distinctive sound; single-coil, humbucking and single-coil with split coil (also called dual coil) are all different and should be explored to find what best fits your musical style.

Single-coil pickups feature one magnetic transducer wound with copper wire that converts string vibrations into electrical signals. This design makes the pickup more responsive to subtleties of your playing style and results in clear, vibrant tone; however, due to electromagnetic hum caused by radios, neon tubes or computer monitors nearby it may also produce audible tones that make for a consistent soundscape.

Buzz or hum is an unpleasant noise that can significantly diminish your overall tone. Luckily, there are ways to lessen its presence – ranging from changing placement of pickup to switching out altogether – so as an experimenter it’s essential that you find out which method best works for you and your bass or guitar.

If you’re in search of a single-coil pickup that produces that classic single-coil sound, look no further than the PRS SE Silver Sky bass guitar pickups. Crafted to reproduce vintage voicing that many musicians enjoy such as Hendrix and SRV to modern rock players alike. Plus they feature five-way switches so that you can find just the tone that works for your music!

The Wilkinson Hot Ceramic Magnet Humbucking Bass Guitar Pickup offers high-output, aggressive tones that love being pushed into overdrive. Perfect for creating an 80s metal sound or more traditional hard rock tone, this pickup provides punch and clarity needed to cut through any mix. Featuring two humbuckers (bridge and neck positions) as well as one single coil (middle position), making this pickup suitable for classic S or Super S-style basses.


Optical pickups are a relatively recent invention that uses light-sensing electronics to detect string vibration. They’re highly resistant to magnetic interference and offer a very broad and flat frequency response; as a result, they’re less prone to string-suck effects or high-frequency feedback, making them the perfect solution for bassists looking to maintain their tone when playing palm muted.

Though your pick depends on your preferred music genre and style, most manufacturers provide a selection of bass guitar pickups to meet various musical genres and subgenres. Single-coils and humbuckers are both commonly preferred among bassists in rock, pop, and funk genres; single-coils tend to be preferred more. While single-coils remain the most sought-after option there are various other magnet types, sizes, and pole spacing configurations.

Magnets play an essential part in creating the sound of a bass guitar pickup. Most commonly, magnets made of Alnico are most frequently employed. Alnico is an alloy composed of aluminum, nickel and cobalt that ranges in its magnetic strength depending on their number from Alnico 1 (weakest magnetic pull) up to Alnico 5 (strongest), thus creating the ideal balanced tone tone.

Consideration should also be given to the number of turns in a bass guitar pickup’s winding, which determines its voltage output. Higher output pickups usually feature more turns which increases their output; however, these same high-output models tend to feature larger inductance and capacitance ratings that negatively affect high frequencies. All together these qualities combine to form a second-order lowpass filter which attenuates these higher frequencies.

The finest basses combine various tones ranging from warm and rich to harsh and cutting. An ideal bass will have an overall balanced and full sound that works across musical genres. Basses designed with passive pickups have frequencies that can be altered using tone controls or external equalizers; active pickups offer greater output with wider frequency response as well as active preamp buffers which drive longer cable runs without degrading sound quality or creating outside interference or noise.