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Pickup Height

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Jacob Van Noy

Joined: 16 Nov 2004
Posts: 49

PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2006 6:09 pm    Post subject: Pickup Height Reply with quote

I thought I'd post about a little something that happened last night. I was working on my band's studio recording and I started messing with my pickup height. Oh man how I had forgotten what a tonal difference this can make! I have kinman woodstocks in my G&L S-500 and about a year ago I sat down and messed with my pickup height. Well as all of you know after a while you need to take a step back and evalutate your gear every 6 months or maybe year. Well the woodstocks are pretty hot so I didn't have them extremely close to the strings anyway but I decided to really bring them down almost flush with the pickguard. WOW! I love this sound--I actually had to bring them up a little bit more than flush but I lowered them significantly and my guitar sounds cool.

Here are some things I noticed:

1. Less bass and less treble from the pickups. This might sound like a bad thing but it's not. It's almost like the actual sound of your strings, guitar, hands and pick attack ring out more--kind of a more naked sound. In a way my neck pickup almost achieved a more acoustic sound while still be electric if that makes any sense.

2. I lowered the middle pickup a little more than the neck and bridge and BINGO--classic strat sounds. For some reason if the middle pickup is slightly lower you get killer in between sounds. Of course, there is a slight drop in output but it's fine.

3. I can bring up the amp a little more now. It sounds really cool having the amp work a little harder and letting the weaker sound from the pickups just ring through as opposed to the pickups "shouting" at the front end of the amp.

Just thought I'd share this even though I'm sure most of you have tried this stuff. I think it's a great way to look for tonal options that not a lot of people even think about. I'd love to hear any thoughts you guys have on the whole thing especially anything humbucker related because I have never really work with pickup height on humbuckers.

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Joined: 06 Jan 2005
Posts: 75
Location: Tulsa, OK

PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2006 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ive got two z-90s in a les paul and I am always blown away by the difference pickup height seems like single coils are a little bit more sensitive.

On a possibly related note, heres a thread about backing off the vol this interacting with the amp in a different way (in terms of lowering pickups and their loss in volume, not the tonal/attack change)?
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Joined: 14 Jan 2005
Posts: 44
Location: Rollinsville, Colorado

PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 1:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I recently had a revelation about pickup height, which I hadn't really thought about for a while. When I adjusted the pickups on my Strat after replacing them long ago I found that the main differences in sound that I noticed were mostly related to the volumes of individual strings and not really anything timbral, but that was with single coil pickups that don't have a really high output.

I've owned a Gibson L6-S for some years now, and when I first bought it the action was set really low and the pickups pretty high - the guy I bought it from was into hot pickups through a Line 6 Pod. I really liked the difference in feel between this guitar and my Strat because I found myself reaching for different things when I played this guitar and didn't really give any thought to changing the setup because I was enjoying that difference.

I always found the tone of the guitar harsh, though, and attributed it to the pickups. Recently a friend bought a used Epiphone SG that was set up really poorly, and while he was looking for tips on optimal setup he found references to the same things I had been unhappy with for a while: my guitar sounded harsh, there was little dynamic range, and even though I tend to be quite conscious of open strings I had a hard time keeping unwanted string noise down. Turns out that my pickups were so close to the strings that this was changing the timbres of the instrument. We got together and adjusted the setup, both by raising the action a little bit and lowering the pickups almost as far as they would go. What a difference! Now I can play softly and the guitar responds to the subtleties in attack, where it used to just blare, and playing anything clean and pretty was pretty much impossible. The tone knobs seem to have a bigger effect now as well, and for the most part I'm able to get pretty standard Gibson-style tones out of this guitar.

I still may replace the pickups eventually, but this made so much difference that I feel sort of embarrassed that I hadn't figured this out earlier. It feels like I've got a new instrument,
and I'm loving it!

Anyway, even though pickup height is probably an obvious thing to many of you, I wanted to chime in here and mention it again in case some other folks hadn't discovered this basic and very useful thing.

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