Sometimes it takes a few tweaks to get your guitar sounding how it should. I recently fielded this question which may be popping up more and more since people are buying more instruments online and some of the big box retailers are starting to carry musical instruments.

Q:

First three (highest) strings on my electric guitar are MUCH louder than the lower strings?

The high E string, B string, and G string of my new electric guitar are MUCH louder than the others.

Could it be my amplifier? Everything is fine on overdrive, but on clean it’s awful.

It’s a 20 dollar practice amp. I don’t know if maybe the pickups on the guitar need adjusting. I’m frustrated.

A:

It’s most likely is an adjustment issue on the guitar. I doubt it’s the amp.

Many new guitars are merely assembled at the factory, with the assumption that the music store will make the necessary adjustments before putting it on display. If you buy a guitar online or through a non-music store these adjustments may never take place. But they’re not that hard to do, just be careful with the screwdriver so that you don’t slip off the screw and scratch your guitars.

But before you make any adjustment first check to see if the right kind of strings are on your guitar.

Brass alloy acoustic guitar strings do not have the same magnetic quality that steel and nickel electric guitar strings have, and they would not reproduce sound nearly as much when your guitar is plugged in.

It would be easy to tell if your guitar had acoustic strings on them as they would be gold or copper colored on the wound strings.

Electric guitar strings have silver colored wound strings.

Of course, the unwound strings are steel for both acoustic and electric guitars, so those…the higher strings…would not play a role in determining whether acoustic or electric guitar strings were on your guitar.

So, if the correct strings are on your guitar, you can most likely correct the problem with adjustments:

If the pickups on your guitar have adjustable pole pieces, that would be the place to start. You can tell if the pole pieces are adjustable by looking at them. They are the pieces on the pickup underneath the strings. If they have a screwdriver slot in them, they’re adjustable.

What you’d want to do is for the lower strings (E,A and D) you’ll want to turn each of those pieces counter-clockwise. That will raise them. Because the D string is the thinnest, you’ll want it to be higher than the other two. The A string will be a little less high, and the E string a little lower than that.

Then, if the higher strings are still too loud, you can screw those pole pieces clockwise to lower them. Again, you’ll want to adjust the height for the thickness of each of those plain strings with the high E being the highest.

In the end, you’ll find you have staggered heights.

If your guitar’s pickups don’t have adjustable pole pieces (there’s no slot in them for a screwdriver or hex wrench, or the pickup has bar magnets that entire length runs beneath all the strings), you’ll adjust the height of the entire pickup up.

So on the lower string side; you turn the screw that’s next to the center of the pickup counter-clockwise to raise it. And the screw that’s near the center of the treble side of the pickup clockwise to lower it.

These screws are not on the pickup itself, but on the pickguard on a Fender strat or tele style guitar or on the pickup mounting ring on a Gibson style guitar.

Even if your guitar had adjustable height pole pieces, you may have to raise/lower the pickup as described above to get good string to string balance and/or good pickup to pickup balance.

Jake Kelly is a man on the constant search for enlightenment, if anyone finds it let him know so he can get some. For more of this hombre’s ramblings and the rest of L2P check out L2Pbandspace and L2Pnet.com.

Originally posted 2010-08-17 01:32:45.