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Pickup Location


Doc
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The only holes that I have left fo rout in my walnut tele are the pickup cavities. I was going to set the neck pickup about a quarter inch from the neck, but I see that a lot of folks put 'em right up against it.

Any advice on pros and cons of location?

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The placement of pickups is actually a complex science of harmonics, but basically it like this: the more apart you place the pickups, the more varied sounds you have. If you place them too close together, you might not even notice the sound difference between pickups.

That's why people started adding more pickups than one. To have more tones to choose from.

Now, as to harmonics, a badly placed pickup can start blocking certain harmonics. For example, if you place your pickup right on the place of 24th fret, you lose your 4th harmonic. And the loss of even harmonics is the last thing we need.

Though the change in tone because of these harmonic changes might be unhearable, I don't know. I'm just using some theory to assume this.

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Jimbo

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As a rule of thum the further towards the 12th fret the warmer it will sound, as the vibrations ar wider at the 12th fret than at any other point.

That's only true if you're playing open - if you're playing at the 12th fret, the vibrations are widest at the 24th fret :D. It changes depending on where you're playing on the fretboard.

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Everybody has an opinion on this subject. There's all kinds of theories out there, some of them could have something to them, but most of them fall apart under slight scrutiny. Marzocchi705 was just about right. The farther you take a pickup to the fretboard, the warmer sound you get. The closer to the bridge you get the harsher the tone gets.

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Now, as to harmonics, a badly placed pickup can start blocking certain harmonics. For example, if you place your pickup right on the place of 24th fret, you lose your 4th harmonic.

So how come I can still hit the 4th harmonic node directly over the neck pickup on my Strat and any Les Paul?

I personally prefer the warmth of a 22-fret instrument with the pickup right under the "24th fret" harmonic. It sounds more natural than a 24-fret instrument's neck pickup.

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The 4th harmonic talk is just jiggery-pokery. Yes, there will be a different tone between 21- and 24-fret instruments, but it's not centered around the 4th harmonic. The pickups, in different locations, are turning the string's different vibrations into different harmonic information period. The location of the 4th harmonic is only relevant for an open string, after all.

Or, in other words:

We all know there's a difference between the sound of a bridge pickup and a neck pickup, because of it's location along the scale. That's all that's happening when the neck pickup position's changed... there's a slight difference in tone which some may prefer and some may not.

I'm sure Ed Roman has some pseudo-science about it on his site somewhere... :D

Greg

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Ed Roman does. And in theory he is 100% correct!

not sure about in practise though. so I just follow along as a way of reducing the likelyhood of sounding like my strat or a les paul.

he recons that the pickups on harmonic nodes mute the harmonics or somat like that.

I studied it in physics(TRUE) but I left school before I understood why.

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That's only true on open strings. As soon as you fret the strings, you change the locations of the harmonic nodes and it stops being true.

Further towards the neck still sounds warmer because almost everywhere you play (the only place it's not true is in the last few frets) the neck pickup is still closer to the middle of the vibrating string than the bridge one, since the bridge pickup is always a fixed distance away from the only fixed harmonic node, the bridge.

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No doubt there's a teeny tiny bit of truth to it all. If you have a single-coil pickup aligned directly under where the node is, there is technically no 'vibration' there, and the signal WILL be a bit muted (only when you play an open string).

Worrying about such a thing is like worrying about if Mr. Christie's has put enough chocolate chips into your cookie, though. Sure, you reach into a bag and take one out, it'll have more or less chocolate than the next one. But will you REALLY notice the difference?

Definitely not once the string is fretted. I mean, if there was a point to be had, it would be moot anyhow, because depending on the fretted note, your pickup will become located at a node for SOME note or another!!

Also to consider:

1. A humbucker will pick up from 2 different physical locations. It seems to me that Mr. Roman favours humbuckers, so it's a 50% moot point. :D

2. The magnetic field is in no way as surgically precise as that. It's silly to focus on this one open-string note 'muting' when the 'muting' is likely only about 2% or so, and only for an open note.

3. That tone might be desirable, the same way that out-of-phase pickups produce a desirable phase for some people. Putting pickups out of phase will 'mute' far more frequencies than pickup position will!

I mean, I've NEVER played a 21- or 22- fret guitar and though, "Shoot! That note sounds so dang MUTED!" Have you? :D

Less tone voodoo, more tone common sense. That's my vote. B)

Greg

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Roman's site is a scary, scary place and I try not to look at it directly. Looking right at it turns you into an old used car salesman with too many gold chains and fluffed up chest hair.

I guess what is being said is that you want the greatest spread between the two and the rest is voodoo and luck.

The worst that can happen is that the guitar will sound a little dead and I'll just have to make anoather one and experiment. That would be terrible, making another guitar.

I went through my wood pile and I figure I can screw up about 15 more before I run out of cherry and walnut.

I think I'll go with my original neck placement idea,1/4" down, and move the bridge pu to right up against the plate.

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Personally i've seen more evidence of bridge pup placement being more affected by harmonics.. That close to the end of the scale you have a wide range of nodes coumped in together.. I think a 1/4 inch from th ebridge is pretty much standard and you'll sound just fine. Having the neck pup close to the 24 fret position you'll get a good sound. But on 24 fret guitars you still get different tones on the neck pup, so I would imagine you'll be just fine with your 1/4 inch rule. You'll certainly be close enough.. and much in line with how most pups are placed..

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