Led electric guitar pickup mod *** Updated with schematic for blinking leds and video!

Ever wanted your guitar to be unique? Or a guitar that made everybody jealous of it? Or are you just tired of the plain old look of your guitar and want to spruce it up? Well,in this very simple Ible I'll show you how to illuminate the pickups on your electric guitar. The process is very simple, and almost anybody should be able to do it.

This is my first instructable and I plan on entering it into the "Get the Led Out!" contest. Constructive criticism is always welcomed, Also if you find this guide useful or just enjoy it, please vote and rate it.

*** Updated with circuit to make it blink when you strum! Also how to make the leds turn on when you plug in your instrument cable! See the last step! heres the link to it in Action! skip to 6:00 if you don't want a video tutorial!

****There is another method of doing this that hsandford has brought up, It is a bit more complicated, but will result in much better results and have less problems overall then this method. Your can find his guide here.

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Step 1: Materials.

Picture of Materials.
You need very few things to do this mod, and most people that do things like this often will have them already.

1. 8x led, color of your own choice. (you can add more but they might not fit correctly in your guitar.
2. 2x resistors, make sure you have the right kind for your led.
3. pieces of wire.
4. Solder and soldering iron, other electrical tools, wire cutter, wire stripper etc.
5. 9v battery and 9v battery clip.
6. 9v battery holder, or way to hold it in place.
7. tools to remove guitar strings and pickups.
8. plastic that is semi transparent (I'll show how to make this in case you don't have anything suitable), used to diffuse the light for a better glow. a dremel tool may be needed for this, also scotch tape.
9. Extra strings in case something happens to yours, even though its very unlikely.
10. You will also need a switch of your choosing, I used a reed switch that is normally on so i can just stick a magnet to it to have it off when I'm not playing. Otherwise you will need to drill the plastic electrical cover in your guitar.
11. basic soldering and electrical knowledge.

** optional, If you are doing the led blinking version, you will need,
1. LM386n-1 op amp chip, radioshack has them for 2 dollars.
2. A 10 uF capacitor
3. various resistors to get the desired amount of blinking.
tikvaboi213 months ago


I can't get passed the LED circuit, After i add the fourth LED for one of the sets, my battery doesn't power it anymore. From what I can see that's a SERIES instead of a PARALLEL, can you please confirm this, because i've tried everything and can't get it going how you made it..


acroix1 year ago
hi i am new I am very interested in this project, unfortunately very little English, in my case I just want to connect two LED circuit, but I got a reed switch has only two blades, the LEDs only work to bring me the reed switch to humberker but e not been successful, will be that the reed switch is without three outputs? can you help me? thanks

P / D my guitar solo leads a double humberker the idea is to illuminate touching the F holes, where does the reed switch? in my case I did not put resistance I occupy small batteries.
tomolobla2 years ago
I will do this project (first without the twinkling) with red SMD 8050 Leds. They are extremely small and you get very bright ones(120mcd) with a wide angle(120°).
That way you don't even have to use a diffuse panel and the pickups should fit much better, at least on my Ibanez RG-370. In Europe you get 50 for 7 €.
Instead of the reed switch I will simply let two bits of wire out of the backpanel of the guitar.
PJEC2 years ago
Could you do this with el wire instead of LEDs? It would produce a better distribution of the light I think...
Hey Adem70, great instructable, thanks for the diagrams and video. I just have one question still about the pickups (sorry, if I seem inept at this subject). Are you connecting the positive and negative of the pickup directly to the LM 386n and wouldn't this render the pickup useless (no sound output) except for the LED circuit? Thanks for any response in clarifying this for me!
adem70 (author)  andre.caraco3 years ago
No you do not connect it to the pickup itself, sorry about this being unclear. What you do it, you solder the + off the lm386 onto the jack of the guitar, the one that you plug the cable into, and then you solder the - from the lm386 onto the - of the jack. positive is the one that has the prong sticking up that touches the tip of the cable, - is the solid ring at the base of the jack
Hey, thanks for the help and quick response, I am thinking of using EL wire instead of the string of LED's... can't wait to try it!
I tried it and it failed, EL workes on high AC voltage, making high frequency (wireless) electromagnetic noise, that will appear on the amp even feet away!
EL wire will generate a high frequency sound you may find it very annoying.....
adem70 (author)  andre.caraco3 years ago
You may also want to add in some diodes, because depending on your guitars hardware it may get a little bit of feedback of of the circuit if you do not include some diodes where you solder to the jack.
hello, i just was wondering where could I possibli add the diodes. because when conected to the amp.. the circuit starts to emmit a sound frecuency as I get the treble of my guitar to the top. It only supress the sound when the tone is 0... so I want to try the diodes...
khaosis2 years ago
Thanks. Roughly followed your tutorial and built it with a steinberger spirit gt-pro (even harder to put everything in place here ;)

HankMcSpank2 years ago
I see someone is selling something similar to this (though the switching arrangement looks to be different)...

LkArio2 years ago
Dean Vendetta! XM? My guitar...
hareluya3 years ago
Nice project, I'm trying to do it as well, but put mine in the hole where the Floyd Rose Tremolo sinks... One questions...the LM386n module, you have INPUT +/-, are these from the pick up?? How do I tell which wire it is?? Thanks!
adem70 (author)  hareluya3 years ago
yes those are the inputs for the pickup, what i did, which is the easiest way, is to just connect the + to the right(or left) channel of the jack in your guitar, and the - to the ground in your guitar. Ground is normally the full circle around the base of the jack, and the left/right is the prong that goes up and has a bend at the top.
hareluya adem703 years ago
Hi Adem, thanks for the tip. I tried that, but it seemed to sabotage the sound quality a little? Am I doing it right or is there a bad connection? Also, my test on the breadboard seemed to have failed since the LED stayed on, but it did kind of get brighter when I played. Do you know any reasons for that? I'm running a 3mm LED I think it's 3.3v...? The resistor I use is 300k as advices by the shop clerk.
adem70 (author)  hareluya3 years ago
Try adding a diode to the jack so that noise from the circuit cant flow into the jack out of the op amp chip, put them attached to the jack and your + and - signal wires on the ends, make sure you put them so current can only flow away from the jack. also, you do not have enough resistance in your circuit, 300k seems like a lot, do you have them on the same wire line as the leds themselves?
hareluya adem703 years ago
Hi Adem, Thanks for your response, but I'm totally confused...I'm not an electronics person, so this is a little overwhelming...and discovered that I can't even solider...=( I appreciate your help, but yeah, I think I'm totally stuck here...I guess I will have to find someone to help me locally and see if I can work something out...
Hi Adem, It worked! Playing around with it and it worked the breadboard, now I just have to figure out a place to put the LEDs and solder the circuit soldering skills proved to be very very very cr*p.......... Will post pick in tribute to you if successful! Cheers, Simon PS. I still don't understand the diodes, perhaps you want to update your instructions?
adem70 (author)  hareluya3 years ago
The diodes are not necessary for the circuit to work, but they are a nice touch to the circuit. all they do is help prevent any electrical noise from entering your amp, but i had no trouble with noise, and i do not have diodes in mine. I will link to a quick diagram drawn up in paint how to put them into your circuit. If you no need a more detailed diagram or more info, just ask.
nalex1 adem702 years ago
okay, I finally did the circuit, but the LM386 circuit "distorts" the clean signal.

so i followed your diode diagram, used 1n34 Ge diodes, but the LEDs didn't light up at all!

what diode did you use to be able to make this work?
adem70 (author)  hareluya3 years ago
woops, forgot to write that the green with silver strips are the diodes.
awilliam12 years ago
hey, i've though about the blinking mod, & i got an idea.
why don't you just use your old "mini" computer stereos' pcb board inside, & hooked up on your guitar. so it goes like this:

1. disconnect the wire on the pcb that connects to the speakers and solder it to a bunch of led your going to put it on your guitar. (don't forget the properly solder the leds according to the + & -.)

2.disconnect the input wire(the one you connect it to the pc or something) on the pcb, hook up a new cable on it & connect it to the guitars output wire.

3. remove the volume knob and just connect the gap with some cables and stuffs.
(if you wanna remove the on of switch too, just do it just like the volume knob)

#got this idea from installing leds on psp. haha",

haven't tried on putting it on my guitar but when i tested just to check of the led blinks when i play the song on my mp3's it work well. so, i hope it works to on guitar.

p.s if there's a problem with my english, sorry. i'm just an 14 years old indonesian boy. thanks :)
Neilsss3 years ago
any problems with interference? any shielding needed or not??
MaxCrave3 years ago
Great job, how do i know which resistor to use?
Teburon3 years ago
this is a really cool mod! i want to try this right away but my only concern is the battery life. it would be a pain to open this all back up just to replace the battery so hopefully the battery lasts a while.. any idea how long it would go on 8 LEDs?
I just did this on my Gretsch with UV LEDs in the f holes and it worked brilliantly. Thanks for taking the time to post it all up.
adem70 (author)  mybootsonfire3 years ago
Glad you got it working! post up some pictures/video of it if you don't mind!
Took me a while but i finally took a pic.  I have been getting a little bit of feedback when the led's are turned on, but it hasn't been bad enough to make me get of my backside and deal with it. 
where does the GND (negative) go to
nextorange3 years ago
I did this project but the leds are direct and not me
blink when I play, is supposed to shine as
I play guitar, I put the LM386 with a capacitor
10uF, and 8 leds THE OUTPUT, which could have been my error?

pdt: excuse me english but I speak spanish :)
RF5674 years ago
 Do the LED's stay on the whole time or just light up when there's a signal?
only when there is a signal
Actually, they are connected to a Magnetic "Reed Switch" - this means that they are turned on and off by the use of a magnet, when you remove the magnet they turn on, and when you put it back they turn off. Signal makes no difference to them.
Yes the Reed Switch turns the entire circuit off. When the circuit is on, the LED's will flash when you strum the guitar, thereby sending a signal through the op-amp
quinnyt20153 years ago
1. Howd u wire all this on a monojack
2. what value resistors are you using
lucasbrasil3 years ago
Hello, Adem! First let me congratulate you for your wonderful project. Well, I have a Stratocaster guitar. The input jack of my guitar is mono. You said that the input (+) and input (-) must be a stereo jack. I switched from mono to a stereo. Result: did not work and neither the circuit nor the guitar! I made connections with the breadboard and two LEDs did not work. I'm doing something wrong. When you use the stereo jack GROUND as input (-) terminal of the stereo jack that also goes for the pots GROUND guitar? Please help me.
moogbeatz993 years ago
could you use a LM10CLN op-amp instead?? doesnt even have the LM386n-1 listed...
I don't know about your Radio Shack but I bought one of these just a few weeks ago. Although I did have to go to the actual store. (Sorry about the poor quality pic i couldn't find my good camera)

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