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New Guitar Pickups?

//New Guitar Pickups?

New Guitar Pickups?

Do I really need new pickups in my guitar? I just bought it, and it sounds terrible.

The answer is most likely, NO. In the Custom shop I see players coming in for new pickup changes often. Much too often. Interestingly, the first thig guitar players do when they buy a new guitar is start customizing it. One of the first changes is to make a pickup swap. Now, I assure you the pickup manufacturers love this! I have never seen a comprehensive set of instruction with a new set of pickups that included pole piece adjustments procedures. Why? Because they don’t want you to know this. Why? Because if you did then you’d be able to dial in your sound, be very happy and not buy any more pickups.

Is this starting to make some sense? Welcome to the world my friend. Companies need support. By that I mean, sales. To stay in business, they need new sales every day. How are they going to do that if you only buy one set of new guitar pickups every ten years or so. They can’t so they build in ways to make you go back and get another set. Many companies deliberately change the color coding on the wires so they will not work properly with other pickups forcing you to go back and get another one to “match” the new one you just bought. They’ll say it pairs much better with what you have. Most importantly Humbucker pickups are adjustable however, they never mention how to adjust them. Why? So, you’ll go back and by another one. Many styles of pickup can be adjusted. Humbuckers, Mini-Humbuckers, P-90’s, stacked single coils and many more. Ask yourself…. Have you ever seen any instructions included on how they can be adjusted for max tone and sound?

Adjusted Guitar Pickups?

How important are properly Adjusted Guitar Pickups? Have you ever adjusted the ones on your guitar? Properly? How easy is it? Not hard at all but do you understand the goal?

Closer up and a vocal mic can pull in all of your good features

One of two “Non-Adjusted” Humbucker Pickups

Pickups are simply microphones for guitar strings. The quality of a singing voice is somewhat controlled to a degree, by duplication and amplification processes. For example, proximity to a microphone has much to do with allowing the quality of a voice to be heard. Too far away and no quality will be detected. Closer up and the mic can pull in all of the features, tones, clarity, bass and treble in the voice to blend in a quality mix. Why treat guitar strings any differently?

P-90 Six String Guitar Pickups
P-90 Six String Guitar Pickups

What are the screws protruding from the top of certain pickups?

Ever notice the screws protruding from the top of certain pickups? They are designed so you can have adjusted guitar pickups for max guitar tone quality. Humbuckers and P-90’s mainly, but there are many other ones with pole pieces that contain threads to adjustment closer or farther from the strings. The pickups need hearing proximity as close to your guitar strings as possible. If that happens, you’re getting the best possible sound from your guitar. Pickups need to be adjusted for the best sound on any guitar.

By raising and lowering the screws or “pole pieces” in these pickups in effect it’s a manual EQ. The higher the pole is raised the more volume is extracted from the pickup. For a more even and better response from the pickup it’s best to radius the pole pieces to the same radius of the strings. In that way the same amount of volume is attained from each pole microphone piece. The arc of the strings is simply duplicated on the tops of the pickups. When that is done, the result is a better signal and tone from your pickups. All strings are the same volume now and fully adjusted guitar pickups!

Set of single coil new guitar pickups
Set of single coil new guitar pickups

To some extent some single coils may be tuned a bit. There is an elevator screw on the treble side and one on the bass side. They can be lifted/lowered to get more/less bass and treble. Now that it is understood that the quality of the signal coming from adjusted guitar pickups can be infinitely better, what are you waiting for? Thinking you need new guitar pickups? You sure? Have you first tried adjusting the ones you already have? Look at yours and the distance from the strings with all strings touching the last fret. Is it the same? Check it. Now adjust, if necessary, plug your guitar in, test the newly adjusted guitar pickups. Like what you hear? Keep adjusting and dialing them into what your ear likes. Let us know how it worked out. Still need new pickup?  Click here.

By | 2024-01-21T08:36:02-05:00 October 18th, 2023|Guitar Education|0 Comments

About the Author:

Mr. Rick Mariner Owner and Founder and CEO of Haywire Custom Guitars Inc. He is a member of The Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans (A.S.I.A.) as well as a guitar player. Rick holds a bachelors degree from University of Md. and a Masters degree from George Washington University. Rick developed his exclusive 8 – Point “Gig- Ready” guitar process that allows for Custom Guitars that are “GIG-READY”. With Rick’s many years of development and guitar set-up experience, Haywire Guitar shop “Builds satisfied players… one Haywire guitar at a time”.

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