Want a different or better tone? Changing your pickups is the first major change to make to any guitar to get a different tone. It is an easy change to make that totally changes your guitars sound.
Changing guitar Pickups
The sound of your electric guitar is governed by three main factors the first is your fingers 99.9% of your tone comes from your fingertips, the remaining 0.1% is the guitar and the amp. The pickups that you choose generally will match the guitar style that you are playing. And generally when you buy a guitar the pickups will match that type of guitar accordingly.
There are two main types of guitar pickups active and passive. A battery powers active pickups and they have a high output, which makes them great for rock and metal players such as Zakk Wylde and James Hetfield. They have great note separation across the strings and great clarity with picked lines. However these pickups are not the most versatile and cannot easily be installed into a guitar with passive pickups as standard without considerable routing work.
Passive pickups are by far the most versatile pickup choice and are not battery powered. They come in a range of outputs too making them great for absolutely any guitar style. However you have to be sure that you have the right pickup for your style. Passive pickups consist of low output; medium output and high output generally matching the output of an active pickup.
Choose wisely and select the pickup that matches the style you wish to play. A low output characteristics are very warm and soft tones great for blues and jazz styles. A medium output pickup will still have smooth tones but with a little more bite to the overall tone. And a high output pickup will have lots of clarity and good response generally less smooth sounding, thus great for screeching lead and metal playing.
Most recognisable branded pickups are:
EMG - active pickups
These pickups can be heard by bands and such as Metallica, Black label society, Black Sabbath, Winger and many more…
Seymour Duncan - Passive and active
These pickups are used across many styles by many players, one of the most famous pickups created by Seymour Duncan is the Sh-4 JB model which was the sound of the 80s metal guitar and is still used today.
Bare knuckle - Passive and active
A relatively new brand only forming in 2003 produces great hand wound pickups that are taking the world by storm. These pickups again cover all styles of guitar from country to metal. Bands such as Periphery, Scale the Summit, Billy Idol, Paramore, Gary Moore, Slash and a list of others
Dimarzio - Passive and active
These pickups are great again for many style of guitar playing, mainly associated with Ibanez guitars and the virtuoso players of use them such as; Paul Gilbert, Steve Vai, Andy Timmonds, John 5, Steve Morse and many more.
No matter what the brand or type of pickup you choose it is fun to experiment with the different tones that you can get from changing the pickups. Changing pickups is relatively simple, however if you are not comfortable with a soldiering iron I suggest leaving it to a guitar tech to install them correctly for you.