- Apr 28, 2010
- Reaction score
300guitars: What are the optimal measurements for setting the height for your pickup models and how does the pickup height affect the overall sound of the guitar?
Jason Lollar: You'll get more of the tone of the pickup if you raise it closer to the strings and more of a neutral tone or tone of the guitar itself—in a way—if you have it lower. The actual height is going to vary from guitar to guitar and player to player. You will notice there is a sweet spot a pickup likes to be in but even that is all debatable, what one guy likes another won't but because I often use magnets that are not fully charged many of my pickups are more sensitive about their placement. Everyone uses a different gauge string—they hit harder or softer from each other and the action will be set differently so you can't just say go 1/16? away from the string because a guy with light gauge strings will be deflecting them so much when they dampen that they will hit the pole pieces. One thing you hear all the time that I don't agree with is you are suppose to set the pickup height while depressing the string at the last fret—well how often do you play that high? How often do you play above the 15th fret? Obviously you might once in a while and you don't want the pickup to get in the way and hit the strings when you do play up there but depending on what your action is like—well it may be moot but perhaps not, depending on the action but I set the pickup where I am likely to play—somewhere between the 5th and 10th fret as an average.
What most people get wrong is Fender pickups have a lot more string pull than Gibson style. On a fender strat with alnico 5 you'll have between 900 and 1200 gauss—it's just a measurement of magnet strength—on a Gibson it's going to be about 200 which is a huge difference, so Gibson pickups can go extremely close to the strings. Also you can set your bridge pickup higher to the strings than the neck. The neck pickup is in an area of the string where it has a lot of leverage to deflect it and at the bridge hardly anything will deflect the string—there is no leverage. You'll hear a weird way out of tune sound if you get the pickup too close—a warbling almost vibrato like tone. All in all it's really about what sounds good to you. About a month or two ago I put up several videos on pickup adjustment and installation on YouTube. There is one on adjusting Strat pickups, you should check it out. I also have installing Strat pickups and installing mini buckers—very detailed and in depth with a lot of side notes dealing with all sorts of related topic within each video—anecdotal information I have spent years learning.