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I need some schooling on pickup height.

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

  1. darkwaters

    darkwaters Friend of Leo's

    Oct 14, 2012
  2. stormsedge

    stormsedge Friend of Leo's

    Jun 5, 2012
    E. Tennessee, USA
    ^^^I saw this video as well in my prep...I may want to find that book. It must be a good one as it is out of stock on Amazon.
    darkwaters likes this.
  3. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 29, 2007
    Manassas Park, VA
    I agree and my experience ( on any guitar I've owned) is that I prefer PU height lower than how a tech has set them up.
    It could just be the way I play, but with my Strat, ( Fender Fat '50s pickups) I kind of follow my ears, and use what I call my ' continuous UP RAMP' on pickup height:

    This just means that if you look, the bass side of neck PU is just above the pickguard, treble side higher; middle PU bass side is higher than treble side of neck PU, and continue raising the rest incrementally same manner till treble side of bridge PU is the highest of all- but even that is not very high!

    I sort of calibrate what I just wrote, starting with middle PU height where my ears like it as it is used alone, often, and THEN adjust Neck and bridge pickup height in the #2 and #4 switch positions till I get a balanced tone,, knowing that positions 1 and 5 are always strong anyway.
    If I'm making sense here at all!

    But I think my overall height is low- Tele I do the same.
    Jerry_Mountains likes this.
  4. jvin248

    jvin248 Doctor of Teleocity

    Apr 18, 2014
    Lions & Tigers oh Mi !

    Don't rely on factory pickup height specs. Those were set for old Alnico magnets way back and may not apply to what pickups you have. My general method is lower all the pickups flush with the pickguard or trim rings and then raise the bridge pickup until volume parity switching between neck and bridge. Maybe tweak a little treble vs bass. That's it. Best tones in your guitar are found with lowered pickups. Been that way since Hendrix and Clapton.

    Joe shows how to set pickup heights by ear in the later parts of this video.

  5. LetItGrowTone

    LetItGrowTone Tele-Meister

    Apr 22, 2019
    One more factor that doesn't get mentioned often, separate from the above mentioned problem of magnet pull on a too-close string, is that the signal generated by the pickup is distorted (for better or for worse according to taste) as described in this other thread, and this effect increases as the magnet gets closer to the string.

    The rest of what I wanted to say I already said in post #4 of the above linked thread.
  6. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Mar 3, 2003
    NJ via TX
    i used to use two dimes but due to inflation i'm now forced to use a quarter.

    oh hell, just shoot me now, please.
  7. Mick Sullivan

    Mick Sullivan Tele-Meister

    Jan 6, 2019
    United Kingdom
    I disagree. I’ve been thinking lately how - in an industry that markets a million and one pedals, designed to get you your long-desired tone - the importance of pickup height is seriously underplayed.
    Jakedog likes this.
  8. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    Moving the pickups closer to the string changes the waveform. This is from an recording I did a few years ago of pickup height adjustment:

    progressively closer to the strings:


    normalized by amplitude:


    The string does "dampen", the decay times become shorter, but various other things happen as well, and I think they're hard to put into words, but you can hear them, and in this case, see them too. Long story short, magnetic pull loads the string asymmetrically.
    Gclef and tubegeek like this.
  9. blues

    blues Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    Oct 4, 2003
    I start with a nickle on the treble side of both pickups. The bass side of both pickups is about 3/32"

    I plug into my amp and tweak them from there. I have found on both of my Telecasters I'm
    pretty close on to how I like it.

    Like other have said it also depends on the pickup.

    On another note I don't know why Fender does not simplify those measurements. 8/64"=1/8"
    6/64"= 3/32"

    It's a pet peeve I have. I'm a machinist by trade. :D
    mattpas likes this.
  10. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 21, 2003
    Near BWI Int'l
    It's more often that I'll end up mixing and matching different pickups as opposed to so-called 'calibrated' sets, so IME it's usually useless to try and start with any sort of factory standards. In some cases, the different neck or bridge pickups will also have different coil designs, polepieces or rails, and magnet types.

    ...Because of all of the above, it usually requires just starting with one pickup and kind of dialing it in to what might sound like a decent foundational spot, and then setting the other pickup(s) to work in conjunction with that. I'll then typically just periodically tweak from there.

    If the pickups are sort of similar in construction, I usually start by setting the height of the neck pickup, again just going by ear. I'll then set the bridge pickup so that it balances in output to the neck pickup. It's then still not uncommon for me to finesse the heights of both.

    Something else I've experienced - setting the heights with a totally clean amp at lower volumes doesn't yield the optimal sounds that I end up liking. Case in point - I just got a set of custom-wound Bootstrap Tele pickups. I had them underwind the neck pickup, and use alnico II slugs. At low/clean amp volumes, the neck pickup sounded kind of dull and dark, even when set close to the strings. But when I brought the amp volume up and added some OD, the tone started giving up the goods, and I was able to back down the neck pickup height a bit.
    SbS likes this.
  11. Gclef

    Gclef TDPRI Member

    Nov 28, 2019
    Each of my guitars are set to where they feel the best, regardless of volume.

    I know I'm done when I cant put the guitar down, and when I do I have a smile on my face.

    Latest example is the tonerider rebel 90s in my as73. I did some pickup swapping only to go back to them.
    Only the whole guitar sounded and played like crap.
    Well, 2 full turns down on the pickups solved the problem. I like it better then ever now.

    A little older, a little wiser and all that
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