Hi folks.

Just trying to get my head around pickups and wondering about the benefits of a three-string guitar using a three pole pickup. Am I wrong in believing that each pole of a pickup reads to the side too? Do strings HAVE TO run dead centre of the poles? What happens if they don't and is it/why is it better if they do? What about rail type pickups? How do they differ from the others? Are they generally better or worse? Genuinely just trying to learn.


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Hey that Bobby pin trick is uber-cool. Thanks for that. I'm finding the electronic part of guitar making really interesting but I stink with electrical stuff so I'm starting from scratch. I guess one good thing is that I have no preconceived wrong thoughts having no clue so perhaps I'm on good footing. Thanks for your help.

I used one side of a Stainless Steel cotter pin to cover some poles/pins to experiment with. The flat inside of the cotter pin sits on top of the poles nicely. A little more metal to them too.

I did one where I tried to split the poles with a string centered between each pair and one with a P-90 that I just centered and they both work fine.

Always good to hear that someone has tried something successfully. I should add that I mean no disrespect to anyone who uses or even makes pickups with less poles, or more for that matter. I'm just interested in why certain things are done and what benefits doing things a certain way can bring. Really interesting this CBG thingie, eh?

Basic electronics, the way pickups work is the vibration of the metal strings causes a change in the magnetic field, this produces an electronic signal in the coil which when amplified produces the sound.

That being said depending on the strength of the magnet, will determine how far the magnetic field extends out from the center of the magnet.

So as long as the string vibration is in the magnetic field it will produce sound. The advantage of having the string centered on the magnet is you will get a higher electrical change in the coil.

This is the reason that pickups are adjustable in guitars so you can tweak them to produce the sound you want. Closer to the magnet, louder sound, alternatively a bigger distant will give less sound. Not sure if it changes the tone too.

I should have been a scientist. Now I want to know how magnetic fields work as they do, why they work as they do and how else these things can be applied to benefit our daily lives. I'm like the kid who won't shut up saying "why" all the time haha. I can see me never being happy with simple answers, not understanding complex answers and so constantly wanting to learn more so the complex answers mean more and I can understand enough to ask more questions. I need a vacation from my brain!

I've always heard that about the strings needing to be directly over the poles too, but they can be slightly to the side and still work good. Case in point: The Fender P Bass has the strings pass directly between the poles. So as long as the strings pass between the mounting screws on the ends of the pickup your probably okay.

Often debates came up about "drop out" when a string was in a bend and was no longer over the pole. I never found that to be a problem. I've seen many a guitar where the strings were only close and still work. I think people mistook the drop of sustain in a bend as the string not being over the pole resulting in drop out creating the misconception.

Tone is also changed when moving the pickups up/down. Up=brighter tone  Down=darker/mellow tone.

Thanks Paul. I've not gotten around to considering drop out yet, not directly thinking about it anyway, but your info definitely helps. I think I'll keep researching before making anything else after the current six string build. No definite plans yet anyway. I've got a couple of squash racquets, loads of wooden salad bowls, five or six metal bowls including dog bowls for resonators and a decreasing pile of wood left but no solid ideas. I'm sure a bolt of inspiration will strike soon enough though luls.
I'm no expert Dani but I've broken all the rules in pickup installations. I've had a single pole on a three string. It worked fine with each string sounding the same volume. I've put many six pole pups on three and four string guitar. I've run them in horizontal, diagonal and perpendicular and they all worked great. I've misplaced the strings to the space between poles and still had the pup work fine. I've also had mysterious dead spots in six pole pups where a string or two were quiet even with the string right on the pole. I guess it's a matter of giving it a try and see what happens. Sometimes I'm lucky to get the thing just to make a noise.
Well to start with, Dave, I've never even heard of a single pole pickup! Do you mean a hot rail pickup or are there actually humbuck type pickups with a single pole? Intriguing. Seems you've successfully tried a lot of the things I've wondered about, which is great to know. Have you tried a pickup to the side of a three-stringed guitar's strings? I guess that would just make the furthest string from the pickup really quiet, if it worked at all? If you HAD TO put a pickup parallel to the strings for space reasons would you put it closer to the low or high note string? As you say, I could give it a go and see what happens but I'm always happy to learn from other people's experiences and expertise if they're willing to share.

Thanks for your help too btw. Much appreciated. Bear :)

Danni,confusion reigns when terminology is muddled,a single pole pup is essentially a pup with a single magnetic pole orientation,as opposed to a humbucker ,which may have 2 or more poles of opposing polarity,i#m not explaining this well,but,the individual pole pieces of a pup,are not indicative of single pole or multi pole construction,someone else will help me here i hope,but basically the individual posts under the strings,are not an indicator to being a single pole pup or otherwise in themselves,and yes,most definately,if you were to place a pup,beside or angled to the strings,it WILL effect how strong a signal is sent to the amplifier,generally your posts /or rail should cover all strings equally,unless you are deliberately meaning to emphasise either treble or bass output

Ha. I always thought that the word "pole" referred to the stood up posts/metal/poles of a pickup. So six pole for a six string. Duh me! Thanks for explaining, Darryl. Much appreciated. Bear.


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