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Guitar assembled; Pickups adjusted:
How to adjust pickups heights for best volume and tone balance:
For equal volume and tone balance across all of the strings and between pickups; the neck pickup will always be farther from the strings than the bridge pickup will, because the farther away from the bridge the more displacement the strings have, and volume is directly proportional to string displacement. Likewise the pickups must be farther away from the thicker bass strings than the thinner treble strings because thicker strings have more mass and thus provide the pickup more volume for a given distance from the strings.
So, the sequence for adjusting the pickups heights is:
(1). Adjust your amp's preamp / gain setting(s) to what they would normally be playing this kind of a guitar. If your amp doesn't have preamp volume / gain settings, and you don't have a small studio amp; Then set your volume at a comfortable guitar-work level until you get the pickups volume balances adjusted as said below; Then find a way / place where you can play at performing volumes to reset & balance the pickups "hotness" / dynamics / voltage / saturation / compression with amp settings like you would normally set for this kind of instrument; As said starting in #5 below.
(2) Adjust the neck pickup height down to the deck if it will go that low, and if it won't then the lowest it will go. That reduces it's sensitivity from accidently interfering while we adjust the bridge pickup.
(Sometimes a pickup has a maximum amount of tilt adjustment, and in those cases you have to alternate between both pickup ends adjustment screws to move both ends of the pickup).
(3). Now adjust the height of the first string end of the bridge pickup so that the first-string pole piece of the pickup is up as close to the string as possible without touching / buzzing the strings while you play as hard on that string as you likely ever will. This sets that end of the pickup as dynamicly hot as the pickup will go.
(4). Now adjust the height of the last-string end of the bridge pickup about 1/8" lower than the first-string end of the pickup, then fine trim that last string height adjustment until the first and last strings are the same volume. Most often if the first and last strings volumes are balanced then so will the rest of the strings be; But sometimes one or more of the middle strings will be louder than the last string, so a compromise must be trimmed out to best match the volume of the first string.
(5). Now play the guitar, concentrating on hearing how dynamic the tone is, to see if the pickup is too "hot" / too dynamic, which it probably will be for most Players. I like my pickups heights to get hot when I pick hard, but back off to a more stable but still sweet hot when I back off on my picking attack. Lowering the pickup will make it less dynamic, and it will have slightly less voltage, less saturation, less compression, less distortion and thus be more stable to both aggressive and non-aggressive picking, ....and thus less likely to distort an amp at normal high volume amp settings, etc.
(6). Now adjust the height of the first-string end of the neck pickup to have the same volume as the bridge pickup. The neck pickup will be farther away from the strings than the bridge pickup, due to the strings over the neck pickup having more displacement / amplitude.
(7). Now adjust the last-string end of the neck pickup to match the first-string end, which should make all strings on both pickups the same volume.
(8). Now while NOT adjusting the first-string end of the bridge pickup, fine adjust the other 3 ends of the pickups to match the volume of the first-string end of the bridge pickup.
(9). If you want a little more volume and bite for when you're soloing, you can adjust the neck pickup to be slightly less volume than the bridge pickup, and use the bridge pickup when playing solos. The bridge pickup has more treble tone to cut through the band / mix for solos. However, you can also set the bridge pickup to be slightly higher volume and / or dynamics for solos if you prefer that neck pickup's warmer tone for solos.
Guitar completed !
NOTICE: Players in the past have commented that japanese guitar rocker switchespop out of their detents too easily; But the truth of the matter is that the rocker switches are DESIGNED to do that, which allows very fast selection of any combination of pickups with just the touch of a finger in the right spot; Very effective once a Player gets used to it and remembers to stay away from the rockers when not switching. The rockers indent can be made tighter by simply squeezing the clip contacts closed a little tighter. Those guts of switches are accessible on the bottom side of the switch by removing the electronics plate from the guitar.
This steel's tone focus is in the high-mid and high frequencies of tones, typical of japanese electric guitars through the 1960s. I think the guitar's overall tone would be better if the tone control's filter capacitor was changed to a .047 mF / 200 volt capacitor. That would broaden the tonal focus and lean it's tones a bit more towards the bass end of the frequencies / tone spectrum.
But before changing the capacitor I would play and experiment with this guitar through a compressor. The tones this guitar has are reminiscent of old Rickenbacker horseshoe magnet tones but without the compressed character of the Rickenbacher's very thin pickup winding wire. I suspect that experimenting with running this guitar as it is through a compressor will encounter some very interesting tones.
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THE TONE CONTROL SWEET SPOT USED AND TAUGHT BY JERRY BYRD:
(Which is also why I think a .047mF capacitor will sound better in this guitar): With any combination of pickups, (each and both will provide different tone characters), roll the volume control knob back to about 8.5 of 10. Then roll the tone control knob all the way off to full bass tone. Then while strumming the strings, slowly turn the tone control back up towards the treble tones and STOP as soon as you hear the treble tones first reappearing. Practice hearing this a few times so you will know where that sweet spot is. From this sweet spot you can adjust the tone control in tiny amounts either side of that spot to find many interesting sweet tones, even tones remarkably similar to acoustic. With the volume knob at about 8.5, the volume control can act as a very-fine tone trimming knob giving a little bit more treble as the volume is turned up slightly from 8.5, and a bit less treble when the volume is turned down slightly from 8.5.
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SCREWS THAT SECURE THE BRIDGE AND THE TUNER PAN:
I think the size of these screws are barely adequate to hold the strings tension firmly and solidly, especially for heavier gauge strings common to steel guitars. It's good to have screws beefy enough to hold tensioned hardware in place solidly. A bit larger screws will fit through the screw holes in the tuner pan and the bridge, and I think will be an improvement. Even larger screws common to modern guitars could be used if the holes in the tuner pan and bridge were reamed open slightly larger. A good and solid anchor of the tuner pan and bridge serves for good acoustic and electronic resonance tone transfer in the tone loop of the strings, nut, tuners, body, bridge and back to the strings. Tones within the guitar are carried by that conductive sound loop, sensed by the pickups, and even fed back into the strings and body of the guitar if the amplifier is being played at a volume strong enough for it's speaker to excite the strings and body of the guitar. Such excitement is what causes guitars + amps to feed back when the volume reaches an excitement threshold, so it's readily apparant that lower volumes are also feeding back into the guitar and contributing to resonant and sustaining tones.