Single Coil Pickups
Leo Fender was the first guitar builder to equip a solid body guitar with single coil pickups. These set the standard for what a guitar should sound like – and even look like. Over 60 years on, single coil pickups remain largely the same design. They’re made using a magnetic pole wrapped in wire that ‘picks up’ frequencies and subsequently sends them into an amp. Single coils have a distinct twangy, glassy tone. They sound crisp and bright, with less of an emphasis on midrange frequencies. Many pickup designers might describe their sound as full and broad.
Because they only consist of the one pole piece, they have a lower headroom than their humbucker counterparts. This means they have an overall smaller output but detect more interference and are acutely responsive to how you pick the strings. They can get quite noisy when you crank your amp or add substantial amounts of gain, so it’s a bit of a balancing act to get a great sound when playing at high volumes. Modern “hum-cancelling” designs from the likes of Fender go some way to eliminate any unwanted feedback.
Famous players like Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler and John Mayer developed their distinct tones with the use of single coils. Most single coil guitars are attributed to rock, indie, folk and blues music. But you can still get excellent hard rock and metal tones with a bit of tweaking.
Popular Single Coil Pickups