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Pick-up Adjustment

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by funkingroovin, Jan 13, 2012.

  1. funkingroovin

    funkingroovin Conquering A-D-D,and all the other notes as well!

    Apr 19, 2009
    I'm mainly a J bass guy so I wanted to know, it necessary to raise the A/D poles on a standard split P p'up?

    If it matters,my P p'ups are a Fralin overwound,Fralin vintage,and SeyDunc SBP3. I have the halves set flush with each other because I'm used to the uniform,flat across feel of J p'ups. To me they sound just fine..no strings are louder than another and I can't notice any loss of tone or response..

    I had a slight debate about this last night with another musician who has the correct opinion on everything because he's been doin' it for 40+yrs..and yes,he's a guitarist.. But he HAS been doin' it 40+ yrs so I seldom dismiss the useful bits of our happy disagreements..

    I would just like a more current opinion..
  2. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Basic premise: A vibrating string disturbs the magnetic field in a pickup coil thereby generating a signal.

    The stronger the magnet the stronger the signal will be.
    The more mass a string has the more signal it will generate for a given magnet.
    The closer the string is to the coil the stronger the signal will be.

    The goal of adjusting any pickup is creating equal output for each string. Lower mass (thinner) strings generate less signal than higher mass strings. The remedy is to raise the pickup closer to the string.
  3. scottbass

    scottbass Bass lines like a big, funky giant

    Jul 13, 2004
    Southern MN
    In my case, each half of the P pickup sits higher in the middle (under the A and D strings) than at the outside edges (under the E and G strings). They basically follow the curve of the fretboard, with final adjustments to equalize the volume of each string to the others. I just gave my P bass its semiannual setup yesterday. My final measurements came in at:

    E string: .109" above poles
    A string: .099" above poles
    D string: .088" above poles
    G string: .078" above poles

    NOTE: These measurements are taken with the string depressed @ the last fret (the fret at the end of the neck closest to the pickups).

    You can use these measurements as starting points, but the final adjustment should be done using your ears to achieve equal perceived volume using your particular strings, amp(s) and cab(s). Generally speaking, you should lower the pickup under the louder string(s) instead of raising the pickup under the quieter string(s). If you get the pickup too close to the strings, the magnetic pull dampens the vibration and kills your overtones and sustain. In extreme cases, if you dig in really hard with the pickups too close, the strings actually bang off the pole pieces. This is NOT a pleasant sound!
  4. funkingroovin

    funkingroovin Conquering A-D-D,and all the other notes as well!

    Apr 19, 2009
    I understand the physics,and I understand the accepted reasoning. But I can't see it as necessary. If such were the case,wouldn't neck-radius p'ups be standard by now? I mean,my J p'ups are flat and work just fine,and a P p'up is just a split single coil... I just want to be sure there isn't something I have overlooked like,maybe the magnetic field weakens itself in that area due to [.....] or something. I dunno,I'm reaching..
  5. scottbass

    scottbass Bass lines like a big, funky giant

    Jul 13, 2004
    Southern MN
    One of the beautiful engineering features of the split P coil is that it allows the pickup height to be set for each string (assuming 4 strings, of course). Of course single-piece pickups like the J can be adjusted (approximated?) to sound just fine in the real world. I can't recall anyone complaining about the inherent lack of volume on the middle (A & D) strings. But engineering is engineering. If you have the chance to redo an existing design to optimize it, as Leo did, why not? Guitars originally had a bridge that consisted of one straight string saddle. Many acoustics still use this setup. Original Fender basses used two adjustable bridge saddles, each of which held two strings. I don't recall anyone complaining that these basses were impossible to intonate correctly. But I certainly prefer my basses to have the engineering features that allow each string to be intonated individually. FWIW, later Leo basses like the StingRay used single-piece pickups.

    You are absolutely right: in the real world it's no big deal that most non-P pickups can not be adjusted for each individual string. But if the engineering feature exists, why not take full advantage of it?
  6. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    All theory aside, the only thing that matters is what you hear. If the string to string balance is off then adjust the pickups accordingly. If things sound relatively even then keep on truckin.
  7. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    I'm the mot familair with Dimarzio P pups for P pups and pole adjustments. I get same results wether its P, or J dimarzio bass pups. Raising the pole peices adds a little more bite and helps to eliminate any tendency for muddyness the pups may have. Only time Ive ever adjusted pole peices flush with top of housing or just barely raised is when wanting slightly less treble content for D&G strings esp with P pups where the close to bridge side is the D&G string.

    With adjustable pole peice pups I allways adjust pole peices for tone and pup height for volume and fullness of sound. So if I wanted little bit lower volume on a single string and had P pups, Id just lower the pup a little on that side for that string.
  8. funkingroovin

    funkingroovin Conquering A-D-D,and all the other notes as well!

    Apr 19, 2009
    Thanks for the help guys!
  9. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    yup, P pickups are made to allow for following the radius.

    original J pickups weren't, which to me is an obvious design oversight, but as long as you keep them further from the strings (especially on the bass side) it's not too bad.

    plenty of modern jazz pickups do correct for this issue.

    ultimately, if the strings sound even the way you play them, then whatever works works.

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