What About Pickup Height?

We posted this recently on our Facebook Page, and thought it was also a blog worthy topic!

We often get asked questions about pickup heights. Here’s a few thoughts on the subject, including some practical applications and quick experiments to try.

We don’t list pickup heights on our website because we want YOU to set them!

There are so many schools of thought on exact pickup height, it can be an overwhelming search on what to do. We often cringe when we hear the term “Factory Settings,” which makes it sound less musical somehow, doesn’t it? Not to knock facory setting and height suggestions, they can be great starting points. One of the things they don’t account for and the main reason we’ve been hesitant to put exact specs on our site is that every player is different. Each player may want something different for their stylistic preferences and needs. Within different electric guitar types, you may want to set pickups in different spots. This is a case where there is no “Right Answer” you just need a screwdriver or two, and you’re ready!

Where to start

We mentioned factory settings as a good reference for a starting point. To make it even simpler, try this basic method when putting in a new set, or even on a current guitar you have:

  1. Put all pickups the same distance from the strings. Start wth a thickness of two nickels, or roughly 1/8″ inch. Make sure pickups are even height all the way across, and they are not tilting at all.
  2. Play a simple chord {we like to use a G}. Move between positions with your pickup selector, and listen closely to the volume of the pickups. Are they the same from neck to bridge? Try to ignore the tone at this point, just listen for volume comparison. See how you like the pickups right where they are. Are you happy wih the tones? Does it need more balancing, is one pickup louder than another? If you are happy, GO with it! Back to playing! Don’t worry about going any further!

Tweaking the tone even further

If you are still wanting a little more from the pickups, here’s a few more options to try:

  1. Move pickups closer to the strings for more volume. Not too close, as the magnets may be pulling on the strings. Your neck pickup might need to be backed off to get a good volume balance with the bridge, or maybe you like the bridge up closer to break through better for lead parts. Pickups may need to be set at different heights to get the volume balance we were going for in the first step.
  2. Less bass, or more treble? Try adjusting only one side of the pickup. Raise the treble, or lower the bass to balance the pickups better to your amp. If you have a darker amp or boomy sounding guitar, try taking the bass side down a bit to make sure it doesn’t get too overwhelming.
  3. Guitar types matter! Certain guitars may be more alive sounding, some more muddy, some too bright. This is where adjusting the pickups and fine tuning them, can really aid in the matching to your guitar. If it sound best with one way up, and the other backed off, GO WITH IT!
  4. On some pickup types that have polepieces, you can also try adjusting the polepieces for individal string balance. You can match the poles to the fretboard radius or lower a particualry bright string (Like the B).

Hopefully these are a few helpful suggestions to tweaking YOUR sound on YOUR guitar with YOUR gear in mind!

Don’t follow the masses, find the sound that works for you.

–Porter Pickups





One thought on “What About Pickup Height?

  1. Nice, great article. I always appreciate going with the “do what sounds good” approach. Alot of guitarists I’ve found get very worked up over whats supposed to sound good and don’t actually use their ears.

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