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Bass Guitar Pickups

Types of Bass Pickups

There are several types of bass pickups. The most basic categories are magnetic and piezoelectric. Magnetic coils work along the mechanisms described above, generating pickups through the magnetic field. Piezoelectric guitar pickups use crystals to generate the electricity that is then picked up and sent to the amplifier. All pickups will use one or the other basic generating mechanisms, and some work in combination. They then fall into one of several other categories.

J Pickups are the basses answer to the hexagonic pickups found for some guitars, in that they lie underneath all four of the strings of the bass. These pickups are wired opposite to each other, so even though they are generally single-coil, the hum generated is greatly reduced.

P Pickups are the original style of pickup found in the first widely popular bass designed by Leo Fender back in the ’70s. These bass guitar pickups are two halves of one single coil pickup, and each half is placed underneath two of the bass’ strings. Like the J pickups, they are wired in opposite directions to reduce the hum.

Humbuckers, like the same model for guitars, use a dual coil system to eliminate hum. They are the same shape as the J pickups, but in order to incorporate both magnet systems they are much wider.

People commonly refer to soapbox pickups as a distinct variety, but in fact they are merely housing. Soapbox pickups may contain any one of the three types of pickup used in basses. Further, many bass players use several types of pickup in conjunction in order to round out the sound that they want. The placement of the pickup on the guitar will greatly contribute to the musical effects of the instrument. Having a pickup higher up on the guitar, such as at the neck, will allow the lower sounds to be amplified, maximizing the bass effects. Locating the pickups at the bridge will pick up the tones at the treble end of the scale.