Musicians use small "pickup" microphones on their instruments. These are really good at apparently collecting sound from the only instrument that they are right next to.

However, if I place my ear where the pickup is, my ear can detect sound from the whole band, not just the nearest instrument.

The air vibrations on the pickup and my eardrum are basically the same, so how is it possible to engineer a microphone that somehow filters out the distant sound sources?


Pick-ups detect the vibration of a metal guitar string between the poles of a magnet. Unless other sounds make the guitar string vibrate, the pick-up will not detect them.

Microphones (and your ear) detect the vibrations of the air, which are transmitted through the air.

Source :What is the difference between a pick-up and a microphone?

  • $\begingroup$ There are however also contact microphones, to which this argumentation doesn't apply. $\endgroup$ – Quantumwhisp Jun 10 '17 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ Some pickups work on brass and woodwind, I think you have a narrower definition of "pickup" than I. $\endgroup$ – spraff Jun 10 '17 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I assumed you were asking about the electric guitar pick-up. There are other pick-ups which work by contact. Like a stethoscope they detect the vibrations of the instrument rather than the air around it. $\endgroup$ – sammy gerbil Jun 10 '17 at 17:02

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