Pickup Pole Pieces

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by FatStringer52, Feb 13, 2017.

  1. How much attention do you pay to exposed pickup pole pieces? The reason I ask is I have 3 basses with exposed pole pieces. On my 1992 MIM Fender Jazz and my 2013 MIA Fender P 5-string the pole pieces are flush with the pickup covers. On my 2012 MIA Fender P 4-string the pole pieces extend a couple of 32nds above the pickup covers. Fortunately, the exposed poles are consistent across the pickups and don’t really present an issue. I do feel the pole pieces when playing over the pickup. And I do know a couple of remedies if that gets to be a problem, i.e., electrical tape over the pole pieces or shim up the pickup covers.

    For several years now I have been paying a lot of attention to the pole pieces and what I have been seeing gives me some concern. There are a lot of instruments out there, especially Fenders (I guess I notice more Fenders because I look at more Fenders), where the pole pieces look like an amusements parks roller coaster ride. Some of the basses are bad, but the Strats seem to be even worse. I’ve seen E string pole pieces really high and then the A and D much lower, or even flush with the pickup cover (on the same pickup). I cannot imagine this not having an effect on the play-ability of the instrument.

    So my questions are:

    1) Does this affect the play-ability? (Kind of a duh question for me)

    2) Do you take note of the pole pieces when looking at instruments?

    3) Is this occurring more so with Fender instruments?

    4) Is this a design flaw or a result of mass manufacturing?

    5) Is this user abuse? (But I have seen incidents of this on new instruments in the store)

    6) Can it be corrected? (Other than replacement)

    I’m just curious as to what y’all are seeing out there and getting your take on the impact it has on the guitar.
  2. 1 yes, on some basses, they are so proud and so sharp, I actually catch my playing callouses on them.

    2 yes. If they are high or not a good fit in the cover holes, it means the bass's build quality is very likely to be sloppy in other ways.

    3 It's very common on squiers. But I was a bass teacher for years, and lots of cheap/beginner basses are like this.

    4 yes, it's a design flaw. I've worked for a couple of guitar companies where this wouldn't fly at all. They really should be flush with the covers. And if pole pieces are staggered, IMHO, they should also be bevelled. Unless they are adjustable, there's really no reason for exposed pole pieces at all...

    5 I don't understand the question. User abuse?

    6 Usually, yes. You've ansered your own question... shims.
    FatStringer52 likes this.
  3. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    I have never had a problem with exposed poles, and so cannot address playability.

    Compensated (uneven) poles are typically seen on pickups which have no independant pole adjustment. This compensation might be required for a couple reasons:

    1. Small neck radius. The inner poles need to be a bit higher as the inner strings are a bit further from the pickup coil.
    2. Mixture of string types. This applies more to guitars where the string set consists of both solid and wound string types.

    Vintage type Strat guitar pickups are compensated for both of the above reasons.

    A split coil P bass pickup already has provisions for independant adustment for each of the 4 strings. There should be no need for compensated pole heights.

    FatStringer52 likes this.
  4. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    are you sure about that "distribution"?

    there is a standard stagger pattern for strat pickups, and it's pretty much either D or G pole the highest (depending on whether it was designed for a wound G or not) with the others lower, especially the B pole.

    what you're describing wouldn't happen unless the middle poles had gotten pushed down through playing.
    FatStringer52 likes this.
  5. Thanks for the input guys. Your input is giving me a much better understanding of pickup construction

    5. Abuse, mishandling. etc. Such as the pickup contacting something with enough force to push a pole piece down into the pickup.

    6. Yes, but if the pole pieces are different heights they will still have different distances from the strings.

    Yes, I'm positive about the distribution and I am aware that a Strat's pickup poles have somewhat of a neck (string) radius design. I guess perhaps your last statement best addresses my concerns. How much force would it take to push a pole piece into a pickup? If a pole piece's position has been altered, what effect does it have on the pickup itself?

    There is a P-Bass in a local shop and the 2 pole pieces sitting under the E string are different heights. The top one protrudes about 1/16th and the other is flush with the pickup cover. The other pole pieces vary in height also with no consistent pattern. As an example, take a look a the pole pieces on this pickup. Would this be of any concern?

    pupp 01.jpg

    Once again, thanks for the reply's.
  6. bigtone23


    Dec 10, 2014
    Denver, CO
    That Jag neck pickup looks to have had the A pole pushed down as it doesn't follow any typical stagger known for that pickup. Usually Jags have flat poles (like the bridge PU) and utilize the metal combs for string balance.
  7. bigtone23


    Dec 10, 2014
    Denver, CO
    Correction: 1963 Jags had flat poles, 1964 ones had the above stagger introduced. The lower A pole is normal.