Pickup query

Hi All,

I've made a number of CBG's over the past 12 months or so and believe that with each one the actual build is getting better. However, I continue to be disappointed with the sound. There is never the clarity, particularly on the bottom string but also on the others, that I can get with a six string pickup instrument.
I have used a number of different pick-ups but they all have one thing in common, they are all made specifically for 3 string instruments.
I have a Roland amp and a six string sounds much better through it than any of the 3 strings.
Can I use a full size pickup on a 3 string?  What sort of difference would it make?
Any help, observations, suggestions greatly appreciated.

Regards to all


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  • Music stores that do repairs and upgrades on factory instruments often save the take-off parts and sell them pretty cheap. I haven’t actually used any of the 3 or 4 string pups, nor have I tried a piezo in a cbg. I also haven’t built many cbgs at this point so my opinion isn’t based on a lot of experience w cbgs. But if you’ve got the room to fit a 6 string pup then why not use it. Bigger magnet, more copper wire, more magnetic “area”. It’s gotta count for something. Also I favor humbuckers to single coil pups so that takes up even more space, but they r worth it I think. I’m curious about trying an active pup like EMG sometime.
    • Kevin, thanks for the heads up on the parts replacement, that seems like gold to me

    • Thanks to everyone for their suggestions.    I'm going to try replacing a mini-humbucker on one of my recently made units with a better quality 6 pole PUP.   I'll record a bit on the original and see how the modified one stacks up against it.

  • Art,

    the quest for a particular sound or something unique and unexpected, is what fascinates me.  What I have learned and experienced here, from these great and innovative builders and players has been a blessing.

    most recently I have used the flush mount, flat mag pup and piezo pups, each controlled by volume knobs.   Instead of a tone knob I use the “psycho knob” or Artec QDD.  I have also found that including a spring screwed into the neck, I can create amazing sound (my opinion).

    there are builders on here that are very worthy of your study, experimentation and implementation.

    I agree with all the the responders on this thread and have learned a lot from them.  This site has offers so much that I have loved the journey.  If your build doesn’t  meet your expectations, try something new.  Enjoy,  Tim

  • Hi Arthur, others on here will give a more detailed opinion, but here is what I have found.

    The 3 string pickups I have used are dirt cheap, that's why I use them for guitars that a beginner or occasional player might use. For a better sound I have used 6 pole pickups on a 3 string guitar. Of course with a better unit you will get bigger sound, and , normally the better the pickup, quality of material and build, the the better sound and output.

    Also are you comparing a hollow box guitar sound to that of a solid body electric?. Pickups can also sound different depending on what timber and density of timber they are mounted to. Also components like bridge, nut or tailpiece as well as the quality of pots, switches and capacitors will make a difference.

    I think it would be hard to tell you exactly what to do, I would suggest taking the info that shows up here and continue your quest for better sound. Good luck


    • Many thanks to Brian, Thomas and Taffy for their feed-back.   Something to be taken from them all.



  • 6 string, 4 string, 3 string, it doesn't really matter. They will all work. The sound will vary by the box and stiffness of the neck. They all have their own voice and the sound may well be better from a cheap 3 string box than a high roller custom build. Your results may be different than anyone else's. That's what these things are all about. Build, play, repeat and remember, if you aren't having fun, you should probably try something else.

    • Amen, I can never predict the outcome of a given build. I've been happy with most, but it's always exciting to hear one for the first time to understand what it sounds like.
    • That's part of the fun building these things. They each have their own voice.

  • I noticed you didn’t mention adjusting the heighth of the pickups, did you try to moving them closer to the strings? That would make them louder? Maybe post a few pics of your setup?

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