Building a Piezo Pickup for Acoustic Instruments

 
 
Get it together
How I built my pickup
 
Install It
Ready to drill holes?

Fretsville
Adventures in Luthiery

Reality Check
My home page

 
I’ll say right up front that, while this home-made pickup produces a very good sound for my purposes, it may not measure up to yours. Some folks report that their home-made pickups "sound as good as the high-dollar" passive piezo pickups currently available. I make no such claim. There are just too many variables in the process, including the fact that everyone "hears" things differently.

Still, the pickups I’ve made sound very good, to my ears anyway, especially when they are used with a pre-amp or with an acoustic amp that has equalization. For example, I typically run my cigar box uke into a Danelectro E-Studio. From there the signal goes into headphones, or if I feel like terrorizing the family, into a Pignose amp. The sound is much better using the Danelectro as a preamp than by just running the signal straight into the Pignose. Louder, too!

Consider your own skills before trying this project. While the mechanical skills are pretty basic, soldering is an art that takes a bit of practice to get it right. (And if you don’t get it right, your pickup either won’t work properly or it will be unreliable.) Keep in mind that good pickups are available for reasonable prices, so building your own pickup may not be the most economical path to amplify your instrument.

You also should ask yourself questions like, "Do I really want to drill a hole in my instrument?" And "Do I really know how to drill this hole without screwing it up?" Or "Am I irrevocably screwing up a valuable, vintage instrument?"

Messing around with tools and electricity are not for everyone. If you attempt this project and screw up your instrument or yourself, don’t come whining to me — I tried to warn ya!

Before you decide to go the do-it-yourself route, be sure to check out the various pickups available. You can still install it yourself, if you want, but you’ll have the advantage of starting out with a top-notch professional-grade pickup.

Commercial Pickup & Parts Sources
Roy Cone’s Ukulele World — instruments, pickups, parts and strings.
http://www.ukuleleworld.com
K&K Sound — Some of the world’s best acoustic pickups and lots of info.
http://www.kksound.com/index.html
 
Stewart-MacDonald Luthier tools, parts, instrument kits, wood, hardware
http://www.stewmac.com
 
 
Reference Links
The Basic Soldering & Desoldering Guide by Alan Winstanley
http://www.epemag.wimborne.co.uk/solderfaq.htm
First Aid Tips
http://dmoz.org/Health/Public_Health_and_Safety/First_Aid/
Adam Kump: Acoustic Guitar Pickup
http://web.mit.edu/kumpf/www/Acoustics/main.html
Paul Marxhausen: Cheap Piezo Pickup For Acoustic Guitars
http://eeshop.unl.edu/text/pizmike.txt
 
Official Luthiers Forum: Superb mutual support network
http://www.luthiersforum.com/forum/default.asp
 
Musical Instrument Makers Forum (MIMF)
http://www.mimf.com
 
1989-2014 by Dennis Ecklund.
Your comments are cordially solicited. E-mail: info2@ecklunds.com