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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. – Todd Wilcox Sep 25 '15 at 15:02
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    The neck pickup is not the limit -- picking out over the neck is a useful technique too. – Dave Sep 25 '15 at 16:20
  • If I'm missing some technical aspect of this, please let me know / edit the question. But it seems like this is purely subjective, and we don't generally accept "request for examples" type questions. – Matthew Read Sep 25 '15 at 18:36
  • @MatthewRead. I delete request for example part which is not the point anyway.. The rest of it I think a technical question, and fits to bad practice, good practice. Also it seems quite coherent answer we get... so it is not so opinion based. – g.pickardou Sep 25 '15 at 20:49
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    Subsequent to the edit this is a perfectly valid question, so I'll reopen. – Doktor Mayhem Sep 25 '15 at 21:44
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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)

  • Thanks, I was not worrying about sound of hitting the pickup, instead the pickup in the way of movement of the pick,(hand) so maybe it degrades the correct technique... – g.pickardou Sep 26 '15 at 5:55
  • Lower your pickup if that is happening. It shouldn't be in the way at all. – Doktor Mayhem Sep 26 '15 at 8:30
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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!

  • Thanks. On fingerpoicking do you mean thump (a la Wes) or for fingers, similar to classical? – g.pickardou Sep 25 '15 at 15:44
  • I mean more like classical guitar, in my experience it produces a much less sharp and bright tone as there is very little attack compared to using a pick. Neither is wrong and it depends entirely on what you're comfortable with and the sound you want to achieve, but it's an idea to try out! – Jamie Brace Sep 25 '15 at 15:47
  • 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 '15 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. – Jamie Brace Sep 25 '15 at 16:28
  • @JamieBrace Very good point! I only have solid body electrics and didn't consider that. – Lyall Sep 25 '15 at 18:20
2

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.

  • Thanks. What is the effect to the sound of lowering the neck pickup? – g.pickardou Sep 25 '15 at 15:45
  • the volume would decrease a little...shouldn't effect tone. – r lo Sep 25 '15 at 22:22
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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. – g.pickardou Sep 25 '15 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 '15 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. – luser droog Oct 12 '15 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 '15 at 21:56

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