Things You'll Need
- Acoustic guitar
- Piezo pickup
- Plunge cut router with straight cut bit
- 1/8-inch bit
- Soldering iron
- 15/32-inch tapered reamer
- Adjustable wrench
Piezo pickups are popular with acoustic guitar players. Traditionally, acoustic guitars were amplified using a microphone or a modified electric guitar pickup mounted in the sound hole. When properly set up, microphones will deliver a true acoustic sound, but the musician will lose amplification if he moves during the performance. Modified electric guitar pickups will affect the resonance of the guitar and deliver a flatter frequency response. Piezo pickups produce a warm acoustic sound by turning string vibration into electrical signals that are sent to the amplifier. The pickup is fitted inside the bridge under the saddle. Proper fitting requires delicate woodwork.
Loosen and remove the guitar strings.
Place the guitar face up on a flat surface.
Remove the saddle. Inspect the saddle slot. It must be wide enough to accommodate the pickup’s piezo element. The bottom of the saddle slot must be perfectly flat. Any gaps between the bottom of the saddle and the slot will result in uneven response from the pickup. If the saddle slot meets these conditions, skip the next step and proceed to step five.
Select a straight-cut router bit that is 1/64-inch wider than your pickup. Adjust the cutting depth of your router to take off only enough material to flatten the bottom of the slot. Turn the router on and make one even pass through the slot.
Drill a 1/8-inch hole 1/4-inch above the location of the lower E string. Remove any chips from the slot and thread the pickup lead through the hole.
Press the pickup in position in the bottom of the saddle slot. Reach through the sound hole and gently pull the lead to prevent kinking or twisting as you position the pickup.
Remove the strap button on the bottom of the guitar.
Attach the tapered reamer to your drill. Ream the end pin hole to size. The strap button will be replaced by an end pin jack.
Pull the end of the pickup lead out of the sound hole and solder the ends of the leads to the jack. Refer to manufacturer's instructions for proper lead placement.
Push the end of the jack though the end pin hole. Place the washer and flat hex nut over the end of the jack and tighten the nut.
Replace the saddle and restring the guitar.
Self-adhesive piezo pickups are also available if the thought of cutting and drilling your guitar makes you nervous.
Installing an under saddle pickup will alter the final height of your saddle. Consider purchasing a replacement saddle to customize your guitar’s action after installation.
Use extreme care while routing and drilling. One small slip will cause serious damage to your instrument.
Molten solder will ruin your guitar's finish. Solder your connections over a heat-resistant work surface.
Finn McCuhil is a freelance writer based in Northern Michigan. He worked as a reporter and columnist in South Florida before becoming fascinated with computers. After studying programming at University of South Florida, he spent more than 20 years heading up IT departments at three tier-one automotive suppliers. He now builds wooden boats in the north woods.