Do Guitar Pickup Covers Affect The Tone? How To Remove Or Install Them?


You probably already know that electric guitars have pickups. Depending on the guitar model and pickups, there may or may not be a cover on top of the magnets. Some manufacturers create pickups with additional protection while others opt for a coverless option. 

So, Do Guitar Pickup Covers Affect The Tone? How To Remove Or Install Them?. The answer is not so much. While some say that there is a slight change in the treble, in reality, the change is so small that it is difficult to notice at all. Even if there is a change at all, you can compensate it via an amplifier.

Here, I’ll cover all the materials that manufacturers use to make covers, as well as how to install or remove the covers from the pickups you already have. 

Pickup Covers – Myth Or Reality

One of the first things you might hear is that removing the cover will allow the pickup to sound brighter and more open. Even Clapton said that removing the nickel cover will make the pickups sound different. So what is the truth? In reality, the difference mostly comes from the height of the pickups or screws at the poles. If you adjust both covered and uncovered pickups to the same height, the sound will be almost the same. 

You can see the difference in the pickup setting between the two types here, where there is an obvious difference in height. 

Of course, you can try the experiment yourself, and see if there’s any difference between the sound of the pickup. There are so many discussions about this topic, and the only right answer is to determine if there is a difference at all by yourself. 

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If you are interested in guitar pickups and wich to know more you can check my post Do Electric Guitar Pickups Really Make A Difference?

What Is The Purpose Of Pickup Cover

The main role of the cover on magnets is protection. If your guitar has covered pickups, it is less likely that you will damage the coils of the magnet. As you probably know already, damaging the coil or breaking the winding can be rather expensive to repair and it’s the last thing you’ll need in your life. Furthermore, with pickups covered, there is less chance that something will get into the pickup itself. This means that you won’t have to worry about cleaning it carefully or about dust piling up near the windings. The coil itself is quite fragile and if there is no protective tape, you can easily break the winding. This is why it’s highly recommended to leave the cover on or at least protect the winding somehow. 

Another important role of covers is aesthetics. Depending on the model of the guitar, as well as color, nice cover can make a lot of difference and improve the look of the instrument. Naturally, the whole cover thing is rather subjective, and some players love the look of the coverless pickups. 

It is worth mentioning that both single coils and humbuckers come in both options. Usually, humbuckers have more options when it comes to materials and covering, but it’s not rare to find single coils using the same principle. 

What Materials Are Used For Covers

The first and most obvious is plastic. This is especially common with Stratocasters, where cover will have holes for the magnetic poles that are under each string. Of course, there are pickups with full cover where nothing is sticking out of it. Lace Sensor, for example, has a full plastic cover on its single-coil models. When it comes to plastic, it is also possible to find covers for humbuckers with this material. 

Naturally, plastic is not the only material used for covering pickups. The second most common one is metal. Sometimes, manufacturers will use chrome or nickel. This is especially common for Les Pauls where the cover has holes for poles of one coil of the pickup while the other remains fully covered. 

Finally, you can find covers from unusual materials like wood. The design and changes in material are purely cosmetic, and there are almost no changes to the tone. 

How To Install A Pickup Cover

If your pickup is without a cover, and you are looking to upgrade it either to improve the sound or looks you will need to get a cover first. The first thing you should ask yourself is what type of pickups do you have. Single-coil pickups are usually the same size, and they don’t come in a coverless option. However, you can still change the cover of your single-coil in the same way as the humbucker one. 

Humbuckers on the other hand, often come without covers. The manufacturers use duct tape or pickup cover tape to protect the windings and maybe you are looking to cover them for the looks. 

Guitars With Pickguard

So how do you do it? If your guitar has a pickguard, you will need to remove it. This applies to both single coils and humbuckers. After removing the pickguard, you will need to remove the pickup from it. The pickup is screwed on the pickguard, and the cover should go between the two. You won’t have to worry about soldering or anything similar, just be careful not to pull the pickguard too hard to avoid disconnecting the pickups from everything else. After you unscrew the pickups, place the cover on top of them, and return them on the pickguard, and back into the guitar.

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if you have single coils attacked to that pickguard then this may be a great opportunity to fix that hum as well with my guide Why Do Single Coil Pickups Hum And How To Fix It?

It is worth mentioning that there are different types of pickups and as such, there are different covers as well. You should check if the new cover fits the guitar and the pickup type to avoid any additional work. Just remember that covers are not universal, and you’ll be ready to upgrade your instrument. Furthermore, neck and bridge humbucker have different sizes as well, so be sure to know what you need and what you are buying. 

Finally, you will have to keep in mind that covers are soldered at the bottom of the pickup, so it is a good idea to prepare tools for doing this as well. 

If you are having trouble you can check the following video

Guitars Without Pickguard

The second type of guitars are ones without a pickguard. With pickguard, pickups are attached to it. However, guitars that don’t have a pickguard have pickups attached directly to the body of the guitar. There are two types of guitars without pickups. The first type has a humbucker ring that is used to hold the pickup and attach it to the guitar, while the other has screws directly mounted into the wood. 

To properly add covers on humbuckers, you will need a ring. You will need to attach the cover on the ring and then place it on the body of the guitar. Here, you’ll also have to solder the pickup to the cover and then screw everything together. 

Soldering, of course, applies only for metal covers, and you will not do it of your cover is plastic or wood, or anything else. Single-coils, as I mentioned earlier, always come with a cover, so you will basically change the existing one. Once again, make sure that the cover will fit the instrument and the pickups you already have. 

For more help on the subject see the following video:

How To Remove A Pickup Cover

For the opposite situation, where you want to remove the cover, you will do similar tasks. Firstly, you will need to remove the pickguard if you have one. For both single-coils and humbuckers with pickguard, you will need to remove it first before you do anything else. After removing the pickguard, you will unscrew the pickup. For single-coils, the cover is not fixed to the pickup, and you will just remove it. Of course, it is not recommended to leave it unprotected. 

For humbuckers, you can find either one with or without the ring. If the cover is metal, you will probably need to unsolder it first to free the pickup. After you do this, the only thing left for you to do is to remove the cover from the ring and put it back together without the cover. 

The second type, or guitars without the pickguard, you will just remove the ring, remove the cover, and put it back together either with a new cover or without one at all. If the winding of the pickup is exposed, be sure to cover it to avoid having to replace the entire pickup or to pay for repairs. 

If you are still not sure what do do, check the following video

Summary

People argued for ages whether the covers on the pickups make any difference. Some swear that the tone is different and prefer either one way or the other. In reality, the change in the tone is so small that you will have a hard time spotting it. This is even more difficult if you play music with more gain. Playing with high gain will make it almost impossible to hear any difference between the two.

Some players prefer the looks of unprotected pickups as well. Whatever you decide in the end, be sure that you did everything to protect the windings of the pickup to avoid additional costs for repairs.

If you found this article useful you may want to save this pin below to your Guitar board

Jacob

I have been playing guitar since 2004. As long as I can remember I always had a huge passion for rock music and I extremely enjoy playing it. Helping people on their rock journey is what drives me to keep on playing. Read More About Me

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