Neck Pickup vs Bridge Pickup – Explained + FAQs

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Have you ever wondered about the difference between neck pickup vs bridge pickup? What are they used for? What is the difference between them? Do I need both of them on my guitar? Well, this article will answer all those questions and more. Read on to learn everything you need to know about these two types of pickups and how to use each one correctly.

What Is a Guitar Pickup?

EMG JH James Hetfield Signature Guitar Pickup Set, Black Chrome

A pickup is a device that captures the strings’ vibration and produces a signal for an amplifier. The signal from a pickup can be one of two types – an alternating electrical current (AC) signal or a direct magnetic current (DC) signal.

An example of a magnetic pickup is the single-coil pickup, which consists of a single wire wrapped around a permanent magnet and, in turn, covered with copper wire. Its vibrating steel strings disturb the field of this magnet and produce their AC voltage in the copper wire surrounding it.

What Are Bridge Pickups?

Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB Model Humbucker Pickup - Zebra

Bridge pickups sit around the strings and, as the name suggests, over the bridge. They sit closer to the edge of your guitar, capturing more of the higher harmonics in your tone. Plus, this pickup is also larger and can be either single coils or double coils.

What Are Neck Pickups?

Seymour Duncan SPH90-1n Phat Cat Pickup - Neck

As its name suggests, a neck pickup sits over closer to your guitar’s neck. Yet, it can still capture more of those higher and lower harmonics. Similar to bridge pickups, you will find neck pickups in either single or double coils.

Some popular songs that used neck pickups are Hotel California by the Eagles, Where the Streets Have No Name by U2, and Every Breath You Take by The Police.

What’s the Main Difference Between Neck and Bridge Pickups?

Picture showing the location of neck pickup vs bridge pickup

A neck pickup is warmer in tone than bridge pickups. This makes it great for clean styles and slower songs where you want your chords to sound like they’re coming through an amplifier rather than sounding like individual notes played on the guitar.

On the other hand, Bridge pickups are brighter in tone. It’s ideal for lead playing, for when you want to make your guitar sound like it’s screaming at the top of its lungs.

Neck Pickup vs Bridge Pickup Comparison Chart

DifferencesNeck PickupBridge Pickup
LocationNear the neck of the guitarNear the bridge of the guitar
Sound A neck pickup is best known for smooth, mellow, warm tones devoid of treble frequencies. A bridge pickup is best known for bright, sharp tones with a good amount of treble frequencies in them.
ConstructionThe construction of a neck pickup will primarily depend on the manufacturer and model. They can be either active or passive pickups.Bridge pickups are usually active, though they may be passive pickups with higher output than others.
String TensionNeck pickups are usually closer to the lower end of your guitar, which will mean that they’re near higher-tension strings. Bridge pickups are usually placed closer to the middle of your guitar, which means that it’s near lower-tension strings.
ApplicationNeck pickups are great for clean tones, where you want to play chords without any single note frequencies.Better suited to lead playing as it produces higher-pitched sounds on the guitar.


Neck pickups are usually placed in the middle of your guitar’s body, around where the neck meets the body. On the other hand, bridge pickups are generally placed towards the end of your guitar’s body, away from where the neck joins it.

This difference in placement means that bridge pickup will sound brighter due to its position on a larger surface area of your guitar. Neck pickups sound warmer due to their position closer to the higher-tension strings on the neck.


Neck pickups are typically warmer in tone than bridge pickups. It will primarily focus on the middle, low end of your frequency range.

On the other hand, a bridge will mainly focus on the higher treble and upper frequencies. The tone of a neck pickup is typically used for clean tones, while bridge pickups are usually meant for overdriven tones.


The construction of a neck pickup will vary depending on the manufacturer and model. It might be an active or passive design with varying outputs. The structure of bridge pickups may differ, but typically, it’ll be a functional design with a higher output than other pickups.

String Tension

A neck pickup is placed closer to the high-tension strings on your guitar’s neck, which means that it will have more difficulty pulling up on those strings than a bridge would. A bridge is placed further down your guitar’s body where lower-tension strings are, meaning that it won’t face as much resistance when trying to pull up.


A neck pickup is best for clean tones where you want to play chords without single frequencies popping out too much. It’ll fill out the lower end of your frequency range and keep it warm. A bridge pickup is best for leads when you want that guitar tone to sound raw and aggressive. This works well with overdrive or distortion pedals for even more intensity.

Neck Pickup vs Bridge Pickup FAQs

What Factors Affect a Pickup’s Sound?

Several factors determine the overall sound or tone of your pickups. These include, but are not limited to: magnet type, winding type and construction, and the gauge/polarity of the wire used in its coil.

Can I Use a Bridge Pickup in the Neck Position?

Yes, you can use a bridge pickup in the neck position. However, you should be aware that you may end up with a sound either too dark or too flat.

Why Is Bridge Pick Up Louder Than Neck?

This is because fewer strings are pulling on the neck pickup than the strings closer to the bridge. This means that neck pickups will have less resistance against the tension of higher-tension strings, making them naturally quieter than a bridge.

When to Use Bridge vs Neck Pickup?

Use a neck pickup for clean tones. Switch to a bridge pickup if you prefer a more raw and aggressive tone – this works well with overdrive or distortion pedals.

Conclusion – Which Pickup Is Better?

Whether you use a bridge or neck pickup will depend on your needs and style as a guitarist. Consider what kind of genre you often play and ask yourself which pickup will benefit you the most. Remember, the neck pickup is for clean tones and bridge pickup for brighter and sharper sound.


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