Pick up location

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by River Gambler, Apr 2, 2005.

  1. River Gambler

    River Gambler

    Feb 10, 2005
    Is there a sweet spot for pick up location using two humbuckers? Thanks Tom
  2. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    My basses are routed so I can stick pups wherever I want.

    Without going into a long diatribe of explanation, if I were making a bass, I would use a very common pup dimension and a ballpark location of similar instruments. Then, if you can't get want you want from the pups, caps, switching - whatever - you can always swap pups if necessary. Alternatively if you have a specific pup then I would use the standard placement for that bass - unless you're shooting for something different.

    Location is not that critical, even less predictable, and the fact is, to the degree it is, the only way to know is to route out a cavern like I've done, move them around, then throw a pickgaurd down to cover the route.

    Think about it, 4 of the exact model basses can be made in a row and they will all have different (often VERY different) acoustic properties. How are you going to sweetspot a pup in advance? Makers and manufacturers are really just ballparking it.

  3. What I do is use the basic generic locations we all know for the starting points then tweak a bit for taste. Knowing that moving a pup towards the neck will get more bass response, I'll shade it up a hair to round out a tone or add some real bottom to a bright wood combination. Likewise, knowing that the bridge pup provides the top end bite but getting too close to the bridge can really cut the output, I might nudge a lower output pickup out a bit from the usual Jazz location to help with the signal input just a little. It's a "feel" sort of thing. I haven't be wrong yet.

    When I was bulding the first Fairlane, I knew the new owner really like a deep "dub" bass tone as one of his choices. He also requested a Gibson style humbucker as the front pickup. Another source, a friend, suggested that if that's the case, for me to slam that pup up against the end of the neck for the biggest sound it could possibly get. I was very leary at first but went with it. What a great choice!! Combined with a MM humbucker at the bridge, this bass has an extemely wide range of tones and a perfectly balanced deep bass setting that makes my client eye's tear up with joy! That's how this pup placement goes.
  4. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004
    Yep, concur with Hambone. When you've messed with the stuff enough, you get a feel for what needs to be done.

    This is the initial diatribe I punched out but I got bored writing it so I assumed everybody would get bored reading it.


    My basses are routed so I can stick pups wherever I want and I just use factory standards for whatever pup I'm using at the time for starters. Say G&L L-2000 10 3/4" (N) and 13 1/2" from center of 12th fret to leading edge of the pup. If there's an issue I move 'em but I have actually moved pups around very little since just after first routing the basses. The only real exception is I stick MM's closer to the bridge (ala Sterling) cause I'm a J bridge guy for the most part.

    Everytime you fret the sweetspot changes to some degree so it's relative, it depends on what you want, the bass they're in, the gear it's played through, the music genre, style of play, add infinitum.

    But unless you know the acoustic properties of the bass and the pups in advance you don't have anything to go on anyway (except existing previous placements and inclinations toward personal preference). The futher up from the bridge you go the darker, louder, and less clear the tone gets with a given pup and the less a variation in pup position matters - and that's about all you really need to know as far as I know.

    If you know the acoustics it's common sense. If the bass is midrange and pups are dark, move them towards the bridge a bit (unless you want a dark bass). And even that you can get around with caps, switching, etc. so even more demonstation not to get real hung up on location. The bottom line, it's usually not anything you can do much about before you route as at best it's an educated guess with a heaping of luck.

    If it's something you ever figure on selling I would keep it fairly traditional. Most players want something different but not many want something wierd. Another issue for thought with a pair of HB's is space to play, especially large ones like MM's, G&Ls, and (actives since you can set them so close to the strings without distorting). Pups very close to strings inhibit pulling and digging in and where and how you play over a given pup can make a major differnece in the tone you get.

    All that verbage regurgitated, if I were making a bass, I would use a very common pup dimension and a ballpark location of similar instruments - then you could always change pups to get want you wanted if necessary. Another reason I like J's - there have been more J's made than all the other pups dimensions combined so there's endless tonal options.

    I could have said all this in one sentence by just saying small variations (ie. 1 inch) in placement are of little consequence in my experience but that's an oversimplification. 1 inch will matter much more at the bridge than neck, it will matter much more with one pup than another/one bass than another, and moving the related pup (neck or bridge) will matter more to the a guy who favors the pup that's moved. For me moving a neck pup an inch would likely make no difference of consequence cause I typically use very little neck.
  5. River Gambler

    River Gambler

    Feb 10, 2005
    Thanks for the input. It actualy helped me out alot. Tom

    PS I'm still trying to figure out how to post pics, I tried several different host but can't seem to get them posted.
  6. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004
    The pics have to be 350K or smaller. I seen guys post HUGE pics somehow so I'm guessing they're using zip files. There's also a way they can be blown up. But on a rudimentary level, I had to keep cutting down the pixels till it took for me.
  7. Nothing more to contribute, but an observation/statement of appreciation for the luthier's corner.

    You know what I love about this thread? No one has said "The tone is in the fingers." I'm so sick of reading that. :) Everyone knows that you can change tone by changing the way you play, but you people understand that people still want a real answer to the question that was actually asked. Thanks on behalf of myself and everyone that's ever asked a question in here.
  8. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    The tone is in the fingers.

    And the neck.
    And strings.
    And electronics. Including amplification.
    And in the room.

    But of course, pickup placement is not only a substantial contributor, but also incredibly hard to get a good grip on.

    -urbanthelurkerwithstickyfingersbutwithouthumour- :ninja:
  9. Well, you're welcome, but that's the answer I use when I post up in the Basses forum. :bag:
  10. They are probably doing what I do - put the pic up in the gallery and then link to one of the sized versions in the gallery from the post
  11. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004
    Understand the principle, don't undestand the process, but that helps. I rarely post picks and when I have the postage stamp version (dog and not a cat) has been sufficient. But I'll keep that in mind as I probably will need it at some point in time.

  12. Moo

    Moo Banned

    Dec 14, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    I say no, sweet spot is marketing hype taken from things like tennis rackets and applied to basses because it sounds good and sells stuff. Any "magical" pickup placement spot would have to change for each fret for any sweet spot theory to work. Pickup placement is a sliding scale and a compromise of neck or bridge tones.

    For a bass to have a sweet spot based on the sporting equipment marketing the term comes from you would need a pickup at the 12th fret and only play open strings.