How to measure pickup output

Written by rob billeaud
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How to measure pickup output
Digital multimeter (Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

There usually comes a time when you want to measure the output of a guitar pickup. You can easily measure the total DC resistance of the pickup; measurements of other variables such as impedance and inductance require specialised equipment and some knowledge of mathematics.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Volt/ohm meter or multimeter
  • Making tape

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  1. 1

    Remove the pickup from the guitar if necessary. You don't need to disconnect the wiring. If you are measuring a new pickup, remove it from its packaging and use masking tape to secure the lead wires to the work surface.

  2. 2

    Select "Ohms" on a volt/ohm meter or multimeter. Some meters allow you to select a resistance range; if this is the case, select the closest measurement to 20k ohms without going under this figure. For example, if the meter has 10k, 100k and 1000k ranges, select 100k.

  3. 3

    Touch the red (hot) lead of the meter to the exposed tip of the red (or sometimes green) pickup wire and the black lead to the exposed lead of the black (or sometimes white) wire. If you are measuring the resistance of a humbucking, or two-coil pickup, measure each coil separately. Due to the wide variety of colour codes used by manufacturers, refer to a wiring colour code guide (see Resources) to identify the wires.

  4. 4

    Read the value on the meter. Resistance should generally measure between 10k and 20k ohms. A reading of zero indicates that the pickup is not working. A reading of lower than 5k indicates that the pickup (usually the magnet) is not working to capacity.

Tips and warnings

  • Some volt/ohm meters label the "Ohms" setting with an omega symbol.
  • Never service guitar electonics with the instument plugged into an amplifier.

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