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I've recently set up my bass with the help of this youtube video:

I'm really happy with it but one question remains. Fender recommends 2mm space between the underside of the string and the polepiece for the treble- and 2.8mm space for the bass side for J- and P-basses. I can get real close to that adjusting the P-pickup of my Yamaha PJ-bass but adjusting the J-pickup is more difficult because of it's bar-shape. So I'm spot on with the E- and G-strings but the A- and D-strings are too far from the polepieces. That's because I have adjusted the action before so that the undersides of the strings are a certain distance from the 12th fret (E->3.5mm/A->3mm/D->2.5mm/G->2mm). This results in the A- and D-strings sitting higher at the action than the E- and G-strings. This means I can never be spot-on with my pickup height for the J-pickup because if I raise it some more to be closer to the inner strings I'm too close to the outer strings. Do I need to loosen the truss rod and reajust the action before taking a look at the pickup height again?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It is more important to get the distance from strings to fretboard correct than the distance from strings to pickups, so if you have the action setup right I would be content with minor discrepancies from the ideal pickup separation.

There is so much difference between pickups anyway that if it really concerned you you could just buy a different pickup that has a different shape, or individually adjustable pole pieces, and as Carl points out, once you have the electrical signal you can do much more with it anyway.

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Thanks for the answer. I noticed that the way the bass came from the factory both pickups hav a slight slant towards the neck meaning the edges facing the bridge are a bit higher. Does it need to be this way or is it coincidence? –  arno Oct 22 '13 at 11:23
    
@arno Magnetic fields just aren't that precise. You're going to get far more control of the tone w/ the follower electronics than by microadjustment of the pickup location. –  Carl Witthoft Oct 22 '13 at 11:43

Most pick-ups are pretty flat, and fingerboards are cambered.This is usually reflected somewhat in the contour of the saddles. So it's going to be a compromise anyway.The figures quoted are more of a starting point than anything exact - some players prefer higher, some lower, action, and each bass,( or guitar) will have its own slight idiosyncracies. Sort out the action to suit your playing, and get the pick-ups close-ish to the strings.If they are too close, you may hear 'wolf-tones', telling that they're - too close!

When you play, if the volume is about the same from each string, then it's adjusted correctly.

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