What Are Bass Pickups? | Understand What Bass Pickups Do

Closeup of guitar body on floor

What Are Bass Pickups? | Understand What Bass Pickups Do


  • The pickups sit on the bass body and feature numerous possible configurations.
  • Bass guitar pickups convert string vibrations into sound through an amplifier.
  • The most common electric bass guitar pickups are magnetic and piezo pickups.

You should understand how bass guitar pickups work if you’re shopping for the best bass guitar. Different pickups affect the bass tone, making them essential in mastering various playing styles. Bass players should learn what the bass pickup does and their options for optimizing their tone for genres, such as jazz bass and metal music. So, stick around to learn what about  bass pickups.

Many musicians replace their pickups over time, but players should also learn how to replace bass tuning pegs.

What is a Bass Guitar Pickup?

Pickups sit in front of the bridge position and rest underneath the guitar strings. The pickups are a critical part of the bass guitar when considering the tone and sound it produces.

The pickups are a transducer that takes the vibrations of the metal strings via a magnetic field to produce an electric current. The electrical current is passed onto the amplifier, which produces those classic electric tones. Different pickup types produce different tones so that a vintage Jazz player may choose a different setup than a Metal enthusiast. So, let’s look at the most common stock pickups and how they are utilized.

To understand where the bass fits into the musical landscape, read our article on what bass guitar is used for.

Single-Coil Pickups

A single pickup, or single-coil pickup, gets its name from a single coil of wire involved in the construction. This type of pickup offers a vibrant top end, but users can overwind single-coils to provide a hotter output and a rougher mid-range. This type of pickup is also known to hum a little.

Humbucker Pickups

Some musicians call them double-coil pickups or split-coil pickups, but the bass humbucker earned its name by mitigating the single-coil pickup’s electrical noise or “hum.”

A humbucker pickup is wired to produce a warmer sound than the single-coil pickup design, making it a popular choice for artists looking for a modern sound. That said, musicians still utilize both single and double-coil configurations for jazz and precision-style performances.

What Are Bass Pickups FAQs

What Are J Bass Pickups Good For?

The J pickup became prominent among early rock performers like Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and Led Zepplin. This pickup style became an easy favorite for slap bassists and popular music artists looking for an intense bass sound.

What Are P Bass Pickups Good For?

The P pickup offers a balanced tone compared to the J pickup, and musicians utilize them for their clean sound with a heavy bottom range. This type of pickup is excellent for low to mid-range sounds that don’t overpower the rest of an ensemble.

Why should you change a bass pickup?

Changing bass pickups can be complicated, depending on your pickup set. That said, you should change your pickups if you’re looking for a new bass pickup range or a different sound from your bass.


While there are long and short-scaled basses, the standard 4-string bass guitar features 20 frets. (Source)

Tips & Warnings


Consider choosing a bass with active pickups if you want a hotter output and the ability to boost frequencies.


Your electric bass pickups should not touch the strings. If they do, the bass string cannot vibrate, and you will not get a rich tone.

Coby McKinley
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