Guitar pickups are devices installed on electric guitars, you can see them located on the body of the instrument, under the strings. Different types of guitars have different types of pickups, and the pickups along with the type of wood used for the body/neck are what give a guitar it's character.
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For example, Fender guitars are famous for their single coil pickups, either individual (as in the Fender Esquire), or in combination's of two (Fender Telecaster) or three (Fender Stratocaster) and Fender have become synonymous with this type of sound.
On the other hand, Gibson's mojo comes from the variety of double coil, or humbucking pickups although they also have a famous single coil, the P-90.
The guitar pickups act as a transducer that captures (or picks up) the vibrations of strings which have been strummed or plucked and converts those vibrations to an electrical signal, which can then be amplified and/or recorded.
Acoustic guitars which have a hollow body basically amplify themselves to a certain degree, and for general use at home or in small rooms that is suffice. It is common though for acoustic-electric guitars to be equipped with additional microphones or piezoelectric pickups that sense vibration directly from the string and from the body of the guitar.
Electric guitars however, make very little audible sound when the strings are plucked or strummed as they have solid wood bodies, with no chamber to project the sound, they're basically just planks of wood. To rectify this they have magnetic pickups installed and are plugged into a guitar amplifier to make the sound louder. These are selected by using the Pickup Selector switch.
HINT: Try changing the active pickup using the pickup selector switch and tapping the metal pole pieces of each of the pickups in turn with a coin or something metallic. This will help you to 'hear' which is the 'live' pickup in relation to the Pickup Selector Switch position. When you get a bit of thump through the speakers you know which pickup is switched on.
Several factors will affect how the guitar will sound, including how hard the string has been plucked or strummed, the materials the guitar and hardware are made from (the woods and metals) and even the shape of the body. Even the type of metal the magnets are made from will have an impact on the sound and the guitars volume and tone controls will change this sound further.
How Guitar Pickups Work
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