Single PickUp Guitars – Everything You Need to Know (2022)

Single-pickup guitars have always had a magical attraction among guitarists with their simplicity, practicality, and, surprisingly, unique tone. Although it is highly debatable, some guitarists believe single-pickup guitars provide a brighter tone, making these guitars stand out from the rest.

As the name suggests, the single-pickup guitars are electric guitars that feature only one pickup in their configuration, often located in the bridge position. These guitars are less commonly found in the markets as they are less versatile compared to other guitars and less preferred by guitarists.

Why would you choose a single pickup guitar?

The main reason to choose a single-pickup guitar is its simplicity and practicality. You can simply plug it into an amp and start playing without the need to configure or adjust anything else, as these guitars do not have the versatility of the other ones with different pickups, switches, and knobs.

Mainly single pickup guitars only have volume and tone adjustment knobs, making the preparation process much easier and quicker. Yes, they may be less versatile in terms of sonic possibilities, but many genres such as the 80’s heavy metal, glam rock, hard rock, punk rock, and many more only use the bridge pickup anyway.

Another advantage is that single-pickup guitars are more affordable compared to guitars with multiple pickups. As the wiring, electronics placement, and manufacturing processes are much simpler with these guitars, the production costs decrease significantly, making the price tags slightly more budget-friendly.

Furthermore, by giving more free space for the playing hand to move, these guitars provide a better playing experience. Multiple pickups on a guitar limit the playing hand movements, with the pick sometimes getting too close to the middle or neck pickups.

The lack of a pickup switch and tonal adjustment knobs force players to create new techniques to play around with dynamics, attacks, and different playing methods to achieve tonal versatility and textures. Without the ability to control the tone easily with a knob, guitarists may be able to develop new ways of touching the strings with the nuances of the timbre.

Another technical factor is the simplicity of the circuit, which gives less chance of noise and unwanted interference. As the wires and connections are fewer in these guitars, they rarely suffer from these kinds of issues.

Finally, a debatable argument indicates that single-pickup guitars provide a brighter and better tone than guitars with multiple-pickup configuration. This is not an exact science, but some famous guitarists agree on this. We will take a closer look at this argument in the next section.

Here are some good single pickup guitars we recommend:

1. Gibson SG Junior
Pro Option - The Iconic Gibson SG Junior With Single Pickup Design
2. Epiphone Les Paul Junior Electric Guitar
Affordable Option - Affordable Single-Pickup Guitar Inspired By Vintage 1957 Les Paul Junior

Do single pickup guitars sound better or worse?

Well, this question is pretty hard to answer. Some guitarists like Phill-X of Bon Jovi strongly believe that single-pickup guitars sound better than guitars with two pickups. He explains that he recorded the same riff with the same gear once with a single-pickup guitar and once with a two-pickup guitar. And he concludes that without the neck pickup, the guitar had more harmonics and more tone overall. You can check out his explanation here.

The argument here is that guitars with a neck pickup, even when the neck pickup is not engaged, do not allow the strings to vibrate freely as the magnetic field of the neck pickup constantly pulls the strings. Without the neck pickup, there is a weaker magnetic force on the strings, allowing them to vibrate more for better harmonics, more sustain, and richer tone.

You can try this by yourself with a single-pickup guitar or simply by removing the neck and middle pickup of your own guitar. 

But, of course, guitars with multiple pickups have much more tonal versatility. Even though some single-pickup purists think they lose the natural sound of the guitar with more magnetic fields in play, this is not objectively proven. If you do not have a highly trained or sensitive ear, the difference will be too subtle to perceive.

Do more pickups mean a better guitar?

It is not about being better or worse, but it is more about answering the needs of the guitarists. If you are playing only one genre and/or have a guitar tone that you are keen on, you can harness that with a single-pickup guitar and have better sustain harmonics and richness in your tone.

But, if you want more tonal versatility, sonic possibilities, and if you like to create contrast easily while you play, a multiple-pickup configuration is better for you.

So, the question here is versatility against tonal richness. Single-pickups have slightly better harmonics and richer tone, while guitars with more pickups are much more versatile.

Famous Single Pickup Guitar Players

There are many guitar players from the earlier times of rock and blues music as well as modern times who prefer single pickup guitars. Some of them are Billy Gibbons, Keith Richards, Malcolm Young, Marty Friedman, George Lynch, Phill-X, Eddie Van Halen, Joan Jett, Benji Madden, Billie Joe Armstrong, and Jared James Nichols, to name a few.

Which are the best single pickup guitars?

There are several iconic single-pickup guitars. To start with, there are Fender Telecaster variations; Fender Brad Paisley Signature, Fender Noventa Telecaster, and Fender Esquire are the first ones that come to mind. All of these guitars have only one pickup in the bridge position.

Gibson also has some iconic single-pickup guitars: Gibson SG Junior and Gibson Les Paul Junior with the powerful P-90 pickups in the bridge position.

ESP LTD also offers great single-pickup guitars in the Arctic Metal Series and Black Metal series.

Gretsch guitars also have some top-quality single-pickup vintage guitars such as Gretsch 6119 Single Pickup 1959 and many more.

Recommended Single Pickup Guitars

1. Gibson SG Junior

Pro Option
The Iconic Gibson SG Junior With Single Pickup Design.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

One of the first guitars that come to mind when discussing single-pickup guitars is Gibson SG. The iconic 1963 model was played by many famous guitarists like Angus Young, Tony Iommi, Eric Clapton, and Frank Zappa.

This modern and more affordable version respects the iconic guitar greatly with its vintage look and feel, top-quality components, highly comfortable unique neck, and the star single P-90 pickup.

Pros

  • Vintage look and feel
  • Simplicity and killer tones
  • Single P-90 pickup
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Single-pickup, less versatility
  • Pricey

The simplicity and the comfort of this guitar are great with a chunky neck, killer tones, and lightweight to play for extended hours. Overall it is one of the best single-coil guitars around today.

Body Shape and MaterialSG Junior – Mahogany
FinishVintage Cherry – Gloss Nitrocellulose Lacquer
NeckMahogany
Radius12″
Scale24.75″
FretboardRosewood
Frets22, Medium Jumbo
PickupP-90 Dog Ear Single-coil
Controls1 x master volume, 1 x master tone
Bridge/TailpieceWraparound

2. Epiphone Les Paul Junior Electric Guitar

Budget Pick
Affordable Single-Pickup Guitar Inspired By Vintage 1957 Les Paul Junior.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

Suppose you are looking for a more affordable single-pickup guitar. In that case, Epiphone Les Paul Junior is a great choice, as it is equipped with the iconic P-90 Pro pickup, good-quality components, and the comfort and tone close to an original Les Paul. Plus, it comes in many different color finish options for different tastes.

Pros

  • Great value for the price
  • Single P-90 pickup
  • Vintage look and feel

Cons

  • Single-pickup, less versatility
  • Tone not as good as higher range guitars.

This is a straightforward rock guitar with the Les Paul heritage for an affordable price. Of course, as with all of the side branches of big brands, the quality control is not the best, so you may have some minor defects on your instruments. But, still, the value for price ratio is great with this one, and I highly recommend it for guitarists looking for a budget-friendly single-pickup guitar.

Body Shape and MaterialLes Paul Junior – Mahogany
FinishTobacco Burst – Vintage Gloss Finish
NeckMahogany
Radius12″
Scale24.75″
FretboardIndian Laurel
Frets22, Medium Jumbo
PickupP-90 PRO Dogear Single-coil
Controls1 x master volume, 1 x master tone
Bridge/TailpieceLightning Bar Wrap Around

Summary

Single-pickup guitars made their marks in music history with their simplicity, practicality, and unique tones. They are great guitars with vintage characteristics and their own appeal and magic. As you have learned everything you need to know about them after this article, you may think about getting one for a better tone or just go on with multiple-pickup guitars for more sonic versatility.

If you decide to buy one, there are many great single-pickup guitars, such as the Gibson SG Junior, Les Paul Junior, or Fender Esquire Telecaster.

My personal top pick here is Gibson SG, but these are all great guitars for different needs.

But, if you want to experiment with a more budget-friendly single-pickup guitar, you can check Les Paul Junior or Coronet from the Epiphone collection, as they feature great quality for their price.

Brian Clark is a multi-instrumentalist and music producer. He is passionate about practically all areas of music and he particularly enjoys writing about the music industry.

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