Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to talk about how to set the correct pickup height.
Bear in mind that this is not a technical article but more of a pragmatic guide on how to avoid it to be in the absolutely wrong position, rather than to give a fixed, perfect height, because it varies according to the taste of the player.
Let's start with a short recap: a pickup is a magnet that takes the vibration of the strings (or better the movement happening within the magnetic field around it) and turns it into a signal that, once sent to an amplifier, turns into sound.
The more the magnet is near to the strings the louder the signal will be, and therefore it will be more rich, saturated and with more bass frequencies content.
The farther it is from the strings, the more the guitar will sound acoustic, clean, trebly: these are the characteristics of a lower output.
How do we rise or lower the pickup?
By turning the screws on its sides: they touch the wood beneath and allow us to pull the pickup higher or lower. Keep in mind that if you know what you are doing, it can happen that the sound you are looking for is also with the pickup not 100% horizontal (if you want to add some output on a side or lower it on the other), and that some pickups offer also the possibility to adjust the single polepieces one by one.
My suggestion is to do this only when strictly necessary or you will risk to lose the output balance among the strings.
What we are looking after is, when strumming the guitar with a clean sound, a tone that has on its tail a ring, like a slight tremolo/vibrato effect. If we are too close to the string the vibrato will disappear because it will be so fast that it will be inaudible, if we are too far it will be inaudible the same for the opposite reason, so we are aiming to the position in which the ringing is most audible, and this will mean that the sustain is optimal.
Let's see the 5 basic tips on how to set the correct pickup height:
1) Avoid putting the pickup too close to the strings, first off because the strings can end up touching it (it happens especially with the neck pickup: try to play on the higher frets and see if you need to lower it a bit).
2) Another signal that our pickup is too high is when it is so bassy that it sounds muddy. We must lower it in order to increase the definition.
3) Avoid keeping the pickup too low, because the guitar will sound just weak, and the sound will lose its body.
4) The sweet spot lies somewhere in the middle between "too low" and too high, and it is usually found if you strum the guitar with a clean sound: the tail of the sound must ring, like a slight tremolo/vibrato effect. This means the pickup is on the optimal position.
5) This "sweet spot" of point 4 is actually not a spot but a range, and within this range you can move slightly up or down in order to increase or decrease the output until you find the tone you prefer (more clean or more aggressive).
I hope this helps!
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