What Is It?
A pickup is a device used in stringed instruments to capture the vibrations of the strings and turn it into an electrical signal that runs to the amplifier or recording device. Without a pickup a guitar cannot be called an Electric Guitar.
How Does It Work?
Pickups use magnets and windings of wire to turn the string vibrations into sound. Most pickups use magnetic pole pieces that sit directly underneath the strings. These are visible on most pickups. Some pickups have covers over the pole pieces.
In a more technical approach, magnets in a pickup are producing a constant magnetic field. When a string starts to vibrate, that moving metallic string over a magnet creates fluxiations on the magnetic field, thus variable magnetic field creates a induction current on the windings of wire. That variable current is changing proportionnally in function of the string vibration, therefore can be transformed to audible signal via a preamp and poweramp.
Types Of Pickups
The Quest For Tone
Many players have their favorites and will attest to tonal preferences in their pickups. Other players may not be able to tell a difference from one to the next.