Installing DIY Piezo Pickup

Yesterday I posted what I did to make my homemade, diy piezo pickup for an acoustic guitar.  Here’s what I did to actually get it in the guitar:

6. Using some painters masking tape I tested the pickup in multiple spots on my guitar.  I tested different spots on the guitar. I tested different spots inside the guitar.  My favorite was inside the guitar, under the bridge but not touching the strings or string pegs, and up a little bit so it is closer to the low E string. Sorry, no pictures of the inside of my guitar.  The painters masking tape worked well, came off easily, and didn’t seem to impact the piezo pickup.

Note: Getting the piezo pickup inside is easy when you use tape and tissue to pull the strings apart, but it does take a while to retighten and retune the guitar strings each time you try a different piezo pickup placement inside the guitar body.

7. When testing the piezo pickup inside the guitar, I got a lot of feedback when it was amplified. Well, I don’t know if it was a lot, but it was easy to get feedback and I figure that isn’t good. And the piezo pickup had a lot of treble and had some sort of “trebbly” echo. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great.  So, following suggestions from the web, I got some plastic dip tool handle gunk at my local hardware store. It is this plastic stuff that you dip tool handles in and it coats it, which is what I did to the piezo part of the pickup.

8. I did two layers of plastic dip.  After it dried I tested the piezo pickup again and it still worked!  And the “trebbly” echo sound was pretty much gone. This is when I got a little overly excited and went straight for installation inside the guitar.

9. This was a multiple step process.  First, I drilled a 3/8th inch hole in the side of the guitar for the jack.  Then I tried to put the jack in the hole, but my arm wouldn’t fit all the way into the smaller sound hole of the parlor guitar.

So following instructions from the internet, I used a chopstick through my drilled hole to easily slide the jack to the pre-drilled hole.  Only my big plastic chopstick was a bit big for “sliding.”  The jack actually grabbed on to the chopstick and I just pulled it to the hole.  It worked even better than trying to slide the jack.

I then slid the washer and nut down the chopstick on the outside (which cleared with no problems) to secure the jack in place.

The jack was now secure in the new hole I had drilled.  I could’ve used an endpin jack to go where the strap button goes, but those are at least 4 times the price of the jack I used and this is all just experimentation on a guitar where failure is an option.  I think I will use an endpin jack for when I do this to my Ibanez AW-100 acoustic guitar.

11. Now it was time to affix the piezo pickup to the inside of the guitar.  I had the place already located and I could reach it with my hand through the sound hole (just couldn’t reach the jack hole).  But this is when I got a little overly confident.  I went straight for the hot glue gun. I glued the piezo piece in place, let it dry, and plugged it in.  It worked!  It sounded pretty good too!

I started playing lots of different stuff on my new electric/acoustic guitar.  When I got to my small repertoire of blues licks I got my first negative.  The string noise is very loud!  Any slides or movement on the strings is amplified and a bit harsh.

This is by no means the end of the world, but it surprised me.  My earlier tests with the painter’s tape had not done the same thing.  Either I didn’t play the guitar enough during my testing faze or the hot glue provided a stronger connection to the bridge.  One of the online articles talks about the string noise and how only attaching half of the piezo pickup to the bridge will reduce that.

I don’t know if this could have been prevented, but I should have used double sided tape first, then gone for the more permanent hot glue after testing the positioning.  Again, not the end of the world. I can go back into the guitar and using a hot knife separate the piezo piece and reattach it, but I’m lazy.

Of course I always could just learn to play better with less finger movement and more precise fingering of chords and stuff!  Either way, I’m really enjoying my kids’ new acoustic/electric guitar.  And for a $5 total investment, I’m very satisfied!

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7 thoughts on “Installing DIY Piezo Pickup

  1. Very cool project and clearly written up. Top work. I bet with two pickups and a mini onboard mixer/preamp you could come up with a world beater!

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  5. A while ago I bought a used Dean Merkley pickup for a travel guitar and I’ve been experiencing the same problem. With the travel guitar the string noise was unbearable–there simply wasn’t enough volume in the sound box to amplify the string vibration so it could be heard over the string noise. So I tried it next on a full-size and it works better. Stupidly I glued it on the back–same problem, the noise from the string vibration is too low–I need a pre-amp for it to be heard, although the sound int the end is quite good. Unfortunately, I think the string noise is transmitted more easily all through the guitar as longitudinal waves. If you figure out a solution, I’d like to hear about it…

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