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I’ve been mulling on the common pickup positions and wondering if there are any rebels who break with convention. To that end I made a wee numbered grid from 0 - 10 and overlaid it on a variety of guitar pics.

0 sits on the bridge, 10 sits on the 12th fret and 5 sits at the 24th fret. 

Strats and Teles put the neck pickup almost right on the 5 (24th fret). The Tele bridge pickup is slanted, but running a line through the centre gives a position of about 1.2, while a Strat bridge p/u is around 1.5.

The Gibson humbuckers I looked at are around 4.7 in the neck position, but I was using the centre-line between the two coils. 4.7 means that the coil on the neck side is almost on the 5.

The bridge position humbuckers were hard up against the bridge, with the centre-line at 1.5 on a Byrdland and 1.1 on an ES 175.

Here’s a Strat as an example:

 

white strat pickup position

I’m interested to see what happens when you put a pickup further up the neck. The only example of this I found was the Gibson Johnny Smith, with a floating mini-humbucker whose centre-line sat around 5.7.

johnny smith gibson pickup position

 Anyone got examples of unusual pickup positions, or gotchas to try and avoid?

 

Jack of all trades and master of my own destiny. It’s only a small destiny.

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5 Answers
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@jamesbisset

Very interesting question James. I wonder if the bridge position on factory guitars is related to the nodal point on strings ie the stationery point which doesn’t move when a string is played. I’m sure you know that a string vibrates in two dimensions and that there is a tipping point where increasing the magnet strength dampens the string vibration, so the question is should the pick up be on a nodal point or on a wave point.
 I suspect that there is no scientific theory at all particularly on early models and it either just looked good on paper or was a way of designing without using different sizes of pick up like on the SC. 
An interesting experiment would be to shine a strobe light on a vibrating string and see what it shows. 

Some people call me a tool, others are less complimentary. Tools being useful things.

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Intresting indeed!

I think The Danelectro's have a few models that places neck pickups further down towards the middle (At what point does it become a middle pickup ? 🙂 ). For instance the 59 divine.

I thought that the positioning had more to do with maximizing tonal differences between pickups with the available space between bridge and neck.
The farther apart the pickups the more tonal difference, hence we place pickups as far apart as possible.
In that case, most pickups will end up in roughly the same positions ( given the difference in scale length, etc.. )
Also the neck attachment may play a role ( bolt-on, where the neckpocket is in front of the neck pickup vs set-neck , where the neckpocket is largely underneath the pickup).

The real interesting question is if the current positions matches the ideal scientific positioning because of trial and error, or if they are way off.  

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Interesting discussion...

No simple right or wrong answers here - Some fun facts:

Closer to the bridge the string is moving a lot less than nearer the neck - it sounds thinner and can end up being too quiet if the pickup is too close to the saddle (string take off point).

Matching Bridge pickups are 'overwound' to compensate for lack of output.

Pick up heights are often adjustable for balancing output.

 

 

 

Measure twice, cut once...

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Topic starter
Posted by: @rocknroller912

I wonder if the bridge position on factory guitars is related to the nodal point on strings ie the stationery point which doesn’t move when a string is played.

Good analysis of this point in the book "Electric Guitar & Bass Design" by Leonardo Lospennato excerpted here: www.buildyourguitar.com/resources/lospennato/index.htm

But, unfortunately, all the precision of optimising for nodes and waves goes out the window as soon as you fret a note. So it really is a pursuit of tone. Doo you want Oooo or Aaa or Eeee sounds coming out of your electric?

Jack of all trades and master of my own destiny. It’s only a small destiny.

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The design is amazing, i like it too much...

Peter Virdee