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karcey

Cheap DIY Pickup

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This post isn't intended for the many experienced and well set up members who are successfully recording their playing. Instead it's for the newer players of acoustic instruments who would like to record for whatever reason but don't have a pickup installed on the guitar and who haven't yet decided what microphone to purchase. And it’s not my idea. This technology has been around for years. But maybe you haven’t heard about it yet.

A home-made piezo pickup, costing less than $20.00 in Australia, can be stuck on the face of the guitar with Blu-Tack. It will pick up everything you want to hear (and much that you'll wish you hadn't) and removes without leaving a mark.

To make one you need a piezo element, a length of wire and a jack to accept your guitar lead. (You do have a lead don't you? No? Better buy one of those too.) The element is found in buzzers or simple speakers. I bought mine at Dick Smiths for a few cents less than $13.00. It's called a 2 Tone Piezo Alarm Buzzer. It was the only buzzer they had, and I'm sure an element could be had cheaper. The first step was to break the casing open and throw away the circuit board with all the do-dads leaving just the piezo element which resembles two thin brass discs stuck together with a wire attached to each. For this job I even left the remains of the plastic case attached, just for protection for the element.

I extended the element wires and soldered them to the inline jack I'd bought. For this one I found a bit of coax, individual wires do just as well but aren’t as neat. Job done.

The device is stuck to the top of the guitar using Blu-Tack, or similar. It doesn't need a preamp, and can plug straight into your amp. If you have a reducing adaptor, you can plug straight into the soundcard in your computer (You do have a computer don't you?) By moving the device to different spots on the guitar you can get different sounds. But by the time you become unhappy with the sound of this pickup you'll be buying much more expensive equipment to record your playing. In the meantime, this works!

On my less expensive guitar I have two such pickups wired in series and stuck inside near the bridge. I used double sided tape. The jack is fitted through the lower bout just like a factory job. I can't decide which sounds better, internal or external. But I’ve included some photos of the internal ones too in case you’re interested.

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This is great Karcy - I'm already dreaming of the notch on my 'do it yourself' learning curve.

I don't really follow how you got from pic 2 to pic 3. Did you buy the guitar lead jack with the coax cable attached? If not, how did you connect the jack to the cable? And what did you do with the red and green cables from the original (pic 2) and connect the coax cable (what looks like) directly onto the piezo element (pick 2)?

Yes I'm a dunce, but I'm working on it. :winkthumb:

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Well in reality Carol the photos aren't a sequence of steps, just photos of the two different pickups, one internal and one external. Photo 2 shows the element exposed, as you would use if you stuck the device inside your guitar. Photos 3 and 4 show an element still encased in plastic as you would use if you were handling it and sticking it on the outside of your guitar.

The inline jack comes from an electronics store. It has two places on it where you can solder wires, which is convenient because there are two wires on the piezo element. You can join the jack and the element with any sort of wire you like. I think coax looks nice for the outside of the guitar. The single wires I used for the internal model work just as well but would look a bit ordinary dangling across the front of your instrument.

You can either extend the original wires on the element, or replace them; I chose to replace them because it's neater.

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Thanks for the info Karcey - next time I'm near Dick Smiths I'll go exploring for a buzzer and jack. I think the neighbour still has a soldering iron - I did use it once to fix a cheap radio - which gave more satisfaction than you could imagine - which was added to by the surprise of everyone, first of all that I had bothered, and secondly that it had worked!

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That`s great Karcey and just the kind of DIY that floats my boat. :winkthumb:

I have used a similar setup on an old yamaha acoustic that I had - though I did wire a proper jack and stuck the pickup inside the guitar under the bridge.

The signal will be quite weak and will benefit from a Preamp.

I used a premade module like this one:

Universal Preamplifier Module > Maplin

Will

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The signal will be quite weak and will benefit from a Preamp.

I have to say that the signal doesn't have to be weak. The elements I've used put out an unbelievable signal. Plugged into the sound card or the amp, the results are very good and can be compared to the output from my you-beaut high quality Chinese electric guitar.

A smaller element may give out a lesser signal (and I've heard of people using a motherboard speaker from a computer ... now that's small!!) but anyone who makes a pickup should probably try to get the biggest element they can and try it before they rush out to get a preamp.

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...A smaller element may give out a lesser signal (and I've heard of people using a motherboard speaker from a computer ... now that's small!!)...

Now THERE'S an idea. The computer speaker is too small, but what do you think about trying to mount a 2- or 3" speaker inside to use as the transducer? That might even be worth using in conjunction with the piezo element.

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