How Does an Electric Guitar Pickup Even Work?

You’ve probably heard an electric guitar unplugged from an amp, and it’s not that exciting. We know we need amplifiers to hear them well, but what’s creating the sound we hear through the amp? What makes and electric guitar electric? Let’s dive in a little and learn!

What Is A Pickup?

At their most basic, pickups are magnets. These magnets have a certain magnetic field in which our signal is picked up (hence the name). 

What are The Pickups Picking Up?

Our strings can be made out of many things, but all strings are magnetic alloys. When we introduce them into the magnetic field, when not moving, they do nothing. But, once we strum we are disrupting that magnetic field at a given frequency. The frequency (or note) that’s appearing in the magnetic field can be changed by us fretting the strings at different points on the neck.

So, That’s What I’m Hearing?

Of course there are many types of pickups; single-coil, humbucker, P90, warm, bright, metallic–the list goes on for awhile–but at their core pickups are magnetic fields that “hear” different frequencies, and put them through our electronics, into our amp, and out for our ears to hear. In an acoustic guitar you’re hearing the amplified vibration of the strings, but on an electric you’re hearing the frequencies that travel through the pickups and our tone/volume circuits. 

I want to go even further…

For more questions about shaping your personal sound via pickups or tone circuits, come on in and talk to me or John! We would love to share our experiences, educate you, and even do some research with you. Creating your electric sound profile is a ton of fun, and a great learning experience. 

For a more scientific dive into how pickups work, checkout Hank Wallace’s post on Atlantic Quality Design’s website.

Elixir Strings – Polyweb vs. Nanoweb

Elixir strings are the long-lasting, coated guitar string that dominates the market. Elixirs boast “a microscopically thin, advanced polymer tube that surrounds the string to protect it from corrosion and dirt without making any contact whatsoever with the critical area between the windings where the “critical zone of tone” is found and each perfect note is born.” But, there are two different “flavors” of Elixir strings; Polyweb or Nanoweb.

Image result for polyweb and nanoweb elixir

The prefix “poly” comes from Ancient Greek, meaning “many,” and “nano” means “extremely small.” These definitions are dead-on. The polyweb strings have multiple coatings of the Elixir Formula, while the nanowebs have only one. Different feel, different tone, and different life spans help decide which string you want to use! Both polyweb and nanoweb strings come in Phosphor Bronze and 80/20 Bronze, allowing you to customize your tone even more.

So, next time you’re changing your strings, give the Elixirs a try! You never know, you might find your new sound!

Essential in Learning; Essential Elements

 

Image result for essential elements

Essential Elements is one of the many method book series we keep in stock here at the store, for many reasons! Checkout this article on how they got started, here.

The Guilt of a Restless Instrument

Have you ever put your instrument down for a long period of time and felt guilty when you looked at? I have too. In our ever-increasingly busy lives, it can be hard to regularly play your instrument if it’s not your job. I don’t make a living from playing my instruments, it’s just something I enjoy, but when I leave my instruments alone for a long period of time, I find myself avoiding eye contact with them.

Whenever I walk past them, tired and wanting to lay down, I feel a glare coming from, as if they’re speaking “why aren’t you playing me? You’re just sitting there!” And, yeah, some days all I can do is lay still at the end of the day. There’s nothing wrong with taking time off if that’s what you need, I know this. But, I find myself wondering why I feel such guilt over not participating in a pastime.

I suppose it’s the hard work I’ve put into learning to play the instrument. As a trombone player, your embouchure is something you spend time developing, but can be lost/weakened in a few days time. As a guitar/ukulele player, my calluses fade away if I don’t play. It makes returning feel like I’ve taken 5 steps back. How can we avoid this feeling of guilt? What can we do to turn that time away from a “tsk tsk” into something that fuels our playing?

I don’t have the answers to everything, but I can speak from my own experience. My first step is to look at myself and validate that I was busy, and that that’s okay. Some days we work harder, do more, are more stressed, or whatever the day’s ailment was. That’s totally okay; you shouldn’t feel bad. My second step is to get over myself, and pick the dang thing up. Maybe the first chord hurts my fingertips a bit, and the first note sounds a little more wobbly than usual, but that’s okay. If you’re playing for your personal pleasure, your guilt is with yourself. That’s why my next step is to take a deep breath and say “stop judging yourself. You’re playing, doesn’t matter what happens in between.” Music is a wonderful thing to have in your life, and we shouldn’t hold ourselves in a bad light from only getting to it sometimes. If you’re not relying on it for a living, that’s totally fine.

In short, don’t feel guilty if you haven’t picked up your instrument in a while; we’re only human. The best thing you can do for yourself is to, in that moment of guilt, pick up your instrument and play, whether it be for a few minutes or hours. Pick it up, and forget the guilt. Let yourself have fun with it, and remember that fun when you’re away–it’ll keep you coming back.