A Guide To Bass Pickups
Posted on January 02 2023
Bass pickups are amazing. After all, they have to be. The bass guitar carries the rhythm of every song, and if you want to sound super cool, the bass pickups you have need to be super too. Pickups are one of the main qualities of your guitar that affect its tonal sound. They are the device that turns the movement of the strings into electrical energy for your amp. Every pickup will have a different tone due to the materials or configurations done when it was made.
Let's go through bass pick-ups. It's the kind of knowledge you need to be a better guitarist. It also helps explain why artists have loved the J Bass and P Bass, with the endless debate on which to choose. Whether you go for a single coil pickup or a humbucker, you'll have a great time.
The Types of Bass Pickups
Where do you start? The world of bass pickups can seem overwhelming at first, so we'll start by describing in simple terms. The first two basic types are the single coil and the humbucker pickup. We'll start off easy with the single coil, but it's important to note that split-coil bass pickups and humbucker pickups are very similar in construction. Since humbucker pickups were pending trademark at the time and becoming more popular, Fender developed the double-coil pickups that were split apart.
The single coil has a coil of wire inside of it, wrapped around a bobbin. The single coil featured on the Fender J-bass has a thinner sound but has been used by artists like John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) and Verdine White (Earth, Wind & Fire) for so long that everyone goes wild over the sound. There's something about the way it makes you feel. In fact, I think there must be many people out there who don't really care whether it sounds as good as any other pickup—they just love the sensation that single coils give them. They make their own tones. 'Overwound' single-coils enjoy a hotter output and midrange growls, but it depends on the manufacturing process. The type of magnets used and the coiled wire all affect the tone.
There are also split-coil bass pickups, like what is featured on the Fender P-Bass. These are double coil pickups that are split apart, and they really help define the P-Bass sound. With the original hum in a single coil pickup, the split-coil pick-up is meant to reduce the hum like a humbucker.
The humbucker pickup is one of the most popular because it has great tonal clarity. Humbuckers are known for having a rich sound with well-defined highs, lows, and evenness throughout. It's also widely used by guitarists from different genres of music. The reverse-wound coil bucks the hum (the tendency to pick up noise) for a clearer sound.
Humbuckers are the standard for bass guitars nowadays and usually come in a soap bar style. This chunky-looking pickup is made up of two side-by-side coils with larger pole pieces. Les Paul's PAF humbuckers in 1957 replaced the P-90s in popularity for a time, though many electric guitarists are returning to the P-90 sound.
Jazz Bass versus Precision Bass
If you're looking to purchase your first bass guitar, you'll find many different styles and options available. In 1951, Fender introduced the design for the Precision Bass. By 1960, the Jazz Bass design and concept were introduced. These were the first models that changed the history of bass, and though there have been many changes over the years, P Bass and J Bass models both have a lot of tradition.
Precision Bass, or P Bass, isn't as pretty as a Jazz Bass model on its own, but they fill sonic space and don't clash with guitar and drum tones. Record producers usually prefer a P Bass model because of this.
Jazz Bass models, on the other hand, are brighter sounding and feature 2 single-coil bass pickups. These models became incredibly popular during the 1970s, as the bass was taking a more upfront role in music. J Bass models are flexible enough to be used with any type of music.
J-Bass and P-Bass Pickups
A vintage tone sounds fantastic. For this reason, vintage equipment has become increasingly collectible in recent decades. It's not just people who want an older guitar for nostalgia reasons—modern musicians also enjoy the variety of tones that old equipment offers. That isn't in everyone's price range, however. A vintage P Bass or J Bass model can be hard to find.
There are options, though. Monty's has bass pickups that sound like vintage designs, carefully recreated. You might not be able to own a classic, post-1957 P Bass, but you can get that sweet sound into your bass. Monty's keeps it close to history to achieve the same sound, with the P bass pickups only partially potted to keep the centre of the coil free from wax.
If you're looking for a retro J Bass Pickup, Monty's has that too. The Retro Wind J Bass Pickup has excellent cut and clarity and buffs up the bridge pickup to get a few more winds into the coil without losing any top end. The J-bass is one of those legendary Fender guitars that almost every guitarist would love to play. Its popularity continues today because of how it helped shape the direction of modern music in the '60s and early '70s, and its unmistakable tone remains very much alive in music. Picking up a retro bass pickup can help you catch that tone.
Monty's can help you build that perfect vintage-sounding bass guitar if you're interested in a custom bass guitar. After years of working on guitars, we understand what makes the best ones tick. We can help guide you to that dream tone you're chasing, combining our eye for detail with our own handmade bass pickups.