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Calculating pickup positions, with a fun picture

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Keith Guitars, May 16, 2011.

  1. Keith Guitars

    Keith Guitars Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 25, 2004
    Woodstock, NY
    Builder: Martin Keith Guitars
    Hi Guys,

    I've had this conversation with a few folks, so I figured I'd share my approach to "calculating" (or, really, appropriating) pickup positions from existing instruments.

    All you need is a clear, reasonably good, straight-on photograph of the instrument, and some measuring device.
    I use calipers, but you can even just use a pen and the edge of a piece of paper.

    The idea is to mark the distance from the 12th fret (or any fret - I use the 12th) to the centerline of the pickup.
    Then, slide that marked measurement along the scale until you find a pair of frets that line up.

    For example, in the picture, the Fodera MG bass (#2) has a 12th-to-bridge-pickup distance that is equal to the distance between 6th and 22nd frets.

    The nice thing about this approach is that it takes scale length out of the picture. It's simply a proportion of the fret scale, so it doesn't matter what the "source" instrument is - the measurement will automatically scale up or down to whatever scale length you're using.

    If you're ever curious about relative positions, it's also easy to line up several basses in a simple Paint program, and use horizontal lines to get them in sync, scaling them up or down until the nut, 12th and hopefully 20th frets are all lined up. Then, draw a reference line through a pickup, and see how the others compare.

    I've attached an example here.
    The basses are a J-bass, 3 Foderas, an Ibanez GWB, a P-Bass, and one of mine.

    Scott Lynch and staccatogrowl like this.
  2. Keith Guitars

    Keith Guitars Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 25, 2004
    Woodstock, NY
    Builder: Martin Keith Guitars
    Here's the pic:

    Attached Files:

    Scott Lynch and staccatogrowl like this.
  3. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Very cool! I like it - your approach will definitely come in handy for me very soon...
  4. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    I always find these sort of comparison's interesting.

    So here's the Jazz and Precision compared to the Musicman lineup.

  5. This makes me want a bongo even more then I already do!
  6. i did this one with a P, J, 5502 and stingray. the 5502 has a spot that no other bass covers, which happens to be my personal sweet spot.
  7. amyvj4.
    Scott Lynch likes this.
  8. NKBassman

    NKBassman Lvl 10 Nerd

    Jun 16, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB, Canada
  9. Scott Lynch

    Scott Lynch Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2002
    Delaware, USA
    Sorry to resurrect this thread, but I decided to search for something like this today and am glad I found this thread. Thanks guys!

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