I came across this while browsing:

"Steve, I too have had a similar experience and agree location is critical in getting the best sound.

Back in '79 I had an SG and back then some SG's made in the '76-'78 era (with the big Schaller "harmonica" bridge) had their bridge pickups mounted noticably further from the bridge than others, I had one of these back-in-the-day and it never really got great pinch-harmonics and was too "Fat" sounding in the bridge position, this would start my pickup swapping trek.

After trying a few different pickups, mostly DiMarzio, and still not getting my sound (back then we called "tone" our "sound") I realized pickup placement location was the real issue with this SG. I didn't want to get rid of the guitar because it had an ebony fretboard and those cool small square fret markers like an old ES335.

I was in a band back then with another guitar player who had an L6-S and I also had a friend with a Les Paul, one day they were over working out some songs I noticed the bridge pickup was closer to the bridge on both their guitars, and both their guitars got better harmonics than mine and sounded less fat.

After thinking about it and measuring the guitars pickup locations I arrived at the theory that the pickups need to be located as an "aspect ratio" (AR) of the scale length, which eliminates neck scale from the equation.

For instance the Les Paul having a 24-3/4" scale, it's bridge pickup is located 23-3/8" and the neck at 18-5/8".
(I locate off the adjustable screw poles of a humbucking pickup in their normal Les Paul orientation)

This equates to an AR of .94 for the Bridge pickup location and .75 for the Neck pickup location.

So as an example when placing humbuckers on a Strat and wanting Les Paul type voicing, the strat having a 25.5" scale would have the bridge pickup at:

25.5 x .94 = 23.97" (23-31/32")

and the neck the pickup screw poles would be placed at:

25.5 x .75 = 19.12" (19-1/8")

This works for me when locating pickups.

PS, the AR on Strats is...

Bridge: LowE=.931 HighE=.946
Mid: .85
Neck: .75

Note the highE pole on the bridge pickup and the neck pickup AR's on the Strat are the same as on the Les Paul....Hmmmmmm....coincidence? I don't think so Tim, I think those are the "sweet spots" on electric guitars.

Side-note: SG's made today have the bridge pickup located closer to the bridge, in the right spot ...BUT... now the neck pickup isn't in the sweet spot at AR=.75 dang! "

Can anyone here verify or dispute any of this? Is there anything to it, or is this just hokum?

Heres a link to the page:

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Anything you do, including doing nothing, wrt to pickups, string gauges, action heights, neck relief, bridge/saddle types and materials, fret material, break-angles, fret dispositions (fanned frets, if you like fans) compensated nuts and string height above body will get you an argument or discussion or death threat on most of the gear head/technocrat forums. 

Move a pick-up away from the bridge it gets warmer/sweeter for obvious reasons for any given note/chord.   From a harmonic point of view it's a more complex situation as the harmonic is still tied to the fundamental and subsequent string and guitar body/hardware induced harmonics , or pinch distance for pinch harmonics, and given the relative frequency wavelength compared to the magnetic aperture I can't really see that it matters much (or as much as it is held).    

But, I must go and rearrange my sock drawer as it hold a better prospect of a meaningful outcome than to try and figure this one out.



I figured you'd have something like this to say, Rus. Youre so practical :).

I know location makes a difference , and neck pickups are often at 2nd octave node , but to me its crazy because that 2nd octave is only relevent to open stings , if youre playing in C or F or whatever the pickup is no longer in the sweet spot to my mind . Please inform me of my ignorance !

No ignorance that Im aware of - it only makes sense that any 'sweet spot' for open strings wont be the same for fretted notes, except maybe octaves.

I just wondered if this so called aspect ratio could be an indicator of an "overall sweet spot" for a given scale. But obviously even that would be subject to the factors Rusty mentioned, in addition to the magnetic apertures of different magnets/pickups/pickup types. I suppose it might be possible to plot such a location for a reasonable set of factors... Anybody know a physicist? Lol

I find that the tone the pickup delivers is directly relateable to the tone the unamplified string delivers when plucked/picked at that location.  It's going to change every time the string length changes as the string is fretted to different notes so it's always a compromise , but for much of the fretboard it's going to be affected more by the distance from the bridge than the distance from the fret.  In all honesty, I think that the length of the fretboard decides the location of the neck pickup and the clunkyness of the bridge decides the location of the bridge pickup as much as any other factor.  I know that Les Paul had guitars where he could locate a pickup anywhere from the neck to the bridge and did many experiments - I would be surprised if his knowledge did not inform the design and pickup placement of the classic Les Paul guitar, which in turn informed all similar guitars to some extent.  I expect that the Telecaster and Stratocaster pickup locations, for the bridge anyway, were likewise subject to some experimentation.  But not mathematical node analysis - just what sounded good.


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