Why should you replace your existing guitar pickups? It’s a good question! As guitarists, we have never been more fortunate with the choice of guitars and accessories available to us.
The range of cheap but good quality guitars has never been better. You can easily pick up an excellent new model for £300/$500 that will have fantastic playability and even great pickups. So why should you think about replacing them? …
Well, the first reason is actually a reason not to replace them. If you have invested in a quality guitar from a top manufacturer such as Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, etc. then you will have some great pickups installed already.
In fact, you probably carefully picked that particular model for its sound characteristics anyway and have exactly what you want. If like most of us you’ve invested in a medium-priced guitar, then the chances are these pickups are really good too and have been carefully matched to the instrument.
It all comes down to the sound of the guitar if you love the tone regardless of how much the guitar cost then keep the pickups you have and enjoy them.
The first real reason to consider replacing your pickups is that they’re cheap and sound really bad. Many economy guitars on the market are perfectly good all-round instruments and nice to play.
But often they cut costs by using low-quality electrical parts including rather lackluster pickups. The usual sound very harsh and brittle with a general lack of tone and definition. If you’re new to electric guitars.
Then you may not notice this initially, but if you have the opportunity to listen to real quality instruments and compare them you will be amazed at the difference in tonal quality. Pickups are constructed from wire wound around magnetic poles.
Basic economy pickups will be wound by machine and use cheap magnetic poles. Or very often a flat ceramic magnet at the base of the pickup. Quality and custom pickups are usually carefully wound by hand. Allowing for a slightly random coil of wire together with quality Alnico magnets. That produce a much richer tone with more clarity and definition.
Another reason to replace your existing pickups is to change the tonal characteristics of your guitar. You may have purchased a lovely standard modern Strat for example. But later decided that you would like to have more of a vintage 50’s or 60’s sound.
This is easily achieved with the huge selection of pickups available form the dozens of quality manufacturers such as Seymour Duncan, Bare Knuckle, Rio Grande. Tonerider, et al. A similar reason is to have more power available.
Perhaps you play in a Metal band, love your guitar but need much more gain and distortion at your fingertips. There are many pickups available for this, mainly humbuckers that have ‘overwound’ coils and produce ‘brutal’ power and attack.
A slightly different reason to purchase replacement custom guitar pickup. When modifying a guitar to have an extra pickup or a different model from the standard setup. For example, a basic Telecaster will have two single-coil pickups, one at the bridge and one at the neck.
A common modification is to change the neck single-coil pickup for a Humbucker. Or even to add a humbucker or P90 pickup in the middle of the two standard pickups. Such modification demands quite a bit of work including routing out space in the body and changing the pickguard. But the results will give the player a greater variation in tone to play with.
The final reason to consider replacing your guitar pickups, and my favorite, is because it’s lots of fun! If you love messing around with tone and effects pedals, then trying out new pickup configurations in your guitar will give you lots of pleasure.
It’s easy to learn the basic techniques of soldering and to understand wiring diagrams. Replacement guitar pickups are reasonably priced and you can often sell them on for not much less than you paid for them on auction sites, so why not give it a go.