Would it be appropriate to use a bass pickup instead of a guitar pickup or vice versa?
That’s a good question to avoid making avoidable mistakes that could jeopardize your guitar-playing experience or performance.
By design, bass and guitar pickups have different pole pieces and string spacing.
Consequently, it is advisable not to use the duo interchangeably.
If you use guitar pickups on a bass, it won’t pick up the strings’ vibrations, thus producing poor sounds.
Here’s a detailed discussion on the bass pickup vs. guitar pickup debate.
What Are the Differences Between a Bass Pickup and a Guitar Pickup?
While bass and guitar pickups use magnets and have the same materials, they differ.
The differences between the two include the following;
String spacing is the physical distance between the lowest and the highest string.
By default, this spacing is wider for the bass strings, so its pickups adhere to this design.
Not considering this spacing could make it hard for a pickup to amplify all the bass strings equally.
That’s why it is advisable not to use the two pickups interchangeably.
However, modifying either of the pickups to match the string spacing of the other musical instrument can make a huge difference.
On the other hand, insisting on using a bass pickup on a guitar or vice versa will lead to some strings performing too loudly while others perform too low.
Another scenario is the guitar strings between the magnet hence a soft output.
The bottom line is one can’t ignore string spacing when choosing a guitar pickup to avoid low-quality sound output.
Notably, the number and the design of bass and guitar pickups magnets are also different.
A guitar pickup has up to 6 poles within its coil.
On the other hand, bass strings usually share magnets hence a different output.
If the magnets don’t align excellently under these strings, expect inconsistent sound, with some strings producing quieter output, whereas others producing louder ones.
Nevertheless, the magnet spacing shouldn’t be an issue when using a 6-string bass.
If you like using distortion, settling for a bass guitar will be a bad choice.
That’s due to their low-pitched and relatively deep tone.
However, that’s a different case, especially when using electric guitar pickups, since they are suitable for gain and distortion by design.
Amps and guitar pickups give the best sound output after distortion, but that’s a different case when dealing with bass pickups hence the need to avoid that trick with the latter.
If you seek a high-pitched sound, guitar pickups are a sure bend.
On the other hand, bass have relatively heavy string gauges hence the lower-pitched sound.
Remember that guitars and basses are designed for different purposes, and so are their respective pickups.
Bass needs a natural deep character to facilitate the bassy and muddy sound.
On the other hand, guitar pickups should facilitate high gain, distortion and high tremble.
These pickups are different to achieve their respective roles, and it would be unwise to use them interchangeably due to the different sound outputs.
Whereas bass and guitar pickups are magnetic and transmit signals using the same mechanism, coil windings differ.
This difference is responsible for the guitar’s tinkling sound and the bass’s deep character.
Since bass strings deliver low-end frequencies, their pickups are wound more to make up for that.
On the other hand, it is unnecessary for electric guitars since the frequencies of their strings are usually high-end.
What Are the Similarities Between a Bass Pickup and a Guitar Pickup?
While bass and guitar pickups have differences, they also have a few similarities.
For example, both guitar and bass pickups have a humbucker type.
The same applies to the single-coil type.
Which Brands Make the Best Bass Pickups?
If you want the best bass pickups, consider the following brands;
- Seymour Duncan
Which Brands Make the Best Guitar Pickups?
If you want the best guitar pickups, consider the following brands;
- Bare Knuckle
- Seymour Duncan
Can You Use Bass Pickups on a Guitar?
It turns out that bass pickups will work well on your guitar.
After all, the musical instruments have no possible damage since the wiring, materials and outputs aren’t much different.
That said, don’t expect the clarity and tone to be at par with what typical guitar pickups produce.
After all, the bass pickups’ designs contradict your guitar’s functioning.
A common assumption that using a bass pickup on a guitar gives it a bassy tone is far from the truth.
So, while bass pickups can’t damage your guitar, the sound output will leave much to be desired.
However, there are exceptions, such as a 6-string bass pickup.
It will most likely align under the guitar strings excellently, not forgetting the even spacing.
Consequently, every string has an equal output, thus providing a consistent tone.
Under such circumstances, a bright sound will greatly characterize the output.
After all, bass strings produce low tones, and their pickups are designed to clarify and brighten them.
Consequently, using the pickups on your guitar boosts their high end.
However, since the guitar strings already produce a high sound, the boost may not be that significant.
Why Are Bass Pickups Split?
This split ensures that the bass pickup splits into two parts to serve two strings simultaneously.
The design differs from having a single, double coil under all 4 strings.
Each split pickup has its role.
One handles a pair of bass strings meant for lows, whereas the other serves the other pair for highs.
The split is in no vain since it offers a wide range of tones, and the guitar player gets a bright treble and rich low.
Can You Use Guitar Pickups on Bass?
It is hard to find a guitar pickup that fits your bass.
Therefore, you cannot use a guitar pickup on a bass unless you customize it to fit.
These modifications ensure the guitar pickups align with the bass strings.
Interestingly, Fender Musicmaster Bass is an exception since the bass uses a guitar pickup.
Its pickup has a striking resemblance to a guitar pickup, including 6 magnetic poles under its cover.
That’s uncommon since most bass pickups have 4, whereas the 6 are usually associated with guitars.
Another similar instance is the Supro Huntington bass, which uses electric guitar pickups.
These basses have pickups that meet the standards of the humbucker-sized ones.