Introduction: Guitar Operation: Pickups

In this instructable I will be showing the process in which you replace the stock neck single coil pickup in my telecaster with a new humbucker sized P-90 pickup. 

Note: This guitar is a Mexican-made Factory Special Run (FSR) Silverburst Telecaster. This guitar happens to have a humbucker sized neck pickup cavity; not all Telecasters have this sized pickups cavity.

If your guitar does not have a humbucker sized cavity and you are trying to install a humbucker sized pickup, you will need to route out the cavity to make it bigger. I have found that the best way to do this is to use the humbucker sized pickguard as a template to route the cavity.

Step 1: Materials & Tools for Tinkering


Fully functional donor guitar.

New Pickup. (Humbucker P-90 in this case, but it is your choice of course.)

Pickguard to fit new pickup. (If you are replacing one pickup with another of the same type/size, you can use the same pickguard.)



Phillips head screwdrivers of various sizes.

Soldering Iron.

Helping Hands Wire Holder (Optional)

Step 2: De-String This Thing!

Not much to explain here, unwind and unload these old strings. Remove them completely. Trying to operate on a guitar is much much more annoying when the strings are flopping around at the bridge.

Step 3: Let the Dissection Begin!

Remove all screws present on the pickguard, even the screws that mount the pickup.

Remove the 2 mounting screws at each end of the control plate. DO NOT remove the components from the control plate, keeping them attached to the control plate makes it much easier to remove the old pickup and attach the new pickup. 

When the pickguard is free, remove it from the work area, you will not need it anymore.

Step 4: Do I Cut the Blue Wire or the Green Wire?

Now that we have this thing opened up, we need to find the wires and cut them.

This is very simple, gently tug on the wires that are attached to the pickup to see where they are leading.

Now that you know where the wires are going, you can release them in one of two ways; either cut the wires and remove the pickup, or desolder the wires directly from the components.

Cutting the wires is easier to do, but it will not have a signal as strong as if you desoldered directly from the components.

Step 5: Now for Some Recon... Reconnect That Is.

When installing the new pickup, you must first set it in the pickup cavity and route the wires through the body to the control cavity.

When you do this, pull the wire all the way through so you have plenty to work with.

Replace the wires of the old pickup with the wires of the new pickup.

If you desoldered the old pickup wires, then you will need to solder the new pickup wires directly to the components.

If you chose to cut the wires, then i would recommend using some kind of wire holders to keep the wires steady as you solder them. You will need to solder the wires of the new pickup to the remaining wire from the old pickup that you cut. 

Note: If you are soldering two wires together, I would suggest either covering the exposed bare wire with shrink wrap or electrical tape, because if the exposed wire touches any other components, it will cause an error in the circuit.

Step 6: Pretty It Up.

Now that everything is all connected, all we have left to do is put it all back together.

First, reconnect the control plate to the body.

Now, mount the pickup to the pickguard. If you try to screw the pickguard back of first, you will not be able to mount the pickup.

Once you successfully mount the pickup to the pickguard, apply the pickguard to the body.


String it up and shred away!

Hope this helped anyone who is new to guitar modding and might be tentative of ripping a guitar apart.

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