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Common Questions About Gibson & Fender Pole Piece Spacing – part 2

This the second part of our series about some important considerations for Gibson and Fender pole piece spacing. Part one talked about things to consider for humbuckers. This section will cover things you’ll want to know when setting up instruments with single coil pickups.

First, to review – the main focus of this series is to understand that there is a slight difference in the pole piece spacing between typical Gibson style pickups and Fender style pickups. By “pole piece spacing” we mean the amount of space in between the pole pieces of the pickups. This roughly relates to the spacing in between the strings of the guitar, but not entirely. More on this point later.

If you were to measure the distance between the high E string and the low E string you would get different measurements if you were measuring a Gibson style pickup versus a Fender style pickup. When measured from center to center of the two outside (E) strings, a standard Gibson style pole spacing is right around 50 millimeters. A standard Fender style pole spacing is between 52 and 53 millimeters, depending on the pickup.

Just like in part 1 of this series, the best way to proceed is to review the most common questions.

Question 1: A soapbar is traditionally a Gibson style pickup, is there any way to get one with Fender spacing (F-spacing) instead?

Yes. We actually make an F-spaced soapbar P-90. Currently we make them when ordered, so they are not on our web site. To order one you’ll need to call the shop and place your order by phone (206) 463-9838. The turnaround time for those is a week or two. We can build them in all of the different soapbar versions we make – standard wind, 50’s wind, and +5% overwound.

Question 2: I want to put a soapbar into the neck of my Tele; will I need an F-spaced pickup?

Probably not. Because the strings get closer together as you move from the bridge to the neck, in most cases a standard Gibson spacing will be fine in the neck position. (See question 4 for more detail).

Question 3: I’m installing a 3-piece set of soapbar pickups into my Strat; do I need an F-spaced bridge?

That would be a good idea. Read the discussion for question 4 for more detail.

Question 4: I notice that the strings on my Strat line up differently over the pole pieces, is something wrong?

This is an interesting question. We discussed it in the previous blog, using humbuckers as the example. But since it applies to almost all guitars, it’s worth discussing using a single coil example also. As you know, the string spacing is the widest right at the bridge and the narrowest at the nut. So in other words, as the strings span from the bridge saddles to the nut, they become closer and closer together. Put another way, they are never quite the same distance apart anywhere along the guitar. They are either getting closer together as you travel from the bridge to the nut, or getting further apart as you travel from the nut to the bridge. That means the strings will always relate to the pole piece spacing of the pickups a little differently, depending on the position along the guitar.

Notice how the strings and pole pieces line up a little differently at each different pickup position.

Notice how the strings and pole pieces line up a little differently at each different pickup position.

The Strat is a perfect example. Take a look at this photo. If you look closely, you can see that closest to the bridge – where the strings are their widest apart – they actually sit a little to the outside of the two E pole pieces. If you travel down the guitar and look at the relationship at the middle pickup, you’ll see that the strings sit nicely centered over the pickup’s pole pieces. And if you travel even further toward the nut – as the strings get even closer together – you’ll see that the strings actually sit a little to the inside of the two E pole pieces. Like we mentioned in last week’s discussion, this is true in most instances. If the string spacing at the bridge is wider than at the nut, the strings will always relate to the pickup pole piece spacing a little differently, depending on the location on the guitar.

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