This paper addresses the question of why some guitar pickups distort more than others. The electromagnetic pickup of an electric guitar is a nonlinear device that can provide a pleasant distortion. Although the pickup is a simple device consisting of a coil and a few magnets or pole pieces, the measurement of its nonlinear function is a difficult task. This research shows a measurement technique that can estimate the nonlinear function of a pickup in both y and z directions of the vibrating string. The experimental results are provided for three different types of pickups: a single-coil pickup with six staggered pole-pieces, a humbucker pickup with six equal-height pole-pieces, and a humbucker rail pickup. The measured nonlinear functions of the three pick-ups are very different from each other, leading to different distortions. These experimental results confirm that the pickup geometry plays an important role in distortion.
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