Exploring the Jazz World: Are P-90 Pickups a Good Fit?

When it comes to jazz guitar, the search for the perfect tone is never-ending. Among the myriad of options, P-90 pickups stand out as a unique choice for jazz players. In this article, we’ll dive into the world of P-90 pickups and explore whether they can deliver those warm and mellow jazz tones that we all love.

Understanding P-90 Pickups

Let’s start by getting to know these distinctive “soapbar” pickups. P-90 pickups, born in the late 1940s by Gibson, are renowned for their vintage warmth, clarity, and punch. Unlike the traditional single-coils found in Fender-style guitars, P-90s offer a fuller and chunkier sound that bridges the gap between single-coils and humbuckers.

The Pros of P-90 Pickups for Jazz

1. Warmth and Clarity: The hallmark of jazz guitar is its warm and full-bodied sound. P-90 pickups excel in delivering this rich tone, making them an excellent choice for solo jazz guitar performances and ensemble settings. The clarity they offer allows for articulate playing, which is crucial in jazz.

2. Versatility: Jazz comes in various flavors, from smooth and clean to slightly overdriven. P-90 pickups shine in versatility, capable of producing a wide range of tones to suit different jazz subgenres. They adapt to your style, not the other way around.

3. Dynamic Range: Jazz music is all about expression, and P-90s excel in this department. They have an outstanding dynamic range, responding gracefully to variations in your playing techniques and picking intensity. This responsiveness adds an extra layer of expressiveness to your jazz performance.

4. Vintage Aesthetics: Jazz has deep historical roots, and if you appreciate the vintage aesthetics and classic vibe, P-90s are right up your alley. They provide a timeless look and feel that harmonizes perfectly with jazz’s historic legacy.

The Cons of P-90 Pickups for Jazz

1. Noise: Unfortunately, P-90 pickups, like other single-coils, are susceptible to electromagnetic interference and the notorious 60-cycle hum. To combat this, you might need to invest in noise-reduction pedals or adopt specific playing techniques to minimize unwanted noise.

2. Tonal Adaptation: If you’re accustomed to the traditional jazz guitar sounds associated with humbuckers or single-coils, P-90s might require a bit of adjustment. They offer a unique flavor that might take some getting used to, but it’s worth the effort for those seeking a distinct tone.

3. String Spacing: P-90 pickups often come with wider string spacing. If you’re particular about the string spacing on your jazz guitar, this is something to consider. It may affect your comfort and playability.

Customization and Versatility

For jazz guitarists who decide to go with P-90 pickups, remember that customization options are your best friend. Different types of P-90s, such as “soapbar” and “dog-ear” styles, offer distinct tonal qualities. Experimenting with pickup height and pole piece adjustments can fine-tune your sound to your precise preferences. It’s all about finding that sweet spot.


In conclusion, P-90 pickups, with their warm, clear, and versatile nature, can be a fantastic choice for jazz guitarists looking to carve their unique sonic path. They have the capacity to produce the warm and mellow tones jazz enthusiasts adore while offering a dynamic range that elevates your expressiveness. However, be ready to tackle potential noise issues and adapt to the distinct character of P-90 pickups. Ultimately, the decision of whether P-90s are ideal for your jazz tones depends on your personal preferences, playing style, and willingness to embrace the vintage warmth they offer. It’s a journey of exploration, and sometimes, the road less traveled leads to the most captivating destinations in the world of jazz.

Author: Mike P

Hi! My name is Mike! I’ve been an apartment producer/musician for 10+ years. I’ve played in punk bands, released EDM tunes on Beatport and iTunes, and have a semi-successful stock music portfolio. Read more…