A few days ago I wrote a blog about wanting to get a new guitar, but seeing as how my credit card bill has gotten a little out of hand with skiing stuff this past month, I decided to do something that wouldn’t cost as much money.
Rather than buying an entirely new guitar, I thought it would be fun to try a maintenance-type project on one of the guitars I already have. A lot of my favorite bands use EMG pickups in their guitars, and I’ve always been curious to try them out, so I decided the time had come! I’d never really done much work or maintenance on a guitar, but I did do some soldering in college, so I figured it would be a good weekend project to undertake.
For those who might not know, a guitar pickup is basically a magnet with a long, thin wire coiled around it. When you pick a string, it vibrates over the magnet and affects the magnetic field, which induces a current (the guitar signal) to flow through the coil of wire. The signal is sent out of the pickup and travels through some passive components (volume/tone filters) in the guitar, and is finally sent out to the amp. This basic type of pickup is known as a “passive” pickup because it sits there passively and produces a signal directly related to the physical characteristics of the magnet, coils, and the vibrating string. In other words, there are no active (i.e. powered) components that affect the signal, only passive electronic parts. EMG pickups are “active” pickups – they have a powered circuit within the pickup that can pre-process the signal produced by the magnet/coil before it gets sent out through the guitar. The active circuitry serves to boost the signal and apply some equalization (e.g. boost the highs/lows, cut the mid frequencies). It might also apply a noise filter to cut out a lot of the “hum” that might be produced by a passive pickup. A lot of the guitar “purists” probably look down on active pickups because they cut out a lot of the “organic” sound of the guitar, but if you use a lot of distortion, boosting the guitar signal to get a better frequency response might be more useful than preserving the natural sound of the guitar.
I read a lot of forums and tips before I started, but I never really found a good walkthrough of the whole process, so I figured I’d take pictures along the way; maybe I can help someone else undertake something like this. I’ll post a few separate blogs about this to try to break it up a little.