Pickup height can determine how much, or how little, distortion your guitar receives. It can also add or subtract noise, change tone, and do a number of other things. Knowing all of this, setting your pickup height can be a bit unnerving.
In this article, we are going to help you to find the best pickup height for your specific needs.
First things first; perfection. There is no perfect pickup height for any form of music. There are so many factors that go into setting your pickup height, such as musical style, pickup brand, and string type, that there is no one size fits all answer for this dilemma.
However, there are a few things that will help you to choose the proper guitar pickup height for your playing and your personal equipment. Different pickups generate different magnetic pulls. This has to do with pole spacing as well as other factors such as signal strength.
An EMG 60 pickup generates a lot less magnetic pull than a DiMarzio X2N. This is because, among other things, the EMG is an active pickup and is encased, while the DiMarzio is a passive pickup with bare poles.
When fretting your high E string, to start with, it should always be ¼” above the pickup, no matter where it is fretted. This is the most basic distance for average guitarists with average picking aggression.
If you are a heavy-handed picker, or a shredder who has a lot of bite and attack in your picking, you may want a bit more distance to avoid having your strings touch the pickups. This will make unnecessary noise, and in all cases, it will be an ugly, fuzzy sound.
The important thing is to remember this; the closer to the strings your pickup is, the more output it will be giving. This means that the further your strings are from the pickup, the less output it will be giving.
Keep in mind that raising your pickups to string height will do literally nothing positive for your playing. Not only will it simple create a lot of noise, but you won’t be able to play much, and you run the risk of simply having no discernible notes in the cloud of noise.
When adjusting pickup height, be sure that your setting is turned halfway to their normal positions. This includes the knobs on your guitar, both tone and volume. This will make it so that you are able to hear more of the pickup’s natural sound.
Adjust your pickups in tiny increments. A little goes a long way toward altering your tone, and you will want to keep this in mind. Remember, the closest your strings should be to your pickups is about a quarter of an inch. Don’t let yourself get the impression that super high or super low pickups will make you a better player; pickup height affects output, and output only.
Once you find a pickup height that is (a) easy to play with, (b) sounds pleasant, and (c) makes your picking more natural, you should stay with it.
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