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Pickup Placement

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Daaniac, Jul 1, 2005.

  1. Hi Guys,

    I have a question. Soon a friend and I will start the first attempt of building a bass. There should be more to follow, but let's not get ahead of things..

    The design is ready, but I have one thing that is not quite clear to me yet..

    With the PU's (Passive SD bassline soapbars) we're using, and the string spacing we will get from the hardware we have, we will have some room to tilt the PU to get a angled (diagonal) placement. Now I know this has been done in order to pick up the string at it's sweet spot, or at the place you think it would be suited in order to get the tone you want..

    With the knowledge that a humbucking soapbar works as one big magnetic field, i.s.o. having seperate polepieces per string, you'd say that by tilting the pickup you also increase the surface over which the string crosses the field of magnetic induction. I'd assume that increasing the amount of magnetic induction from the string onto the pickup would be a factor in the sound, and how high the output is.. However, this is more of a guess, and I have not been able to find anything confirming this.

    Is this a correct way of thinking? I mean, is this also a determining factor on your sound, or is it totally nonsense? Is there any place I could read up on this?

    Excuse my vague English btw, but, eh, I'm Dutch :meh:

  2. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    On one hand it's true that when the pickup is angled, the string now intersects more of the magnetic field. But, it is also true that the movement of the string is no longer perpendicular to the field- part of the movement is parallel to the field, part perpendicular. I would guess that this reduction in perpendicular component most likely cancels out the increased field immersion, for a near-zero net change in output, at least for smaller angles.
  3. ...So, it's better to leave the pickup perpendicular to the string, not "slanted?" I'm a little confused as to why the Warwick Thumb features slanted pickups, and a few other basses to add to that.

    Good Idea? or Bad Idea?

  4. Audere

    Audere Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 7, 2005
    South Beach, OR
    Owner: Audere Audio
    Many bass pickups are designed to only sense the vertical motion of the strings
  5. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    No, what I'm saying is that any gain in output due to increased field immersion will likely be offset by decreased output due to non-perpendicularity, leaving near-zero effect on the output level due to slanting them.
  6. So... There's no effect???

    i'm serisously confused by the use of technical terms, I understand the magnetic field, but some of those words, I'll have to look up.

  7. AuG


    May 22, 2005
    Fort Collins, CO
    I think what I interpreted from that was slanting the p/u has no real effect on the tone, because the p/u magnetic field only senses the vertical vibration of the string? As if the increased gain from the magnetic field will cancel out the output from the string because of non perpendicularity.

    I think I've lost myself on this one........

    Personally, I think people slant the p/ups like that for looks, but as Brad Johnson says, "as always, I could be wrong".....
  8. Thanks for the feedback guys..

    So I guess the next logic step would be is to find out how important perpendicularity is with the SD Bassline soapbars..

    If you would place the PU tilted, and it is made to pick up the signal in a perpendical way you'd say it would be somewhat logic it would mess up your tone, don't you think?

    I'm not sure what to do on this....
  9. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
    The easiest way to do this is jerry rig some small brackets that hold the pickups above the strings and are held onto the body in some non damaging manner, like double sided tape. Then try them perpendicular, and angled etc and see what you hear and what you like.
  10. Somebody needs to summon up Luknfur cuz he's done all of the pickup testing. I would bet that he has the direct answer to this question.
  11. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    Happy and safe 4th to all.

    Looks like things have been moving quicker than usual here as of late.

    My experience with angling pups has been fairly limited since I haven't found it to be of any real use unless a pup is too long to drop into my routings - like off a 6 string bass. So without angling, I woudn't be able to install in it to check it out.

    When I have angled pups, I've gotten the same general response I get from moving a pup from the bridge up to the neck - the closer you go toward the neck the darker the tone, less clear, and louder the pup becomes. In as much, I really haven't been able to tell any significant tone difference within a J pup width (3/4"). However, the closer to the bridge the pup is located, the more a variation from a move is apparent, and the further the less.

    So the same thing can be applied to the angle of the pup and practical uses for angling a pup can be deduced. Most such uses can be compensated for through other means like pup height or tone controls. Seems Leo angled the bridge pup on a strat to balance either volume or tone (volume used to be a particular problem before the introduction of light guage strings). In accord, I'd speculate that most pups angled in basses are done for three basic reasons 1) as a marketing tool 2) to compensate for a design flaw or an imbalance inherent in the design of the pup and 3) to adjust a pup to an application it was not designed for.

    I happened to have just picked up a pup from such a bass - an '82 Gibson Victory Bass. I installed the pup veritically and it works fine. This was a single pup bass and it seems angled pup basses typically are single pup about mid position - quite similar in effect to a P bass which in a sense is a vertical/angled pup.

    At any rate, a mild angle of 75 or 80 degrees (that permited by an approriate pup - 4 string pup in a 4 string bass) I'd speculate wouldn't matter with few exceptions - there's always exceptions. Putting a 5 or 6 string pup in a 4 string bass that would allow for a 60 - 70 degree angle is going to be noticeable if not blatant. Whether it's desireable is another matter. There have been some custom jobs with a "Wiper" pup that literally permits the pup to be swung in an arc (like a windshield wiper) to alter tone.

    A "sweet spot" in my experience is fairly relative and is dependent on many variables. I've moved pups up and down and aside from the responses already mentioned, the pup either puts out desireable tones or it doesn't. Which is to say I haven't ran across a pup to date that sucks everywhere but one spot or where one spot is significantly better than another - it has more to do with the individual pup in relation to the tone, clarity, and volume you want from it. I've found standard factory spacing for given pups to be as good as any for the most part.