What determines the sound of a guitar?

The key factor that determines the way a guitar sounds is the wood the instrument is built with. Every wood produces a different sound. The characteristic sound of a guitar depends mainly on the Wood used for the guitar’s body where the neck just adds color to that sound.

Its important to notice that both the way a musician plays an instrument and how he holds the guitar opens a wide universe of different sounds a guitar can produce. In general one could say it can be either a clear and articulated sound or a thick and bulky sound. The clear and articulated sound can be complemented with a mids rich tone wood, while the thick and bulky sound Works better with a tone wood that produces bright, clear sound.

There is a common debate about the appropriate tone wood for the guitar neck, Solid Maple vs. Maple with a rosewood fingerboard. People say a solid maple neck produces a cleaner sound than the one achieved with a Maple neck with rosewood fingerboard. The solid maple doesnt seem to restrain the lows but it does indeed compact them properly, then we could conclude that the maple neck has good, clear, well defined and controlled lows. The rosewood produces a looser sound focused on lows and comvbined with maple cocnentrates and controlls the bright highs produced by the rosewood. For the mids the maple is more predominant with a clear and strong sound, while the rosewood allows a variety of sounds and produces less mid-highs.


What is a Pickup?

It’s a device that transforms the vibrations of an element, say a string into electric signal. The most common pickups are the magnetic pickups and the piezoelectric pickups.

What Pickups should I use to achieve my desired sound?

The sound produced by a guitar depends on the Wood used for the body and neck of a guitar, while the pickups are designed to amplify certain frequencies. The pickups “hear” the sound produced by a guitar and reproduce that said sound frequencies. The proper pickup will be different for every musician and the sound he desired to achieve. A simple way of finding your very own pickup is to place the guitar next to your ear in a silent room and listen closely to the sound it produces. This is the sound this particular pickup will generate; this will serve as a reference to pick the right pickup.

What is a Single Coil Pickup?

It’s the most basic pickup there is,with a single coil (cable rolled around a magnet). Its sound is clear, focused and well defined.

What is a Humbucker Pickup?

It’s a pickup that used two coils (cable rolled around a magnet) to cancel the undesired sounds. Invented by Gibson for Seth Lover in the 50’s the humbucker is well known for producing a powerful signal and warmer sound.

What is a Piezo Pickupand and what is Piezoelectricity?

Certain crystals, ceramics and polimeters produce the phenomenon known as piezoelectricity. Piezo means pressure in greek. The so called piezo materials transform the mechanic vibrations into electric signals. A piezo pickup uses this phenomenon to work as a microphone.

What is the difference between the pickup magnets and its sound?

This chart serves as general reference of how the different pickup magnets sound and which tone woods should be combined with.



Magnet Type
 

Alnico II

Alnico V

Ceramic

Buena para Add weight to a bright sounding guitar. Add weight to a warm sounding guitar. Add weight and signal to a warm sounding guitar.
Sound (general) Warm, round, compact mids, soft spongy lows, soft attack. Clear and bright, great dynamics, compact lows and defined attack. Bright with compact mid-his, strong with agressive harmonics, compresed dynamics and strong lows.
Neck and body tonewoods. Maple, ash, walnut, pao ferro, alder, graphites. Mahogany, korina, koa, bass, alder, poplar, ash. Mahogany, korina, koa, bass, alder, poplar, ash.
Fretboard tonewood. Maple, ebony, carbon and graphite. rosewood, walnut. rosewood, walnut.


What is the difference between a serial connection and a parallel connection?

Serial configuration and parallel configuration are two different concepts that are related. It refers to how 2 coils are connected. With a serial configuration the electric stream flows from one coil to the other, this is the way most humbuckers are set. In the parallel configuration the electric stream goes through both coils at the same time. A pickup connected in parallel gives a brighter sound with considerable les signal than an identical pickup connected in serial.

This configurations can be also used to connect two different pickups with the help of a pickup selector switch. Most guitars have parallel configurated pickups. 2 Pickups connected in series will produce a stronger signal.


What is the difference between low, medium and high signal Pickups?

The low signal pickups feed an amplifier with less signal creating a bluesy vintage sound with a sense of more dymanic playing for the musician. The pickups with higher signal values feed the amplifier with stronger signal resulting in a more compressed sound with a sense of compact playing. So, the “stronger” pickups are slightly darker than the “lower“ pickups.

What is an active Pickup?

It’s a type of pickup that uses an electronic preamplifier to obtain good gain, add color to the sound and/or reduce the resistance. Some of the advantages that this pickups offer are the noise susceptibility reduction, flexibility to create new sounds and absence of high frequency loss due to long connection cable. The Pickups can be really useful to produce a strong and noise free signal required for effect rack processors.

What is the difference between an active Pickup and a passive Pickup?

The passive pickups use magnetic force provided by the coils to produce elctric signal, while the active pickups use smaller coils with a preamplifier attached inside the pickup to amplify the signal. The active pickup biggest advantage is the external noise reduction, resulting in a silent pickup. Active pickups should operate with a battery that feeds the preamp.

 

Nevertheless most musicians feel the passive pickup has better organic response to the style of playing and wider dynamic range.

Can active and passive Pickups be used together?


Active and passive Pickups can be used together but it isnt recommended, because their components’ values are different and make the wiring more complicated.

What is the difference between the neck, bridge, body position for a Pickup?

The main difference between the positions is the amount of signal it produces. It's natural for a pickup placed in the bridge to produce less signal due to the strings vibration amplitude is considerably smaller near the bridge. Generally the pickups designed to be installed in the bridge are built with powerful coils to compensate the reduced string vibration amplitude at that position,achieving a minor difference between both pickups signal.

Why does the position of the Pickup determine the sound of a guitar?

One of the biggest problems with guitars with several pickups its the sound between the pickups in the neck and bridge. It's normal for a pickup palced at the neck to produce ore signal than one palced at the bridge. This is caused by the string vibration amplitude, which reaches it's maximum point at the middle of it's extension. This produces more lows in the neck position and brighter sound at the neck.

What happens it my Pickup it’s too close to the strings?

The closer the pickup is to the strings the stronger the signal the guitar will produce. Nevertheless placing the pickup near the strings brings the pickups magnetic file nearer as well, and if this is claser enough to the strings, it can distort the string vibration reducing the sustain and causing the guitar to sound out of tune.

What a good height for my pickup?

A good starting point is to place a small coin over the pickup placed at the bridge near the first string and press the highest note. raise the pickup untill the string almost touches the coin. Repeat the proceadure at the sixth string but this time use 2 coins. If the pickup sounds too loud, reduce its height. Remember that the double of the distance bewteen the string and the pickup produces a 60% reduction of of the sound along with some lows. After this procedure you can adjust the height of the neck pickup, for better result test the guitar at the loudest volume..

What can I do if my strings are positioned too high?

The distance between the strings and the fretboard is known as the "action".This action is the measure thta exists between the string and the frets.

The action can be easily modified by raising or lowering the height of the bridge with the help of the bridge's controls (fixed or floyd rose). If the action is diminished enough it can cause false signals. Different string calibers may cause the guitar to need the adjustment of the truss rod, the action and/or calibration.

My style of playing determines my sound. Why?

Experienced musicians can create a wide variety of sounds with only their right hand technique. The sound one wishes for their guitar depends on the type of pickup we use, the type of pick we use, where the string is hit and how strong the strings are played. Commonly the single coil pickups are more sensitive to these changes than the humbuckers pickups and a lot of experience is required to learn these techniques, but with enough practice we can emulate the sound of a wha-wha effect with only changing the position and angle of the way a string is hit.

Should I use 250K or 500K Controls (Potentiometers)?

No matter what kind of pickup a guitar uses, the high resistance value potentiometers produce a higher and stronger response.

To decide if this is good or bad depends on each particular taste. On the first electric guitars, the Gibsons used 500K controls while the Fenders used 250K controls. From this situation a theory was deducted; to use 250K controls with single coils and 500K controlls with humbuckers. There's no problem in mixing controls with to different values.

When to I need to calibrate my guitar and how do I do it?

A guitar must be calibrated at the moment of replacing the strings. This calibration consist of moving back and forth the part of the bridge where the strings lay.

To verify a guitar's tone its recomended to use a electronic tuner and tune the guitar to a standard frequency (A : 440Hz). Then the harmonic of a string on the 12th fret is pulsed, comparing that sound with the same strings note and the 12th fret, both notes must be equal to the tuner. If the note on the 12th fret is higher, the support must be moved back, and if its lower the support must be moved forward.


What is the truss rod of my guitar?

Every guitar neck is circumscribed to a great changes of tension produced by the strings, the moisture and the weather changes. In certain ocasions the neck need adjustment. The truss rod its a metal rod that goes through hte neck, this piece is adjustable and can correct dcertain tension.

IMPORTANT: This adjustment must be made by qualified personnel. Unproper adjustment can damage the guitar..