I posted links to some online tutorials and videos about how to very cheaply make a piezo pickup using radio shack purchases and how to install the piezo pickup in an acoustic guitar. And now I have done it!
I started with the Olympia OP-2 by Tacoma parlor acoustic guitar I got for my kids to bang on so they leave my guitars alone. I’ve mentioned in the past that it doesn’t sound the greatest, but it is a guitar, the neck is straight, and it can be used to make music (at least in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing). I also have an Ibanez Artwood AW-100 acoustic guitar I picked up at a garage sale (thanks to some good friends) that I eventually want to turn into an acoustic/electric, but I thought I’d try it out on the Olympia parlor acoustic before I start messing with a guitar I currently like playing.
So, the project:
1. I got a piezo transducer (part #273-0073) from Radio Shack for $2.19. I walked in and asked where they keep their piezo transducers and the guy looked at my like I was crazy. The girl working there told him it was a buzzer and he showed me the cabinet with all the little drawers for electronic parts. I dug around the buzzers cabinet, but had to ask for help because it wasn’t in the proper tray. It was on top of the “electronics parts” cabinet in a pile with a bunch of other parts. Apparently customers dig around collecting possible parts they need and then dump whatever they don’t want on top of the cabinet instead of putting them away for the next customer. Be a conscientious shopper and clean up after yourself…you might just be the next customer.
2. I didn’t take any pictures of this next step, but you need to take the piezo pickup out of the plastic casing. It isn’t too hard, but be careful that you don’t bend or cut the piezo’s brass disc. I just used wire cutters to cut the edges of the plastic off and then cut the top of the casing into quarters using the hole on top. If you get one, you’ll see what I mean. There is a shop that sells just the piezo without the metal casing. I didn’t go that route this time, but may in the future. I personally would recommend getting the wired ones. I got a piezo transducer out of an old fire alarm and quickly ruined it trying to solder wires to the base and the crystal layer. The crystal layer had some type of coating on it that I applied way too much heat to…which is not good.
3. Next I took some shielded stereo wire I had laying about from a past project and soldered the shield to the white wire. I don’t know if shielded wire is absolutely necessary, but I was worried about feedback and hum being made worse by using unshielded wire, so I followed the advice of one of the online tutorials I read…plus I had some shielded wire. I then soldered the red wire to the piezo pickup red wire and the piezo pickup black wire to the white/shield wire. I then used heat shrink on each wire (don’t forget to put the heat shrink in place first so you can then slide it over your solder joint) and a big piece of heat shrink over the whole thing to give it some strength.
4. I then wired the other end of the wire to my jack. The white/shield wire went to the sleeve of the jack and the red wire went to the tip of the jack. The length of the wire is a basic estimate of how much I think I will need (plus a little extra to be generous) once it is all inside the guitar. Since this was my test guitar, I figured I could cut it down if I needed to.
5. Then I tested it. I plugged it in and tapped on it. It worked! I held the piezo pick up to my desk and tapped around it with my finger. It worked! I held it against the top of my acoustic guitar and strummed. It worked!
Tomorrow I’ll post an entry about how I installed this bad boy into the guitar. Stay tuned… (get it, that’s punny).