#1
I was at my guitar lesson the other night and noticed when my teacher switched between pickups it went from clean to overdrive is this what active pickups do or is this something else entirely

if it makes a difference it was a LTD ec 1000
#2
When you say overdrive, do you mean "cranked overdrive" or "slight tonal breakup overdrive"? I think the teacher might have switched the channel on the amp at the same time and you didn't notice because I have never seen a guitar that goes from clean to distorted by switching the pickup.
#3
he most likely had and emg 81 and that will distort any clean setting. active pups have extremely high outputs
Gear
Ibanez RG2EX2
Epiphone Les Paul
Fender Strat
Homemade EVH
Marshall JCM 800 Combo

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