Facts About Bass Guitar Pickups

Considering what types of pickups are in a bass guitar and how to use them is often overlooked when buying a bass. Especially for first time buyers. The neck, body, and overall look of the bass guitar is what most of us focus on and rightfully so. Understanding the pickup selection and control system of the bass guitar will determine your overall happiness with how you go about shaping your sound. This article will discuss the type and function of each. There are two types of bass guitar pickups, active and passive. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Each type of pickup should be approached differently when adjusting for tone. Active pickups use a pre-amplifer and is powered by one 9 volt battery. Some pre-amps are powered by two 9 volt batteries or 18 volt system. Depending on the quality of electronics, the pre-amp allows for extensive tone shaping much like the external amplifier you use to play your bass through. Most active pickups will have a bass and treble tone control that will allow you to cut and boost frequencies. Other more elaborate systems will have a mid-range control for even more tone shaping flexibility. The amount of hours you play will determine a batteries life. A battery can last up to 6 weeks or more. Check your battery often and keep extra's with you. Passive pickups do not use a battery. The passive pickup was used on the first basses ever made and to this day are known for that classic fat punchy sound. Passive pickups only allow for you to turn down or cut the frequency of the bass or treble control. You can still get a great sound but you won't have as many options for tone shaping as the active pickups do. Because of their larger magnet design passive pickups will tend to pick up more noise than the active pickups. There seems to be a debate on which pickups are better but I don't think it's a question of better or worse. Each type of pickup is good in it's own way and can be used for certain purposes. The active pickup has a hi-fi sound that is articulate and defined with extended high and low frequencies. Because of the smaller magnet design the active pickup can be very quiet making it ideal for recording directly into mixing consoles. I like to use active basses for popping and slapping techniques. Passive pickups are not as (hot) or loud as active pickups, and don't have as bright of sound. The passive pickup is mostly known for that warm, full, round sound. Led Zeppelin and The Beatles are two bands that come to mind. I use passive pickups on my Fender Precision Bass for muted picking styles and aggressive dig down deep finger styles. If your for the first time chances are the electronics are not real high quality but if you like the feel of the bass you can always change pickups later. On active pickup basses you will be able to dial in much of your at the bass. On passive pickup basses you may need to use more of your external amp for tone shaping. Have fun with it and experiment with your tone controls.

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