Picking Up the Sound: A Beginner's Guide to the Wonders of Guitar Pickups

Picking Up the Sound: A Beginner's Guide to the Wonders of Guitar Pickups

Guitar pickups are the unsung heroes behind the captivating sounds of your favorite tunes. Let's demystify the world of guitar pickups, exploring their fundamental role, types, and how they shape the unique voice of your instrument. Whether you're a novice guitarist or just curious about the inner workings of your six-string companion, let's dive into the fascinating world of guitar pickups.

The Heartbeat of Your Guitar

What Are Pickups? At their core, guitar pickups are magnetic devices that capture the vibrations of the guitar strings and convert them into electrical signals. These signals are then sent to your amplifier, shaping the sound that emerges from your speakers.

Types of Pickups:

  1. Single-Coil Pickups: Known for their bright and clear tones, single-coil pickups are composed of a single coil of wire wrapped around magnets. Fender Stratocasters are famous for their iconic single-coil sound.

  2. Humbucking Pickups: Humbuckers, with their dual-coil design, are prized for their warm and noise-resistant characteristics. Gibson Les Pauls often feature humbucking pickups, providing a thick and powerful tone.

  3. P-90 Pickups: P-90s sit between single-coils and humbuckers, offering a balance of brightness and warmth. They are often found in guitars like the Gibson SG.

Pickup Placement and Sound

Bridge vs. Middle vs. Neck Pickups:

  • Bridge Pickup: Positioned near the bridge, this pickup produces a bright and twangy sound. It's commonly used for lead playing and adds definition to your tone.

  • Middle Pickup: Located between the bridge and neck, the middle pickup offers a balanced and versatile sound. It's often selected for clean tones and can provide a unique quack-like sound when combined with the bridge or neck pickups. Strats, in particular, feature a middle pickup that contributes to their iconic tonal palette.

  • Neck Pickup: Located near the guitar's neck, this pickup delivers a warmer and rounder tone. It's favored for rhythm playing and produces a smooth, bluesy sound.

Selector Switch: Most guitars come equipped with a pickup selector switch, allowing you to choose between different pickups or blend them for a variety of tonal options. Experimenting with different pickup combinations can unlock a vast array of tones to suit your playing style.

Coil Splitting and Tapping

Coil Splitting: Some guitars feature a coil-splitting option that allows you to deactivate one coil of a humbucker, essentially turning it into a single-coil pickup. This provides additional versatility and a broader range of tones.

Coil Tapping: Similar to coil splitting, coil tapping involves using only a portion of the pickup's coils to achieve a single-coil-like sound. It's another way to expand your sonic palette.

Understanding Output and Magnet Types

Output Level: Pickups come with varying output levels. Higher-output pickups produce a more powerful and distorted signal, suitable for genres like rock and metal, while lower-output pickups offer a cleaner and more dynamic response.

Magnet Types: Different magnet materials, such as alnico or ceramic, can influence the character of the pickup's sound. Alnico magnets are often associated with vintage tones, while ceramic magnets provide a stronger and more focused sound.

As you embark on your musical journey, understanding the basics of pickups empowers you to explore a world of tones and textures. Experiment with different pickup combinations, play with your guitar's controls, and let the magic of pickups shape your sonic identity. Whether you're chasing the bright jangle of a single-coil or the warm embrace of a humbucker, the world of guitar pickups invites you to explore, experiment, and make your own musical mark.

January 16, 2024 — Carrie Bell
Aged to Perfection: Unveiling the Artistry of Gibson Murphy Lab Guitars

Aged to Perfection: Unveiling the Artistry of Gibson Murphy Lab Guitars

Step into the world of unparalleled craftsmanship with Gibson's Murphy Lab series. Let's go on a journey through the meticulous artistry behind these guitars, exploring the vintage-inspired magic that sets Gibson Murphy Lab instruments apart. From relic'd finishes to hand-aged hardware, discover why these guitars are a testament to the marriage of tradition and innovation.

The Murphy Lab Touch

Aging Process: At the heart of the Murphy Lab guitars is the masterful aging process overseen by skilled artisans. Using a combination of vintage techniques and modern innovations, each instrument is carefully distressed to emulate the wear and tear of a well-played vintage guitar.

Nitrocellulose Finishes: The Murphy Lab guitars feature nitrocellulose finishes, allowing the wood to breathe and resonate more freely. The careful application of these finishes not only enhances the tonal characteristics but also contributes to the authentic vintage look.

Authentic Vintage Specs

Pickups and Electronics: Gibson Murphy Lab guitars are equipped with custom-wound pickups that capture the essence of vintage PAF tones. The electronics are wired to vintage specifications, providing players with the authentic sound and responsiveness that defined iconic Gibson guitars of the past.

Historically Accurate Hardware: Every detail matters, and the hardware on Murphy Lab guitars reflects a commitment to historical accuracy. From the meticulously aged bridge and tailpiece to the hand-aged tuners, each component is crafted to transport players to a bygone era.

Exclusive Aging Levels

Ultra Light Aging: For those who prefer a subtle touch, the Ultra Light Aging option offers a delicate relicing that preserves the original charm of the guitar without compromising its pristine appearance.

Heavy Aging: Embrace the allure of a well-loved vintage instrument with the Heavy Aging option. This level of distressing adds character and history to the guitar, creating a visually stunning and sonically resonant instrument.

The Murphy Lab Experience

Limited Editions: Gibson Murphy Lab guitars are released in limited editions, making each instrument a collector's item. The exclusivity adds to the allure of owning a guitar that not only sounds exceptional but also stands as a work of art.

Playability and Tone: Beyond their aesthetics, Murphy Lab guitars are renowned for their exceptional playability and tonal richness. The careful aging process enhances the feel of the neck and contributes to the instrument's overall responsiveness.

Gibson Murphy Lab guitars are more than instruments – they are a celebration of heritage, craftsmanship, and the timeless allure of vintage guitars. Whether you're a collector, a seasoned player, or someone seeking a piece of musical history, the Murphy Lab series invites you to experience the magic of a bygone era in the hands of modern artisans. Explore the artistry at our store and elevate your playing with a Gibson Murphy Lab masterpiece.

January 16, 2024 — Carrie Bell
"Offset Echoes: Navigating the Unique Soundscape of Fender's Offset Offerings"

"Offset Echoes: Navigating the Unique Soundscape of Fender's Offset Offerings"

Fender's extensive lineup includes iconic guitars that have shaped the sound of generations. Let's dive into the sonic landscapes of two distinct models – the Fender Jaguar and Fender Jazzmaster. What's the difference...

The Jaguar: Short Scale Precision

Neck and Scale: The Fender Jaguar is known for its shorter 24-inch scale length, offering a unique playing experience. This shorter scale can make string bending easier, making it a favorite among players who crave a distinctive feel.

Pickups and Controls: Jaguars typically feature single-coil pickups, providing a bright and clear tone. The dual-circuit design allows for a variety of tonal options, with separate controls for each circuit, making it a versatile instrument for different playing styles.

Design Aesthetics: With its offset body shape and distinctive control plate, the Jaguar boasts a sleek and futuristic design that has captivated players since its introduction in the '60s.

The Jazzmaster: Smooth Tones and Artistic Flair

Neck and Scale: In contrast, the Fender Jazzmaster sports a longer 25.5-inch scale length, offering a slightly different feel than the Jaguar. This scale length contributes to a tighter response and extended sustain.

Pickups and Controls: Jazzmasters are equipped with single-coil pickups, known for their warm and mellow tones. The rhythm and lead circuits provide a wide range of tonal possibilities, making the Jazzmaster suitable for various genres.

Design Aesthetics: The Jazzmaster's contoured offset body and distinct chrome-plated metal parts contribute to its vintage aesthetic appeal. It's a guitar that not only sounds great but also looks effortlessly cool on stage.


Sonic Comparisons

Jaguar: Ideal for players who crave a shorter scale, easy string bending, and a versatile tonal palette. The Jaguar's unique design and controls make it a standout choice for those looking to push sonic boundaries.

Jazzmaster: Suited for those who appreciate a longer scale, warm tones, and a guitar that effortlessly transitions between genres. The Jazzmaster's classic design and tonal flexibility make it a timeless choice for players seeking sonic richness.

Choosing Your Fender Journey

Ultimately, the choice between the Fender Jaguar and Jazzmaster comes down to personal preference and playing style. Whether you're drawn to the short-scale innovation of the Jaguar or the timeless design and warm tones of the Jazzmaster, both guitars offer a unique journey into the world of Fender craftsmanship.

Explore these iconic models at our store and discover firsthand the sonic landscapes they can unlock. Our knowledgeable staff is here to guide you on your Fender journey, ensuring you find the perfect companion for your musical endeavors. Happy playing!

January 16, 2024 — Carrie Bell
"Tuning Up: Signs It's Time for a Professional Guitar Setup"

"Tuning Up: Signs It's Time for a Professional Guitar Setup"

Every guitarist knows the joy of playing a perfectly tuned instrument. But, just like any machine, guitars require maintenance.

Seasonal Adjustments

Just as the seasons change, so can the setup of your guitar. Temperature and humidity fluctuations can impact neck relief and string tension. Consider getting a setup at the beginning of each season to keep your guitar in top condition year-round.

Uneven Fret Wear

One of the key indicators that your guitar needs a setup is uneven fret wear. Over time, strings can dig into the frets, causing uneven surfaces. This not only affects playability but can also lead to intonation issues. A professional setup includes fret leveling and dressing to ensure a smooth and consistent playing surface.

String Buzz and Fretting Out

Experiencing string buzz or fretting out? These issues can be a result of incorrect neck relief or saddle height. A setup will address these issues, adjusting the truss rod and saddle to eliminate buzzing and ensure clean, fretted notes across the entire fretboard.

Playability Concerns

If you find that playing your guitar has become more challenging than usual, it's a clear sign that a setup is in order. Whether it's high action, stiff strings, or an uncomfortable neck profile, a professional setup can tailor your guitar to your playing style, making it a joy to play once again.

Intonation Woes

Intonation problems can manifest as chords sounding out of tune, especially higher up the neck. A proper setup involves adjusting the saddle positions to ensure accurate intonation, allowing your guitar to stay in tune across all frets.

Changing String Gauges

Switching to a different string gauge? This change can affect the tension on the neck and the overall setup of your guitar. A professional setup will recalibrate your instrument to accommodate the new strings, ensuring optimal playability and tone. 

- Your guitar is an investment in your musical journey, and regular setups are the key to maintaining its peak performance. If you notice any of these signs, don't hesitate – it's time to bring your guitar in for professional guitar setup. Trust us; your fingers will thank you for the smoother playability and improved tone. Keep rocking! - 

January 16, 2024 — Carrie Bell
"Winter Blues: A Guide to Humidifying Your Guitar in Minnesota's Frigid Cold"

"Winter Blues: A Guide to Humidifying Your Guitar in Minnesota's Frigid Cold"

As the winter chill descends upon Minnesota, guitar players face a unique challenge – maintaining the optimal humidity for their beloved instruments in the face of sub-zero temperatures. 


Understanding the Impact of Cold Weather on Guitars

Winter in Minnesota brings not only freezing temperatures but also dry air, which can have a detrimental impact on your guitar. Wood is highly responsive to changes in humidity, and the lack of moisture can lead to issues such as cracks, warping, and changes in tone. To prevent these problems, it's crucial to take proactive steps to humidify your guitar.

The Ideal Humidity Level

Before we delve into the solutions, let's establish the ideal humidity level for guitars. Generally, a humidity range of 45-55% is considered optimal for most acoustic guitars. However, in extremely dry conditions, such as Minnesota winters, you might want to aim for the higher end of this range to provide an extra buffer against the cold-induced dryness.

Practical Tips for Humidifying Your Guitar

  1. Use a Room Humidifier: Investing in a room humidifier for the space where you store your guitar is a great way to maintain a consistent level of humidity. Place the humidifier near your guitar but not too close to avoid direct contact.

  2. Case Humidifiers: Consider using case humidifiers for acoustic guitars. These small devices are designed to fit inside the guitar case, providing localized humidity to the instrument. Make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for optimal use.

  3. Hygrometers: Use hygrometers to monitor the humidity levels around your guitar. This tool helps you gauge whether additional humidification is needed. They are affordable and easy to find at music stores or online.

  4. Avoid Direct Heat Sources: Keep your guitar away from direct heat sources like radiators or heaters. While it might be tempting to warm up your space quickly, exposing your guitar to sudden temperature changes can lead to issues. 

Seasonal Adjustments

Remember that humidity needs may vary throughout the winter. Check your guitar regularly and adjust your humidification efforts based on the conditions. It's better to be proactive and make small adjustments than to deal with costly repairs later.

- Protecting your guitar during a Minnesota winter requires diligence, but the effort is well worth it to preserve your instrument's playability and longevity. By following these tips, you can ensure that your guitar weathers the cold months with grace, ready to produce beautiful music whenever you pick it up. Stay warm and keep playing! -

January 16, 2024 — Carrie Bell
Indie Rock Vocal Warm Ups with Ryan Smith

Indie Rock Vocal Warm Ups with Ryan Smith

Warming up your voice and practicing drills that develop skill and agility are important no matter what kind of music you play. Vocal warm ups are unfortunately often neglected in the world of indie, punk, alternative, and rock music. This series of exercises will help get your voice in top form so you can sing your best. Use this video to help you get ready for a show, rehearsal, or recording session.
PLEK Machine Process at Twin Town Guitars in Minneapolis

What is a PLEK and do I need one?

A PLEK machine isn't an automatic device where you can leave your guitar for a couple of hours and wait while it is serviced to your satisfaction. It's more like an incredible set of eyes and hands that can see and help make adjustments with a preciseness that is simply not possible with human eyes and hands. The process is made possible by talented and seasoned luthiers who know how to operate the machine and more importantly, know how to work with specific instruments.
March 15, 2022 — Webteam Member
Why You Should Try a Baritone Guitar

Why You Should Try a Baritone Guitar

The standard tuning for a baritone guitar is a perfect fourth lower than a typical guitar. So your low E is tuned down four steps to B. Your low A is tuned down to E and so forth with standard tuning being B E A D F# B. On a regular guitar, tuning this low would render your strings too loose to play but baritone guitars have a longer scale length which allows it to maintain a comfortable tension while keeping the tuning low.
This means that all the chord shapes and scales you already know are still usable on a baritone. 
February 14, 2022 — Webteam Member
It's Time to Humidify Your Instrument

It's Time to Humidify Your Instrument

With colder weather comes drier air. Every year we fill up the humidifiers and keep lip balm in our pockets, but do we pay attention to our guitars? Dry conditions may spell ruin for an acoustic guitar. Bad string action and buzzing, protruding fret ends, wood cracking, top sinking, bridge lifting, and other damage to your instrument can occur. These types of repairs often require hours of labor, and in some cases, the repair cost may dwarf the cost of the instrument. However, the solution to keeping your guitar healthy is not complex or costly. Enter the humidifier.
February 04, 2022 — Webteam Member
A Shot at Something New: The DAWning of Creativity

A Shot at Something New: The DAWning of Creativity

By Lila Karash, Local Musician and Teacher at Twin Town Guitars

Here's what I've been up to lately: experimenting with a DAW (Digital Audio Workshop). If you own a Mac and you've played around with Garage Band, then you already know what a DAW is. But for those of you who aren't familiar with a DAW, it's a program that lets you record music on multiple tracks.

June 14, 2021 — Webteam Member
Why We Play Music

Why We Play Music

By Hayley Nelson, Local Musician and Violin, Viola, Cello Teacher at Twin Town Guitars

Even though practicing can feel lonely and difficult sometimes, it's important to remember that the music we create makes the world a nicer place to live, not just for us, but for everyone else too!

Why do I SUCK as soon as people START WATCHING ME PLAY?!

Why do I SUCK as soon as people START WATCHING ME PLAY?!

By Ryan Smith, of Soul Asylum, Melismatics, Ryan and Pony & Teacher at Twin Town Guitars

Have you ever felt like you can play a song really well, but as soon as other people start paying attention and listening to you it becomes infinitely more difficult? You are not alone!