A guitarist’s tone is like his baby — it’s a creation entirely his own. Of course, just like a baby, he can’t make it entirely by himself. There’s a veritable banquet of factors that ultimately results in a guitar player’s signature sound, and that’s been true for as long as notable guitarists have been making music.
The Kinks’ Dave Davies sliced his amplifier’s cones with a razor blade in order to produce more natural guitar distortion. Chet Atkins and Carl Perkins used state-of-the-art amps in the 1950s to get an echoed chill on all their recordings. Today, rock guitarists in genres ranging from metal to blues to country use T Rex guitar pedals for a variety of effects including delay, reverb and octave switching.
But no piece of sound equipment can match the guitar’s own pickups when it comes to creating a unique sound. There are at least two locations on every guitar for a player’s pickups — one closer to the neck and one closer to the bridge — and each has its own significance for the overall sound. For example:
The Heavy Pulse of a Neck Pickup
Guitar pickups are often called “humbuckers” because they’re designed to “buck the hum,” or cancel out the interference caused that’s often picked back up due to signal noise. If you play your guitar through its pickups placed closer to the neck, you’ll get a more rumbling sound because the pickup is tracking more of the low end, or bass, sound produced whenever you strike the strings. That’s why neck pickups tend to be a bit louder than bridge pickups, though they’re never quite as clean-sounding.
The Crisp Bite of a Bridge Pickup
Whether you’re playing through T Rex guitar pedals or simply through a basic starter amp, swapping your sound to the bridge pickups is as easy as toggling the switch found right on the body of most electric guitars. Neck pickups are often “thick,” but they can’t get as mellow or crisp as the bridge pickups, and that’s likely due to string vibration closer to the bridge itself. Bridge pickups are perfect for fancy fretwork. In the end, it’s all about finding the sound that best suits your playing style.
The next time you’re browsing through musical instruments for sale, make sure to focus on the guitars that offer the best selection of both neck and bridge pickups. After all, you never know what one particular song is going to call for! Find out more here.