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Username: davehouck

Post Number: 1340
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Sunday, February 06, 2005 - 3:07 pm:   Edit Post

Bob Novy on pickup height adjustments:

Pickup height adjustment is definitely critical to getting the best sound, and most fun, out of your bass. It seems that while lots of people know they should adjust their truss rods and such but are a bit nervous about doing it themselves (until they try it once), even more people never even think about pickup height, which is a shame because it's a really important part of setup. You should absolutely go through the exercise any time you change string gauges or brands, or make a significant change to your setup - or even over time, as you learn more about how it affects tone (and perhaps your playing style becomes more refined as a result).

Even though you have volume(s), pan, and maybe trim pot controls, I'm still convinced there's something special about pickup height. I wish I understood more about the physics here, but it seems to me that lower pickups with more volume clearly sound different than higher pickups with less volume. And even if I'm just imagining that, you can certainly even out the volume of different strings by adjusting the pickup angle.

1/4" clearance, at both outer strings, is a fine place to start, but I wouldn't be too stuck on the idea of keeping the pickups "parallel" to the strings (unless, like Joey, you have a good reason). Personally, mine never seem to end up that way. My bridge pickup is usually angled to be a little closer on the fat string side, while the neck is more parallel or possibly favoring the skinny strings. You should be able to hear the difference from changing the height of one side of a pickup by 1/2 of a screw turn, maybe just a 1/4.

So I play with both the height and the angle, one pickup at a time of course, and listen for two things: even volume and tone across the strings, and reasonably consistent tone up and down as much of the neck as possible.

If you don't normally play much up the neck, then you can skip the second part. But if you do, then this is pretty important. As you fret higher and the string gets shorter, the pickup is effectively listening to a different mix of harmonics - and the relative differences in position between the neck and bridge pickups becomes much more significant.

I usually play something like a simple pentatonic scale, from low string to high and back down, and do this in about three different positions (centered around frets 3, 9, and 15 or so). There seem to be more compromises in higher positions, and eventually you have to make some tradeoffs on what tones you want to keep from each pickup to end up with a good balance when using both.

One important little reminder: think about your plucking position. It's easy to get distracted such that (for example) while you're working on the neck pickup, you start playing right over the pickup - but if that's not your normal playing position, then you're wasting your time.

And yeah, the trim pots are a really nice touch. Even though I'm not getting Series electronics, I'm having these included on mine.

(Message edited by davehouck on November 16, 2007)

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