Dialing In Great Tone: Single Coil Pickups

Single Coil Pickups

Dialing in Single Coil Pickups

A Quick History of the Single Coil Pickups

1928 was when we first saw single coil pickups for electric guitars. The Stromberg Electro followed by the first mass produced guitar with a pickup, the Rickenbacker frying pan lap steel guitar. This guitar first hit the markets in 1931, and guitar pickups became more popular and more builders started including them on hollowbody instruments. Now the hollow body guitar is electric and can be heard over a loud big band. In the later 1930’s Charlie Christian and his Gibson ES-150 became a standard in tone for the single coil. The pickup on this model was so popular with Christian’s sound, that it is now referred to as the Charlie Christian pickup.

Other version of single coil pickups continued to hit the market on Gibson, Gretsch, and other popular builders of the day. The p-90 is a very popular single coil pickup that is still widely used today. In 1948, the world first saw some prototype Fender electric guitars and their smaller single coil pickups. First the Fender Telecaster and followed by the Stratocaster, the single coil pickup made its stake in history and is now a staple in the electric guitar world.

Just because you have a single coil doesn’t mean it has to be small in tone. Today, builders use hotter magnets, updated wire, increased the number of times a pickup is wrapped, and active circuits to get a more modern tone. Unlike in the 60’s, today’s single coils can be hotter and sound larger than its humbucking big brother, the humbucker.

The Single Coil Video:

Shopping For Single Coil Pickups

Single coil pickups are one set of magnets with copper wire wrapped around it. The more wraps you put on the pickup, the hotter the signal will be. The different magnets you use will also help dictate the tone of the pickups. These two main ingredients are the base that most pickup builders follow. These are the first two things you should know when shopping for pickups.

If you are replacing or upgrading a pickup, make sure it will fit in the size you have. Also make sure the string spacing on your instrument will line up with the pickup magnets. This is something commonly overlooked and why certain brands have different spacing within the same model. This is most important at the bridge position and some companies give you the F- Spaced option to fit Floyd Rose equipped models. Upgrading your pickups is one of the least expensive ways to upgrade your guitars tone. Changing pickups is commonly resoldering two wires and a little time. It is an easy upgrade most can perform on their own.

One thing that can be a negative feature about single coil pickups is the 60hZ hum. This is common when there are florescent lights or bad/dirty power. Some people find this an issue, others feel it is part of the magic of single coil.

We have you covered

From DiMarzio to Duncan and EMG to TV Jones, we have you covered. We love tweaking with our tone and pickup swapping is a great tool to find your tone. Switching from a single coil to a humbucking pickup will make a large change in your tone. Going from a low output vintage style pickup to a modern active overwound pickup will sound like a new guitar. Sometimes that is all an old guitar needs, a new voice that fits your needs. We understand tone and pickups at AMS, so give us a call if you have any questions or just want to talk tone.

When looking for your next single coil pickup or upgrading your current guitar, check out AmericanMusical.com


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