I need some schooling on pickup height.

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by Digiplay, Feb 19, 2020.

  1. Digiplay

    Digiplay Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    704
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2019
    Location:
    Birmingham, Alabama
    I know one's ear is the bottom line, but I have several questions about pickup height.


    Does the closer a pickup is to the strings make a guitar brighter in tone?

    Does the closer a pickup is to the strings make no difference in tone, and simply makes the guitar louder?

    Is there a limit to how close to the strings a pickup can be?

    If one wanted a darker tone, does raising just the bass side/ lowering the treble side height accomplish that?
     
  2. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    10,827
    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2003
    Location:
    northwest
    Generally I say the closer the brighter.
    I find too close and I end up "cliking" the pole with strings.
    Raising the bass side gives more low end in the mix. Darker to me means less clear tone, not necessarily more low EQ.
    Maybe it's just me...
    Some pickups are generally said to sound better further away, like P90's...
     
  3. stefanhotrod

    stefanhotrod Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    578
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2016
    Location:
    germany
    But too close isn‘t a good idea- the magnets pull on your strings if they‘re too close. You‘ll also loose definition, dynamic response and tonal complexity. Rule of thumb on Vintage style pkups: 6/64” bass side, 5/64” treble side.
    That‘s a good basis for your finetuning.
     
  4. Danb541

    Danb541 Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,112
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2019
    Location:
    Oregon
    Does the closer a pickup is to the strings make a guitar brighter in tone? Yes and louder but too close is bad. The pull of the magnets can stop the strings from vibrating.

    Does the closer a pickup is to the strings make no difference in tone, and simply makes the guitar louder? Same answer, typically brighter and louder.

    Is there a limit to how close to the strings a pickup can be? Well... they cant be touching the strings so I suppose that's the limit. Too close doesn't sound good to me.

    If one wanted a darker tone, does raising just the bass side/ lowering the treble side height accomplish that? I suppose that could work, I would try lowering the entire pickup. On my fender guitars, I usually have the bass side of the pickup a little lower than the treble side.
     
    radiocaster and gimmeatele like this.
  5. EsquireBoy

    EsquireBoy Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    39
    Posts:
    1,364
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2019
    Location:
    Paris, France
    IME, closer to the strings gives more compression, so the overall volume is louder but the perceived volume can sometimes be lower since you have less dynamic peaks when hitting the strings. Of course depends of many other factors: clean or dirty, amp’s headroom, the way you play, etc.
     
  6. AlbertoMilanese

    AlbertoMilanese Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    168
    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2020
    Location:
    Bavaria
    If you're able to fit a finger between pickup and strings, you're basically set
     
  7. LOSTVENTURE

    LOSTVENTURE Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,652
    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2007
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    The closer the brighter theory is good for single coils but necessarily for humbuckers or overwound single coils (Mosrite is a great example).
    Since you know how to change the height, everything else is going to depend on your personal thinking as to what you are looking for.
     
  8. Gardo

    Gardo Tele-Holic

    Age:
    64
    Posts:
    859
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2019
    Location:
    Lancaster Pa
    This is from Fender Support
    18EC2851-D67B-44CF-A5C8-58F3CAA6AFC3.jpeg
     
    WingedWords likes this.
  9. WingedWords

    WingedWords Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    69
    Posts:
    1,659
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2015
    Location:
    UK Europe.
    Deleted.
    I just duplicated Gardo's post.
     
  10. 1300 E Valencia

    1300 E Valencia Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,627
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2010
    Location:
    Fullerton CA
    How the pickup is constructed can make a big difference in how far away you want the strings from the pickup for optimum sound.

    Fender-style single coils are very different from Gibson-style humbucking pickups. Mini-humbuckers, stacked single-coils, etc., are all different.

    It's usually best for beginners to start with the manufacturer's specs, then tweak until it sounds horrible, then get 1,000 completely varying and often opposing opinions on the interwebs, then set it back to factory recommendations.
     
  11. 65 Champ Amp

    65 Champ Amp Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,168
    Joined:
    May 28, 2011
    Location:
    Illinois-Wisconsin line
    The sweet spot is usually lower than you think.
     
  12. rigatele

    rigatele Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,478
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2014
    Location:
    Canada
    It does make a difference, but not nearly as much difference as some people believe.
     
    8trackmind likes this.
  13. sjtalon

    sjtalon Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    10,673
    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2006
    Location:
    Upper Peninsula of Michigan
    And if low sounds good, like some vintage (low output) pups
    sound great that way, don't be afraid you're getting cheated because of a little power loss. That's what an amp is for.


    Also, at times one can tilt a pup to gain or lessen treble or bass, one way or the other, depending on what sounds good to YOUR ears. So other that for looks, a pup doesn't HAVE to be flat !

    Pup height can make of break ANY pickup and some may be getting cheated on best tone because they don't think to spend the time adjusting them, or go by what someone else says or published specs.

    Specs are a good START POINT, but a good half hour with a screwdriver is time well spent.

    I turn a screw one turn at a time from a given start point, and write (count) turns moving both up and down, so you can go back to the best spot.


    Experiment.

    I always say; YOUR geetar, YOUR ears.

    Happy pickin'
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2020
  14. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    9,725
    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2018
    Location:
    In space with Ziggy
    I think it's best to forget about measurements and just plug in and set the amp to whatever volume you use and play. Adjust the height up or down according to what you hear.
     
  15. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    7,350
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2015
    Location:
    Winchester, VA
    Also note that active pickups like EMG are built with relatively weak magnets, and you can raise them pretty much as close to the strings as you'd like without the negative effect of magnetic pull.
     
  16. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Age:
    74
    Posts:
    10,140
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2003
    Location:
    NJ via TX
    yes, just use yer ears - the best measuring tools for sound. that and a screwdriver. you can set the passive pickup tops as close the strings as possible and work down from there in small increments, say one turn each of the height screws. set up high, more balls and output ... set down low, more acoustic-like and lowered output. trust yer ears, not some ruler or caliper. each guitar is an "experiment of one", each of us need to figure out what sounds best because most everything about most any guitar is subjective and one size won't fit all.

    "brightness" is all about the design of a passive pickup. each single coil is designed to produce a specific amount of treble. treble can Never be added to a passive pickup, only removed. a bridge pickup senses the low string excursion area and is more conducive to "twang" than the neck position, as expected.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2020
  17. kafka

    kafka Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,454
    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2013
    Location:
    Potomac, MD
    There may be a more scientific or principled way of doing it, but I just use my ears. My pickups often end up quite low. One of the properties that I think I'm responding to is how much drag is placed on the string.

    Without getting into whether it's brighter, or darker, or whatever, because I haven't really articulated it to myself, I find that if the pickup is too close, the string sounds more constrained. And if I get the pickup too far away, it sounds weak. Somewhere in the middle is an optimum.

    But, while this sounds like an objective statement, it's not, because the main governing factor is simply how I feel about the sound. I will say that in general, I don't like the pickup to be too close.



    There's only one situation where a setup can be objectively 'wrong'. It is sometimes possible get a false harmonic or some tuning issues with a particularly strong set of magnets set particularly close to a set of strings. In general, though, you kind of need to put some effort into creating this condition. It's a possibility, but pretty uncommon with most normal setups.
     
  18. uriah1

    uriah1 Telefied Gold Supporter

    Posts:
    21,864
    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2011
    Location:
    Around
    Yea, certain pickups you may need more and neck vs bridge also.
    I generally use the (nickel/bass-dime/treb) method for electrics..
    except p90s which are whacked with those pole pieces..lol
     
  19. Anita Bonghit

    Anita Bonghit Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    253
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2015
    Location:
    Colorado
    I've always used 2 nickels sliding between pickup top and the strings while fretting the last fret. It may not be booteek but will pretty much put you right there. Fine tune by ear.
     
  20. stormsedge

    stormsedge Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

    Posts:
    2,212
    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2012
    Location:
    Tennessee, USA
    What a timely post! Before seeing this thread this morning, I'd printed the above mentioned Fender paper (last night) and set my Nashville Deluxe to the Texas Special specs...what a difference! I've long thought this guitar wasn't right (had it for only ~8 years), but bought it from a "guitar guy" so have not really messed with it. Apparently his Telecaster work is suspect. In any event, I found all the pups incredibly low (duh...may be why it doesn't sound like a Tele and more like a whispering auntie...not all me), and raised them all to 8/64 and 6/64. I may raise them a little more, but for now I'm enjoying my new guitar.
     
    Jakedog and preactor like this.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.