Instructables
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.

Disclaimer-
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.
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up
bustedit5 years ago
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!
John Smith (author)  bustedit5 years ago
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.
John Smith (author)  bustedit5 years ago
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?)
freeza362 years ago
nice guitar man
mrmerino3 years ago
Ha ha. I draw pots the same way.
FoiL3 years ago
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!
klooa5 years ago
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.
John Smith (author)  SeMi_AuToMaTic5 years ago
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.
Farewell88s5 years ago
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!
John Smith (author)  Farewell88s5 years ago
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?
luvit5 years ago
i once disassembled my yellow Ibanez guitar and sanded it down. i never reassembled it.
John Smith (author)  luvit5 years ago
Why?
i bought a les paul, like slash. ..i didn't like feeling like stryper.
annrrr5 years ago
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.
John Smith (author)  annrrr5 years ago
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.
abadfart5 years ago
nice i want a telly
John Smith (author)  abadfart5 years ago
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
gummypaul5 years ago
Is the grounded wire on the switch what goes to the bridge ground?
John Smith (author)  gummypaul5 years ago
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)
John Smith (author)  interactive35 years ago
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.
Schmidtn5 years ago
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.
John Smith (author)  Schmidtn5 years ago
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.
John Smith (author) 5 years ago
Yes! i got featured! Glad to see all that typing got me something.
gmoon5 years ago
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.
John Smith (author)  gmoon5 years ago
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!
microman1715 years ago
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?
John Smith (author)  microman1715 years ago
What guitar do you have?

I wouldn't bother sheilding unless:
-you are having buzz issues
-you want to do it just because you have the stuff
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.

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.

Your pots are most likely fine.

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).

Depending on how bad your paint is, I'd stick with just guitar polish.
This short forum post doesn't have a definitive answer, but it's interesting nonetheless: http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-304668.html

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...

A few small scratches, are they to the wood? or are they just paint deep and that's it?
What's the paint style on your guitar?

I wouldn't sand it back any unless you wanted to repaint it. Which could be risky on a $400 guitar.

Like I said, what guitar and amp do you have? I just want to know the amp out of curiosity.
Pictures?

thanks!
No pictures sorry :-P

It's a fender style black paint, white full pick guard.

I'll need to get some new strings =\. Polishing the frets should be cool, should look real nice after.

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.

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...

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.

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 =).

Thanks Mate, great instructable BTW. I'm going to use it for sure! Just without the pick-up part...
John Smith (author)  microman1715 years ago
http://www.tdpri.com/forum/telecaster-discussion-forum/89943-mdf-awful-stuff.html
Cool forum posts on MDF for guitars, telecasters specifically.

So its like a fender strat? What brand?

I don't know about alternatives, you could try joining a guitar forum and asking there, or just search google.

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.
What about fabric?
http://www.diyguitarist.com/Guitars/SuperStrat.htm
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=guitar+fabric+body&aq=f&oq=&aqi=

Also, why would you have to replace the pickguard in order to change the pickups?

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.