Multiscale pickup placement and it's effect on tone

Empryrean

angery gear acquirer
Joined
Jun 19, 2009
Messages
3,211
Reaction score
594
Location
California
I've been toying with the idea of picking up a multiscale erg but have noticed either that bridge pups are unevenly spaced from the fretboard OR have enormous routes that only fit EMGs. My question is: what effect does this have on tone? If any at all

Here's an example. This guitar has the bridge pup closer to the bridge on the treble side than the bass side, I can only imagine this would make the unwound strings more shrill and unpleasant while the bass side is less defined since it is placed further from the bridge.
legacy62527tomdobq22.jpg


The fact that they are parallel to one another is pleasing though I guess
 

spudmunkey

SS.org Regular
Joined
Mar 7, 2010
Messages
7,577
Reaction score
12,787
Location
Near San Francisco
There's all sorts of ways that you'll see multiscale pickups oriented.

The larger the operation/production run, the more you will see the bridge pickup and the neck pickup at the same angle, and normally that angle is the same as the upper-most fret. Because if they were to put the neck pickup to match the fret, and then the bridge pickup to match the bridge, those would be two different angles, which means two different SKUs which means a reduction in production efficiency and a little more cost.

As you go more boutique, you'll see more examples of them being different.

With that being said, in theory, the angle of the bridge pickup shouldn't match the bridge, if you look at it a certain way: %. If the ideal location for the neck pickup is 50% between the 12th fret and the bridge, as many 22-fret purists would argue, that is about % and not about a fixed dimension. So because the scale length changes from high to low, the bridge pickups *should* be further away from the bridge, if you were going for the same, say, 5% of the scale's length away from the bridge.

but if you look at any SSS Strat, they are set up the same way: with the bridge pickup angling the same way you have in the image you posted.

But then that all gets thrown out the window by some.
5962128_orig.jpg
 

Winspear

Tom Winspear
Joined
Oct 23, 2009
Messages
12,354
Reaction score
3,376
Location
Yorkshire, U.K
Firstly, I'll reply to spudmunkey for the most part. And answer the original question afterwards.

With that being said, in theory, the angle of the bridge pickup shouldn't match the bridge, if you look at it a certain way: %. If the ideal location for the neck pickup is 50% between the 12th fret and the bridge, as many 22-fret purists would argue, that is about % and not about a fixed dimension. So because the scale length changes from high to low, the bridge pickups *should* be further away from the bridge, if you were going for the same, say, 5% of the scale's length away from the bridge.

Your logic is entirely sound, yes, in theory the angle of the neck pickup should be slightly more than the last fret - the bridge pickup, a bit more than that - and the bridge, a bit more angled still.
But, something to remember is that the bridge is usually angled to the scale length. Scale length is theoretical and applies only to the high E which is nice and thin. The intonated saddles will be angled significantly further. On an 8 string you can expect your bass side to be 6-8mm longer than scale length once intonated.

You can see Red Layer compensate for this (I mean, it might not be accurate, we'd need to see the exact measurements);
Gitaar_7.png


So THAT is an example of a guitar that does actually have the pickup placed an equal balance from the bridge, which could be considered wrong by what you are saying. The more usual examples where the pickup is the same angle as the bridge, probably are closer to what you are suggesting is an equal ratio - once intonation is taken care of.
Of course, it's always hard to tell by looking, as the bridge angle itself may have already been compensated for intonation. But this is all kind of nitpicky.
I don't think you need to think about it that much, outside of designing your own guitars and pleasing yourself with perfection - whatever your idea of that may be.

Any guitar in this ballpark, will be absolutely fine. The angle does not change much at all in that short distance from bridge to bridge pickup in terms of ratio like you are suggesting.

But what about the large amount of multiscale guitars with severely under-angled pickups?


-----

To answer the original post, indeed the guitar in your pic effectively has an angle more like a Stratocaster bridge pickup.
I would say this is certainly not desirable for most modern metal applications. You are right in your expectations of what it would sound like. This isn't too much of an extreme example compared to some - I could likely play it blind and be happy enough - but it's a 6 string. The angle isn't nearly as bad as some. When we are getting into extended range territory, using thick strings and low tunings where extra clarity is valuable, I would say that warrants an angle match - because we need every bit of help we can get to combat the fact that the big strings already underperform massively acoustically.

I believe that multiscale guitars should be built with their pickup angle limitations in mind. If you're going to build a multiscale guitar and can only get a 10 degree bridge pickup, then make sure the fan is small enough to result in a bridge that is 10 degrees (or, going further like I said, saddles that are ten degrees after additional intonation).
Not doing so isn't the end of the world for thinner gauges, but once you get up toward 70 and above, I'm certain that a shorter scale with a properly placed pickup would sound better.
If I had to chose between a 25-26 with a 68 gauge and properly placed pickup, versus a 25-27 with a 65 (equal tension) and underangled pickup, I'm almost certain the 26" would sound clearer. I'd like to test this theory accurately.

In short, I believe doing this (fanning a guitar how you like, then slapping a pickup on completely undermines the entire tonal benefit of a multiscale guitar.

Multiscale-Guitars.jpg


This kind of thing? I've tried some. It doesn't work*. I'd rather play a 25.5 straight scale with a nasty fat string but regular pickup.

*of course I acknowledge that plenty of great sounds have been made on them, but the same is true of many poor designs and this is a design discussion :)

I think it often gets overlooked because people (including designers) for the most part seem to feel multiscale is about improved tension. That logic never made sense to me because you can always use custom gauges to make a short scale feel the same. When it comes down to it, the real benefit to multiscale is tone - and a straight pickup reverses that.
 
Last edited:

Lemonbaby

SS.org Regular
Joined
Jun 3, 2015
Messages
1,577
Reaction score
1,656
Location
Germany
I think it often gets overlooked because people (including designers) for the most part seem to feel multiscale is about improved tension. That logic never made sense to me because you can always use custom gauges to make a short scale feel the same.
You could in theory, but your low strings on a 7/8 will be pitching up like crazy. Equal tension AND stable intonation can only be achieved with longer scale lengths on the bass side.
 

Lorcan Ward

7slinger
Joined
May 15, 2009
Messages
6,721
Reaction score
4,785
Location
Ireland
When it comes down to it, the real benefit to multiscale is tone - and a straight pickup reverses that.

Echoing what Tom has said, a straight pickup undoes the effect of a multiscale by adding the bass back in to the low strings and pushing the treble on the high string. There is nothing you can do in your signal chain that can mimic the angling of a pickup, you can boost and cut anything in your EQ but you can't take frequencies away from a specific string, only pickup orientation will do that.
 

Empryrean

angery gear acquirer
Joined
Jun 19, 2009
Messages
3,211
Reaction score
594
Location
California
Thank you all for the input guys, I will make sure to keep this info in consideration when I am making me next guitar
 

Flappydoodle

SS.org Regular
Joined
Feb 26, 2018
Messages
2,046
Reaction score
2,151
Echoing what Tom has said, a straight pickup undoes the effect of a multiscale by adding the bass back in to the low strings and pushing the treble on the high string. There is nothing you can do in your signal chain that can mimic the angling of a pickup, you can boost and cut anything in your EQ but you can't take frequencies away from a specific string, only pickup orientation will do that.


I've often thought this as well. This makes the pickup position and angle arguably more important than the pickup choice (within reason), and certainly more important than the woods used

Thank you all for the input guys, I will make sure to keep this info in consideration when I am making me next guitar

Echoing what I said above. I think the pickup distance from the bridge is a REALLY important factor in how a guitar sounds. This is true for fixed bridge guitars with regular scale lengths, so it would be even more important for multi scale.

A guy who does these sort of experiments can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/user/JohanSegeborn/videos

He's tested scale length, changing tuners, changing the nut, changing bridge saddles, removing the neck pickup etc.

He tests pickup position (distance from the bridge) here:

 

bostjan

MicroMetal
Contributor
Joined
Dec 7, 2005
Messages
21,129
Reaction score
12,973
Location
St. Johnsbury, VT USA
Yeah, pretty much everything said here is the correct principle, but...

From that video, it is apparent to me that the tone has a much stronger dependency on scale length than on pickup placement, though.

So maybe fussing about the angle of the bridge pickup is only worth all the fuss once you get the scale length you want squared away.
 


Top