Hard rock seems to get most of the attention when it comes to shredding solos and being the atypical music star, but that doesn’t mean blues guitarists can’t melt faces with the best of them! Today, we're selecting our top five picks for that good ol’ American sound. It does come to mind that pickups aren’t made to fit on all guitars, so we’ll do our best to get a little variety in there as far as featured guitar bodies go. Well then, read on and check out our list for the top pickups for blues!
Blues Pickups for Stratocaster and Stratocaster-styled Guitars
One of the most popular guitar bodies ever produced is that of the Fender Stratocaster. There are innumerable clones of varying quality and even a diverse model assortment of the real thing, and while certain aspects may be different from one to the other, one thing that you can always count on is the uniformity of the pickup slot sizes, letting your Fernandes Strat don the pickups of the real thing. The Stratocaster and their clones use three single-coiled pickups with only very few exceptions in the case of special models, but for all intents and purposes, these are for your standard Strat pickup configuration.
These are definitely one of the most popular Strat-styled pickups you can get your hands on, working great not just for blues, although the benefits shine best with the genre. Those looking for a clean sound with plenty of presence will love the tone on the Texas Specials. Although these aren’t humbucking pickups, the reverse wound design on the middle pickup clears most of the extra noise, giving you a much cleaner sound than stock Stratocaster pickups. Those looking for a bit more bite than the standard will love the rich tone the Texas Special. Just give it a bit of gain and you’ll get a nice thick tone with a decent amount of twang, all with very little hum, perfect for the harder rock form of blues. All in all, the general consensus out on these pickups is that they rock- blues style!
DiMarzio DP408 Virtual Vintage ’54 Pro
Although these are not actual humbuckers, these pickups will amaze you in the chimey clear tones it can produce along with the controlled snarl and punch when played with a little distortion, meaning no worries about unwanted noise when maxed out. Being a Stratocaster pickup, you won’t get as many of the highs and lows offered on the Telecaster but as long as you keep the frequency within its range, fewer Strat pickups can give you as many rich tones and direct command of sound as these, all with a warm vintage resonance.
Blues Pickups for the Fender Telecaster
The Telecaster is probably just as popular as the Stratocaster when it comes to the history of the electric blues. Although it is naturally a bit more popular for country music due to its unmistakable twang, the Telecaster can rock out, blues in, metal up, or do any sort of directional-based jamming you’d like, and while many will tell you that nothing beats the stock pickups on a classic, those who have given these pickups a try have been thoroughly convinced about making the change. If you’re looking for something a bit bolder than your standard Tele pickups, it is highly recommended you give these a try
Made specifically for lead guitar players who want to add a bit of the hard rock bite to their solos while maintaining that vibrant bluesy feel, Duncan’s ST59-1s offer a lot to like. Based off of a 1959 patent for a humbuking pickup that featured that signature Telecaster twang, the Little ’59 offers beefed up tone with warm execution creating a smooth blend of rock and blues. The ST59-1 is sold as a single lead pickup so try combining this with a bridge pickup of your choice to create your ultimate signature sound!
Those looking for a bit of the vintage ’50 Telecaster twang with modern output strength should definitely check these out. While the bridge might be a bit brighter than you would expect, a simple EQ configuration will subdue the extra tone into a subtle sparkle much more appropriate for the moody stylings of the blues. On the other hand, if you’re looking to be a bit more of that country feel, the brighter mids are definitely a welcomed feature of the pickups, with just enough twang and plenty of resonance. The strong output ensures you get a fat chunky bite when you want to add a bit of rock into your twelve-bar guitar tune and can masterfully handle maxed out settings without any noticeable slip. For those of you looking for to keep that signature Tele twang while beefing up the tones, look no further than the Lindy Fralin Special Blues Telecaster pickups!
Blues Pickups for Slot-Style Guitars
Those looking for something definitely out of the ordinary will love what the SHPR-1s can bring to the table. These hybrid pickups will ensure that your Les Paul (or any other humbucker slot-style guitar) is uniquely its own, taking several popular features of different pickups and putting them into a great solid package. Yes, these are humbuckers, so expect no noise for all of your controlled situations, but more importantly than that, these pickups give you the vintage feel of the P-90s as well as the tone balance and flavor of a bluesy Stratocaster, something that up until now would require three separate guitars to attain (as the P-90s and Strat pickups will not fit humbucker slots). Besides the blend of sought after specs, the entire product gives you a very sparkling and sustained sound when played clean and a nice fat tone when a bit of bass and gain is applied. So for those of you a bit bored of your standard humbucker sound without wanting to get rid of its best features, Seymour Duncan’s SHPR-1 Hot Rails are just what you are looking for. Come in black, white or cream as a set.
There you have it, five admirable choices that will work for most of the standard popular models of guitar. Any suggestions for your own top blues pickups? Hit up the comment section below and let us know what pickup should make the list!
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