How To Adjust Guitar Pickup Height?

Are you looking to improve the sound and sustain of your guitar? One simple adjustment you can make is to adjust the height of your pickups.

By adjusting the height of your pickups, you can fine-tune your instrument’s sound to suit your playing style and preferences.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of adjusting pickup height on different types of guitars and offer tips for avoiding common mistakes along the way.

Does pickup height affect the sound and sustain?

The answer is “Yes.” Adjusting the height of your pickups can significantly impact both factors.

Pickup height and sound

The height of your pickups plays a crucial role in achieving this balance between tone and sustain.

Getting the right sound out of your guitar is all about finding that sweet spot where the strings can vibrate freely without interference from the pickup magnets.

If you’re struggling with a harsh, thin, or wobbling sound, it’s high time to adjust your pickup height. Lowering the pickup height will help to warm up the tone, making it fuller and richer.

By decreasing the magnetic attraction of the pickup on the strings, you’ll allow them to vibrate more naturally in their regular cycles and harmonics.

However, be careful not to lower it too much as this might cause a substantial decline in output volume and make your tone sound thin and feeble.

Finding an ideal height where your tone is enhanced without compromising output volume might take some experimentation, but it’s worth it in order to achieve that perfect sound you’re looking for.

Pickup height and sustain

The distance between the magnetic pickups and strings heavily influences optimal sustain on a guitar.

Their interaction in the magnetic field determines the amount of output signal produced.

If the pickups are too far from the strings, they won’t pick up as much of the vibrations and produce a weaker signal. Conversely, if they’re too close to the strings, they can cause interference and affect sustain and pitch clarity.

To adjust pickup height for optimal sustain, start by measuring the distance between each string and its corresponding pickup using a ruler or gauge tool.

The ideal range is usually between 1/16′ to 1/8′ for most guitars. Adjustments can be made by loosening screws on either side of each pickup or adjusting springs located underneath them.

It’s best to make small adjustments at a time while playing each note to test for changes in sound quality.

This way, you can find your desired balance between output level and sustain length. Remember that every guitar is unique, so experimenting with different heights may be necessary to find what works best for your instrument.

What is the best pickup height?

pickup’s height correctly

The best pickup height varies depending on the type of guitar and pickups you have.

For full-size humbuckers, a reasonable pickup height is at least 1/16′ (1.6 mm) from the high e and 3/32″ (2.4mm) from the low E on the bridge pickup.

For neck and middle pickups, it should be 1/8″ (3.2mm) from low E and 3/32″ (2.4mm) from high E.

It’s important to note that these are just guidelines, as there is no absolute norm when it comes to pickup height.

You might want to adjust your pickups higher or lower based on your preferences and playing style.

However, keep in mind that if you set them too close to the strings, they may cause unwanted noise and interfere with sustain.

On the other hand, if they’re too far away, you may lose some of their output and clarity.

Therefore, experiment with different heights until you find what works best for you and your instrument.

How to know if your guitar pickups are too high?

You can easily tell if your pickups are too high by holding down the highest fret of your low E string and checking for contact with the string. If you see that there is contact or they’re too close, it’s time to make an adjustment.

Having high pickups can create problems with tuning and produce unwanted noise.

Luckily, adjusting pickup height is a simple process that anyone can do.

How to adjust pickup height

To adjust pickup height, you need a screwdriver corresponding to the screws on either side of the pickup. Typically, these screws are located near the ends of each coil.

To start adjusting:

  • Play your guitar in the location where you spend most of your time playing.
  • Pay attention to how balanced the lows and highs are and how hard the pickup hits the amp.
  • Turn both height screws simultaneously in either direction until you reach desired signal intensity.
  • If possible, adjust each side separately until it blends well with both higher and lower strings.

Repeat this process for every guitar pickup while referencing back to output level changes from step one to minimize abrupt output changes when toggling between switch positions.

It’s important to note that adjusting pickup height should be done after a lengthy playing session because pickups frequently move after playing which can cause them to become pushed down, leading to lost signals or low output levels.

You can improve overall sound quality without needing costly replacements or repairs by making small adjustments over time instead of assuming that something is wrong with your guitar strings or pickups.

How to adjust pickup height according to the type

Now let’s discuss how to adjust pickup height according to the type of pickup on your guitar.

Humbucker pickups

With humbuckers, you can tweak the screw located at the base of the pickups near the pole pieces to find that sweet spot and get your guitar sounding like a million bucks.

To adjust the height of your humbucker pickups, use a screwdriver to turn the adjustment screws either clockwise or counter-clockwise depending on whether they’re mounted with rings or not.

When adjusting your humbucker pickup height, keep in mind that raising them will increase output and treble response while lowering them will reduce output and bass response.

It’s important to make small adjustments and test each time to ensure you don’t go too far and cause unwanted buzzing or interference.

With some patience and experimentation, finding that perfect pickup height for your humbuckers can make all the difference in achieving your desired tone.

Stratocaster Single-coils pickups

You can easily fine-tune the sound of your Stratocaster by turning the screws at the base of your single-coil pickups, giving you more control over your tone.

Here are three steps to adjust your Stratocaster single-coils:

  • Start by determining how high or low you want your pickups to be. Experiment with different heights until you find the sweet spot that suits your playing style.
  • Use a screwdriver to turn the adjustment screws clockwise to raise the pickups, or counter-clockwise to lower them.
  • Be sure to make small adjustments and test each time, as even a slight change in pickup height can have a significant impact on your tone.

Keep in mind that adjusting pickup height is not an exact science, and it ultimately comes down to personal preference.

However, taking the time to experiment with different heights can lead to discovering new tones and sounds from your guitar.

With these simple steps, you’ll be able to get the most out of your Stratocaster’s single-coil pickups and create a unique sound all your own.

Telecaster Single-coil pickups

As you twist the screws on your Telecaster’s bridge plate, imagine balancing a delicate scale, carefully finding the perfect equilibrium between left and right, while keeping it steady and in sync with the strings.

The two closest screws to the bridge assist in balancing the pickup from right to left, while the third screw keeps it level with the strings. If your pickups are angled, be sure to adjust them accordingly.

Now let’s move on to adjusting your neck pickup.

If your guitar has an easy-to-adjust style mounted on a pickguard, simply adjust it as you would a Stratocaster single-coil. However, if your guitar has body mounting, you’ll need to unscrew and remove the pickguard to access its adjustment screws.

This extra step is not difficult but make sure that you’re happy before putting the guard back on! And remember – always check for any buzzing or unwanted noise after making adjustments to ensure optimum sound quality.

Jazzmaster Single-coils pickups

The height of the Jazzmaster pickups isn’t adjusted by screws but instead by foam pieces that go behind them. These foam pieces are what push the pickups up and down.

To adjust the pickup height on a Jazzmaster guitar, you need to remove the pickguard and then access the foam pads underneath each pickup. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Remove the strings from your guitar and take off the pickguard.
  • Look for two foam pads located under each pickup, one on each side.
  • If you want to raise the pickup height, remove some foam from under its pad.
  • If you want to lower it, add more foam under its pad.
  • Reassemble your guitar by putting back on both pickguard and strings.

Keep in mind that adjusting your Jazzmaster’s pickup height affects its overall tone significantly.

Higher pickups produce a brighter sound with more sustain while lower ones give you a mellower sound with less sustain. Experiment with different heights until you find what suits your playing style best.

Jaguar Single-coils pickups

Jaguar Single-coils pickups are similar to the Jazzmaster and have foam behind them to set their height.

However, if you want more control over your pickup height, try using springs under the screws on the opposite side.

To adjust your Jaguar pickup height with springs, first remove any existing foam or shim material. Then, insert a spring under each screw on the pickup’s mounting plate.

You can adjust the height by tightening or loosening the screws until it’s just right for your playing style and tone preferences.

This method allows for finer adjustments than using foam and gives you greater control over your sound.

So give it a try and see how it affects your playing!

P90 Single-coil pickups

The P90 Single-coil pickups have screws in the center that compress foam or springs to set the perfect tone and feel for your playing style.

To adjust the height of your P90 pickup, you’ll need a screwdriver and ruler.

Here are the steps to follow:

  • Loosen the mounting screws on both sides of the pickup assembly.
  • Use a ruler to measure the distance between the bottom of each string and the top of the pole pieces on your pickup. The ideal distance is usually around 1/8 inch (3mm) for both neck and bridge pickups.
  • Adjust each screw towards or away from the strings until you reach your desired height.
  • Tighten all mounting screws back up, making sure not to over-tighten them.

It’s important to note that adjusting your pickup height can greatly affect your guitar’s tone.

So, take some time to experiment with different heights until you find what works best for you.

Also, keep in mind that higher pickups will produce more output and sustain, while lower pickups will give you a cleaner sound with less distortion.

Dog-ear P90s pickups

For the dog-ear P90s, shims can be used to raise or lower the entire pickup unit, while the pole piece screws are reserved for more precise adjustments.

To adjust the height of your dog-ear P90 pickups using shims, first loosen all of the strings on your guitar so that you can easily access the pickups. Next, remove any screws or mounting brackets that may be holding your current pickup in place.

Carefully slide a shim underneath the pickup until it reaches your desired height. It’s important to note that when adding shims to your pickups, you should only use them as sparingly as possible; too many shims can negatively affect tone and sustain.

Once you have added your shim(s), reattach any screws or mounting brackets and tune your guitar back up to pitch.

Now it’s time for fine-tuning! Use a screwdriver to adjust each individual pole piece screw until you achieve the perfect balance between each string volume. You may also want to experiment with different heights and positions of each pole piece screw until you find the sweet spot for each string.

With some patience and attention to detail, adjusting your dog-ear P90 pickups will allow you to get exactly what sound you’re looking for from your guitar!

Common mistakes you should avoid

electric guitar

When adjusting your guitar pickup height, it’s important to avoid common mistakes that can negatively impact your sound.

Placing pickup height too high

Placing your pickup too high can cause a warbling sound when playing high frets, so back it away until the sound disappears.

This is because when the pickup height is set too high, the magnets will pull and push the strings out of tune, causing an undesirable sound.

Here are some things you should keep in mind when adjusting your guitar pickups:

  • Use a ruler or gauge to measure the distance between the bottom of your string and top of your pickup.
  • Adjust each side of the pickup evenly to prevent any imbalances in volume or tone.
  • If you have a humbucker pickup, adjust both sides (the screws on each side) equally to maintain balance between both coils.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with different heights until you find what sounds best for your playing style.

Remember that every guitar is unique and may require different adjustments. It’s important to take your time during this process and make small adjustments until you achieve the desired result.

By following these tips, you can avoid setting your pickups too high and enjoy a balanced tone without any unwanted warbling sounds.

Wrong orientation

the orientation of your pickups is crucial for achieving a balanced tone across all strings.

If you reverse the orientation by setting your pickups closer on the bass side and lower on the treble side, you’ll end up with an unbalanced sound that doesn’t do justice to any part of your playing.

Your bass strings will produce a warbling effect while your treble strings will sound thin and weak – both undesirable outcomes for any musician looking for quality sound production.

So keep this in mind when adjusting your guitar pickup height – always make sure you have the right orientation!


Adjusting your guitar’s pickup height is a simple yet crucial step in achieving the perfect sound and sustain.

Remember that different types of pickups require different height adjustments. And always avoid common mistakes like adjusting only one side of the pickup or tightening screws too much.

By knowing the best height for your pickups and being able to identify if they’re too high or low, you can make the necessary adjustments to get the most out of your instrument.


Can adjusting pickup height damage my guitar?

Adjusting pickup height can potentially damage your guitar if done incorrectly or excessively.

The key is to make small adjustments and test the sound after each one until you find the desired result.

It’s also important to use proper tools and not force anything when making adjustments.

With careful attention and knowledge, adjusting pickup height can enhance the sound of your guitar without causing any harm.

How often should I adjust my pickup height?

We recommend checking your pickup height every time you change your strings or make any other adjustments to your guitar setup.

Keeping a consistent eye on your pickup height ensures that your guitar always produces its best possible tone.

Read more:

How to lower action on electric guitar?

How to adjust acoustic guitar action?

What Is Guitar Action – Complete Guide

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