Best pick-up Distances from neck and bridge?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by MEKer, Jan 19, 2013.

  1. MEKer

    MEKer Supporting member

    May 30, 2006
    How close (or far) should a pick-up (P, J, Hmbkr) be to neck or bridge to maximize its efficiency?

    Thinking of custom build here.
  2. ctmullins

    ctmullins Registered Panther Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    What's the best place to plant a tree?

    When is the best time to buy stock?

    Where does the best wine originate?

    Who is the best builder of custom basses?


    Answer to all of these, and your question: it depends on what you have to work with, and what goals you have in mind.
  3. MEKer

    MEKer Supporting member

    May 30, 2006
    Very helpful.

    Just so you know---there are in fact some somewhat standard differences in what is experienced by the distances--the Luthiers forum laid out a couple (some decidedly negative), but inferred this forum as a better place for the question. I am interested in what OTHERS actually have experienced in general placement. Its not quite so bland an issue as you evidently think. Just so you know.

    BTW, Gibson Grabber 1973-1982 (now reissued) made pick-up distance for fine-tuning an issue when they brought it out into the market.
  4. Cadfael


    Jan 4, 2013
    Germany, EU
    Hi MEKer,

    the "best" PU hight belongs to

    1.) the bass player (beating or caressing the strings)
    2.) the type / brand / thickness of the strings
    3.) the prefered sound (punchy or HiFi)
    4.) the impedance and magnets of the PU
    5.) if other PUs are involved (at a PJ set, the J mostly has to put up as high as possible, the P lower than normal)
    6.) the preamp of the amplifier
    7.) to be continued ...

    I think that's what ctmullins wanted to say ... :smug:
    There is no "perfect distance" like there is no perfect woman for everyone. You have to find out for yourself. You have to try and search yourself.

    I think that more than 50% of the PUs are changed only because (bass) players don't want to try what's possible and how their PUs react to different settings ...
    Are you unsatisfied with yourself? Blaim it on the PUs!

    You simply can't say ...
  5. Sponsored by:

  6. ctmullins

    ctmullins Registered Panther Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I know I can sound sarcastic at times, so sorry for that.

    But, as far as I'm concerned, your question is far too vague to be answered.

    As Cadfael pointed out, there are so many other factors at work, and most of them highly subjective, that the question, as it stands, is unanswerable.

    The only thing worth pointing out is the very well-known generalization that the closer to the bridge, the more emphasis on the upper frequencies.

    Now, if you want to provide some more specifics about your particular goals with the custom build, then we can start to discuss it.
  7. MEKer

    MEKer Supporting member

    May 30, 2006
    I understand it can be a hard question as specifics are widely spread via preference and players "used" to only what they have been playing. I see most makers always place the pups in the same position on all their instruments (Eugen comes to mind) and there is some differences between them however slight. I ask in general, overall terms as the pup strength or predilictions can vary by type/maker.
    The quote is from the Luthier Forum and gave me pause for thought. And that put me in mind of the so-called sweet spot for pups in a general sense. I know there are preferences for placement among players and luthiers. That is what I want expounded on---the overall experiences.
  8. ctmullins

    ctmullins Registered Panther Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    One further note, from my own personal experience: I don't care for pickups placed less than about 2.5" from the bridge saddle of the highest string. For me, too much low frequency content gets lost this way. But that's just my own subjective opinion.
  9. MEKer

    MEKer Supporting member

    May 30, 2006
    That's what I am looking for. And if it seems most agree on the low freq loss at that distance, then that could very well be a guide in placement.
  10. testing1two

    testing1two Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California

    Efficiency is not why pickup positions are chosen. In fact, there is no real science behind pickup locations. Some have tried to say there is a "sweet spot" under a certain harmonic, but that harmonic moves the moment a note is fretted.

    So all you're left with are purely subjective criteria: how does a specific type of pickup sound in a specific location and how does it interact with another specific pickup in another specific location?

    As far as P and J pickup spacing, Fender has done the work for you but you still have a myriad of choices in terms of pickup type as well as preamp options.

    For multi-coil pickups there are basses that use every pickup spacing under the sun. Ken Smith, Warwick, Lakland, Ernie Ball, Fodera, Zon, and Warrior all use distinctly different pickup spacings with different types of pickups & electronics to achieve their desired voicings. Their choices were not based on what was "most efficient" but rather preference.

    It is not uncommon for a custom builder to have a shop instrument routed for "sliding pickups" so they can test various spacings. If that's more trouble than you want to go to I suggest you pick an existing bass that makes your ears happy and use that spacing for your build.
  11. MEKer

    MEKer Supporting member

    May 30, 2006
    That might simply be the easiest way to go.
  12. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products

    My answer would have been "yes".

    Really, you can put a pickup anywhere under the strings. The closer the neck the deeper it sounds, and the closer to the bridge the brighter it sounds.
  13. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2009
    this, and the observation that traditional fender pickup locations were originally arrived at because they sounded good through marginal amps with no onboard EQ, is all there is to it.
  14. astack


    Nov 12, 2011
    Oakland, CA
    +1 to that. I was recently told that gibson does that harmonic trick. Huh?
  15. I like the tone you get with only one pup in the middle position or sweet spot. If i got to use two pups i would place the two in the middle. That kind of neutral tone works perfectly for everything imo...
  16. geddeeee


    Jun 30, 2006
    I would try an 1/8th of an inch from bottom of string to top of pole piece.

    This is standard Fender measurements. Start there and adjust to taste....
  17. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Lots of pickups are placed more-or-less where the harmonic nodes are, but that's probably because when you divide up the space between the end of the neck and the bridge, those are the locations you end up with. My basses are like that too, and it makes it look uniform. But you don't have to put pickups there.

    Fender moved the bridge pickup on the Jazz bass slightly so it would be hidden under the bridge cover. So that shows they weren't concerned with harmonic placement.

    If you place a pickup right under a harmonic node, you wont hear that open string harmonic as much as if it's slightly on either side, unless it's a humbucker and the node is right between the coils. But that only matters if you want to play open string harmonics.
  18. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2009
    So that's why they moved it? Priceless!
  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    That was CBS, not actual Fender, that moved the pickup.
  20. maybe you should try basses with different spacing:


  21. Darkonar


    Dec 14, 2011
    Well, since I'm -apparently- on a project kinda similar to OP's I'll just ask here instead of making a new thread.

    I have three MM style pick-ups of the same brand and model that have been gathering dust in my desk for like 2 years, I want to put them all in the same bass, I assume they are bridge pick ups by default, being MM pups and that.

    So, will I have any problem with the neck one? I mean, with string spacing vs pole spacing and stuff? Is it too wacked and shouldn't be done?

    OP, sorry for hijacking your thread, and everyone else, please excuse my Engrish :smug: