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Thomann's Cool Online Guides: Pickups

6. Fitting Procedure

Is fitting a pickup difficult?

The complexity of the procedure varies considerably according to the type of pickup and the desired configuration. Replacing a single pickup with one of the same type is usually straightforward - at the other extreme though, converting from passive to active pickups involves replacing the guitar’s volume and tone controls, as well as adding active circuit boards and replacing the pickups themselves. For this reason, some popular active pickups are offered as pre-configured sets, the most convenient versions consisting of a pre-wired replacement scratchplate with all pickups and controls fitted – this is simply connected directly to the guitar’s output socket.

But back to general pickup replacement - if you’re replacing a pickup with one of the same design, simply note how the old pickup is connected before removing it, and connect the new pickup in exactly the same way. Most pickups only have one shielded connecting lead anyway, so it’s simply a matter of connecting the core and the shielding the right way round, although some humbuckers have one output for each coil.

Equipment

You will need the following:

  • small-tipped soldering iron
  • solder
  • wire strippers
  • Philips screwdriver

Some pickup configurations involve soldering directly onto the body of the volume or tone ‘pot’. For this job, fine sandpaper should be used to prepare the area first.

General Tips

Work out in advance exactly how the leads on the old pickup correspond to those on the new one. This should be easy in the case of a simple pickup with a single shielded lead - for more complicated designs though, consult our guide before you start, or the wealth of information available online. Make a quick sketch if necessary.

Next, de-solder the old pickup. If you are unfamiliar with soldering, practise this skill first on some electrical components you can afford to waste! Make sure the new pickup leads are freshly stripped and tinned, then simply solder them to exactly the same points. Great care should be taken when soldering onto selector switch contacts as they are usually positioned very close together - excessively large blobs of solder can easily flow between contacts and cause short circuits.

The last few pages of this article contain circuit diagrams for some of the most common pickup configurations – if you’re really ready to get stuck in, then read on! In addition to the information we provide here, most new pickups come with extensive technical documentation, and more information on older pickups can usually be found on the web. If all else fails, don’t be afraid to let an experienced technician finish the job!

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