How to install transducer pickups on an acoustic guitar

Written by matt mckay
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How to install transducer pickups on an acoustic guitar
Installing Acoustic Guitar Transducer Pickups (Guitar image by Chad Perry from Fotolia.com)

Installing a transducer pickup on an acoustic guitar is a popular way to amplify your instrument. It's also the pickup type used by most manufacturers of acoustic-electric guitars. Because they are made of piezoelectric material, transducers are also called piezo pickups. Transducer pickups sense guitar vibrations, converting them into electrical voltage to be interpreted as sound by an amplifier. These pickups are most often mounted under the bridge-saddle or inside the guitar, but involve drilling holes into the guitar body for wires and plug jacks. This is best entrusted to a guitar repair shop. Other types of transducer pickups are non-invasive and are surface-mounted to the top of the guitar without tools.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Transducer pickup (surface-mount type with wire and plug or wire and plug jack)
  • Guitar amplifier
  • Guitar cord
  • Vinyl electrical tape

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Lay the guitar on a padded surface.

  2. 2

    Turn the guitar amplifier volume all the way down and then turn the power on. You will be using the amplifier to monitor the transducer pickup location for the best sound.

  3. 3

    Plug the transducer pickup into the amplifier. If your transducer pickup is equipped with a long wire and standard 1/4 inch plug, you will use the plug to attach the pickup to the amp. If your pickup is equipped with a short wire and standard 1/4 inch plug jack, plug one end of a guitar cord into the jack and the other end into the amplifier.

  4. 4

    Turn the amplifier volume up while tapping the transducer lightly with your finger. When you begin to hear the tapping sound coming from the amplifier, the volume level will be sufficient.

  5. 5

    Strum the guitar strings while placing the pickup in various locations on the guitar top. You are checking for the area of the guitar which produces the clearest sound. This will usually be directly behind the guitar bridge or on one side of the bridge itself, but your ears will determine the best sound for you. You may turn the amplifier volume up slightly if necessary.

  6. 6

    Remove the protective paper from the self-adhesive foam and press the pickup in place in the chosen location.

  7. 7

    Run the pickup wire toward the back of the guitar, as you'll want the wire clear of the strings or strumming area. If your pickup is equipped with a long wire and plug, wrap the wire once around the guitar's end pin, and place a strip of vinyl electrical tape over the wire to secure it to the body. If the pickup is equipped with short wire and plug jack, remove the protective paper self-adhesive foam on the jack and stick the jack to the guitar near the end-pin.

Tips and warnings

  • If you make a mistake in pickup placement, pry the pickup gently off of the guitar with your fingers and reposition it.
  • More strips of vinyl electrical tape may be used to further secure the pickup wire to the top and side of the guitar, if necessary.
  • When shopping for pickups, make sure you purchase the surface-mount type made for external installation.
  • Clean the pickup installation area with a clean cloth slightly dampened with water and dry thoroughly to achieve the best adhesion of the foam strip.
  • Don't drill holes into the guitar body in an attempt to run pickup wires through the body or to install an internal plug jack unless you are an experienced guitar repair person. Holes drilled in the wrong place on your guitar can compromise its structural integrity and may affect sound quality.
  • If the pickup is repositioned, be careful not to bend the piezo material when the pickup is removed or it may cease to function.
  • The adhesive on surface-mount pickups may degrade the guitar finish of the application area over time.

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