Troubleshooting Bass Pickups

Written by keith patrick
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Troubleshooting Bass Pickups
Bass guitar pickups often fail because of a wiring issue. (5 string bass guitar image by fisher from

Bass guitar pickups usually last longer than electric guitar pickups but they can encounter problems like any electronic component. Manufacturers also create simpler designs for bass pickups, making them easier to troubleshoot. Sometimes the pickups just need to be realigned and adjusted. Other times electrical wiring needs to be replaced. You shouldn't jump to conclusions however until you've examined your pickups from the outside and inside of the bass.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 1/8 inch or 1/4 inch screwdriver
  • 1/4 inch instrument cable
  • Bass amplifier

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  1. 1

    Listen to your bass while playing it and identify the sound problem. If the bass tone sounds weak or quiet, the pickup's height may need to be adjusted. If the sound cuts in and out while playing, it is likely a wiring issue. If the sound completely cuts out, the electrical components in the body may have failed.

  2. 2

    Use a screwdriver to unscrew the four screws of the battery compartment on the back of the guitar. Disconnect the charge wires from the guitar to the 9V battery, and replace it with a new 9-volt battery. Reconnect the new battery to the bass wires. Screw the battery cover to the bass.

  3. 3

    Lay your bass flat on the ground. Wiggle the pickups with your thumb and index finger. Bass pickups should feel cemented into the guitar body. If they move at all, tighten them with a screwdriver. Examine the pole pieces on the pickups. These small holes in the middle of the pickup should be perfectly aligned and centred. If you find a misalignment, take the bass to a guitar repair shop.

  4. 4

    Isolate the pickup causing the sound problems. Play the bass, and pull the small lever next to your volume and tone knobs to switch pickups. Pull the lever into the next slot. You will feel and see the lever snap into position when it's on a new pickup. Play your bass guitar once again and listen carefully to the sound. If you notice a difference in sound quality with one pickup you know where the problem is.

  5. 5

    Unwind the strings off the tuners at the head of the bass. Unscrew the pick guard around the guitar pickups with a 1/8 inch screwdriver. Pull the pick guard off the guitar body. Examine all of the electric components near the bass pickups for any disconnected wires or signs of wear. Any signs of weakness in the wiring around the pickups can cause the sound to cut out. Any damaged wires will need to be resoldered or replaced.

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