The Foundation of Tone: Guitar Pickups

As guitarists, we’re obsessed with tone and finding the right gear to work for the sound we are after, for our band, or for the studio. We’ve tried a whole lot of guitars, amps, pedals and everything else looking for that “it” thing. We’ve come across some things that have worked for us, and some that have been a frustrating purchase because the hype didn’t match the gear. For every good gear purchase we’ve made, there’s probably a few we’ve regretted making. Since one can never have enough gear, we are always looking for what can improve our sound and our setup.

The part of the setup that often gets overlooked or ignored is the pickups. We’ve spent a lot of money on guitars, cables, pedals, and amps, but so often replacing the pickups has not been a part of the equation for seeking better tone. The basic job of a pickup is the translating of the string vibration into a small electric signal that goes through the rest of the setup and then gets amplified. A well made and designed pickup can be crafted to more accurately translate what is being played. Since the pickups job is to capture what you are playing, it is crucial to your tone.

Pickups can be custom designed to capture and translate your tone through a variety of ways: Each magnet type used in a pickup has certain tonal qualities. Pickups can be wound with different wire types and sizes to match vintage specs, or give you a modern sound. Each wire type can also be wound with different tension and number of turns, and the pattern of the wire can effect the tone as well. All of these design factors can be matched with styles of the player and the woods in the guitar to make a truly custom tone translation for the player. All of the sudden your guitar will sound better, and you might end up holding on to some of the rest of your gear line since a more custom and accurate translation is now headed through it!

There’s a wide range of great pickup companies out there. Spend some time researching what each offers and learning more about what you are looking for. Chances are the more you know ahead of time, the closer a pickup maker can get you what you are after. Just make sure to warn others of the impending face melting (See: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark).

Brian Porter is the owner of Porter Pickups. He started Porter Pickups as part of his obsession for tone, and the desire to offer others custom made pickups at an affordable price with the look and sound they are after. Visit his website at


Brian Porter is the owner of Porter Pickups. His company specializes in hand wound pickups for electric guitars. They have several models of replacement pickups such as Strat, Tele, Humbuckers and P-90’s. Visit the Porter Pickups Website at

Filed Under: Porter Cable Deals


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