Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

What Is The Deal With Pickup Height Adjustment?

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by bcalvanese, Jun 3, 2012.

  1. bcalvanese

    bcalvanese TDPRI Member

    May 18, 2011
    Just wondering if the Fender Setup Guide says 5/64 and 4/64, why is the 2 nickel method used?

    Seems like the 2 nickel method is twice the distance as a starting point.

    Is the 2 nickel method meant to be done without depressing the strings at the last fret?

    What is your take on this?

  2. fezz parka

    fezz parka ---------------------------

    Ears, not pocket change or a ruler.

  3. Middleman

    Middleman Friend of Leo's

    Aug 29, 2007
    MV, CA
    I agree on the ears part.

    Here's the deal, after spending the better part of a month going back and forth on pickup height, if you need to push the amp and pedals and are into a more driven type sound, run em up close, within the 1/4 inch range but not exactly because your ears will tell you what's right. Keep a screwdriver handy. The sustain is lessened for clear tones but it may be just the ticket for driving the amp and you can make up the sustain with the pedals.

    If you want to de-emphasize the attack of the string and want a little less immediate string response and a bit more of the sustain/after ring at a higher volume then take the pickup down, possible way down to between 1/2 and 3/4. Then turn the amp up to compensate. A whole other sound there which gives you more apparent sustain when playing clean stuff.

    I prefer the latter for chickn pickn and the former for blues or loud type things. My tele is the later, the strat is a mix of both. Just play with it. Like fezz says, it's about what sounds good to your ears.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2012

  4. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Dec 29, 2010
    I'll vote 'ears' too. I usually do all my setup with the pickups cranked way down, that way I know the magnets are not going to effect intonation. Once everything is done, then I adjust the pickups for sound and balance.

    The Fender guidelines are good starting points for Fender gear, but they're just meant (in my opinion) to get the guitar sort of playable and out the door. Just a starting point... If you try to apply the same rules with something with monster magnets, you'll fight the darned thing and have a devil of a time figuring out what's happening.

  5. Big John

    Big John RIP

    Feb 1, 2006
    Austin Tx.
    Some pickups can change character quite drastically when you move 'em just a bit.
    FWIW I start with mine wound up high and then fiddle downwards from there 'til it sounds the way I want it.

  6. Tele Fan

    Tele Fan Friend of Leo's

    Oct 26, 2007
    Louisville, Ky
    I always start with the nickel method and adjust from there.

  7. Mark Davis

    Mark Davis Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 2, 2003
    Bakersfield Ca.

    If you adjust them using coins or a ruler and it still doesnt sound right you are gonna change it anyway cause it doesnt sound right to you.

    Thats why there is no set in stone measurment that works for everyone and their playing style.

    Thats why I always recommend set your pickups to where they sound right to you thru your amp..

  8. Rod Parsons

    Rod Parsons Friend of Leo's

    Sep 26, 2009
    Winchester, Va.
    I still don't 'get' this nickel method.. No one has answered the OPs original question. Is it one nickel, two nickels, with or without the strings depressed... I'm assuming 'with out'. I have never heard of such nickel method... ???? I always thought it was 3/32 inch
    to5/32 inch from strings, when depressed for a starting point.....

  9. Brooks A Hood

    Brooks A Hood Tele-Meister

    Jan 26, 2011
    Reykjavik, Iceland
    bcalvanese - the nickel method is simply holding down your "E" strings @ the last fret on your neck and adjusting the pickups so that the bass side will fit two nickels between the top of the polepiece/pickup and the bottom of the 6th string and one nickel between the top of the polepiece/pickup and the bottom of the 1st string. To clarify, a nickel is .077in. (1.95mm) thick, so this equates to 5/64ths (1.95mm) for the treble "E" string and between 9 and 10/64ths (3.9mm) on the bass side.

  10. zeke54

    zeke54 Tele-Holic

    Sep 13, 2011
    central calif.
    I'm with Tele Fan , I start with the nickels and adjust from there ... it's a good starting point . Z54

  11. twangplank

    twangplank Tele-Afflicted

    May 29, 2010
    Valliant Okla
    I've always been confused by people saying there is no right our wrong way to set pup height but people pickup a guitar and start talking about how the pups are adjusted all wrong lol.

  12. PinewoodRo

    PinewoodRo Tele-Afflicted

    I'd definitely go with ears, not measurement, but to be honest I can't see anything as small as a millimetre anyway.

  13. trev333

    trev333 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    we don't have nickels to use downunder...... awwww...

    2 mm increments sounds better,,,, and more universal... ;)

  14. gtrguru

    gtrguru Friend of Leo's

    Apr 29, 2011
    Detroit Metro
    Me too.

  15. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

    Jun 21, 2011
    Old Fuzzy confused things even further by saying strings depressed at the last fret, and set the big E to two nickels, and the treble side, (or lidow e :cool:) to a nickel and a dime.

    The only problem with all the measuring is that your guitar may or may not sound right. If the bass and treble don't fit together right, you're still going to have to adjust the pickups be ear. I like good seperation of the notes, and to be able to clarly hear each string in an open "E" chord, pretty simple.

    The other thing is, the Fender specs say "Standard Telecaster) Well, some Standards come with Tex-Mex, some with Ceramics, and American Standards have Alnico V pickups. I don't think the measurement posted on Fenders website works very well for ANY of these pickups, which I have had all of and the suggested measurement hasn't worked for any of them including a Classic Player with Wide Range Humbuckers. Also if you adjust your Strat to the "suggested" pickup height, your will NEVER get it to intonate properly.

    I have concluded as have many others that you had best keep a Phillips screw driver handy, and if you have a 52 reissue just leave the pick guard off of it, for about a month until you finally finish adjusting your Teles pickups.

  16. Geo

    Geo Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2003
    Hendersonville, TN
    I always set or leave set to Fender specs for a specific type pickup, even if not
    OEM and sound/work/balance fine but on a few adjusted that a slight screw
    turn to ear or a VU meter.
    My '52RI, FJ '62 Custom and Classic '60s Teles are still set to factory specs and
    sound just fine and balanced.

    Where the nickel thing comes in is if installing pickups and not sure where
    to start, no measuring instrument, etc. that gives a starting point.
    Actually a nickel + dime on low E and nickel on high E side is closer
    for mild, vintage, and medium output pickups.

  17. nickd

    nickd Tele-Meister

    Apr 18, 2011
    Yorkshire, UK
    the nickels, ruler, and screwdriver/hairpin trick work great to get you the best 'guideline measurement'.

    from there I crank the gain right up and play the harmonic of the string. Listen to it 'fluttering', if it doesn't then you're good. If it does, back the pickup off a little bit, it should stop. This is where the string is almost like being completely neutral and most effective. This trick works best when your intonation is good.

    My next bit of advise is get yourself some 10' strings, or even 11's or one of those hybrid sets with a heavy bottom. Also use nickel strings, MUCH better tone.

  18. BackNtheSaddle

    BackNtheSaddle Tele-Holic

    Mar 25, 2012
    Philly 'Burbs
    Two very solid pieces of advice! I have used these guidelines and my ears for years. Well, maybe not the 11's, though. :D

  19. Middleman

    Middleman Friend of Leo's

    Aug 29, 2007
    MV, CA
    Now there's a business, selling Fender pickup adjustment nickels to people in Australia for $1. You really need an authentic one to get the pickups adjusted correctly.

  20. nickd

    nickd Tele-Meister

    Apr 18, 2011
    Yorkshire, UK
    I'm pretty sure 20cent aussie coins are like 2mm thick. A nickel is like 1.95mm thick.

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