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How do you choose the ideal pickup for your guitar?

Updated: Aug 3, 2021

So up next, we’ll cover some useful tips to help narrow down the options.

1. Examine Your Preferences

While no pickup model is solely designed for a particular style of music…there are certain pickups that “generally” work better with certain tones.

And as I’m sure you already noticed from what we covered so far, the biggest factor affecting tone is output level:

Higher outputs work better for heavy distorted sounds.

Lower outputs work better for cleaner, more dynamic sounds.

And it ultimately boils down to just that.

So pick and choose your features based mainly on the sounds you use most often.

2. Determine external tonal influences

We all know that you guitar tone is based on numerous factors besides just the pickups, right?…

Pedals and amps being the two most obvious examples.

However there are also some subtle factors on the guitar itself which you may not have considered.

Some of the important things

Volume Knob – 250k pots are warmer, 500k pots are brighter

Strings – pure nickel is darker, while steel/nickel-plated steel are brighter

Woods – maple, ash, and alder are brighter, while mahogany and rosewood are darker

Neck style – bolted necks are brighter with less sustain, while set-in neck are warmer with more sustain.

And so…based on the existing tones of your current guitar…it makes sense to adjust your pickup selections accordingly.

3. Find What Fits

Depending on whether your guitar currently uses single-coils or humbuckers…

The body will be cut to fit that specific-sized pickup inside the cavity.

If you’re switching from one single-coil to another, or one humbucker to another, the change is simple.

If you’re switching from one to the other, you can see how that might present a problem.

But don’t worry, because there is a solution that doesn’t involve cutting new holes in your guitar.

These days, there are plenty of single-coils shaped like humbuckers, and vice versa.

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