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Lowering ENTIRE MFD pole piece below plastic cover?

Discussion in 'G&L Bass Forum' started by fu22ba55, Apr 18, 2009.

  1. fu22ba55

    fu22ba55 Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2009
    Another pup replacement question:

    I'm interested in buying a pair of MFDs for a custom bass I'm building since I love the sound, but I don't currently own a G&L so I can't try this.

    I know the "center" pole pieces are adjustable, but does anyone know if it's possible to do one of the following:

    1) lower both the pole pieces AND the outer ring (stacked coil, whatever you call it) BELOW the plastic cover?

    (when you adjust with an allen wrench, does the WHOLE pole piece move, or just the smaller center piece?)

    2) Pop the pup out of the plastic cover and glue in a shim (or something) so the pole pieces (the whole round music-man-sized thing) sits below the plastic?

    -- I have a very aggressive finger style, and don't want the strings hitting the poles. I traditionally have to use DiMarzio stlye pickups and sink the pole pieces about 1/16th of an inch below the plastic cover.

    --I want the pickups pretty high so I can rest my thumb on them. I hate the look of a thumbrest.

    --Please forgive me if the entire pole piece moves when adjusting with an allen wrench and this is a stupid question. I've never fiddled with MFDs.

  2. Hugh Jass

    Hugh Jass

    Oct 10, 2008
    Canada eh
    Just the center pole and not the outer ring are adjustable. As far as I can tell the whole works is potted in wax and couldn't be shimmed.

    I suppose if you really wanted to you might be able to dig out, shim, and repot everything but then all the guts would extend below the housing. Not to mention, when you tried to repot all of the wax would just run out.

    Just a thought, why not just cut some strips of plastic and use model glue to create a kind of frame around the outside edge of the pickup on top. This would prevent the strings from hitting the poles. This seems much easier than what you are proposing and if done carefully shouldn't look half bad.
  3. It's possible but carries high risk. The knurled pole piece (the outer part) is pressed into place in the plastic cover. While it may be possible to press them out of the cover, it is equally possible to move them within the bobbin in the same operation. To do that runs a high risk of damage to the pickup. As I've had it explained to me, such damage would likely require a rewind to repair.

    Just the smaller center piece.

    Again, no; for the reasons noted above.

    The MFD pickup is usually VERY overpowering when raised excessively and we've generally learned to avoid too much height. I understand that height would be a trade-off in your application because you're lowering one to raise another, but it sounds as though the pickup would still be too high.

    One thing you might consider would be to have custom covers made that simply fit over the top of the G&L covers. They could be made out of plastic or wood and would give you a place to park your thumb and not mess with the pickups.

    Or maybe just get a clear acrylic thumbrest?

  4. fu22ba55

    fu22ba55 Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2009
    This is something that I was afraid of. If I made the MFD a thumbrest it would be too close to the strings. I played an ASAT about 7 years ago (which is when I fell in love with the sound), and I managed to rest my thumb, but I'd like to raise it up a little. Sadly, the ASAT neck was so tiny it made my left hand cramp up something awful, so I traded it.

    Building a custom ebony or mahogany box to drop the whole pup in was my next (more expensive) option. I don't like the little step down shelf (where the screws are) on the MFDs anyway, so a nice ebony box (with exposed pole pieces for the musicman / G&L look) would do the trick. And be wicked expensive.

    But, if I get a local luthier to make me a box, he can keep the templates, etc... and make them for me whenever I need them.

    Then I can put MFDs in ALL my basses! Sell the ebony covers online!

    Thanks guys for the input.
  5. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA
    The coils can be removed from the plastic cases fairly easily- they aren't potted together as suggested. I removed the coils on an extra MFD that I got through someone in the classifieds with the intention of using one coil as a single coil in a project bass, but ended up never doing it (the other coil had a stripped/stuck polepiece, so I didn't want to use the whole pickup anyway). If I remember correctly, there was only a couple spots of epoxy holding the coils in the pickup casing- it was a pretty snug fit, so requires a little bit of caution, but it was no biggie...

    I've seen a couple of players that use tape or fingernail polish over the polepieces to protect against that "pop" of string against polepiece (I think Sheehan does the fingernail polish), though there would be alot of area to cover with the large MFD poles.

    I still use my L2000s pickups as thumb anchors on a regular basis and I have my pickups pretty low- in order for the strings to hit the polepieces I would need to mash the string down farther than the last fret. Not exactly a technique I could see being very common or useful! You could try making a small thumbrest that would actually sit on top of one of the pickups and screw into the 2 top pickup mounting holes- though that might look kinda weird as well. Though I personally have no issue with the looks of a thumbrest- My L2000 already had a nice ebony thumbrest installed right up by the neck when I got it, and I've grown to really like the looks of it...other L2000s look naked to me without the rest!

  6. idoru


    Dec 18, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    I've used my wife's clear nail polish on pickup poles to good effect. It will eventually chip off, but it takes a while.

  7. fu22ba55

    fu22ba55 Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2009
    Wow. The clear nailpolish is a great idea.

    Damn... that's been buggin' me for a while. sounds like a great solution.

    And very fasionable.

    Thanks guys.

    Does the nailpolish have a negative effect on the pups? I have a '69 P-bass where this is a problem, and I'm a little leary of putting nailpolish on it. Will the polish eventually eat up the plastic pup cover?
  8. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA
    I use fingernail polish on my Darstar'd bass polepieces and have had no problems after a couple years- you do have to recoat them from time to time though, as the polish obviously wears off eventually. You can also use nailpolish to fill in small wounds in your guitars finish (if you have a natural finish). I just think it might be a bit much to completely cover the polepieces and the outer ring on an MFD in polish!

  9. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    fu22ba55 you probably need less of the pickup exposed for a thumbrest than you think. I used to put thumbrests on all my P basses, but it was a pain getting them.

    When I got my last P bass I thought it had a thumbrest. It didn't so I ordered one. But I actually got used to using the edge of the pickguard as a thumbrest. Now I have removed the thumbrest from all my basses.

    The moral is, you might be surprised at just how little you need. Since you have the exposed pole problem solved, just set the pickups "normally" and try it for a week. I bet you will get used to it fast.
  10. fu22ba55

    fu22ba55 Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2009
    Now that you bring up Darkstars...

    I started another thread over here asking about MFDs vs Darkstars:


    Karl, since you have both MFDs and Darkstars in your arsenal, do you have any insights into the pros and cons of each?
  11. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA
    Oh- thats a tough one! A P position Darkstar will definitely do the "vintage P with flatwound strings" thing better in my experience. I think of them as very sweet and full sounding, sorta "bouncy", vintage-toned pickups with a really nice grit to them when you dig in. I think they have more of the vintage Fender vibe going on, but even in the Jazz bass pickup positions like in my bass, they are a little too smooth to do the full-on Jazz bass grind thing in my opinion (more like they have less of a natural midrange hump than Jazz pickups generally do) unless you dig in really hard. The best part of the Darkstars to me is their sensitivity to how hard you play- they really get more gritty and middy when you dig in hard, and super smooth and round when you play them lightly. They are super sensitive to polepiece and pickup height though, and need a good working distance between the top of the pickup and the strings or you won't be getting the full experience. They are also very transparent in the sense that you will hear every click, clack, pop, and scratch in my experience- which is why I've been using the nail polish on them since I added them!

    MFDs, on the other hand, are more naturally agressive and midrange oriented. I don't think they really go as high or as low frequency-wise as the Darkstars, but can sound plenty thick or bright depending on your coil choices and height adjusments (including pickup and/or polepiece heights). As much as I love my Darkstar'd bass for its sweet tones, I usually go for my L2000 because of the far wider range of tones I can get out it with different coil configurations and EQ ( not to mention the fact that it more reliably can/will cut through any mix). I highly recommend adding in single coil switching if you do go for the MFDs- this will probably give you the closest to the Fender-esque tones you know well. I don't find MFDs to be nearly as sensitive to attack, but along with this they are also less sensitive to bad technique ;) (though they are still sensitive pickups- just not as obviously so as the Darkstars)

    I personally think both of these choices will give you useable versions of the tones you're after (though I can't speak to the slap tones). I would definitely try to find a Darkstar-equipped bass to try out before dropping the money on those though (since you are already accustomed to the MFD tones).

  12. fu22ba55

    fu22ba55 Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2009

    Thanks for a helpful and insightfull answer.

    99% of the time, I play with just a neck pickup, tone rolled all the way off, and I STILL get click clack sometimes (on Dimarzios with the pole pieces sunk), so I think I would be "wasting" the Darkstars. I wouldn't be able to take advantage of the dynamics... I'm not currently a very dynamic player.

    I'll wait for a pal to get Darkstars and put them through their paces.

    Your help is invaluable. Thanks again.
  13. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Los Angeles, CA
    It sounds like you may be right- Darkstars are super transparent to "fret clack" and any other technique-related noises. This can be a good thing, but it sounds like thats not what you're after. Have you tried playing with flatwound strings? I used to have a similar problem/issue with my technique, and found that using heavy-gauge flatwounds eliminated a good deal of it. Then I just started to learn how to play lighter and more dynamically, so I can get smooth or percussive when I want it with roundwounds (haven't mastered the dynamic approach by any means- I still tend to dig in way too hard when I really get sucked into the musical moment...). I actually have had the Darkstar bass strung with TI flats now for a while as they just seem to be a perfect tonal fit (and help alleviate some of that inevitable fret noise).


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