Following is an email (between the "§§§'s") with Ethan regarding the positioning of pickups on short-scale basses.
Well, I did some thinking and I did some measuring. Many people feel
that the "sweet spot" for a 34" scale bass is where a standard P-bass
pickup resides, which is 28.6" (or close enough) from the nut.
I did some measuring to see if all my P-basses were the same, and they
were. Then I measured some other, non-fender basses to see where they
put their neck pickups and, sure enough, they were pretty damn close to
28.6" - G&L, Modulus, Kawai, all 28.6". One exception was Musicman,
who puts the neck pickup on the Sabre closer to the neck, but I never
cared much for the neck pickup sound on a Sabre, which leads me to
believe that this 28.6" may be something like a right answer.
it happens, the original, single-coil P-bass places the pickup an inch
closer to the neck. It sounds good there, but it's a very bright
sounding single-coil - very UNlike a split P. Did Leo Fender move it
closer to the bridge when he switched to the split P humbucker to reduce
the muddiness of the newer, quieter pickup? Yeah... probably. Did he
come up with the new measurement scientifically? Almost definitely
not. Did he just get lucky? I doubt it. I'll bet he just tried it in a
bunch of places and chose whichever he liked best.
Jazz Bass, which came later than both versions of the P-bass splits the
difference at just over 28", but the pickup splits the difference, too:
single coil, but not as bright sounding as a SC P-bass pickup. I
somehow doubt this is all a coincidence.
where does that leave you? Well, a 30" scale length is about .882 of a
34" scale length, so the numbers on a 30"-scale bass would play as
SC P-bass: 24.25"
Jazz Bass: 24.9"
Std P-bass 25.25"
25.25" happens to be exactly where the pickup is on my vintage Dan
Armstrong/Danelectro, which is the only short-scale (30") bass I own,
and it sounds really good there. There's a bass with the same scale as
yours and the pickup is placed right where an equivalently-scaled
P-bass' pickup would be. That's a "lipstick-tube" pickup on there,
which is an overwound single-coil that sounds like the bastard child of a
split P-bass pickup and a P-90.
So in your
position, I would probably choose 25.25" from the nut (to the center of
the pickup) if I were using a humbucker of any kind (including a split
P), 24.9" for a J pickup or any other bass pickup with a bit more
clarity (like the newer, full-range Bartolinis, Nordstrand singles,
Delanos or lower-output EMGs) and leave the 24.25" position alone, as
it's probably not far enough from where your pickup is now to make any
As far as a bridge
pickup goes, Gibson tended to put them too close to the bridge. I guess
they thought they'd only be used as an addition to the neck pickup.
I'd suggest putting it right between the other pickup and the bridge or
maybe even a little closer to the other pickup. There will be less
difference between the two pickups, true, but there will still be a
difference and what you'll gain is two, distinct sounds that can both be
used as stand-alone bass sounds - something you really can't do with a
stock Gibson bridge pickup.
Now, just to muddy
the waters a little further (because I can), the Musicman Stingray only
has one pickup - ostensibly a "bridge" pickup, although it's far enough
from the bridge to still sound like a [neck] pickup. It sits at 30.6",
which equates to 27" on a 30"-scale bass. A Rickenbacker's neck pickup
is really close to the neck and most people use the bridge pickup as the
main pickup on a Ric. Translated to 30" scale from a Ric's 33" the
pickup would sit at 26.8". In other words, if the scales were equal, a
Ric's bridge pickup sits VERY near where a Stingray's pickup is, which
explains their similar growl.
Jazz basses and
G&Ls place the bridge pickup closer to the bridge, just on the edge
of usefulness as a standalone pickup, IMO. They sit at 31.5 or 32",
depending upon the year. That equates to 27.8" or 28.2", give or take.
on these numbers, I'd shoot for 25.25 for the neck pickup and then try
to squeeze the bridge pickup in there as close to 27" as space will
allow (reality would probably push you closer to 27.5). Sure, it will
put it pretty close to the neck pickup, but you'll end up with two
really useful pickup positions that would still probably work well
As far as what pickups to
use.... well, shit. There are an awful lot of options out there. It
really depends upon what you're after. Do you want your bass to still
sound kinda like an EB-0 but on steroids, or are you looking for much
more versatility? There's a pretty staggering array of pickup and
electronics options for bass - everything from pure thud to super hi-fi
with tons of stops in between, and a lot of ways to get both - or, at
least, aspects of both from the same instrument. A lot of it is just
how much planning you want to do and how much you want to spend.
There I go, thinking too much again.
I'm going to try to put my DiMarzio One at the 25.25" position on my Epiphone EB0. More on that in later posts!