Pickup Imbalance After Setup

mbm1972

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Hey Everyone,

I recently noticed a bit of curvature in the neck of my 1983 LP Custom (I bought it new in 1989 and this was the first time that such neck movement was visible), so I brought it into my local guitar shop for evaluation and adjustment. Thankfully it only needed a truss rod adjustment, along with a thorough set up. When I got it home, however, I immediately noticed an enormous imbalance between the neck and bridge pickups (i.e. at max volume, the neck pickup is materially louder than the bridge pickup). This has never happened in the 32 years I've owned this guitar. I also now have a bit of buzzing in the strings, which is irritating, but I assume a separate issue of the setup.

In any case, looking at the height of each pickup, I don't perceive any significant height adjustments in either pickups before vs after setup. Other than that factor, I can't think of what else might have caused such a symptom, unless, purely coincidentally, my bridge pickup is going bad? Or maybe the volume pot for that PU??

Anyone have any thoughts on causes? Remedies? I'd just like to hear some opinions before I, possibly unjustly, ream out the guitar tech who did the work.

Oh, and my apologies to the community if this isn't the correct forum in which to post such a question - I didn't think this issue merited inclusion in the Luthier's Corner, but if that was a bad call on my part, my bad!

A couple pics of the patient in its natural habitat ...


31260A0B-465C-427E-9C2D-FB0D9B6BECC7_1_105_c.jpeg
314E31F5-2B41-4958-866B-64910E79EC6A_1_105_c.jpeg
 

Dogbreath

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In doing a setup, an adjustment of one element effects all of the other elements. Adjusting the truss rod will cause a change in the string height and intonation, etc. Also, it’s quite unusual for a guitar to only need one setup in thirty years. I do my own setups, and I was taught that skill from a luthier friend as soon as I got back into playing. I setup each of my guitars once a year. They’re made of wood, which changes greatly with time. If you learn to do your own setups, you will learn what your preferences are and how to maintain those characteristics. Needless to say, pickup height and balance is part of a good setup. There is probably nothing wrong with your guitar. Look online for guidance and instruction on adjusting your pickup height and balance. Learn to do your own setups. It’s quite rewarding.
 

none2low

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Posts like this are difficult, because none of us can see or hear what's going on, nor do we know where things were at prior to it being taken to the tech. But lets give this a go...

Pickup imbalance: It's possible the tech lowered the action and as a result had to lower the bridge pickup slight to compensate and allow for proper clearance. Since neck pickups typically sit lower, and further away from the strings he may not have touched it.

This is an easy adjustment, get out a flathead screwdriver and lower the neck pickup until balanced with the bridge pickup. This is assuming that the bridge pickup output is not anemic or displaying other undisclosed issues.

String buzzing: Where is it buzzing? Only certain frets, all over, beyond the 7th? This will help in determining what's going on.

Also, keep in mind that if this is the first setup you've had done in 32 years things are going to take some time to settle in.

Even on my own guitars which are regularly maintained, sometimes it can take a few days before things fully settle in and I'll have to go back and make little tweaks to get it where I want.

Point being, don't be so quick to jump on the tech. I'll also add that if you really do feel there is an issue, give him a call and calmly discuss it. Any good tech will tell you to bring it back in so they can take a look.
 

mbm1972

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Thanks for the feedback @none2low and @Dogbreath, much appreciated.

A quick clarification - it isn't the first setup in 32 years (that would have been appalling of me!) - it is simply the first time I ever saw that the neck was obviously out of alignment (it looked like it might be twisting, and that the fret board might even be delaminating, so was a bit concerned). But I have set it up many times over the years - it really was the degree of visible neck movement that had me worried. Sorry I wasn't clearer on that point.

With regard to the buzzing, it's happening in a few spots - around the fifth fret, and around the 12th as well.

Also, none2low, you make a good point about "settling in" post setup. I almost always have to go back and make adjustments when I do my own setups, but I had always attributed it to my own lack of guitar-tech skill. In my case, it probably was a combination of both those factors.

As for jumping on the tech, I was being hyperbolic. I wouldn't have been anything other than polite - they're all super nice guys (yes, all guys, no gals) in my local shop. Just a little attempt at humor gone wrong (it's not just my guitar playing that's out of practice these days apparently - damn social isolation!).

I'll play around with the pickup heights a bit more and see if that helps.
 

none2low

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As for jumping on the tech, I was being hyperbolic. I wouldn't have been anything other than polite - they're all super nice guys (yes, all guys, no gals) in my local shop. Just a little attempt at humor gone wrong (it's not just my guitar playing that's out of practice these days apparently - damn social isolation!).
Haha!! All good. Quarantine has been tough on all of us. Just see so many posts from people ready to jump on techs for doing exactly what they asked them to do.

With regard to the buzzing, it's happening in a few spots - around the fifth fret, and around the 12th as well.
Hmmm, do you have a straight edge you can lay on the fretboard to see what's going on. IMO, it either sounds like it could either have a settled in with a slight back bow, or just need a touch more relief. Really hard to say without seeing what's going on in person, but it doesn't sound like anything major is going on.

Than again... Then neck could be ready to fall off. Maybe you should send it my way so you won't have to trouble with it any longer. :rofl:
 

Bobby Mahogany

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If I understand correctly, your neck was bowing into a concave curve.
In adjusting the truss rod to bring the neck back to a straighter line,
the strings got pulled nearer to the neck pickup.
Therefore, the neck pickup should be lowered a bit.
Fret buzz is not a separate issue of the setup.
You should tell the guitar tech about it and see if you can wait a couple of weeks
to see how it goes (wood is gonna react to being adjusted) and then go back if needed
to maybe have a few frets worked on.
It's normal so see changes all around after a setup.

Adjustment stories:
When I bought my Les Paul Standard (used) it had 9-42's on it and I went with 10-46.
The neck moved. I took it to a reputable luthier to have it looked at and he told me:
"We're in May, temperature changes, humidity, etc. so wait about a month
and see what happens." I was a little puzzled. To my surprise, a month later the guitar
was all fine. It was like the neck got back to its original position.
It has never moved since...

When I bought my Custom, I had the neck planed, the nut, frets and saddles changed.
It was perfect when I got it back. Few months after it was buzzing a little all over.
A friend of mine tried it and adjusted the bridge slightly higher.
It was perfect again and still is to this day.

Good l*ck with that!
:thumb:
 

Dogbreath

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Beautiful guitar! I really need to get a Custom. I’ve been looking at the available ones on Reverb and such. When I get the one I just paid for with plastic I’ll start hitting the pavement. Good luck getting yours back in top shape.
 

DarrellV

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When we say you may have to lower the neck pickup, we don't mean a teeny bit! :laugh2:

Don't be afraid to try what may seem like drastic amounts... the screws are plenty long so it won't fall in on you.

You can see the neck PUP is below the ring.

This is normal for me.

Balance is perfect and middle position has a nice chime. Neck is clear and woody. No mud.

But then, they ARE Shaws...:naughty:


The fret buzzing is likely from the truss rod adjustment. If it doesn't clear up in a few days you can try raising the bridge posts just a whisker to see if it goes away.

The neck on my 82 is laminated maple, so I know first hand how long it can take for a set up to 'settle in'!

Takes both hands and a solid grip on the wrench AND guitar to turn this truss rod.

:rofl:
 

eddie_bowers

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He probably measured your action before the truss rod adjustment. To restore the action after the change the bridge would have to come up. That puts the bridge pickup a tiny bit further away from the strings than before.
 

mbm1972

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Setup issues aside, that is one gorgeous Custom!! What is that color?
My guitar thanks you for the compliment. When I bought it, the guys in the shop told me, and I'm quoting here, "it's a limited edition 'Silver Bullet'". I have no idea if any of that is true. I have done a bit of research over the years (much of the best info found here - thanks MLP community!), and have seen the model and color described differently (e.g. platinum, etc.). Very recently, I came across this listing, where the seller referred to it as a "Silver Sky Finish". The one on that listing is an '82, mine is an '83, so who knows. I tried getting some data directly from Gibson years ago, but it was a dead end.

Funny thing is, when I first got it (I was 16 at the time), I hated the color. But it was on sale for $800 and it sounded and played beautifully, so pulled the trigger - and so glad I did. I was amazed to realize a short time later that I started to really appreciate the way it looked. Funny how that happens.
 

mbm1972

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When we say you may have to lower the neck pickup, we don't mean a teeny bit! :laugh2:

Don't be afraid to try what may seem like drastic amounts... the screws are plenty long so it won't fall in on you.

You can see the neck PUP is below the ring.

This is normal for me.

Balance is perfect and middle position has a nice chime. Neck is clear and woody. No mud.

But then, they ARE Shaws...:naughty:


The fret buzzing is likely from the truss rod adjustment. If it doesn't clear up in a few days you can try raising the bridge posts just a whisker to see if it goes away.

The neck on my 82 is laminated maple, so I know first hand how long it can take for a set up to 'settle in'!

Takes both hands and a solid grip on the wrench AND guitar to turn this truss rod.

:rofl:
Sweet Cherry finish on that one - very nice!

I have been playing around with the PU heights some more and have gotten it closer to being back in balance (still not perfect, but a lot better). I'm going to adjust the bridge a bit to see if that settles the buzzing issues, but if that doesn't work, it'll go back to the shop.

Thanks to everyone for all lthe good suggestions, and offers to relieve me of my first world problem ;-)
 

mudface

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Sweet Cherry finish on that one - very nice!

I have been playing around with the PU heights some more and have gotten it closer to being back in balance (still not perfect, but a lot better). I'm going to adjust the bridge a bit to see if that settles the buzzing issues, but if that doesn't work, it'll go back to the shop.

Thanks to everyone for all lthe good suggestions, and offers to relieve me of my first world problem ;-)
What Darrell has there is a beautiful example of a 1982 LE Candy Apple Red (top/back/sides/neck) with an ebony fret board and Shaw pups.....one of the finest here on this forum....but that is just my opinion. The only thing that truly sucks about it.........It's not mine.
:laugh2:
 

Bobby Mahogany

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What Darrell has there is a beautiful example of a 1982 LE Candy Apple Red (top/back/sides/neck) with an ebony fret board and Shaw pups.....one of the finest here on this forum....but that is just my opinion. The only thing that truly sucks about it.........It's not mine.
:laugh2:
Dude! The saddles aren't even lined up straight!
:dunno:




:fingersx:
 

Daniel.S

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Sounds like you need to learn how to set up your guitar yourself!
Do some homework on how to adjust the various parts on your guitar. And don't forget to invest in some decent tools to make your life easier.
I have a magnetic screwdriver for when I undo the screws to the truss rod cover or the pickup rings. The screws don't fall off the end of the screwdriver and mar the delicate nitro finish. :)
 

efstop

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Sounds like you need to learn how to set up your guitar yourself!
Do some homework on how to adjust the various parts on your guitar. And don't forget to invest in some decent tools to make your life easier.
I have a magnetic screwdriver for when I undo the screws to the truss rod cover or the pickup rings. The screws don't fall off the end of the screwdriver and mar the delicate nitro finish. :)
See post #4 ;)
 

DarrellV

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It goes a surprisingly long way if you become comfortable with doing even just the very basics, like adjusting the truss rod, action, intonation, pickups, etc.
Especially if you're a fussy [email protected] like me! :laugh2:

I've never been happy with factory setups, and even my most loved local guitar shop (who can do an awesome job by most standards) I find come up short to my liking.

And it's not just a string height thing but that's part of it. I carry a wrench with me and all my guitars have the lower TR cover screw removed for easy on the fly access.

Pickup and even pole screw balance are a thing to my ears. Not as often of course! ;)

And as others in here know, and I found out , A 'short scale' LP type guitar is a particular headache to get intoned perfectly.

Better off pursuing a unicorn than trying to get a LP to intonate perfectly! :rofl:
 


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