How To Adjust Guitar Pickups

Knowing how to adjust guitar pickups is essential in making good guitars sound great. Adjust the height of your guitars pickups will give your sound a new life; clearing up harsh, or muddy tones.

To adjust your guitars pickups, you will need:

  • An electric guitar
  • A screwdriver, hex wrench, or Allan wrench (depending on the guitar)
  1. Listen to the sound of the pickup. The pickups sound is directly related to it's height from the strings. Pickups sound "hotter" when they are close to the strings. A higher pickup will scream, while a lower pickup will sing; but with too much adjustment the screaming pickup will sound noisy, and the singing will become dull. The best sound will be somewhere in the middle, with a high output that won't sacrifice tone. (Note: When adjusting guitars with humbucker pickups, set the neck pick up a little lower. Neck pickups receive more vibrations during play, so they tend to have more natural response than the bridge pickup, which is further from the source of the vibration)
  2. Unplug your guitar before proceeding. Do not adjust guitar electronics with the guitar plugged into an amplifier.
  3. Locate the screws on either side of the pickup. There are small screws between the pickup and the pickups mounting surface. Look at the screw type, this will determine which tool you will need. These screws connect the pickup to your guitars mounting surface, and should have a spring between the two that holds tension on the hanging pickup.
  4. Turn one of the screws. Tightening the screw should raise the pickup towards the strings. Loosen the screw to lower the pickup into the guitars body.
  5. Adjust the opposite side. Adjust the the screw on the opposite side of the pickup, so the pickup is parallel to the strings.
  6. Listen to the adjusted pickup. Play with the pickup at it's new height. Listen closely. If you are happy with the sound, then you are done.
  7. Repeat. If necessary, repeat steps three and four until you are satisfied with the sound. It make take a few tries to find what you are looking for.

Adjusting active pickups, or pickups that require a nine-volt battery to power an onboard pre-amp, is similar; however, active pickups use a pre-amp to amplify the signal sent by weaker coils, so active pickups tend to sound better when close to the strings. High pickups have a hot sound, so cranking up active pickups will give them the high output sound that they are designed for.

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