Take the 2-minute tour ×
Musical Practice & Performance Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

One thing I fiddled with for a short bit once upon a time is adjusting the pole pieces on my Humbucker/P-90 equipped guitars. As a matter of fact, doing just that was the only way I could get my P-90 at the neck telecaster to clean up. It was muddy, dark, and squishy before I adjusted the pole pieces, but clear clean and sparkly after.

So, given that a pickup's tone is the union of many attributes (pickup height, mounting method, etc.), I specifically want methods and best practices for adjusting pole pieces for PAF/Humbucker/P-90 pickups.

share|improve this question
add comment

3 Answers

These polepins define the distance from the pickup coil to the string, thus the intensity, thus the power of the output signal.

If your guitar has had a (too) high output (the pickups closer to the strings) it is possible that it was giving muddy and less-defined sound. Had it been the other way (the pickups further from the strings) it could have sounded squeaky and thin.

So, the best practice for adjusting them would be to see at which point you like the sound the most. There are people who enjoy playing with the pickups too close or too far, so there isn't universal truth. I usually try to even the sound of the thinier strings with the one of the fatter and than lower the pickup until the signal is clear enough. Also that position depends on other factors such as the gauge of your strings and the material they are made from.

share|improve this answer
add comment

If you want to avoid a muddy sound, as a general rule, you should adjust the pole pieces on the two lowest and the two highest strings higher than those in the middle. This is due to the frequencies tending to cluster around middle "C". Of course, you have to use your ear when making adjustments.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Adjusting pole pieces is definitely worth doing (humbuckers). Contrary to what most say; (based on testing) does not really give out more output, rather emphasizing one coil sound prominent over the other coil. You may get more apparent drive/volume/mids/treble BUT at the cost of clarity and tone loss (no good). You'll get a distorted sound but not a clean tight overdrive sound.

Basially adjustments up/down alters the inductance along the length of the coil and also the "magnetic balance/flux lines" over the whole guitar body. The character of any pickup is inherent in the windings/wire type/bobbin type and by how much wound. The Goal here is to get the most out of your pickup interms of Clarity, resonance, low noise, harmonics, etc. Sometimes especially chords don't sound so crisp even if tuned perfect, even if intonation is right. Sometimes you find pickup combinations sound abit off (especially to get that quack-out-of-phase vintage sound)...and finally you wonder why on Monday, the guitar sounds good but Wednesday it sounds abit rubbish in tone.

The good news is that there is ONLY one pattern that works. But have never seen it on any pickup over the last 30 years or any other blogs/forums. It's just TOO MUCH hastle for manufacturers to do this. The pattern that works, balances out the tone/dynamics and clarity with the "Slug" pole piece coil. It can also be used on single coils too. Alot of HSH pickup configuration will never sound hyper clear, mainly because the middle single coil has fixed-set pole pieces, and that throws everything out. Every time you add a pickup to your guitar, it makes the task of clarity a little more complex because more magnetic disturbance anomalies can exists.

ANYWAY.....

  1. Make sure all your pickups are the same height (on the same axis)(top of plastic bobbins)..approx 6mm from strings.

  2. E A D G B E = 5 4 3 2 0 1 (these are the relative height adjustments with 0 = flush with bobbin) - Try adjusting screws at 30 degree intervals. YEP, that's right the B-string pole piece is flush with the bobbin top.

  3. Now with Overdrive; Play each string one at a time on the 7th Fret - Listen out for a slight flutter-wavering note [ It should NOT waver - adjust very slightly up/down to get a flat-line tone/note ]

  4. If you want to fine tune this clarity, and you have a good ear...do the same on the 19th Fret (even smaller- annoying adjustments)

BTW: I've tried lots of patterns, believe me...even vintage stagger ones - Nice in theory but not clear/not tight/very jangly also. Yes you can get some interesting sound tones but never really defined and clear tones across ALL the strings and on every fret.

The chat about neck radius, string gauge, bridge intontation, pickup output, changing tones and what-have-you do matter somewhat, but are mis-leading ...they are NOT major factors really. What the pole piece adjustment does is create balance inside the adjusted coil and in combination with the fixed slug pole coils in humbuckers (Longitudinal & Lateral magnetic flux lines). You are also adjusting the overall inductance and how it is distributed. When all the pickups are adjusted...They ALSO blend well together.

Cheers & Enjoy ! sample of poles adjusted


EDIT:

This method I mentioned above, is my own development. I've done this on Ibanez, Fender, Jackson, Aria Pros, Kramers, semi-hollow and crappy guitars...It absolutely works a treat.

In addition I must stress that ALL the pickups are perpendicular to the guitar body and NOT angled at all. For this reason I do not use angled pickup rings (as found on 90% of most guitars). If you have a scratchplate (fine) or use flat pickup rings/surrounds (if you can find them !!

Before adjusting the pole pieces and especially if you're new to this; it's better to only have one bridge humbucker in your guitar then add all the the other pickups one by one. All your pickups must be adjusted to be exactly the same height and level with each other WITHIN the 1MM !!!!(top of bobbin plastic to guitar body) so that all the magnets are lined up on the same plane and the magnetic flux lines will be better also.

The Ultimate test/biggest impact on tonal quality is when you select two pickups out-of-phase with each other, this method proves perfect.

9/10 times the middle pickup HSH configuration mucks everything up. So adjust it's pole pieces manually if need be. Another good tip is once this is done, cover the middle coil (only) pole pieces with only one layer of PVC electrical tape (over the 4 inner poles). The sound will be less harsh and quite smooth and will balance better with the other pickups. I prefer Alnico magnet for the middle single coil pickup, ceramics can be too rough/overpowering sound.

p.s. I don't agree with the assumption that frequencies cluster around the middle "C" note approx 256Hz to 278Hz ...It depends on the Inductance and capacitance characteristics of each coil.

share|improve this answer
1  
Going to try this out before my next gig - never heard this method. –  Dr Mayhem May 11 '11 at 7:47
    
yeah, me too. Very interesting anyway, I never paid much attention to the adjustable pole-pieces, actually. –  Anonymous May 11 '11 at 8:31
    
+1, great supplemental answer. I've heard of this method as well, but I've never tried it. –  Jduv May 11 '11 at 12:17
    
A question regarding the 5 4 3 2 0 1 method. What exactly do the 5 4 3 2 0 1 refer to? Are they "screw turn", as in 'the large E would be screwed down to bobbin height, then backed out 5 turns'. Or did I totally miss it? What is meant by 'adjust the screws at 30 degree intervals'? Thanks! –  user2028 Feb 27 '12 at 21:48
    
I would think that "30-degree intervals", when you are screwing, refers to turning the screwdriver 30 degrees. If 90 degrees is a quarter turn, 30 would be one third of that, so about a 12th of a turn. I think all he's really saying is that this is a fine-tuning process, so just go really slow and you should see results very quickly. If the number system actually corresponds to 12ths of a turn, then for reference the D string is turned a quarter turn and the low E comes out almost a half turn. Not very much at all. –  user2910 Sep 14 '12 at 13:53
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.