February 20, 2005 4:42 PM   Subscribe

I want to build a guitar from parts, I've figured out most things but I can't find a reference on placing the pickups.

To further complicate things I'm putting a 24 fret neck on a body that was routed for 22 frets. This will blow away the neck position single coil pickup. My investment in the neck and body is minimal so if I destroy it that's not a problem but I'd eventually like to be able build one out of better parts.

So how do you place the middle and bridge pickups? Why are some bridge pickups angled? (This one was originally)
posted by substrate to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total)
i'm no guitarist, but the position will influence the tone by selecting the relative amounts of various harmonics. for example, if you placed the pickup in the centre of a string then you wouldn't hear the even harmonics (so you'd hear the base note, but nothing an octave higher). now in practice it's got to be more complex than that because the string length changes depending on the note being played and the strings may be plucked at different positions too. so i would guess that it's largely a case of trial and error - if there's a generally accepted area then presumably that is a good compromise (there's at least one bass which has a pcikup that can be moved to change the tone).

(i'm assuming you know that different notes correspond to different patterns of vibration on the string, and that a pickup responds to the string movement near the pickup, so it's going to detect only the vibration at that point, and not the "average" vibration you hear if you listen to the string without amplification).
posted by andrew cooke at 5:00 PM on February 20, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks andrew, yeah, I'm a geek first and a wanna-be-guitarist second. I know from fooling around with my good guitar that when I do harmonics certain ones won't sound very much at all depending on what pickups used. I figure there's some rules of thumb to it, though I guess I could just route out everything beneath the strings and put the pickup on a sled so I can see how the tone changes.
posted by substrate at 5:26 PM on February 20, 2005

Best answer: Well as you go from neck to bridge, it gets thinner and twangy, right? An angled bridge pickup is just going to have a little more twang on the B and e strings, and a little less on the E and A, relative to being straight up and down, if it were rotated on it's center. There could be other reasons to rotate it, but this is a distinct effect it has on sound.

Yeah, quick and dirty would be to just route the entire area, move it around, and then get a custom pickguard made. There seem to be plenty of custom pickguard makers online.

Many people would consider removing so much wood a bad idea, but it's easy, and it sounds like that might be right for you. There are always other guitars to make.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 5:39 PM on February 20, 2005

Response by poster: In this case it would be fine. This is a 30 dollar guitar body. Once I figure out how not to screw up I want to build a body from scratch. I don't think this body will contribute much tone anyway, it's plywood.
posted by substrate at 5:51 PM on February 20, 2005

Best answer: First off, I'd advise that you watch your scale length and intonations, attaching a 24 fret neck to a 22 fret body. Remember that the twelfth fret on the neck should be exactly halfway between the edge of the nut and the bridge saddle of the high E. Having put together a few electrics, this has been one of the persistent difficulties, and part of the reason I tend to buy matched bodies and necks now.

Jack Karaoke's explanation for the angled bridge pickup is the same I was given a few years ago. Because your low and high E's are further away from their respoective polepieces, your bridge pickup will deliver less of their sound. There's no hard and fast rule to it - play with the position, find something that sound great and doesn't look stupid. Plenty of Strats (especially in the 80's) carried S/S/H arrangements, with a straight humbucker in the bridge position, for that heavy rock lead thing.

Tonally speaking, there's a much warmer, rounder, softer sound from the neck position, whereas the bridge pickup sound is brighter, and with more definition. This is one reason you'll sometimes here either referred to as 'Rhythm' (neck) and 'Lead' (bridge) positions.

Now, for the actual help: This is a very thorough and scientific text explaining pickup placement and string vibration. Stewart-MacDonald's web site has an uncharacteristically generous free information page, most of which is more useful if you're working with their products, but some of which (like this article on guitar wiring) is exceptionally helpful.

On preview - Plywood?
posted by armoured-ant at 6:21 PM on February 20, 2005

Response by poster: Yup, plywood, 80's kramer body. It was cheap and I figured there was a good chance I'd be doing more destruction than actual musical instrument building. I figure that the seat of the neck will be about in the middle of where the neck pickup was.

Thanks guys, I learned lots!
posted by substrate at 6:35 PM on February 20, 2005

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