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Why Radius Polepieces On Guitar Pickups?

Updated on April 22, 2012

Haywire Custom Strat

Haywire Custom Guitars White Fat Strat
Haywire Custom Guitars White Fat Strat | Source

It's much better to radius guitar pickup pole pieces in your guitar pickups than leave them flat if they're adjustable. Why is this done? There are several reasons for doing this. First, guitars are almost never set up when sent from the factory to the music store. A complete set up is part of the process performed in a good custom guitar shop. In order to complete the set up we radius the adjustable pole pieces. Second, each guitar neck on an electric guitar has a radius. In a proper set up the strings will have the same radius as the neck. Where sound and frequencies are an important issue to the player we'll use pickups with adjustable pole pieces. The third and most important reason is that the strings and neck have a radius and so should the guitars pickups. Consistency is important in setup as well as playing.

Just as it is necessary to keep the same distance from the fret to the bottom of the string, it is just as important to maintain an equal distance from the string to the top of each pole piece. Why? Equal distance of strings to pickups gives equal volume and therefore a more consistent volume level for each note played. The results are more even frequencies, more consistent sound, better tone, less unwanted feedback, even volume, more responsive pick up control, better sustain and more clarity in the overall sound.

All that's needed to accomplish this is a set of pick ups that are adjustable. How can you tell? A visual inspection will tell you instantly if they are. A good example is a typical humbucker pick up. Let's take the one that Seth Lover first introduced. Seth's most famous humbucker design (U.S. Patent 2,896,491) was the P.A.F. (Patent Applied For) designed while he worked at the Gibson guitar manufacturing site in 1955. This pickup was used in a wide range of Gibson guitars, most notably the Les Paul guitar model. If you notice and look closely- you'll see that it is adjustable.

You can see there are six pole pieces visible through the chrome cover. One under each guitar string. They have slotted tops for a screwdriver blade. These pole pieces are actually long machine screws. When the screws are turned clockwise they travel away from the strings. If turned counter-clockwise they will rise closer to the strings.

All that is necessary is to adjust the screws so that the are about 1/16-1/8 inches from the bottom of each string. In a good set up this is the last step performed. You'll find the sound will be enhanced from this small detail that makes a big difference to a very discerning player.


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