So, how tough is installing a pickup in a guitar?

I think I have said this before but during the period of the lockdown, and even now – when people are avoiding physical contact – embers of lost passions are being rekindled: gardening, cooking, writing, music…Nice!

People are getting reminded of musical instruments that they had left standing in store rooms, years ago. They are being pulled out, being burnished and refurbished to breathe new life into them again. 

Take this one for example:

It came to me in this state. I have cringed at the sight of such so often that my face muscles refuse to contort into a cringe any more. Instead, I only smiled in amusement.


This came in for a pick-up system to be installed but while I looked the guitar over (after not just cleaning but disinfecting it properly), I saw something that I have never seen: an instrument with serious identity issues!

 So, after scratching my chin for long and trying to figure out what may have happened to this poor guitar, I was still scratching my chin! So, I left my chin and the name of the guitar alone and decided to get on with the work at hand.

The pick-up paraphernalia had been provided to me, but some low-tack tape is excellent for such jobs. Why? It helps the marking process and all measurements and sundry jottings can be made on it. Measurements were taken and markings made.

Once it was decided where the pre-amp unit would sit, I drilled four holes at the four corners of my marking with a tiny drill-bit and graduated to bigger, thicker bits. I then sawed off the portion within those holes. A very painful process to watch for an owner, but thankfully, this one’s wasn’t around. 

Even after the space was created for the preamp unit to sit in, it had to be cleaned up to produce clean, sharp boundaries. Again, the tape played a role in protecting the surrounding area from slipping drill-bits, saws and files. 

Then there were holes to be drilled for the jack input and the piezo element (which was to run in the saddle slot, under the saddle).

A step-bit is a wonderful tool but requires careful handling. Marking off the distance I had to drill with tape, helped immensely.

The rest was just about putting in things where each needed to go. 

And now for some oddities that I found in the guitar.

I found this inside the guitar

You will recognise this from the shoe box and other such. It is a desiccant and its job is to keep the surroundings nice and dry. I wonder if someone had dumped a cup of tea or coffee inside and had dropped the silica gel sachet in too, to keep things nice and dry, OR…had deliberately put it in?

Never leave a desiccant inside your acoustic guitar, or you might go to sleep having played it, and wake up to find the guitar open at its seams!!!!    

On the left is the bridge with two extra spots on either side of the bridgepin holes. These plastic dots (in this case black) generally hide screws which hold it to the top. However, a peek inside showed just one screw and a dry wall type screw at that, clearly hanging down from the top. Staying with the bridge, it was lifting

and oddly enough, seemed to have moved from its place. It could be either – that the strings had pulled it forward, or, that it had been stuck in the wrong place originally.

However, it was not my brief to correct these aberrations, so I let sleeping devils lie.








Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me:

One thought to “So, how tough is installing a pickup in a guitar?”

  1. A judgement day of that guitar. But she will be alright and will go back to home with pleasure.
    A good write up sir. Thanks.

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