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Pick-Up Height Adjustment


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Here at MayosMusic, in addition to offering great guitar/bass lessons and complete luthier services that includes guitar and amplifier repairs/restorations, we are also a great resource service. Below is a discussion on the electric guitar/bass pickup height adjustment and a procedure for setting this adjustment.

The final adjustment step for an Electric Guitar/Bass is the "Pick-Up Height Adjustment". This step is often over looked and/or adjusted incorrectly. The most common adjustment error is to set the pick-up height too close to the strings thus causing the pick-up to excerpt what I call a "Magnet Interference Pull" on the strings. This effect causes the string to produce a woobly sound and to NOT PLAY in-tune up and down the fretboard even though the intonation measures correct at the 0-Fret/12th Fret.

Question: Why have players/guitar technicians adjusted the pick-up too close to the strings?

Answer: To get more gain (volume) out of the guitar and thus overdrive an amp for desired crunch and/or distortion sound. However, you sacrifice intonation and playing in tune. A better solution would be to use a "Pre-Amp Gain Pedal" to produce the desired gain needed.



How to Adjust the Pick-Up Height

  1. Pick-up should be initially set low, down and away from the strings
  2. Start with New Strings
  3. Have all other playing adjustments set, including intonation
  4. Guitar tuned to pitch as played
  5. Turn on your Electronic Tuner
  6. Start with the Neck Pick-Up:
    1. Play the 6th String
    2. While the String is Vibrating and showing on the tuner, slowly raise the bass side adjustment height screw of the pick-up. Stop when the pick-up begins to effect a change to the tuning. And then back-off just a little until there is NO effect to the tuning.
    3. Repeat procedure on 1st string side of pick-up
    4. Repeat procedure by checking ALL strings
  7. The Goal is to set the pick-up as close to the strings without causing tuning interference.
  8. Repeat Step 6-A through 6-D for each pick-up

Final Note

If your guitar is always strung with the same gauge of strings and the adjustments stay the same, then the pick-up height adjustment only needs to be done once.

Also, avoid letting the strings lay on the pick-up when changing strings. This can magnetize the strings and cause the above mentioned problems. A solution is to lay down a barrier such as a piece of foam or rag that keeps the strings away from the Pick-Up during re-stringing.



Final, Final Note

Tight fitting guitar cases that press the strings down and thus casing them to contact/touch the pick-up can cause the same above mentioned problems. Look at the inside lid of the case for indented marks. Solution: Place a pad (foam) between the strings and the pick-up before closing the case OR get a new case.


Experience since 1968
Providing Guitar Lessons and Guitar/Amp Repairs in Southern California, South Bay Cities and Greater Los Angeles Area,
Located in Manhattan Beach, CA 90266 and Torrance, CA 90503

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