Active pickups have been a mainstay with rock and metal guitarists for decades, and for good reason. These modern musical tools give guitarists in these genres free reign over a broad swath of techniques, including tapping and sweep picking, for example. However, active pickups are rarely used outside of these genres, but the fact is that many of the benefits that rock guitarists enjoy in active pickups can also be enjoyed by guitarists of other genres. Here are some benefits of swapping out your old passive pickups for an electrically fueled alternative.
Passive pickups are inherently limited in how much of your playing they can pick up because they aren't powered and can't amplify sounds by themselves on any level. With active pickups, you'll get a lot more out of your palm mutes, pick scratching, and other stylistic flair. This will give your play a more detailed sound in a way, which can be a two-edged sword for many guitarists. On the one hand, you'll be able to impart more of your personality into your playing that will be translated to what your audience hears. On the other hand, you won't get away with many mistakes on a guitar fitted with active pickups.
Added (Sometimes Endless) Sustain
Letting that last chord of a show ring out as long as possible is the only way a guitar concert should end, but passive pickups can sometimes suppress this kind of sustain to make moments like these impossible. Even if you're more of a country or blues guitarist, the added sustain of active pickups will let your notes carry through even an entire verse if that's what your song calls for. These benefits are must-haves for art rock and avant-garde musicians who sometimes need to let a chord drone for a full minute or more. Certain active pickups even promise infinite sustain, so the sky's the limit if you can find the right set of pickups.
While pinch harmonics are one of the reasons why active pickups are so popular among the metal crowd, guitarists of all genres can benefit from the added boost their harmonics get with a set of active pickups. Going off of the idea that active pickups will give your play greater detail, harmonics will also be given the volume they deserve when they're picked up by a high-tech set of active pickups. This makes them a must for jazz guitarists, especially when playing with loud instruments like a trumpet or an overzealous drummer who might drown out delicate harmonics.
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