Replacing pickups in a guitar can be expensive. It can also be difficult if there's no music store nearby. Furthermore, replacing pickups on a hollow-body guitar can be even more expensive because many guitar shops don't normally work on them. Replacing a pickup can cost a fraction of what a professional would charge. With a few simple tools and a little effort, replacing pickups in a hollow-body guitar can be a simple project.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Painter's tape
- Phillips screwdriver
- Wire strippers
- Wire nuts
- Electrical tape
Tape the bridge in place with painter's tape. Many hollow-body guitars have a floating bridge that is not physically attached to the guitar's body. It is important to maintain the bridge's position in order to balance the guitar's harmonics. Remove the strings. Place a couple of towels down to pad the guitar while it's being worked on. Most hollow body guitars have no access panel for the electronics. Instead, the wiring is accessed through the pickup cavities and the sound holes or "F" holes.
Measure the opening for the pickup. Make sure that the replacement pickup will fit within the routed cavity. Otherwise, the opening will have to be enlarged. Humbucker pickups are an industry standard, so it's easy to find a replacement that will fit within the allotted space. Purchase the replacement pickup. Check to make sure the replacement's mounting holes line up with the original holes by measuring them.
Unscrew the original pickup. The pickup will be held in place on the guitar's body in one of two ways. The guitar will have either a plastic flange holding the pickup in place, or the pickup will be screwed directly into the body. Almost all pickups have two screws that hold it in place regardless of the flange. They sit on the left and right sides and are usually Phillips-head screws. Carefully remove the two screws. A spring runs the length of the screw. Make sure not to lose it. If it falls into the guitar's body, flip the guitar upside down and shake the spring out.
Lift the pickup 3 inches above the cavity. Carefully turn it over. There will be two wires running from the pickup to the volume and tone controls. One wire is dark in colour, while the other is light. Cut the old pickup wires about 2 to 3 inches from the pickup itself. Using a wire stripper, expose a 1/2-inch length of bare copper on each wire leading to the volume and tone controls. Without cutting the wire to a shorter length on the replacement pickup, do the same to both its wires.
Twist the light wire from the pickup into the light wire from the guitar. Place a small wire cap on the exposed wire and tighten. Follow the same procedure for the dark wires. Use a piece of electrician's tape to insulate the wire caps, ensuring no exposure of bare metal that can create a grounding problem. Mount the new pickup to the body, restring the guitar, and the project is finished.
Tips and warnings
- Ice cube trays are a simple organiser for screws and springs when taking a guitar apart. Always use a screwdriver that has the correct head size for the screw. Otherwise the screw will become stripped and will need to be replaced.
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