Cigar Box Guitar Pickup

ciguitar.jpgThese things are ridiculously easy to make. If you don’t have a soldering iron, go buy a crimping kit at the hardware store. They cost about the same really ($20-30) and last forever. This is about a five minute project, perhaps 10 minutes if you’re new to soldiering or crimping wires. What a pickup allows you to do is amplify your cigar box guitar (or in a pinch a real acoustic 6-string) through an amp. Here’s a brief sound MP3 sample of mine. What you’ll need are:

  • Radio Shack part# 273-0073 Piezo Transducer (the pickup) ($1.00 ea)
  • Radio Shack part#274-0255 1/4″ Mono Phone Jack (the cable jack) ($2.50 for two)

Some soldier or crimping pieces, and some spare wire. Spare wire optional, but it increases your options for pickup placement. If electronics are beyond your scope of DIY, you can always buy a premade piezo CBG pickup at amazon for $20.

pickup1.jpg

Take your pliers and break off the “dog ears” of the outer plastic casing. Go to town, this part won’t be used in the final pickup. We’re looking for the guts of this thing. Crunch around the edge a couple of times until the black plastic begins to decintigrate and you can pull the back cover off, and then start breaking the remaining lip up with the pliers until the gold looking piece falls out:

pickup2crunch.jpg

pickup3.jpg

Try not to chip the white stuff any more than you have to; it’s a conductive crystal and important to how your pickup works. A small amount missing as pictured won’t hurt the sound/tone any. If you screw it up, that’s ok, these pieces are less than a dollar each, and you can always resolder a new pickup to the jack. Finished pickup. The red wire should go to the lead that connects to the tip of the 1/4″ jack, the black wire is the ground, which connects to the shaft. The other two leads connect to the shaft (ground). This is all very basic DC (direct current) stuff so if you swap the wires you’ll be fine you’re not going to wreck anything in your instrument or amp.

pickup4finished.jpg

Now, just drill a hole in your box, place the jack, and glue the pickup to the inside of the soundboard. Play around with the pickup positioning a little bit, but I think you’ll find directly under the bridge, or close to it, will give you the best sound. You can link these together for what some think is a better sound – simply daisy chain them together, like so [+ piezo -] [+ piezo -] with the beginning and ending positive and negative leads connecting to the jack as normal. You can tape this to the outside of your acoustic guitar to make it “electric”, but you are going to be a lot happier with simply gluing it to the inside of your Cigar Box Guitar.

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2 Responses to Cigar Box Guitar Pickup

  1. Mark says:

    Your photos don’t show where (the other two leads) the ground, connect to the shaft. You lost me there. Thanks for sharing.

  2. You should be able to attach to the negative. I haven’t had any problem with hum or RF in my recording. Since its piezo and not magnetic you shouldn’t have any issue with needing to ground the strings. If I’m in error let me know and Ill make the update.

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