Guitar geeks who study their favorite ax-man’s rig will undoubtedly notice that most of them have their own custom pickup setup, and for good reason. That’s not to say that the pickups shipped with most guitars are cheap or even bad, because they’re not and more often than not are great as is, but just as car enthusiasts change the little things on stock models to make them reflect more of their own taste and style, so too do pickups do for the electric guitar player. Today, we're sizing up three of our favorite hard rock pickups!
One of the most popular guitars today is the Telecaster and one of its most lauded features is the classic twang created by the pickups. For those of you who do not want to give up that signature sound but need a little more oomph in the hard rock department, check out the Little 59s. Not only do they retain the twang, but when set to distortion, this pickup rocks… HARD. Seymour Duncan designed the ST59 to reproduce the classic warm and smooth sound of the ’59 Les Paul, albeit with a lot more spunk. Add a bit of gain to the amp and you instantly notice a very controlled snarl with plenty of presence, much more than you would with your stock Tele pickups. Although they won’t give you the outright extreme distortion metal fans are looking for, those who love the sound of classic rock with a heavy kick will love the Little 59.
These pickups were made with the lead guitarist in mind but work even better for bands with just one guitar player as they pack plenty of punch, have great sustain during overdrive and feature a distinctive fat chunky tone that works perfect for hard rock rhythms. Being active pickups, they work best with an amp that can convey the high output of the signal, although you won’t have to worry about latent noise as these guys are pretty much as noiseless as it gets – no buzz, no humming – just pure fat rhythms and excellently sustained leads, all with a smooth fade while switching pickups selectors. Those looking for a bit more power and gravitate more towards active pickups (and their inherent features) should definitely give the EMG-81 a try.
For all of you Stratocaster fans looking for something with a bit more bite, Seymour Duncan has the absolute perfect set of pickups for you. Not familiar with Hot Rails? Iron Maiden used them in all of their Strats, and believe me, they rocked pretty damn hard. Much like the EMG-81s, these pickups give you a fat chunky tone with plenty of sustain for heavy hitting riffsm and yes, you can still play these babies clean and noiseless if you so desire. Although these are humbucking pickups, they retain the size of your average Strat pickup, so those worried about having to do surgery on their guitar in order to take advantage of the noiseless qualities of humbuckers needn’t worry.
So there you have it, three great choices that are sure to give you the hard rock edge needed to take live shows to the next level. Whether you have a Tele or a Strat, a Les Paul or a Flying V, one of these is sure to cure your hard rock fever!