Electric Guitar Pickup Adjustment

setup height bridge pickup

Electric guitar pickup adjustment should be the last thing you do on any setup. If you've gone through this five part tutorial with an existing guitar, and you like the sound, leave the pickup heights alone. If you want to play around with your existing guitar, or have a guitar you just built, that's fine too. I fool around with more stuff that ain't broke than you can imagine, so who am I to tell anyone what to do

On most electric guitars the pickups are mounted to the body, or a pickguard, in a floating fashion. Meaning the pickup is rarely solidly mounted. It is suspended by the mounting screws with either a spring or piece of rubber tube, between the pickup and the body or pickguard. I personally like the rubber tube better. I of course have no proof of this, just a gut feel that one might get some resonant frequencies from the springs.

setup neck pickup

Ok, you're all strung up, tuned of course, and ready to adjust. Fret each string at the last fret, and measure the distance from the pickup pole, to the bottom of the string. As a rule of thumb 8/64ths of an inch on the Low E side, and 6/64ths of an inch on the high E side is a good place to start. If you have manufacturers info, then use that. There is much subjectivity here due to the wide range of pickups available, their varying magnetic field strengths, and how you play. If you attack the strings aggressively the pickups should be further away. The size sting you use also makes a big difference, 54's have much more ferrous material to act on than 42's. So use your judgment, and remember it's always better to be a little further away, than a little to close, you can get some pretty awful sounds from pickups that are too close to the strings.

There is one last thing you should do once you've got your guitar setup. It's a good idea to lubricate all string contact points. The string saddles and string tees should be slightly lubricated with a small dab of machine oil. As for the nut some dry graphite, or even pencil lead is not a bad idea. You can use a little machine oil if you don't like the black. I've even used small dabs of lip balm, or bees wax as a lubricant. You can extend string life considerably by doing this. Thanks for reading about setup and pickup adjustment, J. Brennan

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