FRETS.COM Illustrated Glossary

All electric guitars have a
© Frank Ford, 9/26/98 Photos by FF

A "pickup" is an electronic or electromagnetic device that senses the movement of an instrument's strings, top or other component and converts that movement into an electrical signal which can be amplified and broadcast through a speaker system.

"Magnetic pickups" like these generate an electrical current as the vibrating string passes through and interrupts a magnetic field:

They're the mainstay of the solid body electric guitar. But, acoustic musicians aren't about to have hardware the size of these pickups mounted in the face of a fine acoustic instrument. They would really kill the acoustic tone!

Here's the magnetic alternative that suits acoustic guitars:

The pickups pictured are designed to fit into the soundhole of an acoustic guitar.

Some people think that the magnetic pickup has a "pure" electric sound because it is less influenced by the movement of the instrument's body parts.

These are little "transducers" that are mounted to the top of a guitar or other instrument and generate a signal when the top vibrates:

They are somewhat more prone to "feedback" than most other type pickups.

This is a "piezo electric" element pickup that fits under the bridge saddle of a guitar:

The black cylinder is a preamp that boosts the volume.

Here's an internal microphone that responds to the sound waves inside the instrument:

The manufacturer says it's a mic, not a pickup, but I call it a pickup because it's mounted to the instrument, not sitting on a stand. . .

Here's a complex, "dual source" system that includes both piezo and microphone elements:

Lots of other instruments can have specialized pickups, too:

This is a string bass bridge fitted with dual pickup transducer elements.

More about acoustic guitar pickups

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