Tag Archives: pickup

How guitars work

Have you ever looked at an electric guitar and wondered how it produced those mysterious sounds? When people first take up guitar the anatomy of the instrument can be confusing. It is important to understand the parts of a guitar and how they produce the sounds we hear to learn, play or build a guitar.

The strings of a guitar stretch up from their lower fixing on the bridge and bend up over a raised piece called a saddle. From here the strings are suspended along the neck, which is divided into frets designated by glued metal lines perpendicular to the strings. At the top of the neck the strings are wound by pegs on the guitar head. Strings vibrate once they are plucked or strummed. The note that is produced depends on the length, tension, weight, and springiness of the string.

On an acoustic guitar these vibrations cause changes in surrounding air pressure (soundwaves). The front section is called the soundboard and has a distinctive hole in (the soundhole). The shape of the guitar’s body affects its tone (the frequency of the soundwaves). Soundwaves are amplified at the back of the guitar’s body (the soundboard), and emerge from the sound hole and through the air as audible sound.

For electric guitars there is no hole and the body of the guitar is solid. String vibrations are detected by an electromagnetic pickups (bar magnets over a wire coil), sending a signal down a wire that is made audible by an electronic amplifier. (The same principle is applied by electric pickups used to amplify sound from acoustic guitars.)

There are also completely electric midi guitars like the You Rock Guitar. I’ve watched various Youtube videos of these, and I was not impressed. Acoustic and electric guitars are handcrafted wooden instruments. No synthesised alternative has come close. Perhaps I’ll continue this rant in a future post…for now enjoy the sounds made by your acoustic and electric guitars y’all!


Quality guitar accessories

I’ve tried out a lot of different equipment for guitar over the years, some of it good, some of it mediocre. Most people (myself included) want to get the most for their money. Better to invest in something top quality and reliable than buy multiple items that do a half job. Here I share some products that I have found to be reliable:

Effects pedal – There are oodles of effects pedals out there. Most people own a variety. I particularly like my Electroharmonix Metal Muff distortion pedal. Custom pedals can create a unique sound, with some makers like Cog Effects from my native Sheffield can even include band logos on the pedal!

Recording cables – To record guitar using my iPad I use an iRig connector. Works a treat! Compatible with iPhone and iPod touch.

Guitar strings – For electric guitar strings I like Ernie Ball. For acoustic strings you might also like Martin’s. (Read about types of guitar strings and how to tune them.)

Flight case – I use an Adrenaline Flight Case to keep my instruments snug and safe on a plane. Robust! Faired better on a recent flight than my wife’s Tifosi bicycle case, which lost a wheel.