Adjusting the Pickup Height for an Optimum Signal Output

guitar pick up height adjustmentPickup height is one of the most overlooked things for most musicians. In fact, most musicians aren’t even aware that pickup height makes a difference; they simply buy a bass, bring it home, play it, and when the pickups start sounding weak, they get a different kind.

Most don’t understand that pickup height can affect intonation as well as output. In this article, we’ll talk about adjusting the height of your bass guitar pickups carefully to fix a few common problems that low height causes.

Don’t Fix It If It Isn’t Broken!

The first thing that you should do before making any adjustments to your bass guitar’s pickups is to check and make sure that the issue isn’t elsewhere. Before you decide that your pickups are the culprit, here are a few things that you’ll want to make sure are up to par;

– the neck of your bass guitar, especially truss rod, properly adjusted without any bowing or bending

– intonation is set properly, using the open notes and twelfth fret notes for reference

– the bridge isn’t too high, or too low; the strings aren’t simply old and rotted, overly flimsy or floppy

– the nut is filed properly, the slots are the right size so that the string fit in and are not raised or lowered by the action at the nut

– the pots are properly soldered, each with a ground, all of which connect to the same common ground pot.

If any of the things on the above checklist raised questions, it is best that you take the time to fix them and to make sure that they are safe and secure, done properly, before raising or lowering your pickups.

If your guitar is well maintained and you have all of the above issues checked off or resolved, then we can talk about the pickup height.

Not Too High And Not Too Low. It Needs to be Just Nice

black bass pick up signalPickups that are too high can touch the strings when they vibrate, causing buzzing and other issues of the kind. This can also interfere with intonation, as the pickup is touching the string, generating magnetic pull and interfering with the note’s ability to ring clearly and correctly.

The best way to adjust your pickups when facing these issues is by simply making minor adjustments, judging by eye, until the issue is solved. Thus, lowering the pickups until buzzing doesn’t occur, then evening out the pickup heights by measuring them each.

There is no such thing as “proper” or “perfect” pickup height, in the subject is a gray area of debate, but chances are if your strings are no longer buzzing from touching the pickup, your pickup height is fine.

If the issue is weak signal strength, simply plug in and adjust by ear. Weak signal strength is caused by pickups that are too low, so you’ll want to make quarter turn adjustments, one on each side per adjustment, until the strength of the signal improves. Again, just like the buzzing issue, there is no preordained “perfect” height, and you’ll have to go by ear to fix the problem.

Once the issue is addressed, write down the height on a sheet of paper, keep it in your guitar case, and use it for future reference. Good luck!


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