Installing the pickup in the acoustic guitar: under the saddle
A word about the terms: The component that is called “saddle” in English is called “bridge insert” in German, while the German “saddle” is called “nut” in English. The “undersaddle pickup” is located under the saddle. Before ordering the pickup for the acoustic guitar, you should measure the thickness of the saddle, because of course it has to fit exactly into the slot.
Installing the pickup in the acoustic guitar: the socket for the cable
Most pickups for acoustic guitars come with a so-called end pin socket, a component that looks like a belt button, but has a hole in the middle into which you can insert the jack plug. It could hardly be more subtle! To install, you have to remove the old strap button – it’s usually just screwed in – and use a suitable drill bit to drill the hole to a half-inch diameter. That’s the equivalent of 12.7 mm. You can use a drill or a reamer for this. 90° countersinks from the hardware store with the right diameter are also very practical, because they do not damage the paint or the wood.
Installing pickups in acoustic guitar: the critical phase
Now comes the most critical part of the installation, namely dressing the saddle. Because it has to be ground down by the thickness of the acoustic guitar pickup in order to get the same string action as before after installation. The underside of the saddle must also be absolutely straight, because otherwise the transmission is uneven and individual strings are louder or quieter than the rest.
The thickness of the pickup is measured – it is usually in the range of one millimeter – and marked on the saddle with calipers. With a sheet of sandpaper on a flat surface, the bridge insert is now sanded down to the mark. The pickup cable is now routed through the hole in the bridge slot and the pickup and bridge insert are brought to their place of work. So that nothing wobbles and falls out again, you can secure the whole thing by stringing up the low E string and stretching it slightly.
Install pickup in acoustic guitar: Electronics
We’re talking about pickups for acoustic guitars that are largely invisible after assembly, i.e. they don’t have a control box in the frame. However, some of these pickups have volume and tone controls that can be reached through the sound hole. These now need to be installed. You have to be careful not to touch the bars and struts in the body and still find a flat surface for the adhesive strips. And you only have one try at placement…
Most pickups these days are sensibly active, therefore requiring a battery for the preamp. If this is not housed in the electronics itself, you have to mount it somewhere in the body. Most installation instructions suggest the top block in the body as the optima location. Here you have to make sure that you do not cover the access to the steel rod for neck adjustment. You can also stick the battery bag to the left or right of the frame just as well.
Install pickups in acoustic guitar: Finale!
The last step when installing a pickup in an acoustic guitar is to gather all the cables neatly together and attach them to the sides with the mounting pads that are usually included so that they do not rattle. Nothing is more annoying than a constant background noise that cannot be located, but often comes precisely from exposed cables. Understood? Then it’s time to put on all the strings and do a first test run on the amplifier.
As you can see, this installation of a pickup in an acoustic guitar is anything but trivial, and you should know exactly what you’re doing before a guitarist dares to do this work. In 99 percent of all cases, especially when the individual strings are not evenly transmitted, the fault lies in the installation and not in the pickup. In case of doubt, this is a job for the master.