Bass Pickup Info

What are pickups you might ask?

Besides a great way to get slapped at a bar, they are also little pieces of electronic hardware that transfer the vibrations that come from your string into audible noise.

The reason that most strings are metal is because when they are plucked, they vibrate at a certain frequency. That frequency is the pitch that you hear. So, an open A string vibrates at 57Hz whereas an open G string vibrates at 97.9Hz. The pickups on the bass are electromagnets that take the speed of the string vibration and turn the vibration into an amplified sound.


There are two main categories of bass electronics: Passive and Active.

Passive electronics don't require a battery and are usually less complex than Active electronics are. Passive Electronics aren't able to boost the tones of the bass in the same way that Active Electronics can and they can only cut tone, not increase it. They are generally slightly softer and produce a different tone than active pickups do.

Active Electronics mean that the bass has a battery-powered pre-amp that is hooked up in the bass to provide a boost or an enhancement to the output of the bass. Usually, these kinds of electronics have a hotter output and more power behind them than passive electronics do. One thing to watch out for when you have active electronics is the speed with which you can eat through batteries. If you leave your bass plugged in, even if the amp is off, your batteries will drain very, very quickly. This is something to be careful about, but isn't too big of a deal if you're careful about unplugging your bass after you're finished with it.


When it comes to the variety available, there are a ton of different kinds. Below are just a few of those kinds:


These are most commonly seen on a jazz-style bass. Single-coil are known for their "snarly" bridge tone and more biting attack. They tend to cut through the mix well and provide a more articulate tone that many players tend to favor. However, they also have a tendency to "hum" more than most other kinds do and can be a bit of a nuisance. If you have two single-coil pickups, this can actually be avoided by turning both to full volume, creating a "hum-cancelling" effect. This will effectively reduce, if not eliminate, the hum that these can give off.


These ones are most commonly associated with the Stingray bass. By combining two single-coils into one, they tend to eliminate "hum" and provide a unique tone all of their own. The tone that these kind produce is a "beefier", more throaty tone that barks a bit more.


Soapbar pickups are unique in that they can really be any sort of combination of different things put together by their builder. Due to their random nature, it can be difficult to pinpoint what kind of tone they all share. The vast majority built in this style, however, sound both clean and articulate and are being used more and more often on a variety of basses. They tend to look like snickers bars with nails in them (Not really, just don't eat them regardless. I can guarantee that you will NOT have a pleasant evening if you decide to choke down a couple of these Bad Boys just before dinner).


Used first on the P-bass way back when, these are some of the oldest designs that you'll find for the bass. These pickups tend to give off a very deep, thick tone that some people refer to as "chunky". I liken it to peanut butter, but you might find your own way of describing it. Typically found and associated with the Precision Bass, they don't typically have a high output and are typically very mellow. Great for R&B and old-school funk.

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