How does an electric guitar produce sound?
Answered by Science Channel
  • Science Channel

    Science Channel

  1. A guitar string vibrates when plucked. On an electric guitar, those string vibrations move over a pickup. The pickup has a magnet (or magnets) wrapped in as much as 7,000 turns of fine wire. The vibration from the string creates a vibrating electric current in the coil wrapped around the magnet. The coil converts these currents to an electric signal, which it sends over an electric circuit to a jack plugged into the guitar.

    The other end of the jack plugs into an amplifier, which connects to a speaker that blasts the sound. A guitarist can alter the electric signal, and thus the sound, of the plucked string by manipulating resistors that sit between the magnetic coil and the jack. One resistor adjusts the tone; it allows you to filter out different frequencies. A second resistor adjusts the amplitude (or volume) of the electric signal reaching the jack. If your guitar has a separate magnet under each string, you can make these adjustments on a string-by-string basis.

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