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Mag pickup position?

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by ToneRanger, May 8, 2005.

  1. Has anyone experimented with different locations for magnetic pickups? They always seem to be hung off the end of the fingerboard but I suspect this is more for convenience and aesthetics than tonal reasons.
    I'm building an EUB that will have piezo and mag - it seems to me there'd be a tighter, punchier sound from a mag pickup if it was within 6" of the bridge. Anyone tried this?
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    They're usually hung off the end of the fingerboard by rockabilly and swing players looking to pick up the sound of the neck slapping. Of course, you have to use magnetic metal strings for magnetic pickups to work, but you knew that.

    As for placement by the bridge, that's something I don't know about but don't be surprised if you don't get Jaco-Tone (TM). The rules seem to be different for UB, even EUB.
  3. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    I dunno... I sort of think a magnetic pickup needs to be close to the strings to be most effective, simply because of the way it works. I don't think a mag pickup gets anything from the bridge or body.
    I could be wrong though....
  4. I was thinking that nearer the bridge, you could set the pickup closer to the strings and that distance would be more constant as you played up and down the neck. If it's fixed at the end of the FB the strings are high when you play them open and much lower/closer to it when you play above the octave.
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Tbeers, you are right...you could be wrong :D

    Magnetic pickups pick up much more than just the strings. They pick up body sounds as well. If they didn't, there would be no need for hollowbody guitars. Or for that matter, there would be no need for any different designs of guitars and basses at all. And we couldn't have that or we'd put Ken Smith out of a day job.

    While it's true that magnetic strings mainly pick up the sound of steel strings, those strings are reacting to the structure of the body and neck, which causes radical differences in sound. That explains why a Fender Jazz bass sounds completely different from a neck-through-body bass with different woods and the same pickups. Michael Tobias once said, "Put the world's best pickups on a 2 x 4 and it's still going to sound like an amplified 2 x 4," and he was right.

    Ranger, I can dig what you're saying about string distance, but I fear you would get a pretty thin tone if you put the pickup at the bridge if electric basses are any indication. That's why I don't think I'd ever have anything but transducer pickups on an upright, even an EUB. Plus it limits what kind of strings you can use. You could never use guts or wound synthetic strings like Velvets or Obligatos. Having said that, I could be wrong about the tone at the bridge, and if you're firmly committed to steel strings, it can't hurt to try.
  6. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    Because magnetic picups tend, for structural reasons, to be mounted at the end of the fingerboard, they pick up a lot of fundamental and much less overtone than a brdge-mounted piezo. Hence the P-Bass sound of most magnetic pickups.

    If you could come up with a way of mounting a magnetic pickup near the bridge, I suspect it would sound a lot more like an upright bass.
  7. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    Cape of New Jersey
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music (retired)
    Yes, I experimented with different magnetic pickup positions when I built my EUB and found that I preferred a much closer position (2.5 inches from the bridge). The page is out of date but shows the original magnetic pickup position. I would encourage you to find the sweet spot on your instrument.

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