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How to Direct Mount Guitar Pickups

Updated July 20, 2017

Electric guitar pickups are simple electromechanical transducers that convert a guitar's string vibrations into an electrical signal. This conversion is a key element in the sound and playability of an electric guitar, and many players feel that pickup modification can have a significant effect on the guitar's tone. Most guitar pickups are mounted on a pickguard, which suspends the pickups away from the guitar's vibrating body. One modification, which was made famous by players such as Eddie Van Halen, is to directly mount these pickups to the guitar's body, resulting in increased sustain and punch.

Remove the guitar's strings to gain access to the pickguard and electronics underneath. Remove the pickguard's screws with the screwdriver. Carefully lift the pickguard from the body to avoid damaging the internal electronics.

Unscrew the pickup from either its mounting ring or pickguard with the screwdriver. Do not lose the spring that surrounds the mounting screw.

Measure the distance from the guitar's body cavity to the string height with a measuring tape. Measure the pickup's height. Subtract the pickup's height from the body cavity to string height measurement, and carve the wood block with the router and wood planer until the block fits between the guitar body's cavity and the bottom of the pickup.

Glue the wood block into the guitar body's cavity with the wood glue and a shop clamp. Allow the glue dry overnight for maximum strength.

Fit the pickup onto the carved wood block. The strings easily must pass over the pickup from any fret before installing the pickup because there is no height adjustment once it's installed.

Mount the pickup directly to the guitar body with the 3/4-inch No. 4 wood screws and a screwdriver. Tighten the screws for best performance.

Reinstall the pickguard or mounting rings to restore the guitar's original look. String the guitar, and double-check the pickup height.

Tip

When playing with large amounts of distortion, direct mounting can cause more feedback. Make sure your pickups have been potted properly with wax to prevent unwanted microphonics or feedback.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Measuring tape
  • Wood block
  • Router
  • Wood planer
  • Wood glue
  • Shop clamp
  • 3/4-inch No. 4 wood screws
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About the Author

Larry Rivers has contributed his recording and audio production expertise to Nashville and Los Angeles alt-weeklies as well as industry magazines since 2008. He is a music recording expert, holding a Bachelor of Science in audio production and bringing over 12 years of album production and live sound engineering to his how-to articles.