Pedal steel guitars come in many types, and so do the pickups providing the unique sounds produced by them. Pedal steel guitars have between six to 12 strings and need pickups to match them. If a guitar has 10 strings, an eight-string pickup would not work on it. Instead, the owner would need to choose from among the many varieties of 10-string pickups to get the appropriate sound from the guitar.

When buying pickups suitable for the proper number of strings, there are many varieties from which to choose, ranging from single-coil pickups to dual-coil humbuckers to tone bars and others. Choosing the right pickups means knowing what kind of sound the guitarist wants them to produce for the type of music to be played.

In general, pickups for pedal steel guitars have overwound magnets with greater DC resistance and a high rate of sustain and more output. Because of their high DC resistance, the pickups have less of a high end and must be located closer to the bridge where the strings vibrate less and more treble is available. When the pickups are covered with metal plates, the magnetic field is spread out more to increase sustain and sensitivity while reducing the pull on the strings.

Dual-coil humbuckers are known for producing deep, warm tones and clear high notes with a great deal of sustain. Coil-splitting can change the sounds to those more like a single-coil pickup can create and gives a wide range of options when using effects pedals and other gear. Single-coil pickups create grittier sounding notes and tones with punch. Coil-tapping systems can provide a greater variety of tonal sounds to work with effects pedals.

Tone bar pickups look and work differently than single- and dual-coil pickups. Instead of individual poles for each string, tone bars have smooth, flat surfaces and are made of aluminum instead of steel. They produce clean sounds and excellent note separation while holding up to high gain when playing more aggressive styles.

If looking for vintage sounds, reproduction pickups are available from many manufacturers, including Supro, Gibson, Seymour Duncan and others. The pickups are produced based on original models from years ago to provide an authentic sound as heard on vintage recordings.

Choosing the right pedal steel guitar pickups comes down to the number of guitar strings and the type of sounds guitarists want them to produce.