If you're anything like me, you started out with a basic beginner's guitar, and over time you realized that you were ready for something better. I had a Squier Telecaster(standard series) and I was ready for a change. I was set on a Les Paul of some sort, possibly a used LP Standard. I read tons of reviews, then I started reading some of the Epi Les Pauls(the nicer ones, $400-500).
Long story short, I realized that I wasn't going to be able to afford even the cheaper Epi guitar of my choice, and even if I could save up the money, it would have to go towards getting a vehicle, when I turn 16 in 7 months.

After some time on Google reading articles mentioning the good things that can come out of getting rid of the stock pickups on inexpensive guitars, I was set on trying to do this myself. I had never considered it before, I always thought that the insides of guitars were something only an elite group of individuals were allowed to mess with.

I was wrong. After finishing this pickup swap, I learned a ton about my guitar without messing ANYTHING up. And now I have a great sounding guitar, too.

If you're finally becoming good at guitar, or even if you have been playing for a while and want a change, swapping out the pickups is one of the best things you can do without shelling out hundreds for a new guitar.

I think that following this tutorial is pretty simple. You should be able to swap out your pickups with minimum to no hassle, but in case you screw up, don't blame me for it. If you do mess something up, I'll do my best to help you though.

Also, this tutorial is geared towards changing the bridge pickup to a SD Little '59 on a Telecaster, but the same technique should be able to be applied to other guitars as well.

Step 1: Choosing a Pickup

Choosing a pickup is important. Why?
-They're not cheap. Expect to spend $70-130(USD) on a good pickup.
-It'll change the way your guitar sounds. Look for video reviews with good quality audio to help determine what you need. Seymour Duncan also provides audio samples for their pickups. http://www.seymourduncan.com/support/audio-samples/tele_jaguar_and/

Make sure you like the sound before you buy it. Don't go off of text reviews alone(although you should read those too). Everyone's opinion is different.

I chose the Little '59 because I wanted a humbucker(vague, I know...), and there were good reviews on it. Also, I was pleased with the way it sounds.

I recommend you buy your pickup new, and from a place that you trust. I am getting more and more unsatisfied with Musician's Friend(everything I order is backordered...) so after being informed that my pickup was going to be in stock three weeks from when I wanted it, I canceled the order, bought the same pickup at Guitar Center(online) and it came in by the end of the week.

Also, make sure you know where the pickup is supposed to go(not just what type of guitar it is supposed to go in). Don't screw up and buy a neck pickup and try to put it in the bridge.
That is, of course, if your guitar doesn't have interchangeable pickups. Like a Tele.
<p>Assuming you've become more fmiliar with this process since making this guide, I'd like to know, is it a potential hazard to have two different kinds of pickups, like two different brands, because I am about to get two different humbuckers and put them in my new guitar I just wanna know if this would be unwise.</p>
Its ok to put diffrent brand pickups in, i have a guitar with an iron gear hammer head at the bridge for heavy riffing and a slash signiture at the neck for sweet blues solos. I had it wired diffrent though, 1 master tone 2 volumes and a blend knob, with the 3 way switch in the middle i was getting too much hammer head due to its out put being higher, so the blend knob allows me to fine tune the mix of the pickups.
<p>Tele's don't have interchangable pickups. A Tele bridge pickup has a different plate than the neck pickup (3 adjustment screws instead of 2). The neck pickup is a Strat-style (in form) pickup.</p><p>Generally, bridge pickups are wound hotter than neck pickups to account for the (usually) further distance from the strings and slightly lessened string vibration at the bridge-end of the string.</p>
<p>You'd mentioned that the bridge pickup is substantially louder on Telecasters than the neck. I have an American Standard so the relationship between the two might not be identical but I was able to make the volume levels comparable by raising my neck pickup substantially so that only about a half inch of space remained between the string and the pickup. They're now about equal volume and if anything the front pickup sounds better and more defined as a result.</p>
<p>Adjusting the pickup heights is usually worth trying before going to the expense &amp; hassle of a swap. Some stock pickups, even on cheaper guitars, sound fine once the guitar's set up properly.</p>
<p>If you'd like a nice balance between the bridge and neck pickups of your Telecaster, you should try Joe Barden (JBE) pickups, either the Danny Gatton model or the Modern T:</p><p>http://splitrockguitars.com/JoeBardenPickups.html </p>
<p>I&acute;m having issues installing Seymour Duncan Nazgul and Sentient on my Ibanez PGM301 with a 5-way switch. Any chance on getting a diagram for wiring? At the moment all the mics are in use on every position of the switch.. :/</p>
Nice ible. I JUST got a Squier Tele Custom ii (2) in the mail Friday after selling a keytar on ebay for $355. I bought it because it got great reviews for having 2 Duncan (designed, made in asia?) P90's and the price was right for a 1st guitar. the only thing i do not like is the ugly tele headstock. I bought a '68 Harmony Marquis last year for my 1st 1st guitar, not really knowing at the time how unrewarding/difficult it would be to learn on a P.O.S like that. So, even tho the pups are probably the last thing I would replace on it, it was cool to read a bit by someone else with a "less expensive" tele. Look up the Custom ii online, it has a great looking pickguard and the pup selector is up on the top horn like a les paul. Thanks for the tips!
I like the look of the regular teles better than the tele Custom ii.
what cha got yourself there partner is an awsome guitar! if you dont like the headstock you should have got the exact same but with the strat headstock and their cheaper! or you could change the neck to a blank headstock and there is a guy on ebay that will print you out a vinal sticker for it or if you have the cash get a fender neck and let people think its a fender!
come to think of it, my first guitar was a strat style Harmony brand electric. It had a crappy tremolo, and its as heavy as concrete. i learned the basics on it before i got the Tele.
Looks like a good guitar. I honestly think that for 90% of the hobbyist players out there, after buying better pickups, the difference between the sound of a Squier and a real Fender is negligible. I could be wrong I guess, but my ear doesn't really pick up enough of a difference to justify the money for a more expensive guitar. The quality of the guitar plays a big part for me. For instance, when I first got my guitar, the frets weren't smooth. Bends sucked because the note had lost it's sound by the time it was bent all the way up. Finally through playing and polishing, they flattened. Now they play really nice. I'm sure that on a new Gibson, that wouldnt happen. Oh well. About the Tele headstock that you didn't like, what don't you like about it? Do you like the gibson style 3 tuners to a side configuration?(like an acoustic?)
nice guitar man
Ha ha. I draw pots the same way.
Stuff everything with cotton. Usually it keeps any buzzing from happening.
Klooa is right. I had the same problem with a S-D pickup, went back to rubber tubing (cut from a length of fuel hose from a model plane), but no difference. I wax potted mine and the microphonics went straight away.
dude it looks in the first pic like you had to widen the hole for the pick up in the plate. did you? thanks this is great, if i had seen this before i would have defo done this to my crappy squire strat. but hey there nothing wrong with squires?! :) keep rocking my friend!
It's not the springs. Either return the pickup, or Pot it in wax (Heat up some wax and dip it) This will stop the internal wires from vibrating, and kill the microphonics.
Hey man this is a really great instructable and i am in sort of the same situation that you were in. I have 2 guitars,a Yamaha CG-101 classical, and a Fender Squier Strat. I want to save up for a warlock or Eipiphone les paul or SG or something, but my income is very low and i am going to get a drum set instead. My parents could care less of music, but they are in it for me. Anyways, my strat has three single coils and what I really want to do is replace them all with EMG's.Would that be possible? But those are like $200 a peice. Maybe i should just wait until i get some more money after my drum set. Thanks and shoot me a PM or something.
I'm sure its possible, I just don't know how easy it would be. I think EMGs are active, correct? So you'd have to have a place for a battery, plus figure out how to wire it. And yeah, they're expensive. If you could hold on for a while, I'd get the drum set. Then friends can come over and you can play together, instead of just being able to use just the guitar. It's up to you.
I was thinking of doing this with my epiphone les paul Black Beauty(it has 3 humbuckers) and this instructable gave me more confidence in myself to actually try it!
Good! Are you going to replace all the pickups or just one or two? If I ever get an Epi Les Paul I'll probably shell out the money for some Burstbuckers. What are you going to put in yours?
i once disassembled my yellow Ibanez guitar and sanded it down. i never reassembled it.
i bought a les paul, like slash. ..i didn't like feeling like stryper.
Putting on two strings is of course the best way to get an understanding of the tone and such. But if you are being lazy you can also check you pickup is working by using a tuning fork ($2). You just bang it on something (not the guitar of course!) and let if vibrate over the pickup. If it is working, and you have it hooked up to the amp and all, it will make a noise. But it looks like you didn't have difficulty...just thought I would share this trick. Using a simple circuit (not involving the pots and such) I used this to check that some pickups (used) I got actually worked.
Great idea, I'll do this if I change the neck pickup.
If you do this and you're having issues with strange weak guitar tones, instead of what you expect out of your new humbucker pickup you probably got the positive and negative wrong, just switch the wiring the other way and you'll be golden... Nice instructable & It's always good to remind people that the neck needs oiled and fixed-up a bit every time the strings are off.
nice i want a telly
yeah, I'm pretty happy with mine, it does most of what I want it do now. Eventually I want to get a les paul(epi or gibson, I don't care, theres pros and cons to each). But for now I'm happy with the tele.
ya my buddy has a les paul (epi) and it is amazing i have a strat but i had a telly knock off but the body split
Is the grounded wire on the switch what goes to the bridge ground?
One of them I think. I never traced the wire, but there is a black wire soldered to the side of the 3-way switch, and I believe that it goes through the hole to the bridge pickup slot, then in a hole and out on the top of the instrument under the bridge.
What did you use to polish the frets? What did you use to oil the fretboard? I use the fine Scotchbright pads (gray) for polishing the frets and Lemon Oil for the fretboard. (Weiman Natural Lemon Oil Furniture Polish "cleans, moisturizes, & preserves" Contains no silicone)
I used Mother's Mag and Aluminum Wheel polish(something like that) to polish the frets. It says its for all metals, and it works great for the frets. I found it in our garage, so I don't know where you'd find it. I used Old English brand lemon oil for the fretboard. It comes in the bottle you see in step 3. I got it at Home Depot. I don't think the lemon oil I use has silicone in it, I'm pretty sure it doesn't. Hopefully. I think that the bottle of my lemon oil also says that it cleans moisturizes and preserves.
Guitar Center has owned Musician's Friend since 2000... check out, "Guitar Center," on Wiki. That's why their prices are the same, so just order from whomever has what you need in stock.
Really? Wow. I guess they use different warehouses and stuff, because when I ordered the pickup from guitarcenter it was still out of stock at musicians friend.
Yup, same company and same prices. It's just a little trick to order from who has it in stock to save you the few weeks delivery time going from warehouse to warehouse.
Yes! i got featured! Glad to see all that typing got me something.
Good guide-- I like what you've done here. Good pics, too. Of course, it's "Tele" specific, but a lot of the information can be adapted for other wiring schemes.
Thanks! It did work out pretty well, except the feedback problem, but that's an easy fix(hopefully). The pictures were taken by a FinePixS700. Macro photos from that camera are very nice, clear and just...good pictures. But most other pictures are crap in my opinion. Lots of image "noise" Anyways, thanks!
I'm going to do a good check up on my electrics. It is the best shit guitar I've played. $400 with amp deal... For some reason, it sounds better than any Ibanez I've played. Anyway, what do you think of shielding the cavity? I can get some copper foil sticky-backed sheet, and then connect that to ground. I'm definitely replacing my jack, but I think my pots will be okay. Everything is getting a damn good clean! Got any tips for polishing the paint? It has the odd small scratch. Either that or I could sand it to a matt job? Or would that look crap?
What guitar do you have?<br/><br/>I wouldn't bother sheilding unless:<br/>-you are having buzz issues<br/>-you want to do it just because you have the stuff<br/>I wouldn't bother unless you really are having problems. Humbuckers are pretty much hum-free so if your guitar doesn't have those you could try them.<br/><br/>The jack is a really easy fix. I don't know if I said in my instructable, but the jack I got at Radioshack was better than the one that came in my guitar.<br/><br/>Your pots are most likely fine. <br/><br/>Giving it a good clean really improves the feel more than you'd think(in my opinion). Just by polishing the frets it makes slides feel smoother and bends easier(you're pushing down on something that's mirror smooth).<br/><br/>Depending on how bad your paint is, I'd stick with just guitar polish.<br/>This short forum post doesn't have a definitive answer, but it's interesting nonetheless: <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-304668.html">http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-304668.html</a><br/><br/>They do sell guitar polish. It's not usually cheap, but it's worth a try. I've never used any type of polish in the 3 years or so that I've had my guitar. Maybe 4 years, actually...<br/><br/>A few small scratches, are they to the wood? or are they just paint deep and that's it? <br/>What's the paint style on your guitar?<br/><br/>I wouldn't sand it back any unless you wanted to repaint it. Which could be risky on a $400 guitar. <br/><br/>Like I said, what guitar and amp do you have? I just want to know the amp out of curiosity. <br/>Pictures?<br/><br/>thanks!<br/>
No pictures sorry :-P<br/><br/>It's a fender style black paint, white full pick guard.<br/><br/>I'll need to get some new strings =\. Polishing the frets should be cool, should look real nice after.<br/><br/>The paint have a few very minor paint scratches, I thought I might be able to improve the gloss a little. Is there an alternative to guitar polish? I saw something about car polish, figures... Similar paint jobs.<br/><br/>I have single coils, and would have to replace the pick guard to upgrade... Not too keen on shelling out for new gear. I'm actually in the process of hand crafting a scratch-built Gibson SG copy. MDF anyone? I hear MDF gives a nice low, continuous tone. Obviously it's going to have a good paint job to cover it up...<br/><br/>I've also crafted the neck from NZ native Rimu. Looks really nice! Was thinking of putting an ebony fretboard on, just to give it a nice, professional surface.<br/><br/>I'm an electrical hobbyist, so I know all about the various components, I just know little about audio. I guess I wont be shielding then, will save my wallet a bit =).<br/><br/>Thanks Mate, great instructable BTW. I'm going to use it for sure! Just without the pick-up part...<br/>
<a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.tdpri.com/forum/telecaster-discussion-forum/89943-mdf-awful-stuff.html">http://www.tdpri.com/forum/telecaster-discussion-forum/89943-mdf-awful-stuff.html</a><br/>Cool forum posts on MDF for guitars, telecasters specifically.<br/><br/>So its like a fender strat? What brand?<br/><br/>I don't know about alternatives, you could try joining a guitar forum and asking there, or just search google.<br/><br/>What color are you going to paint the SG? Red? It's too bad you can only do a solid color on MDF, I prefer bursts. But that's my opinion. <br/>What about fabric?<br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.diyguitarist.com/Guitars/SuperStrat.htm">http://www.diyguitarist.com/Guitars/SuperStrat.htm</a><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&amp;q=guitar+fabric+body&amp;aq=f&amp;oq=&amp;aqi=">http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&amp;q=guitar+fabric+body&amp;aq=f&amp;oq=&amp;aqi=</a><br/><br/>Also, why would you have to replace the pickguard in order to change the pickups?<br/><br/>I guess you know about making necks with truss rods and how to add the fretboard, and all that? You can't make it without a truss rod.<br/><br/>

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