For many decades, most electric guitars have been equipped with two or three pickups, and while there are clear benefits to having them, it might not be the most important thing for all guitar players, including beginners. Here, you will learn about some of the reasons why people might prefer a guitar with only one pickup so that you can be more informed about your future purchases.
A Simplistic Design
When you compare the different guitars out there, there is something unique about having just a single guitar pickup in a guitar, and it’s a look that many people love. In fact, some of the most iconic signature guitars from famous guitarists have only one guitar pickup.
Eddie Van Halen, George Lynch, Chuck Schuldiner, and Alexi Laiho are just a few examples of amazing players who used these kinds of guitars throughout their careers, and fans around the world have gotten their signature guitars for themselves. Personally, I think they look awesome, and it gives them some character, especially if you have a collection of guitars – it will always stand out in a group.
However, the single-pickup design isn’t necessarily one that requires a custom-shop job; back in the day and even in modern times, there are still production models from the most well-known brands like Jackson, Charvel, and Kramer that still make these types of guitars. Nonetheless, they are still outnumbered by those with more than one guitar pickup, and that still makes them kind of special in my book.
One of the main reasons that people use guitars with one pickup is because they only use that one and don’t have any use for a neck or middle pickup. This is a matter of preference, however, and it sometimes comes with more experience figuring out what sounds right to them.
Sure, having a neck and middle pickup can offer you more tone options, but the majority of guitarists out there will find themselves using the bridge pickup most of the time, and some will realize that they don’t need anything else to achieve the sound that they want in both their lead and rhythm tones. Additionally, to simplify things even further, they often just have one volume knob and eliminate the tone knob completely.
With the right amp, dialing in your EQ settings, and adding in some compression, and of course, finding the right pickup, anyone can make one guitar pickup work for them and get it to sound perfect. It’s easy having something you can go to and not have to worry about flipping the pickup selector while performing or accidentally bumping knobs that you hardly use, which can be an annoying inconvenience when playing live.
Single-pickup guitars can sound noticeably different than ones with dual or triple pickups, especially when comparing very similar models from the same brand. Of course, no two guitars will sound exactly the same, but if you were to test, say, two Jackson Rhoads guitars – one with two humbuckers and another with just a single humbucking pickup, I’d wager you could sense some kind of difference between them.
Specifically, those with a lone pickup have the potential to provide better sustain and have clearer overtones because there is just one pickup is interacting with the string vibrations when you hit a note. Some might argue that this doesn’t really matter much to less-experienced players who can’t pick out these subtleties with their ears, and it’s a similar debacle with neck-through guitars. However, even if one can’t perceive it, the differences are real, and you can learn more about the sound physics regarding guitars with one pickup down below.
Additionally, having extra wood on the guitar, since a pickup cavity won’t need to be carved out, can also have a positive effect on your sound. It might be inconsequential, but any change to your guitar can affect your tone, and the routing should be no exception.
While most guitars will come with varying pickup configurations on them, have one with just a single guitar pickup can be worthwhile depending on your personal needs. Not to mention, the first electric guitars only had one pickup installed in them, and therefore, technically, it’s actually the traditional way of doing things. In some cases, they can be slightly more affordable as well, due to less construction required to make the instrument. Nonetheless, if you like the look of these guitars and you find yourself being a bridge pickup type of player 99% of the time, you’ll probably enjoy and make the most out of them.