How to Adjust Pickups

Adjusting Pickups

Setting the pickup height correctly is an often overlooked step in guitar maintenance and setups. The pickup height setting will drastically alter the tone of the guitar. If it is incorrectly set, the sound may be too weak, or too trebly, or harsh.

Pickup height should be adjusted according to the string height. If the action needs to be adjusted, always do that first.

What You Will Need

  • A screwdriver
  • A steel ruler

With the strings tuned to pitch, bar and hold down the #6 string at the last fret and place a ruler on the pickup pole as shown below. On covered humbuckers, place the ruler on the exposed pole, as opposed to the cover. There is some room to experiment with, but a reasonable distance away from the strings is 6/64” on the #6 string side. Now do the same on the treble side for the #1 string and adjust it to 4/64”. These specs can be used similarly for each pickup on the guitar and later modified for volume balance by ear if needed.

The low wound strings (#6, #5, #4) have a wider range of motion, so adjust the pickup height a little lower to accommodate this. Doing so will produce a more even sound across all the strings.

For bass guitars, you will want to allow more space for the strings to travel. Try setting the pickups to 8/64” at the lowest string and 6/64” at the highest. Notice in the picture how the pickup height matches the radius of the strings.


You may notice that changing the pickup height affects the volume output of the guitar- but be aware: if the pickup is set too close to the strings, it may produce poor intonation and off-sounding notes. This happens when the magnetic field of the pickup interferes with the strings’ harmonics. If you ever come across some random intonation issues, try lowering the pickups, especially with single coils. Also, if you have a Floyd Rose-style equipped guitar, check that the pickup height doesn’t interfere with the rest of your setup. Pull the whammy bar all the way up to make sure the strings don’t bottom out on the pickups.

Manufacturer Pickup Height Recommendations

*Note: Active pickups have less magnetic pull and may be adjusted closer to the strings than passive pickups.

Make

Model

Bass Side

Treble Side

Specification

Fender

Texas Specials

8/64″ (3.2 mm)

6/64″ (2.4 mm)

 

 

Vintage style

6/64″ (2.4 mm)

5/64″ (2 mm)

 

 

Noiseless™ Series

8/64″ (3.2 mm)

6/64″ (2.4 mm)

 

 

Standard Single-Coil

5/64″ (2 mm)

4/64″ (1.6 mm)

 

 

Humbuckers

4/64″ (1.6 mm)

4/64″ (1.6 mm)

 

 

Lace Sensors

As close as desired (allowing for string vibration)

 

 

Gibson

generic

4/64″ (1.6 mm)

3/32″ (2.4 mm)

 

PRS

Humbucker/Soapbar

3/32” (2.4 mm)

5/64” (2 mm)

 

 

Singlecoil

4/32” (3.2 mm)

2.5/32”

Neck

 

 

4/32” (3.2 mm)

3.5/32”

Middle

 

 

4/32” (3.2 mm)

2/32” (1.6 mm)

Bridge

Ibanez

Generic

1/16” (1.6 mm)

5/64” (2 mm)

Neck

 

 

1/8” (3.17 mm)

5/64” (2 mm)

Middle

 

 

1/32” (.8 mm)

5/64” (2 mm)

Bridge

Jackson

Humbucker

4/64” (1.6 mm)

4/64” (1.6 mm)

 

 

Singlecoil

5/64” (2 mm)

4/64” (1.6 mm)

 

 

Noiseless Singlecoil

8/64” (3.6 mm)

6/64” (2.4 mm)

 

G&L

generic

1/16” (1.6 mm)

1/32” (.8 mm)

 

Gretsch

generic

6/64” (2.4 mm)

4/64” (1.6 mm)

 

 

Bass

4/32” (3.2 mm)

3/32″ (2.4 mm)

 

ESP

Max height gtr

3/32″ (2.4 mm)

4/64″ (1.6 mm)

 

 

Max height bass

9/64” (3.5 mm)

3/32″ (2.4 mm)

 

Fralin Pickups

Set and fine-tune by ear

1/8” (3.17 mm)

1/16” (1.6 mm)

 

Yamaha

generic

5/64” (2 mm)

4/64″ (1.6 mm)

 

Have any others directly from the manufacturer? Let us know in a comment below and we’ll add any verifiable specs!



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