How to Wire EMG Pickups for an SG

Written by dave n.
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How to Wire EMG Pickups for an SG
EMG is considered to be one of the founding architects of active pickup designs. (Too many guitars image by jfsears from

EMG pickups are considered a professional audio industry standard. EMG found new and unique ways to make installation of its pickups easier and less complex for just about any consumer. This is also true when adapting SG-style guitars to active pickup systems. The electronics of an SG-style guitar may seem intimidating at first, but EMS pickups feature a solder-less system, which basically makes the pickups plug and play.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Philips screwdriver
  • Socket wrench set
  • Wire clippers
  • Small flathead screwdriver
  • 9V battery
  • Electrical tape

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  1. 1

    Remove the old pickups and pickup rings, if necessary, with the small Philips screwdriver. Remove the electronics cavity cover with the Philips screwdriver.

  2. 2

    Gently pull up on the volume and tone knobs until they release from the potentiometer, or pot. Loosen the nuts and washers that hold the potentiometers in place with the socket wrench set. Loosen the nut and washer of the input jack with the socket wrench set.

  3. 3

    Cut the leads of the pickups from their connections at the associated volume pots with the wire clippers. Remove the pickups from the guitar and store for later use. Clip the leads at the connecting point on the input jack and volume pots in the electronics cavity that run to the toggle switch. Save the lead wires for the new harness. Remove the wiring harness and the input jack connected to it from the guitar, and set it aside.

  4. 4

    Connect the included special coaxial pickup leads to the new EMG pickups, and route them to the electronics cavity. Mount the new EMG pickups in their respective lead and rhythm positions on the guitar with the Philips screwdriver and all provided hardware. Use any hardware from the previous pickups as needed, including any pickup rings that came with the guitar.

  5. 5

    Mount the new EMG potentiometers in their respective lead, rhythm, volume and tone positions with the included washers and nuts and a socket wrench set. Mount the new input jack with the socket wrench set and the included washer and nut into its position.

  6. 6

    Strip approximately 1/8 inch of conduit with wire clippers from each wire lead that was cut earlier from the switch.

  7. 7

    Connect the special coaxial red leads from the pickups to the red BUSS terminal included with the system labelled "V+." Plug the white leads from the pickups to their associated volume potentiometers. Plug the included smaller coaxial leads from the volumes pots to their respective tone pots. Insert the prepared leads from the toggle switch into the included green terminal block, and use the black terminal block for the switch ground lead. Tighten the terminal block with the small flathead screwdriver. Connect the output cable to the grey terminal BUSS and then the other available leads of the output cable to the tip and ground of the input jack. Connect the black cable of the battery clip to the last lead of the input jack.

  8. 8

    Install a new 9V battery into the battery clip, and place it inside the electronics cavity. Protect it from shorting if cavity space is small by wrapping it with electrical tape, if necessary. Replace the electronics cavity cover with the Philips screwdriver.

Tips and warnings

  • Unplug the connecting cables and reverse their positions if the volume and tone pots are acting in reverse.
  • EMG active pickup systems use a 9V power supply, which quickly can be drained if the guitar is never unplugged from a 1/4-inch connector. Always unplug the guitar from its connector when not in use to maximise battery life.

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