We get a lot of questions regarding how to properly set the pickup height on our 920D Custom Shop loaded pickguards. There are many ways to set the pickups, depending on how you play and what kind of sound you want. As a standard guide, this is how Fender suggests the pickups should be set.
This is a very good starting point, but it can vary quite a bit between different pickups models. However, we have a simple method that works on most pickup models. If the pickups are too low, you won’t get much volume out of them, if they are too high, the magnets can pull the strings out of tune. So how do we find the right balance? Listen. I like to start by setting the neck pickup where the cover is a few millimeters taller than the pickguard. Play a few chords and licks to see how it sounds. Slowly bring up the pickup until it sounds the best. It needs to sound full, but also maintain clarity. The rest is easy. Just set the middle and bridge pickups where they match the neck pickup in volume.
Check to make sure the bridge pickup magnets are not affecting the intonation. If they are, lower all three pickups a few turns. You may lose a bit of volume, but having the guitar play in tune is more important. This being said, Jimmy likes to set them in the opposite order. Setting the bridge pickup first, and then moving the middle and neck to match the volume. There really are no rules on which pickup you start with, the important thing is to listen and make sure the pickup is in the sweet spot for tone. Your guitar may come with the pickup height already set, but it is still good to experiment a bit. You might find a whole new array of tones. Typically vintage voiced pickups can be placed closer to the strings, and the more powerful pickups can be set a bit lower. This method works for all guitars, not just stratocasters. It’s amazing how minor adjustments can make the difference between great and terrible tone.
As always, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us.
Eric Mathews, 920D Custom Shopemathews@920dcustomshop.com800.281.6607