It’s totally normal if guitar pick-ups move a little bit when you push on them in some way, however, if they move around on their own, there is something wrong.
In fact, guitar pick-ups should almost always move a little bit when you push on them because the vast majority of them are adjustable due to being balanced on two height-screws in addition to a spring.
In other words, if you can move your pick-ups around a little bit, it’s not something you should be worrying about, depending on the severity of how much they move around, of course.
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If you take a look at your pick-ups, whether they’re in a casing or the coils are exposed, you’ll notice that there are two screws on either side of them.
The height screws on both sides are meant for adjusting the height of the pick-ups, so you can either bring the pick-ups closer to the strings or further away, depending on how loud or quiet you want them to be.
Usually, if you turn the screwdriver clockwise, you’re going to drop the pick-ups down toward the body, and if you turn it counter-clockwise, you’re going to bring them up toward the strings.
Make sure you have a toolset with you so you can set up your guitar properly. I’m sure there are tool-sets available on Amazon that are meant specifically for guitar set-ups, including truss rod adjustments, intonation, etc.
Obviously, if you want the pick-ups to pick up more signals, then you want them closer to the guitar strings, and if you want them to pick up less signal, then you want them adjusted away from the strings.
The pick-ups are a series of electromagnets, that convert the soundwaves of the string to an electrical signal, which is then sent to the amplifier.
In other words, each electromagnet that’s in the pick-up is like a tiny little microphone. It functions in essentially the same way.
Typically, guitar manufacturers such as Gibson state that the bridge pick-up should be 1.6mm (1/16″) tall whereas the neck pick-up should be 2.4mm (3/32″) tall (more on pickups in my guide).
Other people customize the pick-up height even further by bringing up the bass-side (lowest strings) of the pick-ups to 1/16″ (1.6mm) whereas on the treble side (the highest strings) are around 1/16″ (1.6mm).
It’s really up to the player to determine how tall or short they are, depending on their individual taste, but this is arguably the most common practice, for sure, but you can get a guideline of how to do things using Dan Erlewine’s Guitar Repair Guide (from Amazon).
It’s worth mentioning that there are different kinds of pickups out there, with humbuckers being the kind that is more apt to move around a little bit when you push on them.
Single-coil pick-ups, on a Fender Strat, for instance, are usually fastened to the body a little bit tighter, so from what I understand, they shouldn’t move around as much as humbuckers.
Humbuckers are basically two coil pick-ups fastened together in sets of two.
These are the types of pick-ups that exist in Gibson guitars, as well as in ESP or a Paul Reed Smith. You can check out the image below to see what I’m talking about.
In the case of the guitar pick-ups being too loose or perhaps too tight, you might have to take the guitar to a luthier who can properly fix the issue. It’s best just to take your instrument to a luthier who can fix it immediately without any issues.
However, in case you don’t want to do that, we’re going to run through a brief tutorial and checklist to help you solve the problem, just in case, it’s not entirely worth visiting the luthier yet.
What Do I Do If The Pick-Ups Are Too Loose?
There are a few things you can do to solve this problem if you don’t want to take your guitar to a luthier right away.
As I mentioned above, guitar pick-ups are usually fastened to the instrument on a spring as well as the height adjustment screws. This allows for the guitar pick-ups to move up and down, depending on how you adjust the screws on each side of the unit.
If the pick-ups are too loose, it could mean that the height adjustment screws aren’t properly fastened to the spring as they should be.
For these recommendations, I scoured the internet far and wide and looked at forum users who made various suggestions. These are the best ones that I found.
1) Tighten the screws next to the pick-up adjustment screws.
In the image you can see below, I’ve highlighted the screws that are meant for fastening the pick-ups and the casing to the body of the instrument.
Screw the ones around it a little bit tighter.
2) Use Longer Springs.
The springs which the pick-ups are fastened to can actually be changed, and if they’re too short or too long, you can swap them out. In other words, if you take the pick-ups including the casing out of the body, you’ll notice that the pick-up adjustment screws are sitting within a spring.
This is what brings the pick-ups up and down, depending on whether you tighten or loosen the screws. Additionally, you’ll notice that the spring tends to be just a little bit longer than the screw, due to the fact the spring expands and contracts – because it’s a spring.
You could probably find different springs either at your local music store or online.
I would recommend taking care of this type of purchase at a local store because the people working there will have a much better idea of what you actually need.
3) Use a piece of foam and wedge them between the pickup and the casing.
By this, I mean that you grab a piece of foam, like a piece of memory foam or some other kind of soft material, like what would come from a certain type of mattress or pillow, and you wedge it between the pickup and the casing of the pick-ups.
This will take up a little bit more space, and then the guitar pick-ups won’t be as inclined to move around as much as they normally would.
I would say that this is the least favorable option because, while I’m not exactly certain about this, it could negatively impact the pick-ups’ ability to properly transmit the guitar string vibrations into an electric signal which I’ve talked about more in my article on guitar strings and conductivity. It’s also kind of tacky.
In the case of this option, I would argue that it’s just a temporary fix until you can either change the springs or get a screwdriver to adjust the tightness of the screws around the casing of the pick-ups.
With that said, I don’t think this will do much for affecting the pick-ups sound.
YouTube Video Tutorial
In conclusion, it’s completely normal if your pick-ups wobble around a little bit if you push or pull on them, and it’s not something you should be too worried about. However, it depends on how much they flop around.
If they flop around when you pick your guitar up, then this isn’t quite normal. They should respond to you pressing on them, but simply moving the guitar from the stand to your hands shouldn’t be enough for them to wobble around.
Just get your hands on a screwdriver and adjust either the screws on the outside of the pick-ups, or swap out the springs. As a last resort, you can take the instrument to a luthier and he/she will get you set up perfectly and you won’t have to worry about this again.