I am experimenting to get a jazz sound on my semi hollow body Ibanez. Of course it involves my hand, the amp and its settings, the pick and the strings. This topic is only about picking.

I found that closer I pick to the neck the sound I achieve I like more. However there is a limit to that direction: the neck pickup. So the question arise: Is it OK to pick over the neck pickup? Obviously it is inconvenient because there is little room for the pick to go under the strings. However maybe practicing lower this issue.

... or this is considered to a bad practice, so I can safely forget it?

  • 2
    People pick over the neck pickup all the time. It's a completely valid technique. Where you play along the strings has a big effect on the tone. Sep 25, 2015 at 15:02
  • 2
    The neck pickup is not the limit -- picking out over the neck is a useful technique too.
    – Dave
    Sep 25, 2015 at 16:20
  • Jimi Hendrix really was a master at getting those dolce tones by playing at the neck.
    – Neil Meyer
    Sep 27, 2015 at 18:56

4 Answers 4


I play at all positions from the 12th fret up to the bridge itself and while I may sometimes hit a pickup, you shouldn't hear any noise from it. Possible exceptions being very old pickups that perhaps need repotting - you could get some acoustic transfer.

You shouldn't have your pickups too close to the strings anyway - you will lose tone and sustain, as the magnets in the pickups will interact too much with the strings and damp their movement faster than most people would like.

I typically have about 3mm between strings and the neck pickup and 4mm for the bridge pickup (my exceptions being a Dimebucker I have in one guitar at just over 5mm, and an old P90 in bridge position on another at under 3mm)


If it achieves the sound you like and you are capable of doing so then I wouldn't say it's a bad habit. I can't say I know of any musicians who does this, but for example when I play my acoustic, if you strum nearer the neck you get a considerably darker tone than strumming nearer the bridge. The same is true if you pick nearer or further away from the neck.

I would also say for jazz guitar, finger picking would be your best friend here as it will eliminate the problem of accidentally catching the neck pickup (if it ever does become a problem for you)! You could also lower the neck pickup so you have more room under the strings but this will also lower the output (could be desirable depending on the situation) and could potentially skew the tone, but it's worthwhile trying as you can easily change it back!

  • Good point about catching the pickup - ALL of my guitars have scratches on the neck pickups from my playing, but it's never really bothered me or caused enough of a problem for me to want to lower them (especially as lowering them would change the tone and volume).
    – Lyall
    Sep 25, 2015 at 16:22
  • @Lyall yeah I have to admit it doesn't really bother me so much as long as it doesn't interfere with my playing, but with a semi-hollow I can definitely understand a bit more as I'm sure it'd probably resonate through the guitar more than it would in a solid body. Sep 25, 2015 at 16:28

I would suggest if you don't have a problem performing the music, continue playing as it sounds good to you. If the pickup is in the way, then you may want to experiment with the guitar tone knobs.
Also, you may be able to lower the pickup if it interferes with playing.


It is one of the more forgotten tone secrets. Next time you have a hold of a classical guitar try playing a phrase at the neck and do the same when playing at the bridge. The difference is most pronounced on an acoustic guitar.

Picking at the neck gives your tone a dolce sound where picking at the bridge gives it a more ponticello sound. You sometimes forget about this variances in tone on account to how many other variable there is in electric guitar tone but believe me you do get different sounds depending on where on the string you pick.

  • Thanks. Well on classical it no so forgotten. However when fingerpicking, it is obviously does not cause any difficulties, because nothing is in the way of the fingers even picking over the neck. In contrast, using a pick over the neck pickup or over the neck. Sep 25, 2015 at 15:48
  • I often play an acoustic electric strung with nylon strings, and I usually play it over the neck because I like the nice sweet tone. Someday I may get a transitional guitar which would probably sound even nicer, but I like the sound I get playing that way, and don't know any other way to get it. It would be nice if the fourth string were tighter (I like the sound of an unwound G string tuned down to D better than the sound of a wound D string, but I really like having wound fifth and sixth strings for a boomy bass and four harp-like (unwound) treble strings.
    – supercat
    Sep 25, 2015 at 16:50
  • @supercat That's very interesting. Your D isn't too loose? For my own studies, I've been trying for super-speed, so I went for big high-tension strings so they snap back into place faster. A loose D might interfere with that, even though it might make smoother melodies as un unwound. But, I'm also using tapewound, so even the wound ones are pretty "unwound"ish. Oct 12, 2015 at 21:40
  • @luserdroog: The D is looser than I'd like, though I've gotten used to it by now. Even at the lower tension, the string plays a consistent pitch throughout the note's decay--something a steel string wouldn't do. If I could experiment with custom guitars without spending boatloads of money, I'd like to try a 3/4-scale solid-body with nylon strings and piezo pickups. I have a 3/4-scale electric and I like the way it feels well enough, but steel strings get overly "twangy" when loose.
    – supercat
    Oct 12, 2015 at 21:56

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