Pickup Height

How high or low you set your pickups is mostly a matter of personal taste and how much they get in the way of your picking.  You'll get slightly less output when you lower them, slightly more if you raise them, but get them too close to the strings and you'll get magnetic interference with the strings. Pickups are magnets, strings are ferrous metal. Anybody that's played with a magnet knows the closer you get to an object the harder the magnetic pull. The effects on a string are decreasing sustain, and get them too close you'll just get plain crap tone. Set them to the height that allows you to pick "unobstructed", gives you as much output as you need, but is never too close your tone and sustain suffers. Just make sure you fret the strings at the last fret when checking as this is the point the string will be closest to the pickup.

On tremolo equipped guitars I set the bridge pickup height where it's about 1mm away from the strings at full pullup of the bridge.

Adjusting Pickup Height

Pickguard and bezel mounted pickups

These are adjusted using the screws that secure them to the pickguard. Turn them clockwise and the pickups rise, counterclockwise and they fall. The screw runs through a spring between the guard/bezel and the pickup tab that keep pressure on them, but in any 2 point mount [one screw on each side] it's difficult to control the camber, sometimes the wiring underneath holds it at an angle, especially the single coil. Sometimes you can pull on the single's wiring the the control cavity and get a straighter angle out of it but this is pretty much a cosmetic issue. However high you adjust them I prefer to keep them level, purely for cosmetics, again, a taste issue. Bottom line, there is no "right" setting for a pickup, but there is a wrong [TOO close] ;o}

Direct mount pickups

These are also adjusted using the screws that mount the pickup to the wood using the brass tabs or ears on the pickup, but in the case clockwise lowers the pickup and counterclockwise raises it. The head size on these screws is small so use a #1 Phillips or large micro size. If you're lowering the pickup you shouldn't have a problem, just screw it down. If you're raising it you'll probably need to replace the foam underneath as it's probably compressed and will not recover. If you remover a pickup you'll find a strip of stiff foam about 1/4" square that runs the length of the pickup on each side. It's just stuck on with 2 sided tape so removing it is no problem. If you shop your nearest Home Depot or similar supply you should be able to find a weather stripping for windows or doors that will work. With new foam you can now raise as far as you want, just remember not to go too far and create to much magnetic draw on the strings. If you're extremely anal and believe in the direct connection of pickup to wood enhances the tone them you could do some primary measuring and cut a full length block of the correct thickness and then lower the pickup into direct contact with the block that's either glued in or just kept in place by the pickups themselves. Of course you'd have to cut a channel in it for the wires to run through.

Copyright 2000 Ibanez Rules!! All rights reserved.
Revised: July 18, 2012.