The proximity of the pickup to the string can have a huge impact on the volume balance your guitar tone.
In addition to the standard volume control on an electric guitar there is another way to change volume balance output level. An electric guitar has a hidden volume output control built into it much like a “Fader or Pan Knob” in a stereo system. Players almost never use it because they can’t find it-but it’s right there. Here is a tip and something we do often in the Custom Shop at Haywire Guitars. If you want to lose or gain a bit of volume in your guitar in a specific area, whether playing live or in a studio, then try this: lower one or both of the pickups. The farther away the strings are from the pickups the “lower” the volume output will be.
lose or gain a bit of volume
When the pickups are farther away from the strings the lower the volume will be on that pickup. The pickups will not “pick up” the string vibrations as well and thus – giving you lower volume output. Why is that a good thing? Raising and lowering a pickup is considered an important and viable adjustment for “equalizing” volume output between two or more pickups. One analogy is to think of the pickup as a microphone and the string as a vocalist. The farther the singer gets from a mike-the lower the volume and less they will be heard.
Each pickup on your guitar has an elevator screw on the side. When turned it will bring it closer or farther from the bottom of the strings where it picks up (electrical impulses transferred into) sound. Adjusting the side screws can be used to make an “over-all” change. By turning both screws or just one screw on one side of the pickup more or less volume is noticed. The pickup may be raised or lowered depending on how much the player wants to affect the volume and/or tone. The volume output can be lowered on one side. It can be increased on the other side simply by turning the pickup adjustment screws opposite directions.
turning the adjustment screws
A tone difference will be heard as well. In that case you’ll notice a distinct tilt in the pickup. If a player feels when he moves his selector switch to change to a different pickup selection that there is a noticeable volume change he can simply raise or lower any pickup to compensate for the difference. Quite often I’ll hear a player remark, “This front pickup sounds great-but my back pickup is weak, do I need to buy a new pickup”? The answer is clearly,”NO”. It’s akin to returning your new car to the dealership for a refund because the seat is too far away from the steering wheel. Learn how to make the adjustments that sound good to you. Empower yourself a bit. Learn how to do it so you don’t have to rely on someone else.
proximity of the top of the pickups and bottom of the strings
So, again…………the proximity of the top of the pickups and bottom of the strings will allow the guitar another source of volume output and sound texture you didn’t know was available! Think of this as and extra balance, pan or fade control. This adjustment acts much like a volume control. The pickups on electric guitars are adjustable for height. Because players want control to either raise or lower “action” it helps to change the pickup height. Furthermore, the side adjuster screws of the pickups have another “surprise” benefit which is to change the volume if you choose. As well as getting them out of the way to afford lower action. Try it!
Proper pickup adjustment is not as “optional” as you may think but rather, personal. You’ll find the sound of the pickups is a bit truer when adjusted to your ears. It’s one more way to change your sound to what YOU like as a player……and the best news is: you can do it yourself !