Does Pickup Height Affect Guitar Tone? Unlocking the Secrets

Are you ready to dive into the mysterious world of guitar tone? Well, grab your picks and strap on because today we’re embarking on an epic journey to unravel the age-old question: “Does pickup height affect guitar tone? Now, before we get all strung up, let me assure you that by the end of this blog post, you’ll have more knowledge in your fretting fingers than you ever thought possible. We’ll be dissecting the impact of pickup height on your beloved six-stringed companion, uncovering its secrets, and exploring how it can transform your playing experience

Do pickup height and position affect the guitar tone? Yes. The distance between the pickups and the strings affects the guitar’s tone. Thus, it’s important to adjust the pickup height. A change in the string’s vibration pattern, pitch, and sustain and an increase in the pickup’s output occurs when the distance between them decreases.

Image of a brown colored guitar with black guitar pickups in it. Source: irina gurina, pexels
Image of a brown colored guitar with black guitar pickups in it. Source: Irina Gurina, Pexels

How high should a guitar pickup be?

The pickups are sometimes called the electric guitar’s “heart.” This device in the guitar’s body, just below the strings, turns the vibrations of the instrument’s sound into electricity. A pickup for an electric guitar is made of six magnets wrapped around an enameled wire and held in place by a black bobbin. A guitar has six strings. Thus six magnets pick up the sound. Some pickups don’t utilize magnets but instead use metal rods.

Guitar TypePick-Up Height Recommendation
Electric GuitarAdjust according to the manufacturer’s guidelines
Stratocaster-styleNeck: 2.0mm – 2.4mm
Middle: 2.2mm – 2.6mm
Bridge: 2.4mm – 2.8mm
Les Paul-styleNeck: 2.5mm – 3.0mm
Bridge: 2.0mm – 2.5mm
Telecaster-styleNeck: 2.4mm – 2.8mm
Bridge: 2.2mm – 2.6mm
Jazz GuitarNeck: 2.8mm – 3.2mm
Bridge: 2.6mm – 3.0mm
Hollow BodyNeck: 2.2mm – 2.6mm
Bridge: 2.4mm – 2.8mm
Acoustic GuitarAdjust according to the manufacturer’s guidelines
A data table showcasing pick-up height recommendations for different types of guitars.

In general, the closer your pickups are to the strings, the more treble response and overall output you’ll get. Sadly, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the subject of how high you should set your pickups. When it comes to your own guitar, experimenting is frequently required to obtain the ideal sound for you.

My favorite MIDI keyboard (at the moment):

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

Does pickup height affect guitar tone? Unlocking the secrets | 717qmgla7zl. Ac sl1500 | audio apartment
My favorite MIDI keyboard (at the moment):

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

I’m loving the AKAI MPK Mini MK3 for its compact design and the range of controls. It’s one of my essential tools. The velocity-sensitive keys and MPC-style pads are great for making beats, while the thumbstick and knobs give me precise control.

Does pickup height affect the guitar tone?

Pickup height greatly affects the guitar tone. When the pickup magnets are at the right height, they generate a powerful magnetic field that produces the guitar’s desired tone. Additionally, pickups may cause string detuning if they are set too high. When the pickup is turned down too much, the magnetic field’s potential is not maximized. Thus, the tone of a guitar may be altered by adjusting the pickup’s height.

When the pickup magnets are at the right height, they generate a powerful magnetic
field that produces the guitar’s desired tone.

The distance between a guitar’s pickups and strings greatly affects its sound. Closer proximity increases pickup output and modifies the string’s vibration pattern, pitch, and sustain. To determine pickup height, fret the guitar to the highest fret and measure from the top of the pole piece to the bottom of the string. This will provide proper string clearance on all frets and strings.

What are the effects of high and low pickup height settings?

Let’s demystify the impact of both high and low pickup height settings on your guitar’s voice. By understanding how these adjustments influence your instrument’s sound, you’ll gain the power to shape your desired tonal palette with precision and finesse.

Effects of a high pickup height setting

  • High pickup height results in a less warm sound and reduced sustainability.
  • Strings may experience a tugging force from the magnets due to the high pickup height.
  • When a pickup is too close to the strings, its magnetic field can affect the vibration of the guitar, impacting accuracy in reproducing sound.
  • Interaction between the two magnets in a pickup and the strings can cause strange changes in the sound, resulting in a wobbling or warbling effect.

Effects of a low pickup height setting

  • Lowering the height of your guitar’s pickups can address issues such as a harsh sound, lack of sustain, or undesirable tone before considering costly repairs.
  • Decreasing the pickup’s height results in a warmer and fuller tone as the magnetic pull weakens, allowing the strings to vibrate more freely and produce natural harmonic tones.
  • There is an ideal playing height where the tone is optimized, and the pickup volume remains relatively consistent. However, some musicians may find the bass tones too heavy or prefer a more transparent sound, like that of a clean jazz guitar.
  • Further reduction in pickup height decreases the bass response, but excessive lowering can lead to compromised sound quality when the strings approach the outer limits of the magnetic field.

While adjusting pickup height can yield a warmer sound, it’s important to maintain realistic expectations. It provides a simple and affordable means to experiment with your guitar’s tones, but don’t expect a high-output humbucker pickup to behave like a low-output jazz pickup.

Image of a woman sitting while playing a guitar. Source: anna shvets, pexels
Image of a woman sitting while playing the guitar. Source: anna shvets, pexels

Do’s and don’ts when adjusting the pickup height of a guitar

Here are some dos and don’ts when it comes to adjusting the pickup height and its effect on the guitar tone.


  • Consider the factory settings: Your guitar typically comes from the factory, with pickups set at the correct height for optimal performance. Take note of these initial settings.
  • Start with reference measurements: Before making any changes, take reference measurements of your current pickup height to serve as a baseline for adjustments.
  • Adjust pickup height incrementally: Make small adjustments to the pickup height and test the results along the way.
  • Consider pickup angle and pole piece adjustment: Pay attention to the angle of the pickups and the pole piece adjustment, as they can affect the overall tone.
  • Consult manufacturer recommendations: Pickup manufacturers often provide recommended pickup height ranges for their specific models. Take these recommendations into account.


  • Don’t set the pickups too low: If the pickups are set too low, you may experience a weak and thin output.
  • Don’t set the pickups too high: Setting the pickups too high can interfere with the tuning of your guitar, causing a warbling effect as the magnets push and pull the strings.
  • Don’t raise the neck pickup too high: When adjusting the neck pickup to match the bridge pickup’s volume, avoid raising it too close to the strings. This can cause the magnetic field to pull the strings out of their rotational arc and result in tuning issues.

Remember, pickup height adjustment is a personal preference, and the optimal setting may vary depending on your playing style, guitar model, and pickup type. It’s essential to make incremental adjustments and carefully listen to the tonal changes to find the sweet spot for your desired sound.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “Pickup height. Does it affect your tone?” from Jon is just TOO LouD!! YouTube channel.

A video called “Pickup height. Does it affect your tone?” from Jon is just TOO LouD!! YouTube channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about how guitar pickups affect guitar tone.

What are humbuckers?

A humbucking pickup, also called a humbucker or double coil, is a type of guitar pickup with two wire coils that cancel out the noise that single-coil pickups pick up. Not only are humbucking coils used in electric guitar pickups. they can also be found in dynamic microphones to stop electromagnetic hum. The other primary kind of guitar pickup is the single-coil pickup.

What happens if pickup is too high?

Your pickups may pick up less sound if they are mounted too high. Pickups are like magnets, so if you set them too high, the string will be pulled down and vibrate less.

What happens if I lower my pickups?

The guitar’s volume will be reduced, and its sound will be mellowed, warmer and smoother.


If you’re looking to alter your tone or improve the overall volume of your guitar, it’s important to choose the right pickup height. Guitar pickup height affects tone. They also affect the overall volume of the guitar, as well as the timbre—the unique sound of each individual string. So, how high do you have your pickup? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and never get tired of playing the guitar.

Key takeaways

This article covered pickups, why pickup height matters, and whether it affects guitar tone. Here are some key takeaways:

  • When the pickup magnets are at the right height, they generate a powerful magnetic field that produces the guitar’s desired tone.
  • The tone of a guitar may be altered by adjusting the pickup’s height.
  • The Strat’s pickups are set up similarly to humbuckers. Adjusting the two screws on each side of the pickup may change the pickup’s height.
  • The output of your bridge pickup (located low on the fretboard) will be greater than your neck pickup if you pluck or strum closer to the bridge.
  • The only tool you’ll need to fine-tune your pickups is a screwdriver.
  • The optimal starting point involves positioning the bridge pickup so that its top is 1/16 inch away from the strings when the string is fretted at the highest fret and the neck pickup so that its top is 3/32 inch away from the strings.
  • Your guitar’s treble response and overall output will improve as your pickups get closer to the strings.
  • Since the magnetic field around the pickup exerts a magnetic pull on the string, the signal clarity will degrade as the string goes into the field.

Helpful resources

Image Andrew Ash
Written by Andrew Ash, Staff Writer

Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I'm relatively new to music production, but I've been learning a ton, and documenting my journey along the way. That's why I started this blog. If you want to improve your home studio setup and learn more along with me, this is the place for you!

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