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!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtR5kkf7ipw 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.  http://howardsandford.com/blog/flashing-leds-audio-meter-avr-attiny-guitar-pickup-wiring-sound-following-circuit/

Step 1: 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.

Step 2: Disassemble You Guitar.

To gain access to the area we are going to put the leds we must remove the strings and the pickups from your guitar.
1. the strings are easy to remove, simply loosen the tuners until the strings comes out of the tuning peg, you do not need to remove it from the bridge just simply so they are not over the pickups.
2.Next we need to remove the pickups, there are usually 4 screws you want to remove, and 2 that you do not. These 2 adjust the height of the pickup. The 4 you want to remove are normally found on the corners of the pickups. Be gentle when removing the screws and especially when you move the pickup. They are connected by a wire and pulling on them to0 hard can disconnect it. see pictures for which screws to remove.

Step 3: Measuring the Pickup Spot.

Now to make the diffuser.
You will need to measure the size of the hole in order to make the right sized diffuser and circuit.
In case you don't have any clear plastic pieces laying around, who does?, use an old plastic bin and cut your pieces out of it, that's how i made mine.
Now check the size to make sure it fits snugly into the hole. If all goes as planned put scotch tape on top of the plastic, I found around 4 layers gives the best effect, this helps the light spread evenly around the surface of the pickup and not just towards the center.

Step 4: Building the Led Circuit.

The circuit is a pretty simple on to build, and does not take long.
Basically the circuit is 2 sets of 4 leds hooked up in parallel.

Hsandford has a guide written up on another way of doing this, It is a bit more complicated, but will produce better results and less problems overall then this method, you can read his guide here. http://howardsandford.com/blog/flashing-leds-audio-meter-avr-attiny-guitar-pickup-wiring-sound-following-circuit/

Using your diffuser as a guide, build the part of the circuit containing the leds only. if you connect the 2 leds circuits together, there will be no way to put them into your guitar. Make sure the 4 leds will fit into your guitar with a little room to move around.

Remember to connect the leds + to - or one or the set incorrectly soldered will not work. It's a huge pain to go back and fix.

Connect wires to one of the led sets on the + and - side of the outer leds.( make these wires pretty long, they will need to be able to reach from the top of the top pickup to the bottom of the bottom pickup, so make the wire about the distance between the two.See picture.) In the next step you will connect these 2 wires to the 2nd set, and then to the battery to complete the circuit.

** Test them before going onto the next step.

Step 5: Installing the Leds Part 1

Now take your 2 sets of 4 leds and place them in the pickup hole.(Putting the set with the wires attached in the upper pickup). Adjust them so they are as close to the edges as possible. You now want to put the two wires through the hole in the side of the pickup hole.(see pictures) and into the second pickup hole.

Find which wire is + and which is - ,(Negative is the one connected to the resistor, if you followed my diagram) if you solder the wrong wire on the first set to the wrong place on the second set, your first set will not light up.

After finding out which wire is which solder the negative wire to the resistor on your second set, and the Positive onto the open led on you second set. (see diagram)

Step 6: Installing the Leds Part 2, the Battery

For this step, we want to connect both the led sets to a 9v battery to complete the circuit.
You will need to connect a second wire to where you connected the + and - wires to the second led set.(This wire needs to reach from the hole in the second pickup to the back of the guitar where the electrical panel is. so measure it out first.)

Two get into the electrical panel, carefully remove all screws from the plastic cover, and pull the back off. Be careful not to interfere with the current wiring.

Now connect the reed switch (or other kind of switch) to the positive wire, test it first to make sure you have the positive wire and you have the switch the right way. (I connected mine on the normally closed side, so when a magnet is not present the lights will show, and when I'm not playing i can just stick a magnet onto the electrical compartment cover to turn them off.)
Then connect the reed switch to the battery clip, tape (or glue) the reed switch to the cover of the electrical compartment so a magnet will stick,and leave enough slack in the wire so you can open and close the electrical compartment whenever you need a new battery.
Last but not least connect the negative wire to the battery clip, and test it.

Step 7: Reassembling Your Newly Modded Guitar.

If it all works, and your happy with the position of the leds, diffusion ammount etc, put the pickups back on. (Don't forget your diffusion plates!)
** Do not tighten the screws any more once they have sunk into their spots on the pickups. If you over tighten them, they will not hold and the pickup could simply fall off.

Put the strings back on, and tune them, if your bridge is like mine and comes off, make sure you put in back on correctly.
Your all done!
Enjoy your newly modded electric guitar, and show it off to your friends making them jealous.

If you don't understand anything, or if it is unclear, please ask for help. I will be more then happy to help you out.

Step 8: Optional Extra Features.

If you want to make it so the leds turn on when you plug it into your instrument cable, all you have to do is get a stereo input jack, you can get these in many places for under $5. With the jack you would put on wire from the battery on the left channel (the part thats in the middle, its like the one that touches the right channel but it touches the ground). next you would connect the other side of your wire to the ground spot on the jack (normally the one with the bigger space). So when you plug in your guitar, the ground spot finished the circuit, there is no difference in sound quality using this method. ** You must still use a mono cable with the jack, a stereo cable with cancel of the stereo jack.

***Hsandford has a guide written up on another way of doing this, It is a bit more complicated, but will produce better results and less problems overall then this method, you can read his guide here. http://howardsandford.com/blog/flashing-leds-audio-meter-avr-attiny-guitar-pickup-wiring-sound-following-circuit/

Also you could make it so the lights blink when you strum, I have Successfully built this circuit and it
works amazingly!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtR5kkf7ipw <--- link to it in action, skip to the end for me playing it, (I KNOW I SUCK AT GUITAR)!

  • another thing to note is that for some reason, with the blinking circuit it seems to drain your battery even when your not playing, so to prevent this i put a magnetic switch on the positive line from my battery so when i put a magnet on the outside of the electrical panel cover it kills the battery completely.

***** this is the Schematic That works 100%!!! the part that is in red is OPTIONAL, It will make the lights come on more or less, the capacitor there boosts the amplification from 20% to 200%, and if you want it to be 50% add in a 1.2k resistor after the capacitor, you can use any resistor you want, but the higher the value the less amplification you get, wich means your leds will be dimmer!

2 People Made This Project!


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98 Discussions


Question 8 months ago on Step 1

Hey man - cool idea! I was thinking of something similar but I want a setup where the LED will change colour based on whether you are on the neck or bridge pickup. Do you think it would be possible to connect this into the blade or toggle switch for the pickups?


4 years ago on Introduction

Hey, sounds great! But I have a small issue. I am trying to use a semi-acoustic guitar for this setup, and when I checked my guitar for voltage fluctuations, it was giving a steady voltage of 7 volts. Please explain!


5 years ago on Introduction


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..



6 years ago on Introduction

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.


7 years ago on Step 3

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.


7 years ago on Step 8

Could you do this with el wire instead of LEDs? It would produce a better distribution of the light I think...


8 years ago on Step 8

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!

6 replies

Reply 8 years ago on Step 8

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


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

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!


Reply 7 years ago on Step 8

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!


Reply 8 years ago on Step 8

EL wire will generate a high frequency sound you may find it very annoying.....


Reply 8 years ago on Step 8

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.


Reply 8 years ago on Step 8

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...


7 years ago on Introduction

Thanks. Roughly followed your tutorial and built it with a steinberger spirit gt-pro (even harder to put everything in place here ;)




7 years ago on Introduction

I see someone is selling something similar to this (though the switching arrangement looks to be different)... http://www.tinyurl.com/6axlztj


8 years ago on Step 8

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!

3 replies

Reply 8 years ago on Step 8

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.


Reply 8 years ago on Step 8

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.


Reply 8 years ago on Step 8

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?