Changing the pickups in your guitar or bass is something that usually comes as a hard decision. Sometimes unnecessarily hard. And let me tell you, it shouldn’t be the case. Because even if you do your thorough research, the results will be mysteriously random. At best. Don’t worry about it; that’s the nature of the game. As my friend calls it: the pickup roulette. Why? Let’s examine this puzzling phenomenon a bit more closely.
You must resist
That’s rule No. 1. If you want to swap pickups just because, don’t do it. Going for the looks? Forget it. Want a name brand pickup? Forget it. Unless there’s excessive noise with your current pickups, or you are really, seriously unhappy with the tone, resist the temptation. You can do it. Seriously. Get a guitar or bass with weirdo pickups no one makes a replacement for. Live with it. What?! Leave that router alone.
Ooops, you did it (again)
Yeah, it happens. You were not quite happy with the no name pickups that came in your instrument. They were perfectly fine, you just got itchy for a new set. Because they might be able to give you the tone you hear in your head. You want to know the truth? The tone you hear in your head really does exist. It lives in your head. And only there. If you want to get close to it, you have to work on your playing skills. It’s not impossible to get at least in the ballpark. Some people get extremely close. As Paul Bley said, “you get the sound you hear”. Don’t expect it to happen right away, but it eventually will, if you persist. The good news about this process is, your cheap no name pickups are perfect for it. Trust me, they are. Unless, of course, they are way too noisy. Or you are really not happy with the tone.
You did the research
It just so happens that a real pro like you lands upon the Earth’s surface. Don’t sweat it; while it’s a rare occasion, you are not alone. You are the kind who does look up what kind of pickups are out there, and makes the decision wisely. Watched a helluva lot of youtube videos? Hunted down sound samples like there’s no tomorrow? Doesn’t matter. Your new pickups will suck, too. Only in a slightly different way than your old, no name/stock ones did. Which leads us back to the previous point. The new pickups (and really the whole instrument) will force you to play in a certain way. You’ll have to learn to squeeze the desired sound out of them. You know, the tone in your head. Or something pretty close to it (happens more often on sunny days). Don’t forget to practice that large, happy grin as well. Looking at that empty purse, you’re gonna need it. So yeah, in the end you’ll have to get used to them old fuckers, or live with whatever pickups you’re getting. Unless, of course, they are overly noisy. Or you just can’t get along with their tone.