Today, let’s talk a bit about guitar pick-ups and the magnets in the pick-up itself. Honestly, for years, I never dug into the “making of” a guitar pick-up. I knew that I liked passive pick-ups probably because in the beginning most guitars were sold with them already. I, just like everyone else, looked at pick-up names and which guitarists used what. I tried to emulate their tone. Over time I found that I really do prefer passive picks-ups above anything else out there.
But, of course, there is a lot more to a guitar pick-up and how it’s made.
Let’s take a look at the magnets, how they sound & what difference do they made.
Ok, here it goes.
– Alnico II: Nice full low end, more prominent mids and sweet top end.
– Alnico III: Clear, warm lows, full mids and softer high end.
– Alnico IV: Tighter bass response than Alnico II, even mid-range, bright.
– Alnico V: Bright and glassy top, cutting mid-range, tight bass. For example, my favorite pick-up is a Seymour Duncan SH4, also known as the Jeff Beck (JB4) pick-up. You guessed it – it has Alnico V magnet. The glassy top is great for leads as it reminds me of DiMarzio PAF-Pros that I like a lot as well. I used PAF-Pros when I played Ibanez a long while back. My SH-4s have a really nice glassy, buttery top end for lead notes, which suits my playing and what I’m trying to do with my guitar. SH-4 also brings to the table 2 other things that I look in the guitar pick-up: Tight, warm bass and tight, exaggerated harmonicaly rich mid section.
– Alnico VIII: Tight low end, smooth treble.
– Ceramic: Bright and edgy with enhanced upper-mids, agressive harmonics, punchy low end. Favorite of players such as Alexi Laiho.
The only thing to keep in mind is that some of these descriptions such as “softer” or “cutting” are a little subjective. But, the above guide is a pretty handy thing to know when shopping for a pick-up.
See what pick-ups are in your guitar and what magnets they have. Look them up on a website, see if the above descriptions make sense. It’s a great way to know your instrument better.