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Electronics, pots, switches, pickups, MIDI and piezo

For electric guitars, this is where it all happens - pickups, selector switches, pots, sockets and knobs, all working together to send a signal to the amp.

Things don't often go wrong, but when they do it can create annoying problems, such as selector switches working intermittently, scratchy sounding pots, loose pots that keep turning, etc. Most of these can be put right fairly quickly at little cost, so it makes sense to keep things in good order.

electronics

Pickups (for electric guitar) come in a vast assortment of types and sizes, but generally fall into humbucking (hum-cancelling) and single coil varieties. Humbuckers will typically be found in guitars such as Gibson's Les Paul guitar and you'll most likely find single coils in Fender's Stratocaster or Telecaster guitars. There is a massive retro-fit market in pickups, so if the stock pickups in your guitar are not delivering the tone you desire, chances are that there is a pickup out there that when fitted, will bring your guitar closer to that sonic Nirvana.

It is worth noting that the position of a pickup relative to the strings can have a huge effect on the tone that is developed. Slamming the pickup up close to the strings can produce a very strong even sound, backing the pickup off will progressively bring more 'air' into the tone. Some pickups allow adjustment of individual 'pole-pieces' which permit a fine tuning of the pickup's response across the strings, others only allow a global change to the whole pickup. A warning though - some single coil pickups have such a strong magnetic pull that if you put them too close to your strings, it pulls the string out of tune, creating all kinds of unpleasant audio artefacts - easily cured by dropping the pickup back down!

acoustic bridges

Acoustic guitars more often than not use a piezo-based pickup system that is usually installed under the bridge saddle. This technology is fairly well developed now and there are many different systems to choose from, including pre-amp systems incorporating built-in tuners.

midi

It is now possible to get a piezo based system put into your electric guitar to 'enhance' its capabilities. These pickups give you the possibility of creating acoustic guitar-like sounds from your electric guitar and are often able to be 'blended' with the output from the magnetic pickups to create some unique sounds. Going one step further, this technology has matured to the point where it is possible to use your guitar as a MIDI controller, enabling you to control any MIDI sound module, or send MIDI information directly to a sequencer or computer.

 

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