Why Do My Pickups Sound Different in Another Guitar?

Q: "I have the same type of pickups equipped on two of my guitars but they sound different. Why is that?"

A: While pickups play a huge role in the sound of an electric guitar, they are not the only pieces that affect tone. In fact, a good deal of the entire guitar can play a role, be it big or small. One of the more prominent parts of a guitar that has a role in its sound aside from pickups is the body wood. Generally speaking, lighter woods tend to create a smoother sound while heavier woods might make pickups sound thicker and brighter. The type of neck-joint can also play a role. A set-neck for example is said to yield a warm tone and good sustain.

Even certain aspects that you might have never considered such as the frets, type of bridge, pots, string gauge and even the type of material used in its finish may have an effect on the way a pickup will sound in a guitar, not to mention the entire weight of the completed instrument.

Because of all of these variables, it’s not too surprising that you’re getting different tones with the same type of pickups.

Your Turn to Sound Off!

What do you think is the biggest factor that contributes to the sound of a pickup?

Sound off in the comment section below!


3 thoughts on “Why Do My Pickups Sound Different in Another Guitar?”

  • Kirk Bolas

    The biggest factor comes from the hands and fingers creating the vibration of the strings. Take any accomplished, well known guitarist and have them play through any number of guitar/amp combos and their tone is instantly recognizable, regardless of the gear. Yeah, I know. This doesn't help sell gear, but it's true. Where the pickups and other bits matter is that they produce a tone that inspires the artist to make the music in ways that differ as does the gear.

  • Jim Kubitza

    Aaaargh - Yes, Clapton will always "sound like" Clapton regardless what he is playing. But let's not confuse "sounds like" with "tone"! Clapton would "sound like" Clapton even if he was playing an electric guitar that's not even plugged in. His tone is not coming from his fingers. If you question that, switch his amp off ... what's left is the tone coming from his fingers ... all the rest is coming from his gear, including his pickups.

  • Pete Loesche

    Where you pick relative to the pickup, how you pick, strum, finger, and of course the tone pot setting will alter your sound even on the same guitar.

Leave a Reply