Strat Pickup Height Adjustment: An Easy-to-Follow Guide

Strat Pickup Height Adjustment: An Easy-to-Follow Guide

Want to improve the sound of your Strat? You may want your tone to be more dynamic and expressive.

Adjusting your Strat pickup height can do wonders in this area. You’ll be surprised at how this slight adjustment can improve your tone.

Here, I’ll explain.

  • What’s A Strat Pickup and How Does It Work

  • What Is Pickup Height and Why Is It Important?

  • What’s The Ideal Height of Your Stratocaster Pickups?

  • Preparations Before Starting

  • Setup Your Strat Pickup Height

After this read, you’ll have the optimal pickup height and your desired tone.

What’s A Strat Pickup and How Does It Work

Wait, before you start adjusting your pickups, let’s first have a quick review of how pickups work.

Stratocaster or Strat pickups, like other pickups, are made up of a magnetic pickup. Its pole pieces stick out and are the one that absorbs electric signals.

So, as you strum the strings, the string vibration disrupts the magnetic field of the pickup magnet below it. This produces an electrical current that passes from the pickup to the amp.

Strat pickups are just one of the many different pickup types available, but they all follow the same mechanics.

What Is Pickup Height and Why Is It Important?

Pickup height refers to the distance from the bottom of the string to the top of the pickup pole piece. To get the pickup height, you need a precision ruler that can measure the distance from the top of the pole to the bottom of the string.

The bigger the distance, the lesser the magnetic pull and the lower its output, which mellows the output sound. The closer the string is to the pole piece, the greater the magnetic pull. This drives the output higher.

You must adjust the pickup to an ideal height to achieve the best tone for your guitar.  And the height is different on the treble and bass side of the pickup. Generally, the bass side tends to be lower (far from the strings), while the treble side is close to the strings.

What Height Should Stratocaster Pickups Be?

The Fender Strat has a lot of pickup variations. The following pickup heights are factory-set, which means industry professionals set these up and are proven to work all the time.

Fender Factory Set Pickup Specs

Vintage Style Pickups: Treble Side: 6/64″ (2.4 mm) Bass side: 8/64″ (3.2 mm)

Special Design Humbucker Pickups: Treble side: 5/64″ (2 mm) Bass side: 7/64″ (2.8 mm)

Noiseless™ Series: Treble side: 6/64″ (2.4 mm) Bass side: 8/64″ (3.2 mm)

Standard “J” or “P”: Treble side: 5/64″ (2 mm) Bass side: 7/64″ (2.8 mm)

Before You Start

Before you begin, here are a few things you must prepare and some basics you should understand.

  • Prepare the tools: A precise ruler, with measurements running to the end, screwdriver (make sure you have the correct type of screwdriver for your adjustment screws), pen and pencil for noting adjustments.

  • You can adjust the pickup using the screws at both ends of the pickup. Measure the bass side using the low E string and the treble side with the high E string.

  • Pickup height can be measured in fractions of an inch or millimeters. Use whatever measurement you find easiest.

  • Before adjusting the pickups, ensure your guitar is in tune. Otherwise, you won’t be getting an accurate reading of your pickup.

How to Setup Your Strat Pickup Height

Vintage Style Strat Pickup Height Setup
Vintage Style Strat Pickup Setup
  • Fret the strings

  • Press down on the strings at the highest fret or last fret when measuring pickup height. This will ensure you have good string clearance at every fret and not get any fret buzz after setting up your pickups.

  • Make a note of the initial height.

  • While fretting the highest fret, measure the initial pickup height of your guitar. Check the height at the first and sixth strings and take note of it.

  • Noting the initial height is essential because if you dislike the pickup height you come up later, you could quickly go back to its previous setting.

  • Set it back to its factory setting

  • Turn the mounting screw to raise and lower the pickups.

  • Set it back to its factory default setup. Have a listen to how your Strat sounds with the adjusted pickups.

  • If you like the result, you can keep it as it is or gradually adjust it to your liking.

  • Customize

  • Although there’s a set standard pickup height that is advised, you could always customize your setup.

  • Every great guitar player sets their pickups differently. Strat icons like Eric Johnson and Stevie Ray Vaughn have unique Strat pickup height specs. Dan Erlewine’s book, “How to make your electric guitar play great!” has the specs for their three pickups.

  • String Height Setup (Low E String High E String)

  • Stevie Ray Vaughn

    • Neck Pickup: 1/32″ (0.8 mm) 1/16 (1.6 mm)

    • Middle Pickup: 1/16″ (1.6 mm) .004 (1 mm)

    • Bridge Pickup: 1/32″ (0.8 mm)

  • Eric Johnson

    • Neck Pickup: 5/64″ (2.0 mm) 3/64″ (1.2 mm)

    • Middle Pickup: 9/64″ (3.6 mm) 7/64″ (2.8 mm)

    • Bridge Pickup: 5/64″ (2.0 mm) 3.5/64″ (1.4 mm)

  • As you can see, each has a distinct pickup height setup. So, try and find the setup that fits you.

  • Note: other factors like the string gauge, tuning, action, scale length, etc., and pickup height are customed to fit each artist’s preferences.

  • Give It A Listen

  • Your ear is your best friend in this situation. Let it guide you to find the right pickup height for you and your Strat.

  • As you make your pickup adjustments, it’s important to stop and listen. Find a balanced or even output and use that as a starting point.

  • Pickup height needs to match your playing style. How hard you hit the strings, habits like resting your hands on the bridge, where you strum or pick the strings, including the pickup height setup, will play a huge role in the quality of sound you produce.

  • For example, you might need to lower the bridge pickup if you tend to strum hard near the bridge pickups. Otherwise, the bridge pickup sound could overwhelm the other two pickups.

  • When you’re happy with the sound, note your final heights. You should refer to this later if you make other changes to how your guitar sounds.

  • Tweak your effects and amp settings to match your pickups’ adjusted tone and response. Generally, you’ll be doing incremental EQ changes to complement your guitar’s sound.


  • Set it up in your playing position. Gravity plays a role in your string positions. When laid down, the strings will be higher over the pickup than in the playing position. This is true for your replacement pickups and for your existing pickups.  

  • Fender branded pickups have their own recommended height setups. But most of them work well with 8/64″ height on the bass side. This includes the Texas Specials 8 64 and the Noiseless Series 8 64.

  • Use a tuner, and check the tuner needle to see if it bounces from left to right instead of staying still. This could mean you’re pickup is too close or high that it pulls your strings, causing intonation problems. Try to adjust the pickup height to see if it’s the cause.

  • If you’ve swapped your single-coil with a humbucker pickup, it will probably need to be lower than the standard single-coil because of its higher output.

  • Potted and unpotted pickups will also affect your guitar pickup sound. Unpotted pickups will have more microphonic feedback, which is good for harmonics. But these pickups will also introduce more noise than their other counterparts. If you’re playing live with high gain, it’s best to have potted pickups.

  • Knock on your guitar’s body or pickup to see if you have a potted or unpotted pickup. If knocking produces a loud and resonant sound, you may have an unpotted pickup. If not, then it’s a potted one.

Final Thoughts

Setting up your Strat pickup height correctly will do wonders for your tone.

Listen to the pickup response as you’re adjusting the pickups. Make sure that it’s the tone you want to hear.

In pursuit of a great tone, pickup settings are just a part of the puzzle.

Tweak your effects and amps to complement the adjusted pickup response of your guitar.

Remember to take note of the before and after pickup height measurements so you can review and even revert to your old settings if needed.

Now, let’s answer some common questions about pickup height.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Pickup Height Affect Playing Style?

Yes, the height of your pickup can affect your playing style! Pickups partly determine your guitar’s output and help shape your tone.

If pickups are too high, they will have more output, making you strum or pick softer. On the other hand, if it’s too low, you’ll get a lower output, so in response, you’ll want to pick or strum even harder. Doing this, in the long run, will change your playing style.

Does Pickup Height Cause Fret Buzz?

Yes, it does. More noticeable on a Strat. If the pickups are too high, the pickup magnets will pull the strings more, resulting in fret buzz.

Shouldn’t Pickups Be Even?

No. The proper pickup orientation should always be lower on the bass side and closer on the treble side (although some guitar players prefer it to be even or leveled). The bass strings disturb the magnetic field more than the treble strings since they have more mass.

So, if you even or level your pickups, your bass will overpower the output of your treble. the output of your treble.


Jerome Arcon – Co-writer and Illustrations (Image Credit)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *