Now that you have successfully fitted your pickups to your guitar and tuned up the strings its time to set the pickup height. This process can be as complicated or easy as you want it to be but it is something you should experiment with to find what works best for you. Pickup height (or distance from the strings) has a massive influence on volume, tone and sustain. The closer the pickup is to the strings, the louder, brighter and more sustain it generates, go too close however and the strength of the magnet may just start to pull on the string and cause a reduction in sustain and create unpleasant harmonics. This becomes more pronounced with pickups which have stronger magnets.
The easiest way to set pickup height is to begin with the neck while keeping guitar volume and tone controls on 10 and a fairly clean amp setting:
- Fret your strings at the highest fret and raise the pickup until pole pieces are about 2mm or the thickness of a couple of business cards away from the fretted strings
- Adjust any pole piece screws so that they are all a similar distance from the strings. This will likely mean that the poles in the centre of the pickup (D&G strings) are higher than the outer Low and High E String pole pieces (i.e the poles now follow the radius of your guitar neck).
- Now play, listen, adjust, repeat, and continue experimenting until the pickup is at a height that you like. You are finding your sweet spot for the neck.
- Once Neck adjustments are complete you can repeat the same with the bridge.
- Once Bridge adjustments are complete listen to the balance between neck and bridge and adjust to taste, most guitarists like all pickups to be similar in volume output so that there are no major volume changes when switching from one pickup to the other, however the rules are made to be broken…. Have fun!
Remember, pickup closer to the strings is more punchy, bright and aggressive; lower will be softer and more mellow. Pickup height is very personal, no-one can do this on your guitar as well as you, so take an evening with a screwdriver and find your perfect pickup height.