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?

2 Answers 2


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.

  • 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?
    – H3R3T1K
    Oct 22, 2013 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. Oct 22, 2013 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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