Guitar modding peaked in the 1970s, but the choice of replacement pickups was limited to a handful of models, and prices were high. Still, they were cheaper than a whole new guitar, so it made sense for cash-strapped Fender players to drop in a humbucker rather than buy a whole new Gibson. The bad news was that swapping pickups in the old days inevitably involved drilling, chiselling and sawing – all of which proved irreparable and subsequently devalued countless vintage guitars. Fast forward 30 years, however, and the replacement pickup market has expanded beyond recognition.
Experienced modders will realise that you can never totally eliminate the Tele from a T-type or the Strat from an S-type – but that’s just part of the fun. Since the timber and the hardware all contribute to tone, you can select pickups that will create entirely new sounds that could get you closer to your personal sonic nirvana. Over the next three pages, we’ll investigate a bewildering array of weird and wacky pickups that will drop straight into your guitar without requiring any woodwork.