History of multiple-pickup configurations?


Senior Member
I know very little about the history of electric guitar design before the Telecaster, and I was wondering how we wound up with multiple pickups as a standard configuration.

If I'm one of the early pioneers ca 1930, it probably doesn't occur to me to add that second pickup - I'm worried about developing any pickup and hooking it up there at all! My understanding is that that's indeed what we had at first - single pickup jazzboxes, right? When/why/how did that change? Why is it that nowadays, a guitar with only one pickup feels bare or stripped down?


Gold Supporting Member
The first electric guitars (other than lap steels) were conventional acoustic guitars (flattop or archtop) with a pickup installed. So you had the practical reality of where to put the pickup and controls on a guitar that was not really designed for them.

Another reality was the primitive nature of electronics in general, and pickups specifically. They were large, bulky, and were definitely a work in progress.

A final consideration was cost. Pickups were either handmade or expensive to purchase. The thought of using TWO of them in the Depression Era when these were developed would have been pretty outrageous.

During World War II, things more or less ground to a halt due to lack of materials and manpower.

After World War II, surplus war stocks made electronic supplies much cheaper and plentiful. The emergence of the solid body electric guitar, which was designed from the ground up for electronic, encouraged more experimentation with pickups and other stuff.

Trending Topics

Top Bottom