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I played a Squier Stratocaster last night, and when I plugged into the amp, which was working, my guitar's second string didn't make any sound (well, a bit, actually), but the rest of the strings sounded normal.

Is the problem with the pickup's coil or the guitar wiring? When I tested the other pickup position (I used a Hendrix-like middle+bridge), like bridge or even bridge, the second string still didn't make any sound.

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  • It would be helpful if you could test all 5 pickup selector switch positions, and report on the outcome; I'm not 100% sure how to interpret the final sentence.
    – Dave
    Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 13:58
  • @Dave actually, your question's answer is in the final sentence, I have a bad grammar, so yea. :D
    – seseorang
    Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 13:59
  • So you're saying: "in all pickup positions: no sound from second string, but normal sound from others?"
    – Dave
    Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 14:01
  • Can you hear (or maybe even see) the second string vibrate acoustically, i.e. when it is unplugged?
    – Dave
    Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 14:02
  • @Dave something like that, and yes, I heard it vibrates.
    – seseorang
    Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 14:02

6 Answers 6

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Swap a string by putting your top string in place of the second. If you take it off carefully and put it onto the second post, and wind it more times, it can still go back on properly, although a new set of strings isn't extortionate.

If this string is still quiet, it's the pick-up, although it's doubtful all three have the same problem. More likely it's the string itself - which you can check by putting it in place of the third string.An acoustic string just doesn't do it on an electric guitar, but it may look alright.

Or, simply get a new set of strings anyway.

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Unless it is an acoustic guitar string (nylon or wound with non-magnetic material) or clearly not vibrating, it's the pickup that's broken: any wiring possibly connected to the strings is just to reduce hum, not change the signal level. The pickup reacts perfectly fine to an entirely unconnected string if it is an electric guitar string rather than an acoustic one.

I think that the coils are usually wired in series, so if you still get sound from the other strings, there are rather few error scenarios I can think of:

a) coil is shortcircuited. This will most likely be purely mechanical: two items touching that shouldn't.

b) magnet is dead and/or has fallen out or there is some other break in the magnetic connection in the pickup

c) someone disassembled the pickup at some point of time, the pickup is a double-coil pickup, and one of the coils or one of the magnets was put back in reverse. Double coil pickups are intended to pick up outer magnetic fields in a manner that the voltage inducted into both coils cancels while the voltage induced from field changes done by the vibrating string to the field from the coil magnets adds up. Reverse a coil, and you pick up the noise and cancel the sound. Reverse a magnet, and both noise and sound cancel.

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A guitar pickup in 99% of all guitars including strats is a single coil of wire which senses all strings at the same time. Some pickups use individual magnets for each string, a fender Stratocaster for instance, and some use a single magnet underneath the pickup but have metal slugs or screws directing the field of sensitivity towards the strings, such as a Les Paul. This is irrespective of whether or not the pickup is a single coil or a humbucker, but in most situations it ends up the way I described. However some cheeper pickups such as those found on some squire strats do in fact use a single or double magnet underneath the single coil to create the magnetic field for the pickup to work. What I am getting at is that in all likelihood the fact that the pickup senses the other sttings would indicate that the pickup is perfectly fine. Without seeing the guitar i would guess the string is not resting in the slot properly. Most likely at the bridge. If the problem would be at the nut slot, then fretted notes would sound out well. So make sure the string is seates well and if the problem persists you may need to smooth some type of burr on the bridge saddle that occur sometimes.

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  • came here to say this. additionally, classic strat bridges press down on two screws, and sometimes one of those screws doesn't make proper contact, or something like that, leading to buzz, poor resonance, etc.
    – MMazzon
    Commented May 7, 2020 at 17:43
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This happened to me but only on the G string of my middle pickup. I took the pickguard off and there was a ground screw with a wire not connected to anything in the cavity right below the pickup. The screw was evidently touching the pickup magnet and making it so it wouldn't sound when plucked.

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This just happened to me: I thought it would be a good idea to clean the metal particles gathered on my pickup pole pieces with a strong “rare-earth” magnet. After doing this, I completely lost any pickup volume for my A string only. I quickly realized it was because the magnet reversed the polarity of that one pole piece. The solution: Touch the other side (other polarity) of the rare-earth magnet back to the top of the pole piece. If this happens to you, it’s ok if you get the wrong side at first. I hope this helps someone out.

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All the electric guitar or bass pickups I've ever seen (1972-present) use one or two coils which cover all the strings. It is possible to make a coil-per-string pickup, and probably somebody does. Fender's famous Precision Bass has two coils which are staggered, one coil under the upper, lower frequency, pair of strings, (E,A) one coil under the lower, upper frequency, pair of strings. (D,G). The lower frequncy pickup is closer to the neck of the instrument, the upper frequency pickup is closer to the bridge. The two coils are adjacent.

If a guitar with multiple pickups produces a very reduced signal for one string only, the problem must lie with that string. Magnetic pickups work by the vibrating string moving through the magnetic lines of force from the magnet(s). Moving any conductor in a magnetic field will induce a current in the conductor. Moving an iron or steel object in a magntic field will change the magnetic field, at the frequency the object is moving, and the coil(s) under the strings will generate a signal at that frequency.

If you replace the string that generates no signal with a steel string, from an adjacent position, or obtained from a friend or a store. you should get a signal from that string. If you replace the problematic string with a classical (not steel) guitar string, it will make no or almost no signal. You can try a plain nylon high string, and get no signal at all. A wound brass wire over fiber core low string will induce a current within itself by vibrating in the magetic field. The induced field, vibrating, will affect the magnetic field created by the magnet, but at a far lower level than a steel string. But you'll get some signal, and since that's what you report. I suspect that's whats on the position.

An easy way to check any string for magnetic effect is to apply a magnet to it. If the magnet sticks, the string is magnetic. If the magnet doesn't stick, the string will only have a small magentic effect from vibrating in the field.

A further demonstration would be comparing the effect of a brass and a steel tuning fork or other vibrating object. A steel tuning fork will strongly affect the magnetic field of the pickup and induce a signal on the coil. A brass tuning fork will weakly affect the magnetic field, and induce a very small signal.

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