Buying the right guitar pickup can be a lengthy and expensive process to get right. There are many variables at play that can determine what Guitar Pickup is right for you, especially if its your first jump into pickup swapping and upgrading! I, for one, spent hundreds of pounds and hours experimenting to get the tone I was after and you may well do the same.
But, where to start? Seymour Duncan, Bareknuckle Pickups, Dimarzio, Lollar, Kinsman, EMG, Gibson, Fender, The Creamery? Plus many smaller brands such as myself and other pickup winders and Guitar Technicians all over make Guitar Pickups. Everyone can offer great ranges of aftermarket pickup choices and that can be overwhelming to the guitar player.
The fact is, brand wise, any of them will offer a pickup that will suit your needs. What you need to determine is dependant on what that need is. Different magnet types and wire types will give a different type of tone and will respond differently with different value pots and capacitors within your guitar. This will then be marginally characterised by the wood choice and resonant capabilities of your guitar and its hardware. Then on top this your amp, pedals, leads and speakers will have an affect too...see how far we can go with this? It's a rabbit hole I'll explore in future blogs. Lets just stick with how to determine the basics for now!
First off you'll need to look at what fits your guitar, usually it's between three choices. Humbucker, Single Coil and P90's are the most common choice of pickup cavity in an Electric Guitar. At the most basic level you need to know what shape this is:
Single Coil P90 Humbucker
After that you'll need to determine what it is you want tonally before delving into what magnets and resistance you need to be looking at. (although resistance is never a true measure of tone, much against popular belief).
A great place to start is with what you already have and what you are trying to achieve from that instrument.
So lets say you might have an Epiphone Les Paul and you're playing hardrock and metal. The stock pickups aren't cutting it. An obvious choice would be either a Dimarzio Super Distortion, A Seymour Duncan Distortion or we offer a humbucker pickup called a Dark Sunday which uses ceramic magnets and thinner copper wire with a high wind count to brighten up the tone and power. Which is definitely going to help with giving you the fuller, more precise tone hardrock and metal commands.
Or, a problem I once had, I had a Gibson Les Paul with a Bareknuckle Pickups Nailbomb fitted to the bridge. It was a GREAT pickup but the guitar itself was very dark sounding. I found it too thick for that instrument so had to find a pickup that would help balance the tone of the instrument a little better. I went through a few to get there, even trying active EMG 81 and EMG 85 options but ended up with a less powerful pickup in the bridge because the overall tone was better. This was specific to this guitar.
So I would suggest starting with listening to your guitar unplugged, perhaps recording it and then doing the same with it plugged into your signal chain. You can then write down what you want more of or less of and start your pickup search from there. That way you'll start moving towards what kind of guitar pickup will help you achieve that. From there, magnet type would be a good place to start researching. I'll cover this in another blog. But as a very basic step, A2 and A5 and ceramic magnets are most common. With their tone profiles being progressively brighter respectively, although this can all change depending on the pickup construction!
But for now, start with your guitar and your setup. Remember, tone is personal and what works for one person may not work for you! I offer consultaion at resistance pickups so please don't hesitate to email or get in contact through the website. We can discuss making you a custom order or you can choose one of the range that I have developed over time.
What ever way you do it, there are 100's of great pickups out there, waiting to make a hell load of noise!