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Some real talk about Pickup Placement.....

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by pablomigraine, Feb 4, 2016.

  1. Dual pups at or near the "Standard" J-Bass Position

  2. Dual pups close together towards the bridge

  3. Single pup at or near the MM position

  4. Single pup at or near the P position

  5. Single Pup right at the neck

  6. I don't think it makes much difference....

  1. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    There have to be about 200 threads about this already.... so I thought... WHY NOT ANOTHER.... be sure to vote on this one!

    So I think most of us agree that pickup placement is one of the greatest determining factors in an instrument's overall tone, equal to or in many cases more so than the brand / model of pickups used.

    Musicman basses have for many years advertised their single-pickup models as being right at the "Sweet Spot. And that's true... nearly all instruments designed by Leo Fender have some "science" regarding a string's vibrational behavior behind the chosen positions... except that all that goes out the window as soon as you change the scale length by fretting a note!! (See below)

    Many basses and their imitators are defined by the specific tone given by their respective pup placement. Great examples would be;
    1. G&L L2000 / L-2500: Known for being very aggressive and midrangey
    2. Musicman: Known for being very punchy and full
    3. Fender P: Known for being very full but bright
    4. Warwick Thumb: Known for being very aggressive and very percussive
    And that's not even getting into the entire school of thought involving Jazz Basses and the distinctive tones we get from varying blends of the two pups. Right now I'm in the middle of a custom build where the luthier affords me the choice of both pickup type and placement... and even knowing a little about it I'm pulling my hair out trying to decide.

    Lots of times here on TB we hear people ask questions like;
    1. These two basses have the same woods and the same pickups, why do they sound so much different?
    2. Which of these basses will cut thru in a mix?
    3. I want my bass to sound more like "X" bass, if I put the "X" bass pickups in will it sound the same?
    In most cases, we come to find out that the PLACEMENT of the pickups is the issue at hand, not the woods, or the brand of pickups involved. Below is a great video which started out with the intention of comparing the inherent tone of 3 different basses but, IMO, turned out to be more about pickup type and placement... Have a LISTEN HERE.

    All my experience (limited compared to some) has taught me that, when going for a particular tone, the placement and type of pickup (Single coil J, Dual Coil, P, Reverse P, Musicman etc) has more to do with the sound I will hear than just about anything else. For this custom I'm ordering now.... its probably going to be dual soapbars with the Bridge in the 70's J position and the neck pup moved about an inch back from the bridge.

    What have your experiences been talkbass?

  2. MarkoYYZ

    MarkoYYZ Commercial User

    Jan 31, 2012
    Hammersmith Music
    I'm a little confused about your positioning description in that last sentence... I get where the bridge pup will be (close, a la 70s), but what does "an inch back from the bridge" mean for the forward (neck) pickup? That places is it right where the bridge pup is, if I understand correctly.

    That said, I agree with your other comments. I've found that pick up type and positioning of said pickup to be among the top dictators of the innate sound of an instrument. Strings are obviously huge, along with technique, but these things impact the sound far more than wood type, neck type, etc...
    dmt and /\/\3phist0 like this.
  3. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Hillsdale, Portland
    Wow, nice graphic!

    I think that it is not just the placement of the pup(s), but the overall design of the wiring, series wiring, strings, tension, technique that make up the tone of the ebg.

    While the placement of the pup(s) are essential to each sound, they are all relative to their component quality which is often correlated to the costs of the instrument but not always.

    So I think this explains why some of us have more than a couple of axes: we want the different sound qualities presented by different configurations including pup(s) and placement, and it looks cool to look out over a small forest of necks.
  4. FourBanger


    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    You might as well just ask which bass is everyone's favorite.

    And where is the part about the myths being busted again?
    StayLow and Esoge like this.
  5. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    .... possibly, except then that would be off-topic.

    The point was that some more knowledgeable folks than me will chime in drop some more facts on us maybe....?

    It's just a fun thread dude..... I apologize if it didn't live up to your expectations?
    merseymale, DiscoRiceJ and Fat Steve like this.
  6. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Wikipedia often mistakes my opinions for fact Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    Why stop at the Fender neck position? Lots of love for Ric and other basses that get much closer to the neck.
    merseymale, gln1955, Skybone and 3 others like this.
  7. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    That should be a choice on the poll.... lemme check...
    merseymale and hintz like this.
  8. LeonD

    LeonD Supporting Member

    While I believe every part of the bass contributes to it's tone, I'd agree that pickup placement has the greatest single impact.

    For a single pickup, the P position wins for me. And lately I've been going the PJ route. Either P only for cut or both PJ equally for that slightly scooped sound.
  9. ThePresident777


    Oct 6, 2013
    Why not all?

  10. Qlanq


    Jul 9, 2007
    I only really need a pickup at the neck, at about the spot where a Rick pup would be. Others are nice to have though.
    Jeff Scott likes this.
  11. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    In other words.... the standard 70's Jazz position... with the neck pickup moved about a inch closer to the bridge / away from the neck.
  12. rufus.K


    Oct 18, 2015
    The green line and the orange line
  13. Clark Dark

    Clark Dark

    Mar 3, 2005
    When the OP spoke of "many basses and their imitators" he left out one of the best chameleons ever made, the Peavey T-40.
    merseymale, ba55i5t and mech like this.
  14. Gabbs


    May 15, 2010
    Boulder Creek, CA
    Where's the choice for 3 pickups?

  15. Eilif

    Eilif Holding it down in K-Town. Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    First off, great graphic! Answers some things that I kind of wondered about without knowing it exactly. (does that make sense?)

    I agree that the placement makes a huge difference, and as you suggest the type is very important The clearest example I can think of is that a Plucking the D string on a Jazz (with neck soled) and a P-bass (which is about the same place) sound rather different to me.

    As for which to pick, you don't list have my favorite option. I prefer two pickups with one in the J-bridge position and one pushed closer to the neck. My beloved T-40 and my frankenbass both have this arrangement. However, one being dual Peavey Toasters and one being Dual Darkstars they sound quite different.
  16. SpazzTheBassist


    Jun 20, 2006
    Pickup position determines the voicing....thats it, and it is detrimental for sure...but so many other things come into play. For example:

    A Players Style - When I think Jazz Bass, I think Marcus Miller....however, somebody else may be thinking Mel Schacher of Grand Funk Railroad, and those two sound nothing alike

    Pickup Type - A Jazz bass mid PU soloed and a P-Pickup have the same voice and characteristics, but the J is quite a bit thinner.

    Wiring Type - If you take a MM pickup wired in Series on a Stingray's "sweetspot", it will sound very different than the same MM pickup mounted in the same position wired in Parallel

    this is just scratching the surface
    Roxbororob likes this.
  17. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I grow organic carrots and they are not for sale
    The pickup position that I prefer is Rickenbacker ... A neck pickup about where a 24th fret would be and a bridge pickup about halfway between where the 2 jazz pickups would be.






    Last edited: Feb 5, 2016
    Rock Salad, GotRoot? and Korladis like this.
  18. I just play rock and roll man.
  19. SpazzTheBassist


    Jun 20, 2006
    ...and i prefer not to :D
  20. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Pickup position has a big affect on tone & volume. I prefer either centered directly between the bridge & neck [like the Fender Cabronita] or slightly closer to neck [like the 51 p bass].

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