"The Ears of the Guitar"


Page 1. The World on A String. CC BY-SA Ken Alleman. Image of two guitar silhouettes with their pickups highlighted. Caption reads, "The pickups are the ears of the electric guitar. They listen to the strings."

Page 2. Image of a guitar, side on, illustration of a magnetic field in the form of a dotted circle that surrounds the pickup. Caption reads, "A pickup is a magnet wrapped, or wound, in thin copper wire. The pickup generates a magnetic field in which the guitar string sits."

Page 3. Caption reads, "When you hit a guitar string, it vibrates inside the magnetic field." Stylized image of a hand striking a guitar string with a pick. The magnetic field is once again illustrated as a dotted circle, inside of which the string vibrates.

Page 4. Caption reads, "The pickup turns the vibration into an electrical signal, which travels out to the amp." Image of a guitar, connected to a cable that leads off-panel.

Page 5. Caption reads, "Which turns the electrical signal back into a vibration you can hear." Silhouetted image of a guitar amplifier giving off sound waves, and a human figure, labeled "Mom," covering her ears. Footnote reads, "The sciencey word for turning physical vibrations into electrical signals, or vice versa, is transduction."

Page 6. Side-on image of a guitar again. The strings are labeled as a spectrum, with "darker, bassier" above the fretboard and "brighter, thinner" near the bridge. Caption reads, "Different points along the string have different blends of overtones. You can play around with this by picking at different points along the string!"

Page 7. Side-on guitar again, with dotted circles surrounding each pickup. There is a Venn diagram overlap between the dotted circles, and this area is labeled, "Overlapping area is canceled." Caption reads, "Some guitar pickups have multiple pickups to bring out those different sounds, plus combination settings that cancel out the parts that overlap."

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