5 Simple Steps to Adjust Your Pickup Height
Author: Rory Brady
Date Posted:4 December 2020
5 Simple Steps to Adjust Your Pickup Height
The purpose of adjusting the pickup height of your guitar is to try and achieve the BEST tone possible. If your pickups are set too low your tone may sound thinner/ have a lower output than desired. If your pickups are too high, they may not be picking up the sound to the best of their ability.
Having your pickups set too high can cause intonation/tuning issues. Because pickups are essentially magnets what happens when they are set too high is, it causes the string to be pulled down consistently even when not in use. This is something you need to be careful to avoid. Another issue caused by having the pickups set too high is magnetic interference more commonly referred to as Wolftones or Stratitis.
Wolftones/Stratitis is when an unwanted overtone appears on certain notes of the guitar neck. This can be caused by a number of things like loose screws, dodgy saddles and also pickup height, more specifically when the magnetic field produced by your pickup interferes with the vibration of the string.
There are several ways to run your pickups which are all personal to your style, taste and tone.
- Some people like to roll off the volume or tone pot in order to have their rhythm tone have a lower output, Then when those players have a solo or lead line they’ll often increase their volume or tone back to full to raise the signal of their output and get a more lead like tone which will cut through the mix.
- Other players may like to have their pickups set quite low for a lower output/thinner sound. An example of this is if you were looking to achieve lower output from your humbuckers lowering the pickups might be the way to go.
- Another option is to have the bridge pickup higher to act as a boost so that when you switch to it, it will cut through the mix.
The best thing to do is to try a few options and see what works best for you.
Here is our step by step on how to adjust your pickups for optimum tone!
Step 1 - Get the tools you need!
You will want to use a metal precision ruler for this so that you can get the exact measurement. You will also need a screwdriver suited to the adjustment screws on your pickups.
Step 2 - Know how to take your measurements.
So, the trick is to fret the low E string on the last fret and measure the distance between the bottom of the string and pickups magnetic pole piece. Then use this same technique for the treble side of your pickup by applying this method to the high E string.
Step 3 - Adjust your pickup height to factory setting
It's important here to make sure you know where to adjust the screws. When looking down onto the adjustment screws, you turn the screwdriver Clockwise to Raise the pickup, and Anti-Clockwise to lower it.
|Stratocaster Pickup Height||Bass side: 2mm||Treble side: 1.6 mm|
Humbucker Pickup Height
|Bass side: 2.4mm||Treble side: 2.4mm|
|P90 Pickup Height:||Bass side: 1.6mm||Treble side: 1.6mm|
Step 4 - Adjust the pickup height
The goal here is to achieve equal volume across all pickups for balanced output. This can vary from player to player depending on playing style and pickup set up. For example, if your picking/strumming position is closer to your bridge pickup the output of that pickup is likely to be louder than your neck pickup. This may mean that you would need to adjust your neck pickup to be a bit higher than your bridge pickup. There are some scenarios where you may want one pickup to have a higher output. An example of this is an HSS Strat. You might want your humbucker to act as a boost, in which case you wouldn’t balance the output. But keep in mind that this is a personal thing based on playing style, so listen close when making these adjustments.
You should make these adjustments while in playing position by using a screwdriver to spin the adjustment screws. The reason for doing this in playing position is because that will give you the most accurate example of how the pickup will sit and sound while being played.
Step 5 - Play the guitar and listen close.
You might not get this 100% right the first time around and there may be further adjustments to be made. So have a good play once you think you’ve finished making your adjustments and listen closely and try all pickup positions and keep adjusting until it sounds right to you!
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