Turn your acoustic guitar into an acoustic/electric! This is a simple and inexpensive design you can make at home to get that special one-of-a-kind sound you've been looking for.

Step 1: Making the Pickup

Parts you will need:
1. Piezo Buzzer Element
2. about 1 foot of shielded audio cable
3. a 1/4" audio jack (that can be mounted on the guitar body)
4. a small amount of medium density foam. (just a couple square inches)
5. soldering iron, solder, wire strippers, hot glue gun, and hot glue

  • The first step is to design and create your pickup. The heart of the pickup is a piezo buzzer element. You can find these for just a couple dollars at your local parts store. (Radio Shack) Sometimes the Piezo Buzzer packages don't have that much information on them, but you want to find things as close as possible to the information listed on the "Specs:" page. In other words, they are pretty cheap so go for a good one. Also note that you do not need a fully functional buzzer device... just the Piezo element.
  • A word about Piezo Elements. Piezo elements are made from two conductors separated by a layer of piezo crystals. When a voltage is applied across the crystal layer, the crystals pull on one side and push on the other. This in turn bends the metal conductor layers. When a sinusoidal signal (audio) is applied, the conductors are pushed and pulled very quickly, creating sound waves. The beauty of the Piezo element is that it also can be applied reversely. If sound waves push and pull on the conductors, an electrical signal is created and can be output to an amplifier or recording device. This is exactly how we will use the Piezo Buzzer element in this project. It will be attached to the inside of the guitar body, and, as the body vibrates, the sound will be turned into an electric signal by the Piezo buzzer element.
  • Now that you have the Piezo Buzzer, you need to carefully break it open and get out the piezo element. Be careful not to hurt the metal device inside. Bending the element may cause it to break or lose some of it's sensitivity.
  • You are now ready to solder the device together. Strip the ends of the shielded audio cable. On one end connect the signal wire to the center of the Piezo element and the ground/shielding to the metal/brass surface of the piezo element. On the other end of the shielded wire, connect the signal wire to the signal tab on the 1/4" audio jack and connect the shielding to the ground tab.
  • We have found that a small piece of medium density foam improves the performance of the pickup over a large number of frequencies.(If you are familiar with circuitry, feel free to experiment with combinations of capacitors and resistors to cut undesired frequencies) Cut a piece of foam the same size of your piezo element and about 3/8" tall. Place a large drop of hot glue on the back side of the piezo element (where the wires connect) and then press the foam on until the glue cools.
  • Your piezo pickup device should now be ready to install. You may want to make sure it is working by plugging it into an amp and lightly tapping on it.
Do i need to get acoustic/electric strings or will my regular acoustic strings i have work
<p>Your Acoustic strings will work fine.</p>
<p>I did this for my uke! Thanks!</p>
<p>I did this for my uke! Thanks!</p>
<p>Exactly what kind of foam do you need ? Is that yellow foam rubber ok?</p>
<p>I've used this technique on toy pianos to grand pianos and harps. The trick is to find the best spot to mount the element and what to mount it with in order not to muffle the high frequencies.</p>
does aneyone know if this works for acoustic bass ????
<p>This works on anything that vibrates. </p>
Bassmann....You might want to consider the same parameters for your bass. Pickup placement is critical. Experiment and you will see the variety of tones you can get.
you may need to find out the frequency of bass notes, then get a piezo that picks up the lower frequencies.
I don't currently own an amp. Will it still work if i plug in the jack to my speakers?
These Piezo elements are cheap - is there an advantage to putting three or four in parallel? or series? <br>And, how about using shielded cable to reduce noise, wouldn't that reduce noise pickup? <br> <br>Tanks, <br>MS
Sorry, just noticed you are using shielded wire, <br>I was just at a site where they were soldered with twisted unshielded wire.
Hey guys, excuse the noobism here, I have an input jack that has three connections, so I assume it is stereo, which one should I avoid? Or should I solder two together? Also, do I need to worry about polarity in regards to what is soldered where on the piezo mic and then to the headphone jack? Very basic questions I know, I'm just starting out, this will be my first project after learning basic soldering
Out of interest ... is there a difference between the Piezo element in the buzzers (that you break out yourself) and the Piezo Transducers that you can buy directly out of the buzzer casing. e.g. pic below. Maplin in the UK has a selection with resonant frequencies from 1.8K to 4.2K (albeit with an output volume of only around 90dB) but I am wondering if there is any material difference between these and the versions in buzzers. I was thinking of buying a couple of different sizes and trying out combinations in my 12-string, wired in series.
I just tried this on a cheap acoustic and it works fantastic. The hardest part was fitting my hand in a 3/4 size guitar hole. Thanks!
Try <a href="http://anthillmusic.com/c-190-acoustic-pickups.aspx" rel="nofollow">acoustic pickups here at Ant Hill Music</a>, a small musical instrument repair shop in Fort Lauderdale.
How exactly could I go about adding a volume control to this setup? Or even a killswitch, if a volume control proves to be too complicated.
Must I drill a hole on my guitar?I think we can use a clip to fix our piezo buzzer.
Clip or tape it on. I'd avoid a clip with hard pressure, it will muffle the high frequency tones. Then use a longer shielded cord with a male 1/4&quot; and go straight to the amp or direct box with it.
Can I use a Electret condenser in place of piezo element ?
You could but you would need a power circuit and a battery. Plus there would be less gain before feedback. In short, you would be building a different (somewhat more complicated) project than this.
how many prongs is the 1/4" female supposed to have, 2 or 3?
1/4&quot; mono sockets usually have 2 or 4 connectors (one for the earth/body/sleeve, one for the live/tip). If they have 2, the earth/body (outer of a shielded cable) is theconnector closest to the nut usually. Sometimes they will have 4. This is when the socket is a switched mono socket and is used when you want the insertion of plug to swith something off, usually a speaker. In this case, there are only two which you would use and these are usually easy to spot as they are the ones which will be in touch with the plug when it is inserted, a little like two levers on top.<br><br>You can also use a stereo jack socket for a mono one (shown here: http://www.vhipe.com/product-private/Stereo%20jack%20plug%20socket.jpg). Stereo sockets usually have 3 connectors, the one closest the nut for the sleeve, the next for the ring and the last for the tip. To use this as a mono connector, simply either ignore the sleeve connection or connect the ring connection to the sleeve (both are ok and will work) and use the sleeve and tip connections as the earth and live connection.
Guitars are generally mono, so You probably need one with 2 prongs. I have an extra one from when I did this (my radioshack sells them in two-packs)
the number of prongs varies<br />
i just did mine and good thing i'm thin! <br>now, time to make an amp...
ummm....the easiest way to get the jack in place is to take a piece of wire, like the chunk of coax you mention, and thread it thru the hole in the guitar until you can grab it thru the sound hole. pull it out, stick the wire thru the hole in the jack (where the guitar plug would go) and tie a knot in the wire big enough so the wire won't slip thru the hole. then pull it thru, and you can get the jack's threaded bushing thru the hole. slip the washer and nut over the end of the wire, and thread it on the jack, and tighten it down. then you can push the wire back thru til you can grab it...and simply yank it out. do this AFTER wiring the piezo element to the jack, of course. ;) alot easier than dicking around for an hour trying to get your hand in there!! peace.
smart but you still need to stick your hand in there to place the piezo
true, but the piezo mounting area is generally closer to the bridge...not reaching an endpin jack where ya need to fit an elbow in at an impossible angle. ;)
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This actually worked pretty well for me. The only difficult part was getting the blasted piezo element out of the buzzer. I had to saw the thing in half and just take out the element (tossed the circuit board).
I want to install a pickup on my acoustic....I want to know what extra features do I get by doing this...And also, do I need separate amplifiers??or plain old ones that I use to connect CD players to speakers, would do just fine??
For people getting lots of humming and feedback, try shielding the cable and piezo disc. use shielded wire and cover the piezo disc and 1/4&quot; plug with copper tape, connecting this to the negative wire of the piezo / 1/4&quot; plug. Should reduce interference a lot.<br><br>Great instructable, thanks =)
Also... try putting a couple of .005 disk ceramic capacitors across the 1/4&quot; jack to try and filter some of the 60Hz signal back to ground. <br> <br>Tom - Tallahassee FL.
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wow...its nice......the question is.....can i also use a microphone to be acoustic guitar pick up..........? need advice.....
In a venue, sound from the PA or monitors can feedback into a microphone, even if it's mounted inside an acoustic guitar. A piezo won't feedback.<br><br>Bobbily: The ground is usually the sheath of the cable. This is more for consistency's sake. GROUND IS A CONCEPT, NOT AN ABSOLUTE. A piezo creates a signal across two contacts. The only difference between the two choices for connection is the phase of the signal.
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dude i did the same thing u did, but it is also picking up the other external sounds like if u tap on the body or while sliding sounds etc..
I does that on all piezo pickups.<br>
I meant to say it
You have a little mistake in Installation-Step-6<br> so that it does not flop back-and-forth <em>when someone you the</em> guitar

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Bio: Background in Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, Robotics, and Tangible Interfaces from MIT. Currently working at Fiddlewax to create new musical instruments. Other projects I've ... More »
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