The Art of Pickup Height Adjustment

By Keith

You can change the tone of your guitar quite significantly by simply adjusting your pickups and pole pieces. This trick can save you a lot of money on unnecessary aftermarket pickups. The basis of it is this:

1) Pickup height controls tone. Lower = thinner, brighter, less muddy, and vice versa for going higher.

2) Polepiece screw height controls volume without greatly affecting tone.

Therefore, if you have a pickup that lacks clarity and top end, lower it until the tone is to your liking, then raise the pole pieces to get your volume back. You can also do the opposite if you have a pickup that you think is too bright and thin. I have saved many a terrible-sounding pickup this way, even the super-hot ceramic shredder Gibson humbuckers that I have always hated so much. Don’t be afraid to go as low as your height adjustment screws will let you. You can use the trick on any pickup that it both height-adjustable and has screw pole pieces. You can use half of the trick on pickups with magnets for polepieces. You can thin them or thicken them by changing the pickup height, but you cannot make volume adjustments afterward, like you can with humbuckers or P-90s.

2 comments to The Art of Pickup Height Adjustment

  • Bastard Bass

    Just don’t go “too” high towards the strings. “strat-itus” the electromagnet that is your guitar/bass pickup has “lbs” of magnetic pull and you can deaden or outright kill the vibration of your strings and really muddy up and barken up your sound, this is an especially delicate balance for strats.

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