Choosing a Bass Pickup

Once you’ve picked out the best bass guitar, you’ll want to make sure you have the best pickup, but choosing a pickup for your bass guitar can be a daunting task. This is because of the countless types of pickups available in the market. For someone who lacks the know-how on what type of bass pickup works best for what kind of music, picking the right one can be unbelievably hard. You may end up choosing the first pickup that comes your way out of sheer desperation. However, this does not have to be the case for you. With a little guidance, you will be able to choose for yourself the bass pickup that works best for you.


What is a Bass Guitar Pickup?

A pickup is a device that is found on musical instruments whose main purpose is to relay vibrations to an amplifier so that audible sound can be produced. These devices literally pick up the vibrations from the stringed instruments, convert them into electrical signals and then relay them to an amplifier. Without a pickup, it would be difficult to perceive the sound produced by the musical instruments. Bass pickups, therefore, are the pickups that are found on bass guitars. If you are to choose the right bass pickup for your instruments, you must first know the various types of pickups that exist.


Types of Bass Guitar Pickups

Bass pickups can be broadly classified into two: magnetic pickups and piezoelectric pickups.

Magnetic pickups use magnetic fields to collect the sound, which they then transmit to the amplifier. These devices are found beneath the bass guitar strings. They play no active role in amplification process, since they only pick up the vibrations from the air.

Piezoelectric pickups on the other hand use crystals to pick up the sound. Unlike magnetic pickups, these are found beneath the bridges or saddles of a bass guitar, and they directly pick up the vibrations from the string due to the contact. Piezoelectric pickups are usually found on acoustic bass guitars, although they can also be found in bass guitars. If they are used on bass guitars, then they need to be coupled with standard magnetic pickups. Because piezoelectric pickups do not require a magnetic field to work, they can be used on bass guitars with non-metallic strings.

There are various types of magnetic pickups, most of which are found on bass guitars. These include the following:

Single-coil pickups
Dual-coil pickups
Split-coil pickups
Soap-bar pickups

1. Single-Coil Pickups

As the name suggests, single-coil pickups are pickups that have a single coil wound around the magnet on the pickup. They are by far the most common jazz bass guitar pickups. They produce a rather clear sound, although it can be somewhat shrill and annoying. This tendency to produce unpleasant sounds arises from the fact that these pickups are prone to pick sound from external sources. Such sources could be computers or even something as subtle as fluorescent lighting. Most of the time, single coil pickups are usually paired, with one being at the neck of the guitar while the other is placed at the bridge.

2. Dual-Coil Pickups

Dual-coil pickups are also known as Humbuckers, because they help cancel the humming that is typical of single-coil bass pickups. The bass pickups are wired out of phase which is results in the cancellation of the humming sound. This leads to the production of a more robust and pleasant sound.

3. Split-Coil Pickups

Split-coil bass pickups are single-coil pickups that are cut in two, and each half is placed beneath a pair of bass strings. The sound produced when using these pickups is strong, robust and airy. Although they are used by jazz bassists, they are far more popular with rock bassists.

4. Soap Bar Pickups

Another type of magnetic pickups is the soap bar pickup. It is so named owing to its striking resemblance to a black bar of soap. One of the greatest advantages of using this bass guitar pick up is that it is completely sealed. This means that foreign particles cannot get inside the pick-up thus destroying it. Such a pickup is bound to last long.


Tips on Choosing the Best Pickup


1. Consider the type of music you want to play

One of the key factors that should influence your choice of a bass pickup is your type and style of music. If you intend to play rock music, then you would be better off choosing a split- coil pickup. If on the other hand your predominant type of music jazz, the single- coil or dual- coil pick up is certainly the best bass guitar pickup for you. Should you wish to play a mix of jazz and acoustic music, then be sure to buy a piezoelectric pickup. Among the many other factors that you should consider when choosing a pickup for your guitar, the type of music you intend to play should influence your choice the most.

2. Ask for advice

If you still feel overwhelmed by the many types of bass jazz guitar pickups available on the market, do not shy away from asking for help from those who are more knowledgeable in the area. These could be accomplished players or even those who sell the devices. Ask the accomplished musicians why they settled on a particular type of pickup. No doubt you will receive varying opinions, but it is up to you to weigh the pros and cons of each pickup to determine what is best for you.

3. Cost

Different pickups can have widely varying costs based on how they’re made and the quality of the materials. This is an important consideration if you have a budget to stick to. If you are a beginner who hasn’t yet settled on a particular style or music genre, you might also want to buy low-priced devices and guitars in general as you look for your unique taste.



Now that you know the various types of pickups that are available in the market, you should have an easy time settling on one. Remember that each kind of bass pickup is best suited for a particular type of music, so bear this in mind as you go about selecting the pickups. If you need help choosing a pickup, do not hesitate to ask for it. It is better to ask around a lot than to buy the wrong kind of pickup.


  1. Any recommendation for a fender fretless jazz bass? I bought it for $200 (made in Mexico) and the pickups (I think) are cheap single coil (really noisy). I think the double coil is definately what I want…but I am torn between alnico 5’s, some aguilar pickups and of course Fenders own staggering list


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