Bass Guitar – Pickup choice

Posted by is9582 on February 4, 2015as , , , , , , ,

I’ve been looking for what might be the perfect pickup, for the bass guitar I built recently (check out the multi-part article at Highland Woodworking) , and I think I’ve found what I was looking for. I searched all of the usual music seller’s websites, and came across a pickup by Lace. This pickup is the Lace Ultra Slim Acoustic Bass pickup, and even though it is labeled as if it is only for acoustic instruments, it has a nice pure sound that I really love. What initially caught my attention was how small it’s dimensions were, relating to it’s overall height. This pickup is all of 5/16″ tall!! I went and got my electronic dial calipers (this pair has three settings, of which one is decimal inches, another is metric, and the third actually shows fractions), so I could see how much distance I had between the top surface of the bass and the bottom of the strings. Oh, and yes, I measured this while fretting the highest note on each string, since that will cause the strings to be at their lowest point (not including any oscillation occurring the string makes). I had enough space, including any expected string oscillation, for this pickup to fit.

Cool bass pickup that can handle either 4 or 5 strings, and is only 5/16

Cool bass pickup that can handle either 4 or 5 strings, and is only 5/16″ tall!

Yet another cool thing, is that this pickup will work on solid-body basses or on acoustic basses. There are four holes with which to attach it to a body with screws, as well as double-sided tape (from the factory), that can hold the pickup to a body without drilling any holes or using screws. One other unique aspect of this pickup, is that it comes pre-wired to a 1/4″ output jack, and the connection is “sealed” via shrink tubing.  I have been wondering how I was going to know which location on the body (most guitars/basses have a location near the bridge and one near the neck, and the bridge provides a brighter tone and the neck a more mellow smooth tone) I would prefer the most. I didn’t want to start routing holes, only to find the tone at that position was less than desirable. I had even thought about making a thin “pickup” of sorts, just to determine the best placement point, to my ears. So, this pickup is going to do double duty, as I can slide it to different positions on the body, while it is still plugged into the amplifier, and get real-time results. It’s interesting how we have a somewhat short “memory” when it comes to exactness of tones, as well as for colors. If I had to play with the pickup in one position, then turn off the amp and move the pickup, turn on the amp and then play, I could easily have false recollection that would either say the two were the same (even if they were not) or they were different (even though there wasn’t any real noticeable difference).

After finding the pickup position I most preferred, I wanted to play with the bass in the regular position (I’ve had the bass laying on it’s back, while I moved the pickup around, since it could just slide off the body if I didn’t), but I didn’t want to use the provided tape. After thinking how I could keep it in one position, I came up with an inexpensive solution. I took a piece of insulated wire (16 gauge, I think) and cut it so it would almost reach around the bass’s body. I borrowed two hair bungees, which I fed one end of the wire into each, and wrapped the wire back onto itself multiple times to secure. I cut two more small lengths of wire and stripped one end of each wire. I bent the stripped portion into almost a “J” shape, and applied solder so this shape become rigid.  I attached the other end of the two small lengths, each to one bungee, using the same wrapping procedure as earlier. So now I had a device that would wrap around the waist of my bass’s body, and stretch slightly as the “J” sections hooked into one of the screw holes on opposite sides of the pickup. It turned out that the main wire was a little too long, as there wasn’t enough tension on the bungees, to hold everything in place. I took up the slack in the center of the wire, making a small loop, and then just wound the loop back around the main section. Now it required just enough tension to hook the device to the pickup, and it stayed where I placed it.

Super closeup of Lace pickup held in place by

Super closeup of Lace pickup held in place by “J” shaped wire and other pieces. Red arrows show where the “J” sections are hooked.

Bass body showing a bit more of the contraption I made to hold the pickup where I wanted, during test playing.

Bass body showing a bit more of the getup I made to hold the pickup where I wanted, during test playing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After playing through different settings on my AxeFXII, I’ve confirmed the pickup is where I will mount it permanently. To do this, I’ll have to either cut the wiring, down close to the built-in-jack, or cut the outside material around the jack and wire. If I didn’t remove the jack first, I’d need a much larger hole in the body, for the wire to make it to the control cavity. There would also be no easy way to run the pickup’s wire to a volume control, which I plan to do in this build. It’s my hope that I’ll also find a way to utilize the 1/4″ jack, similar to most electric bass designs, where it is located on the rear edge of the body. I’ll see how that goes, after I have disassembled the connection.

I will continue to update the bass as it moves closer to complete finalization, and adjustments I make that I think might be of interest. Thank you for stopping by and please do let me know if you have any questions or comments.

 

Lee Laird

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