Setting up SE277 P90 pickups


New Member
Aug 13, 2023
Hello! I am just looking for some advice on setting up P90s.

I've had a SE277 semi-hollow baritone guitar with the P90 pickups since 2016. Although I love the guitar, I've often struggled to find my sound on it.

The main issue is the tonality and volume of the 2 pickups are so different to each other. The neck pickup is very bassy with no high end detail, and the bridge pickup has no bass.

So I recently adjusted the pickups so the neck one is deeper into the body and the bridge one is much closer to the strings, and carefully adjusted the 6 screws on each so all the strings and pickups sound exactly the same volume. But it didn't help the tonal issue.

Using corrective EQ I can dial in some good tones, but the pickups just sound so different to each other that it's impossible to find an amp setting that works for both pickups. Using an EQ to correct the frequencies for one, makes the other sound worse.

(The pickups hum and feedback very easily too. But I can live with that)

Any advice appreciated! Thanks.
I hear you, cannot help, but I sold my 277 for the same reasons. I even took some older amps out of storage to find a good match. Didn't have the "baritone" sound I expected.
I have done a similar setup to yours on my 277 baritone. it plays nice with others. Have you had the pots looked at? I say, take it to a good luthier with good ears, and ask him what pots would level out the sound. If you’re in the DMV, go to Philtone music.
Thanks for the replies. I tried modding the electrics with some success.

I now have a very small breadboard inside the electrics compartment, so I can easily swap in and out different values of capacitors and resistors, in order to settle on the optimum values, before I commit to soldering them in. After a bunch of experimenting I have settled on a 330K resistor and a 2.2nF capacitor in parallel between the neck pickup and the pickup switch. The cap on it's own felt like it was removing too much bass, the resistor softens the bass cut.

After doing this I needed to raise the neck pickup closer to the strings to restore balance between the 2 pickups. The 2 pickups sound closer now, and I can easily find amp settings that work for both pickups, and they blend nicely with the switch in the middle position, which was always a problem before.

I think I may need to increase the capacitor value slightly, to bring back a tiny bit more bass, but I will need to buy some to try as I dont have any between 2.2 and 10nF!

A downside is now the two pickups react quite differently to the tone knob. When its set below 50% with neck pickup selected, almost all volume and frequencies are gone, the bridge pickup reacts as normal to the tone.

If anyone has any advice on how I might be able to improve this some more, please let me know!
Being an SE means that the pickups are a Student Edition of P90 pickups.

I've swapped out the stock pickups to professional pickups in every SE I've ever owned and in every case that SE became a much better sounding guitar.

You can get more clarity from the neck P90 by screwing the body of the pickup further away from the strings and into the body of the guitar. Then raise just the polepieces each to about 1/8" from the underside of the strings when the strings are held down at the highest frets. EXPERIMENT.

You can get more bass and body out of the bridge pickup by doing the opposite. You move the whole body of the pickup closer and adjust the polepieces almost flat to the surface of the pickup. I try to match the arch of the strings when they're pressed down against the arch of the fingerboard and frets.

Adjust the two E polepieces almost flat with the surface of the pickup, Then adjust the A and B poles a little higher, and then the G and B poles a little higher until the poles match the arch of the fret.

Then adjust the whole pickup as close as you can get it to the strings without it rattling against them when you play way up high.

See what you think.

Experiment with backing the pickup away. It's a starting point and will give you some ideas.

You might even try adjusting the polepieces flat and then move the whole pickup close to the strings and then away again and see if you can find a sweet spot.

Same with the neck pickup.

I look for kind of a hollow plucky clear plucky quality from my neck P90 and more honk and a sassy kind of snarl from the bridge P90. Kind of that Leslie West tone.

But I'm not playing Baritone.
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Thanks for the tips.

Will better P90s fix the hum at high gain?

Sadly, as mentioned in my original post, adjusting the pickups didn't make enough difference. I did exactly what you describe, adjusting the pickup height and the individual pole heights on both pickups. I tried many settings and went pretty extreme. Even with the neck pick up as far into the body as it can go and the pole pieces fully extended, that pickup was still unusably bassy.

However, as explained, modding the electrics with an extra capacitor and resistor has made a vast difference, I had another jam on it today, and it's very nice to play now. Like a completely different instrument, playing high gain metal to mellow jazz all very well now. I'm pleased. I was considering selling it, but not any more.

Although I'm sure replacing the pickups as you suggested would be a better solution, it would require much more investment and some careful consideration about what to get. So I will think about that.

The only issue I have is the tone knob drops the volume of the neck pickup too much in the lower 50% of it's range. I don't use the tone much so I can live with it, but if anyone has any tips on how to improve my mod to keep the reduced bass without the tone knob misbehaving, I would love to hear. Thanks!
Yes better pickups will hum less.

But p90's are single coils like Strat pickups. They're not humbuckers, They will hum.

My Bare Knuckle Nantuckets are pretty quiet for non-humbucking P90's.
Yes better pickups will hum less.

But p90's are single coils like Strat pickups. They're not humbuckers, They will hum.

My Bare Knuckle Nantuckets are pretty quiet for non-humbucking P90's.
This is how i adjusted mine the other day.

You can get humbucking P90's.

IMO they sound just a little restrained and lack some of the lively vintage tone of a true p90...but they don't hum and they're a good solution.

My p90's are not humbucking.

I'll put up with a little hum to retain the vintage tone.

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Is yours the sunburst semi-hollow 277?

Love those guitars, cool blend or features being a baritone that's semi hollow with P90's. There is little else like it on the market and you don't see them up for sale often.
You could try 1Meg Pots to brighten it up and then role back the tone when using the Bridge pup...
Ultimately, new pickups might be what you really need. But you could also do some magnet swapping.

I get mine from AddictionFX. They're also on ebay.

Each p90 gets two magnets.

If you want more bass (and treble) out of the bridge pickup try Alnico 5. I'd go with Roughcast.

For more clarity and less bass from the neck maybe try Alnico 3. Alnico 3 can be sweet and clear in a neck pickup.

I also like alnico 2 to tame a neck pickup with too much bass and A2 seems to add some midrange while taking the sharp edge off of the treble.

I'd get an assortment of roughcast 2, 3, 4 and 5 and experiment.
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