Can pickups be "too close" to the strings?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by nonsqtr, Mar 18, 2004.

  1. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    I've been experimenting with the Bart pickups on my Roscoe, and noticing that when I move the pickups closer to the strings, I get better treble definition, but some of the midrange "thump" goes away. Has anyone else had this experience? A couple of people have told me that I should put the pickups "as close as possible" to the strings, but I'm starting to think that maybe it isn't such a good idea. Is there an "optimal" pickup height? (Or rather, an optimal distance from the strings?)
  2. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    There really isn;t a set optimal. Different things work differently for different people. Wow. 3 times in one sentence. ANywasy, I noticed the barts I used to have were just a bit weak in the thump too close. Probably magnets pulling too much on the strings.
  3. well i have my bridge pup close to the strings cos i like to have something underneath my fingers when i helps me to play softer and faster if needed...and the neck pup down a little so when i slap the strings dont hit the pup......the kubickis pup's are curved to match the neck and string curve....but i like to feel something under the strings because it helps you ton only use the tip of your fingers...when i started playing i used to use ALOT of my fingers and it slowed me down heaps....

  4. I think it's important to remember that the magnetic field from a pup is sort of like the pickup pattern of a mic. It is a round arch and could very well make different tones with different distances from the string. I could imagine that when the pup is very close to the string, that some of the string vibration works it's way outside of the magnetic pattern.
  5. permagrin


    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    hambone is definitely on, to put it another way, the farther away the pickup is it is able to see more of the string. The closer it is, the strings will have more, er, 'magnitude' to the attack. But if they are too close, they will magnetically pull the strings, I'm not sure if how much it affects the tone but surely affects sustain.

    It is a very easy adjustment, find the sweet spot for your particular feel and tone desires.

    FWIW, EMGs have very little magnetic pull and can be very close to the strings, great for a light touch/clean tone. P-bass pickups seem to have a definite sweet spot, you'll know it when you hear it.
  6. bigbadbuck


    Jun 28, 2005
    southwest iowa
    I have a Musicman Stingray, and if i put my pickup too close to the strings I get a very strange effect that sounds a bit like a phaser or chorus mixed with the wave effect that two notes are out of tune. I think the pickup may just have so much magnetic power that is pulls on the strings hard enough to make the harmonics along the string length out of tune. I could be wrong. It is awfully strange. I can put the pickup down a bit and it will go away and sound normal.
  7. uOpt

    uOpt Supporting Member

    Jul 21, 2008
    Boston, MA, USA
    I don't believe that pull is an important factor, but the closer you are to the strings the more nonlinear distortions you get (because an even swing of the strings looks uneven to the pickup since the upper half of the swing have less power).
  8. Stone Soup

    Stone Soup

    Dec 3, 2012
  9. eyeballkid

    eyeballkid Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2009
    wes virginny
    Is there such a thing as "too close"? Yes.
    The pickups will work, but the tone of and note character will vastly change depending on the distance to the strings. Too close can sound yucky. Too far can sound weak. Its an art of subtlety.
  10. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Instrument Technician, Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    You really want to debate this again after 10 years?
  11. Luckydog

    Luckydog Supporting Member

    Dec 25, 1999
    Who is the "you" that you speak of?
  12. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    this all depends on the pickups. some can overload, others won't.

    i have one p/j that sounds great with the pickups way up close to the strings. i've had other basses that need a fair amount of room between the two.

    i've always loved the sound / feel of pickups that sound good close to the strings.
  13. No no you're doing it all wrong. Here like this:
    :ninja: Who is this "you" that you speak of? :ninja:
    There :smug: NAILED IT!
  14. pfox14


    Dec 22, 2013
    According to Fender's setup guide, it depends on the pickup and strings.

    Note: Larger string gauges need wider vibrational allowances. If you have a five-string bass or are using heavier-gauge strings, your measurements must be increased accordingly.

    Bass Side Treble Side
    Vintage style 8/64" (3.6 mm) 6/64" (2.4 mm)
    Noiseless™ Series 8/64" (3.6 mm) 6/64" (2.4 mm)
    Standard "J" or "P" 7/64" (2.8 mm) 5/64" (2 mm)
    Special Design Humbuckers 7/64" (2.8 mm) 5/64" (2 mm)
  15. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Instrument Technician, Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    "You" as in "we". The thread is ten years old!
  16. Still relevant.
    This probably has more to do with string tension than gauges.
    Tune your E-string down to B and you'll see what I mean.
    Good point though the lower strings generally have less tension.
  17. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's Supporting Member

    It surely is. My brainiac engineer tells me that the reason Leo Fender put pickup covers on was to reflect the magentic field back down to help balance the pull so the strings would vibrate more symmetrically. They are not for shielding (they're open on the ends).
  18. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Fender pickup covers are made of amagnetic materials. They have zero influence on the magnetic field.
    Pull is very important on guitars, not so much on bass.
    However, 9 basses out of 10 have pickups set too high because people want to be LOUD.
    It is detrimental to tone, intonation and clarity.
  19. klokker


    Jan 7, 2009
    Steele City, NE
    Right. It depends on the pickups.
  20. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Instrument Technician, Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    The question may still be relevant but the answer has been posted many, many, many times over the last ten years.