Why Pickup Height is Important
If you feel like you are not getting the tone you want from your electric guitar, the first place to start is setup. It is possible that the current height of your pickups isn't letting you hear the tonal potential of your guitar. If you recall our blog post about how electric guitar pickups work
, You will remember that correct placement of the string within the pickups magnetic field is important to your tone. Too close to the pickup and the string can literally "stick" to the pickup. Too far away and you can lose output and tonal flexibility. A correctly adjusted pickup will not suffer from "magnet pull" or dead sounding tone by comparison. The goal is to have a good tonal balance across all pickup selections. So.... Where do we start?
Setting Pickup Height
We basically want to put the string in the "sweet spot" of the magnetic field. The video below helps to visualize where this is and the illustrations here of the magnetic fields of a single coil and a humbucker can be saved to help you as you adjust your guitar.
1. Set the neck pickup height about the distance of the thickness of two nickels with your finger depressing the string at the last fret.
2. Plug your guitar in and play it. (the video explains the best method to ensure balance) Switch between the neck and bridge and adjust the bridge
until volume and overall output is basically equal. Then adjust your middle pickup (if applicable) to also be balanced.
3. Adjust the bridge and neck to taste. (leave the middle for now) More output and attack usually means raising the pickup, and lowering it gives you less output and more of an "acoustic" expressive sound. If you want the bridge to attack more for solos... raise it a bit.... and so on.
4. If you have a middle pickup (a Strat for example) put the switch in the notch positions and adjust the middle pickup to give you the tone you are looking for.... you know the one
check out the video below for a more detailed explanation of these steps.
Don't Be Afraid to Play With Pickup Height
It is totally reversible and with the steps and information outlined in this post and the video, you will no doubt unlock potential in your guitar that you didn't even know was there.