Guitar Technicalities – Do Electric Guitars Need Batteries?

Unlike a regular acoustic guitar, an electric guitar requires external amplification to be heard at normal performance volumes. It uses one or more pickups to convert the vibrations of its strings into electrical impulses, which are eventually reproduced as sound by loudspeakers.

I have been very enthusiastic about learning electric guitar since I was a child. Now that I’ve been playing electric guitars professionally for more than 10 years, I get many questions about it and I found a very common question that is confusing many people.

It’s “Do electric guitars require batteries or not?

Well, electric guitars generally do not need batteries because it all depends on the pickups of your guitar and most electric guitars contain a passive pickup that produces a signal using magnets. However, the other two common types -the active and piezoelectric pickups will need batteries.

Do electric guitars require batteries or not?

Now that you’ve got the short answer, let’s go through some detailed information. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, consider reading through this article. You’ll get to understand why some pickups require batteries and why some don’t.

Passive Pickups

Most electric guitar owners will most likely have guitars with passive pickups. Almost a century ago, when we had been originally introduced to an electric guitar, there was only one pickup. When it comes to electric guitars today, the pickups have been upgraded and come in a variety of numbers.

The passive pickup is referred to as a transducer which is a device that can change the form of energy it receives. In this situation, the pickup will “detect” the strings’ vibrations in the magnetic field and turn them into an electric signal, which will then be amplified and released through a speaker or amplifier.

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Although the amplifier is important in this process, the guitar doesn’t really require its own power source if it is connected to an amplifier through an instrument cable. So, there is no need for any type of battery in this circumstance.

Passive pickups have a lower output, which is their biggest downside. As a result, the sound produced by the amplifier will be quieter and less forceful. Both single-coil and humbucker pickups are available in passive pickups.

Pros

  • More expressive tone
  • Has the ability to pick up more subtle tones, expanding the range of your music
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Has lower output
  • Produce a lot more feedback from the amplifier, which can affect your guitar or bass’s sound and tone.
  • A lower quality guitar can have an impact on the sound

Active Pickups

The active pickups are constructed around an electronic circuit, unlike passive pickups that generate their own electric potential and don’t require an external energy source. An active circuit will be used in the active pickups, allowing them to enhance and change the signal.

Active pickups have higher power and can create a more aggressive or “hotter” output. You’ll need an external voltage supply because of the specialized electronic circuit of an active pickup. Here’s where the battery is installed. If your guitar has active pickups built-in, there will be an additional cavity on the body that allows you to replace the battery quickly.

If you’re considering switching from passive to active pickups, keep that extra space for a 9V battery in mind. The biggest disadvantage of active pickups is that you can’t play your guitar if your battery dies. Although, the 9V battery has a long life span and has a reasonable price tag.

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Both single-coil and humbucker pickups are also available in active pickups. Although most active pickups are humbuckers, the active version can also include very high-end single-coil pickups.

Pros

  • Have less feedback which means a clearer, more vibrant sound.
  • High-gain distortions are easier to deal with.
  • Lower quality guitar or bass will have a better tone than passive pickups

Cons

  • More expensive than passive pickups
  • If your battery dies, your guitar will be useless until you replace the battery

Piezoelectric Pickups

Piezoelectric pickups are the third type of pickup. We’re just going to mention these pickups because they’re not commonly found in electric guitars. They’re usually used on acoustic guitars and other instruments but you can find electric guitars with an extra piezo pickup.

Piezoelectricity is a form of electricity that can be found in solid-state materials such as crystals and ceramics. It’s the electric charge that builds up as a result of mechanical tension. These piezo pickups, like the active ones, have a built-in preamp. Similarly, these pickups will necessitate the use of a battery.

While other pickups can be easily seen right under the strings, piezoelectric pickups are located inside the bridge. The reason behind this location is that these pickups capture the actual vibrations of the guitar strings and the guitar itself.

Piezoelectric pickups produce a more original acoustic-like tone which is brighter and clearer than magnetic pickups.

Which One to Choose? Active or Passive?

Your preferred music genre is the most significant factor and likely to influence your decision in this regard. On one hand, there are passive pickups that are a little warmer, more dynamic, and have less output, while on the other hand, there are active pickups that have a larger output, are free of hums and noise, and sound thicker.

Music genres such as rock & roll, blues, soul, and funk will naturally utilize the passive pickups, whereas metal, rock, and other heavier styles of music will typically use the active pickups. However, it’s not impossible to imagine them in opposing roles.

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That’s why claiming that one kind is superior to the other is incorrect. They have different sounds, personalities, and colors, so try out both to see which one you prefer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to know if An Electric Guitar has an Active or Passive Pickup?

The easiest method to tell the differences is to look on the back of the instrument for a battery or a battery box. However, if you’re buying a new guitar, you’ll know right away whether it comes with active pickups, which require a battery, either from the product details or the specs sheet. Passive pickups usually have exposed poles while active pickups are smooth and have a flat cover.

How Often Should You Replace the Battery in An Active Pickup?

Depending on how frequently you play, most active pickups can survive for a long time on a single 9V battery. Even those who play regularly or professionally are unlikely to change the battery in their active pickups more than three times a year. Once a year is enough for casual players or those who only play occasionally.

Final Thoughts

So, without extra circuits, your electric guitar with passive pickups will not require batteries. However, if you add a different type of pre-amp, such as a mid boost or active pickups, your instrument will require a voltage source, which is provided by a 9V battery.

We hope this cleared out the confusion regarding why some electric guitars need batteries and why some don’t. Still, If you have any other questions, feel free to drop those below in the comment section.

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