There is a lot to say about pickups and the pickup is   perhaps the most critical component of an electric guitar  to define the voice.  Personally , I like  my guitar to have as  great a range of tonal  qualities  as possible.  When I flick a switch or turn a knob  I want to hear a difference in the overall sound of the output.

Inventor George Beauchamp created the  first electric guitar  pickup in 1931. Pickups  differ in the manner of construction, magnetic material  used,   gauge of wire,   physical  dimension of pole pieces, bobbin material, number of windings,   and physical dimension of the coil.  All of these factors, combine to determine  the strength  and shape of the magnetic field above the pole pieces  and ultimately how the strings  interact with the magnetic field.

It is the  movement of a string through a magnetic field  which indices current in the coil   which  eventually provides a signal to the amplifier.

most pickups  use 42 to 44 gauge  wire  which is the thickness of fine cotton thread.   Modern  pickups are mostly machine wound  and using very precise thickness of pure copper with a very even coating of  insulation, and a precise number of evenly spaced windings.   These pickups can be very uniformly  produced  with a predictable  resistance, impedance,   and known output.  Older  or vintage pickups tended  vary  a lot more  and thus some pickups were hotter  (more output)   and more importantly the shape  and strength of the magnetic field  had a lot more variability.

Stratocasters generally have single coil  pickups.  Single coils  by the nature of their construction  tend to sound brighter and emphasize  higher frequencies.  This quality is often  referred as Spank, squawk, or sparkle.  Single coils  also have the drawback of picking up electronic  noise in the room.  Things like fluorescent  lamp ballasts,  would produce a 60 cycle hum that could be heard at the amp.

Seth Lover  invented the  humbucker  pickup  1955, known  as the PAF ( Patent Applied For)  which was used in Gibson  guitars.  The humbucker consisted  of two coils wound in opposite directions  right next to each other  which had the effect of cancelling  noise. But , as always there  are other  consequences, humbuckers  sound  have a  higher resistance, impedance, and don’t emphasize the highs  like a single coil.  The PAF  is responsible for the lovely warm tone  you get from a Gibson Les Paul.

Musicians being the innovative, curious,  and mischievous people they are  are constantly  messing around with their guitars trying to make them sound different.   So they  tried  putting two singles coils  together in parallel, or series, or a humbucker  and a single coil, or  two  single coils  out of phase with each other so it acts like a humbucker.  Well, just about any combination you can think has been tried, and a new guitar  was born.   I’m not judging  here,  some combinations sound great  and others are a little thin but I suppose you might find a need for that in some song so , cool beans.

I have the ability  to wind  pickups  on a custom winding machine I built.    It is always fun to make the pickup yourself since I have complete control over how many windings,  how the windings  are laid out, choice of magnets,  direction of wind,  and   polarity.

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