Choose Electric Guitar:
Pickups and Hardware




One of the most important decisions when you choose an electric guitar is the pickups. Guitars produce sound from the vibration of the strings. The string doesn't produce much volume so the vibrations need to be amplified.

An acoustic guitar uses the hollow body of the guitar as a sound chamber, which increases the volume of the vibrating string, however, every acoustic guitar has volume limits.During the big band era, there were problems with acoustic guitars not being heard, because the other instruments overpowered them. To solve this problem the electric guitar pickup was born. It was attached to acoustic guitars and did increase their volume, but, there were problems with feedback due to the vibrating hollow bodies of the guitars. To fix this problem the semi-hollow body and then the solid body electric guitars were invented.

Pickups vary with quality and price, so, they affect the price of the guitar.

Single coil pickups were the first pickups. They work by sensing the steel strings vibration as it passes through magnetic fields created by the pickups. Single coil pickups have a crisp clear tone. However, they are prone to humming caused by florescent lights and other sources of magnetic interference. Some manufacturers now make "noiseless" single coil pickups.

Dual coil or "Humbucker" pickups came next. They consist of two single coil pickups, side by side, and wired opposite to each other, (out of phase), to cancel out the hum associated with single coil pickups. Humbuckers generally have a warmer, more mellow tone.



Which pickups are the best sounding?

I don't know, what sounds best to you? Do you like crisp, screaming, high notes? Or would you prefer mellow, full lows with warm bass? If you want both, you may be happier with a combination of both types of pickups, (single coil and humbuckers on the same guitar). You can access more technical information here if you wish.

To help you choose electric guitar pickups, find out what types of pickups your favorite guitar players are using, to get an idea of which sound you like best. There are also many variations within each pickup type that "color" the tone. A person could spend hours debating which pickups have the best tone (and lots of guitarists do), but really, what do YOU like? Listen with your ears, and remember to use the same amp when comparing guitars.

Pickup Selector Switches

The function of the selector switch is to choose which pickup to use. They can be toggle switches or sliders, and can have from two to five positions. Some switches only select neck, center or bridge positions, while others let you combine the pickups for more tonal variations.

Whammy Bars

These are also called tremolo bars. They can be used to temporarily lower the pitch of the guitar by pushing toward the guitar, and some, (not all), of them can also be used to tighten the strings, (pull) and raise the pitch. I wouldn't recommend them on a cheaper beginner guitar because they can detune cheap guitars real quick. If you choose electric guitar with a whammy bar, try it out a lot to make sure it doesn't detune the guitar.


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