Best Pickups for SG – Gibson, Epiphone & Others

Updated on by Ross McLeod

The Gibson SG has been used by guitarists to produce some of the greatest riffs in rock music over the past sixty years. To maximize the guitar’s trademark bite, it is important to install some high quality pickups.

You only have to glance at the list of SG users to see that this is a special guitar. Its natural tone combined with the lightweight design makes it perfect for energetic stage shows. This article will highlight the pickups which will bring the best out of your SG.

4 of the Best Suited Pickups for an SG Guitar

Seymour Duncan has been producing the highest quality of pickups for decades. The SH-4 JB’s are hot-rodded humbuckers which will really emphasize the raw tone of a Gibson SG.

This pickup is one of the most popular humbuckers on the market. The sonic range allows it to produce warm, clean tones on the neck pickup, but when you switch your SG to the bridge pickup the raw bite is perfect for soloing.

A great characteristic of the SH-4 JB is the clarity it provides in the treble range. We usually associate humbuckers with that burning Frank Zappa like tone, but these pickups also provide the mid-range detail perfect for subtle rhythm playing.

  • Clear treble range and mid-tones
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    Enhances the biting tone of a Gibson SG
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    High volume and low noise
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    Comes equipped with a four-conductor hookup cable
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The Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker provides a wide-range of tonal capabilities. If you prefer to play distorted, flashy solos, then this is one of the best pickups for SG. The high-output voice setting will cut through the rest of the band and put the sound of the SG at the forefront.

The Fluence also has another voice which is more in the style of a modern active pickup. This is better suited to rhythm playing. The great thing about a Gibson SG is that when playing rhythmic chords, the guitar produces a hint of growl. If played more aggressively, we get the classic metal and heavy rock bite, and this pickup highlights those frequencies brilliantly.

The Fishman pickup combats the issue of unwanted noise with a built in volume control. A power supply which supports this function is included in the set. The supply recharges in a just few hours and lasts for 200 hours per charge.

  • Volume control combats unwanted buzz
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    Great for screaming solos
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    Includes power supply
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    Multi-voice provides two distinct tones
  • Requires charging every 200 hours

Another quality option by Seymour Duncan is the SH-1n ‘59. This humbucker pickup pays homage to the classic Seth Lover humbucker which was used on the iconic Gibson Les Paul in the 1950s. The fact that it was originally designed for a Gibson guitar makes it a very suitable choice for an SG.   

This pickup provides a wide range of tones with a vintage touch. The mid-range frequencies have been rolled off slightly, which complements the Gibson SG and highlights its treble capabilities.

Although as guitarists we’re usually more concerned with sound than aesthetics, it’s worth noting that the SH-1n looks the part too. It has a vintage design which slots into the bridge of a Gibson SG and adds to the guitar’s beauty.

  • Wide range of tonal capabilities
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    Vacuum-potted for noise reduction
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    Combines vintage warmth with modern bite
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    Smart, vintage look
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The final pickup on our list of the best pickups for Gibson SG is also made by Seymour Duncan. In the world of pickups, there are very few manufacturers who come close to their quality, as reflected by their three appearances in this article! 

The SH-18 Whole Lotta Humbucker is different to the previous options though. This is a truly unique pickup which can bring out the magic of a Gibson SG.

The British influence is evident in the SH-18 pickup. The Whole Lotta Humbucker is an exact replica of the pickups Seymour made for players like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend and Jimmy Page.

When combined with an SG, this pickup takes the guitar’s bite and grittiness to the next level. It delivers a huge output and clarity in the higher frequencies, so you can switch between the classic low end bluesy riffs to scorching solos in the higher octaves.

  • Classic British vintage tone
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    Increased high end clarity for solos
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    Great for low end, blues riffs
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    Low noise output
  • May sound too harsh for lighter rhythm playing

Gibson SG – The King of Riffs

The Gibson SG is one of the most easily playable guitars I’ve had the pleasure of getting my hands on. It’s hard to describe what makes this guitar so comfortable to hold and play, but it probably has something to do with the way the neck and body are designed.

The neck of an SG merges with the body at the 22nd fret, which is very high when compared to most guitars. This allows us to easy switch between the high and low frets.

The mix of the on-the-edge tone and the easy transitions of an SG explain why so many incredible guitar parts have been written and recorded using one. If you are lucky enough to own a Gibson SG, you are in very good company.

The Magic of Humbuckers

When I first started playing electric guitar I kept hearing about humbuckers. I’ll admit I had no idea of their function for quite some time. It was only when I read an article on The Black Keys album “Brothers” and it was mentioned that the power and warmth of the guitar on that record was down to the use of humbucker pickups.

Unlike most other pickups, humbuckers use two coils which are connected out of phase, creating phase cancellation and preventing the hum which you get with single coil pickups.

This results in a smoother sound, which when combined with a guitar like a Gibson SG, produces a full-bodied, rich tone. Humbuckers are more adept at handling distortion and gain without much interference.

Play More Aggressively

Every guitarist has their own unique playing style, and it took me many months of practice to develop mine. One thing which revolutionized my playing was learning how to mute the strings with my fretting hand.

I’d heard of palm muting with your strumming hand, but never considered that a more effective way to play would be to use parts of my hand to mute strings when playing chords or melodies.

This means you can add aggression into your solos when necessary, because it removes the worry of missing a note or hitting the wrong string. This way of playing works great with an SG because of the comfortable style of the guitar and the bite it has when played with aggression.

Finding a Routine

Once you’ve found the right pickup for your Gibson SG, it’s a good idea to set up a consistent practice routine. I like to split my practice into categories, for example; scales, picking exercises, chord shapes and improvisation.

Even just ten minutes per day on each of these aspects can dramatically improve our ability as guitarists. And with a beautiful guitar like a Gibson SG or an Epiphone SG, practice comes easily!

Ross McLeod
    Ross McLeod
     

    Ross McLeod is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. His most recent project is named Gold Jacket, and he is the frontman and bassist of the garage rock band The Blue Dawns with whom he has released 4 EPs and toured extensively.

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