by Mat Janson Blanchet

Brutalist Pickups

Project Description

Guitar and bass electromagnetic pickups are made specifically for those instruments. In the case of single coil pickups, they are made of multiple magnetic pole pieces aligned with the strings, around which coated copper wire is wound. The coil picks up the electromagnetic waves created by the vibration of the steel strings, which is then transduced into electrical current. That variable current is transformed into sound by a loudspeaker or an amplifier.

As I intend to create sound sculptures with the material with which guitars are made, I want to be able to use steel strings as single entities, rather than as an array. A string, its pickup, its bridges, and its tuning key would then be a single building block which would allow me to create a sound structure in whichever shape or form. From that point, I chose to create a pickup for a single string.

This component is named a "brutalist pickup". The research-creation I was conducting at the Topological Media Lab was also a means for me to explore Brutalism, which people thought was an influence for the sculpture in a previous work of mine, The Office of Dr. S. Plant. During the redesigns of the pickups, I went with hard corners, to honor the form of brutalist artworks.

Read the research report


Acrylic, alnico magnet, copper wire


Many people provided technical assistance during the production of this prototype. I would like to thank the following people:


Research, design, fabrication


While conducting research-creation at the Topological Media Lab