Pickup angle question?

Sparky84

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Hi guys - my Les Paul Custom Lite sounds fine to me at my usual low-volume playing, but I recently noticed that the neck pickup is slanted at an angle which is not level with the body. The screw end of it is recessed quite a bit deeper than the other end. I've not messed with the pickups or even changed the strings in the year that I've owned it, so I assume it came that way.

Aren't pickups generally supposed to be flat in relation to the strings, and should I try to adjust it to level it out? I've never taken a screwdriver to any of my guitars for any reason, and it appears I would need to take off the cover to reach the adjustment screws underneath. Is this worthwhile or is it OK to leave as is? As mentioned, the neck pickup sounds like a neck pickup to me, a bit fuller or rounder than the bridge, but otherwise not quieter or anything else that sounds out of the ordinary due to the angle. Thanks!

IMG_7818.JPG


IMG_7819.JPG
 

larryguitar

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That's actually a beneficial angle, IMHO; when they tilt the other way, the screw coil is too close to the strings and you can lose coil-coil balance; that one is almost perfectly parallel to the strings.

If you want to change it, just press on the screw coil; it will likely shift. There's no real 'adjustment' for tilt, since the pickups hang on two screws that are both in the middle of the pickup.

Larry
 

CerebralGasket

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The top plane of the pickup is NOT parallel with the strings.
Pictured below is what it looks like when parallel.



Gently push down on either side of the pickup (toward nut and bridge) to see if it rocks back and forth to make certain the wires are not jammed underneath one of the edges preventing it from sitting properly.

If problem still exists, remove the four screws on the pickup mounting ring to remove said pickup from the cavity to inspect further while the strings are off. Make certain the wires are not preventing one of the bottom edges of the pickups from sitting properly.

If there is nothing obstructing the pickup underneath, you can use wedged foam shims under the pickup if needed to level it, but the pickup rings are supposed to take care of that. That's why they have a wedged profile, to offset the neck to body angle of the guitar.

The pickup should naturally sit level within its mounting ring and the wedge profile of the ring is supposed to level the top plane of the pickup with the strings so that they are parallel with each other.
 
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HogmanA

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Another way to deal with this is to bend the screws that that hold the pickup to the plastic ring. It doesn't take much of a bend.
In reality, you *might* only need to bend one of the screws per pickup, and that will be enough to act on the angle of the whole pickup.

The pickup will now 'shimmy', and you can then set the pickup to any angle you like, from the top of the guitar while you're adjusting the pickup height.
 

ARandall

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That neck pickup is practically unusably high. If you were to fret the 22nd it's probably going to bottom out on the cover.
So I'd say your issue is 99% very badly adjusted pickup.....1% an angle issue.
 

HogmanA

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That neck pickup is practically unusably high. If you were to fret the 22nd it's probably going to bottom out on the cover.
So I'd say your issue is 99% very badly adjusted pickup.....1% an angle issue.
Or if he likes the sound as it is, then maybe 100% pickup angle issue.
I have my neck pickup pretty high - it's the bees knees!
 

cooljuk

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There are no adjustment screws under the cover. Don't do that!

If you want to know what that pickup will sound like if you make it parallel to the strings, just push down on the high side with your finger while you play a little and see if you find it to be an improvement or not.

If you do find the sound to be improved with it parallel (or some other degree) the proper way to fix it, assuming there isn't a wire pulling on it now that just needs to be addressed, is to bend the feet a little. Be careful, though! That metal of the baseplate/feet is soft and weak.
 

HogmanA

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Never bend a screw.
Bend the feet instead as instructed above.
@CerebralGasket please explain, in your own words, what can happen if you bend the pickup mounting bolt in this application.

.. the proper way to fix it, assuming there isn't a wire pulling on it now that just needs to be addressed, is to bend the feet a little. Be careful, though! That metal of the baseplate/feet is soft and weak.
It is ludicrous to assert that there is a 'proper way' - there are simply 2 types of Les Paul in this world - those with pickups parallel to the strings and those without!

That said, bending the baseplate is probably the worst solution.

humbucker-baseplate.jpg


Looking at the baseplate above, what exactly do you envisage bending? The base plate itself under the pickup? Certainly not the leg itself. The best you can do is twist the foot, with the very real danger of mangling that threaded bolt hole.

Then, if you successfully twist the foot without mangling it, you would then reassemble and see if it was enough/ too much, to then disassemble and repeat until satisfactory.

Handy tip: don't do it.

If there is a proper way at all, it is to make sure the pick up mounting rings actually fit the guitar. In the OP, they don't. Yes, there is not much you can do about the ring itself (I have tried - not worth it). Except maybe use a tapered washer under the bolt head:

Taper-Washer-watermark.png


Actually, these would be good in a set of different angles specifically for levelling pickups. Marketed to people like @CerebralGasket who fear that bending a screw may end up in a trip to A+E, I think they would do quite well.

Now, the other thing that can cause the pick to sit at an angle to the pickup ring is the spring. You can feel this effect if you compress a spring between your fingers - it will eventually bow sideways, thus presenting an angled spring contact face. Potentially more difficult to solve, but a component such as that wedge washer above, circular and with a grub screw to secure it to the mounting bolt with present a counter angles face to the end of the spring, which will be adjustable from the top of the guitar while setting pickup height.

Bending the Bolt
As you should now see, bending the bolt addresses all causes of misaligned dual bolt pickup mounting systems.
The bolt itself is functioning as a threaded rod in this application - there are no torsional or stretching forces acting on the bolt and the bolt is long enough achieve the desired overall bend with a fairly shallow curve amount.

So, in summary, the choice is to mangle the baseplate of your $300 pickups (or real PAFs lol)

or bend a 50c bolt which provides a much easier adjusting experience.

Only you can decide! (but do think for yourselves).
 

CerebralGasket

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Bend a screw and it will change the pitch of the threads of said screw and clobber the threads of a threaded hole upon passing through it.

How can you be so obtuse?

I do like the idea of the tapered washer.
 

HogmanA

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Bend a screw and it will change the pitch of the threads of said screw and clobber the threads of a threaded hole upon passing through it.

How can you be so obtuse?

I do like the idea of the tapered washer.

Haha! ok FINE!

Seriously though, that's a good point - leave the threads alone that will actually go through the foot.

There is plenty of bolt to bend though, and even longer on LP's:

install2.jpg
 

cooljuk

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@HogmanA

If you bend the height adjustment screws to make the pickup straight, then decide to adjust the height later, what do you suppose would happen? Also, the height adjustment screws are carbon steel and likely to snap, unlike the nickel silver baseplate.

Bending the feet is how this is commonly solved. If you can't figure out which way to bend them, google an image of it. It's common practice. Swapping out the ring may not work, as it's not always the ring angle that's the cause. Sometimes the top or mounting holes aren't perfectly parallel/flat/square and any ring you put on gets twisted in one way or another.

I just might know a thing or two about not only installing and adjusting pickups but about manufacturing the parts and materials involved. I appreciate alternate solutions but you just called my comments "ludicrous" and said my solution, which is the one commonly used by professionals besides myself, "the worst way" while proceeding to suggest something that physically won't work and gives strong risk to breaking the OP's mounting screws. It comes across poorly, man. No need to be so abrasive about things.
 

MiniB

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I've done things from bending the legs of the pickup base to adding some foam padding underneath a pickup to tilt it depending on what was needed. Foam is probably the easiest. I've also reversed a neck pickup ring on an ES-335 that had a steeper dip, or replaced it with a a ring that had no angle....and that lined it up fine..
 
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HogmanA

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@HogmanA

If you bend the height adjustment screws to make the pickup straight, then decide to adjust the height later, what do you suppose would happen? Also, the height adjustment screws are carbon steel and likely to snap, unlike the nickel silver baseplate.

Bending the feet is how this is commonly solved. If you can't figure out which way to bend them, google an image of it. It's common practice. Swapping out the ring may not work, as it's not always the ring angle that's the cause. Sometimes the top or mounting holes aren't perfectly parallel/flat/square and any ring you put on gets twisted in one way or another.

I just might know a thing or two about not only installing and adjusting pickups but about manufacturing the parts and materials involved. I appreciate alternate solutions but you just called my comments "ludicrous" and said my solution, which is the one commonly used by professionals besides myself, "the worst way" while proceeding to suggest something that physically won't work and gives strong risk to breaking the OP's mounting screws. It comes across poorly, man. No need to be so abrasive about things.
@cooljuk

Just because something is traditionally done, even by professionals, doesn't mean it is the optimal way. We see this all the time, particularly with music. The Emporer's New Clothes syndrome. Factually incorrect statements, such as yours get parrotted ad infinitum by people not thinking it through for themselves on forums like these if they are uttered by a professional.
First, let me be clear. I called the notion that there is a proper way ludicrous, and I stand by that comment. When I said that bending the feet is the worst way, I mean that it is inherently inefficient, potentially damaging to the pickup and inefficient with regards the actual adjustment process.

What you have asserted regarding the bent screw method vs bent feet method is actually the wrong way round.

Also, the bolts are generally low carbon steel, ie the carbon makes the steel more malleable and less likely to snap. Improves ductility and prevents brittleness. You are confusing this with high carbon steel.

So, let's get into it!

OptimalBend.jpg

The above image shows how you would have to bend the leg for the optimal effect, which puts the pivot point at the mounting bolt head. We will see later why this pivot point is optimal. But what is clear from this diagram is that this would cause unacceptable distortion of the base plate. So this is not feasible.


RealisticBend.jpg

So the only realistic way to bend the legs is at the feet, and it is a twist of the feet that is possible, which actually distorts the threaded bolt hole, which only consists of a few threads in very soft metal. This is not good practice.

MainPivotBentFeet.jpg

The other problem with the bent feet method is that the pivot point is at the foot rather than the head of the bolt. This is the wrong place as it pushes the pickup itself through an arc that goes through the pickup ring.


BentFeetDoublePivot.jpg

This results in a double pivot system where the pivots actually oppose each other.


Now, let us examine the Bent Bolt Method!

BentBoltPivotPoint.jpg

As you can see, the bent bolt creates the pivot at the bolt head allowing for the optimal movement of the pickup, keeping it centered in the pickup ring making for more efficient, easier (ie intuitive) adjustment.

It is clear that the effect on the bolt thread is minimal and doesn't cause any detrimental effects.

It will become obvious that this method comes with many benefits.

1. The screw head remains flat to the top of the pickup ring, therefore not creating a dished recess and potentially further exacerbating any leaning pickup issue.

2. The spring is 'pre bent', meaning any random effect of the spring in influencing the lean of the pickup is automatically dealt with.

3. You are not potentially damaging a pickup. The screws bend easily, they are cheap to experiment with and the method is 100% reversible.

4. The amount of pickup lean in any direction is easy to adjust by simply by turning the mounting screws. In practice, it will only take 90 degrees of rotation to get the maximum angle available on one side - meaning it is insignificant to the setting of the height of the pickup.

5. The adjustment will work at any pickup height, unlike bending the feet, which may require further bending (and dismantling, etc) if you decide to drastically lower or higher your pickup height in the future.

The next image shows the bent bolt rotated through 180 degrees and the resulting opposite maximum lean (depending on how much the bolt has been bent to start with).

BentBolt180Degrees.jpg
 

cooljuk

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Beautiful imagery. Truly impressive graphics. I never got good enough with CAD / CAM software to just bang something out like that.

How many times have you implemented this for others that use and adjust their guitars? The screws do break when bent. They also spring back a bit so you have to bend them further than you want them to stay, making accuracy extremely difficult, especially without practice and spare screws. The threads can be damaged in bending. You limit height adjustment to below the bend. If you bend near the head, the head will be tilted above the ring, not the pickup below it. If you rotate a bent height screw a 1/4 turn the pickup will be pulled off to the side and angled down on the opposite end. If you rotate them both 1/2 turn, the pickup is now leaning even further in the wrong direction any combination other than exactly the orientation you bent them at will pull the pickup off in some odd direction.

I've manufactured pickup parts including height screws, springs, and baseplates for nearly a decade and have been setting up guitars since before I could drive. Bending the feet is the method that works best. Iv'e tried your method and encountered other guitars with bent screw numerous times. It's problematic in many ways.

You do what you whatever you want, man. That's the beauty of freedom. ...but you accurately can't say that what I do won't work, because it does work. Over and over. All the time. I've actually done it hundreds of times, for many many folks, including professional touring musicians for years and years. When customers of mine have this problem of pickup angle, I recommend they bend the feet of my pickups. None have ever broken in the process, even by those with no experience.

Proven in real life. Not just theorized in impressive imagery.

...but I really don't want to argue such a simple thing, anymore. I've explained the reasons for my (and most others') method and proven it in the field over time. Readers have the info, now. Take care.
 

CB91710

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Look closely at the OP's images.
The pickup ring is not sitting flat on the body.
The pickup ring is misshappen

If the pickup were riding on wiring or a poorly routed cavity, the pickup would sit too high, but the ring would still sit flat on the body.
This ring has a definite curve, which is why the screw and spring are not sitting at the proper angle, because the surface of the ring is not at the proper angle.

This deformation *may* be due to something under the pickup, and over the years the spring pressure has pushed the mounting ring up and out of shape.
 

WolfeMacleod

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I can't tellyou how many borked-up base plates I've had to swap out because people bent the feet or legs and rendered them wonky in other guitars.

Bend the screw very slightly in the middle. It doesn't take much. How often do you adjust the heigh of the pickup so the feet are high enough on the screw to mess up the threads? Never.
I've been bending the screw for decades. And the method was taught to me by an old Rickenbacker employee who's been doing the same for decades.
Never bend the base plate.
 
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CB91710

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If the pickup ring is sitting flush, and the pickup is not sitting on wood or wire, there won't be a need to bend anything.
OP's pickup ring is borked.

pickupring.jpg
 


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