How To Change Guitar Pickups

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It is perfectly normal for you to wonder how to change guitar pickups. A good pickup can give a simple guitar a fantastic tone, and changing your guitar’s pickups yourself would make it sound more like you want it to.

Even though you can pay someone to change your guitar’s pickups, learning to do so yourself can be an incredible skill.

Keep reading to learn the steps to changing guitar pickups.

Materials needed to change guitar pickups

In changing your guitar pickups, you will need the following tools:

  • Soldering iron and solder
  • A large fabric or rag
  • Wire trimmers
  • Philips Head Drill
  • A well-sharpened blade or X-acto blade

How to change your guitar pickups correctly

To change your guitar pickups and make it sound better, use the following steps:

Find a suitable workspace

First off, you need a spacious workspace place to avoid banging your instrument around, as you will need to move it a lot. A clear desk or a carpeted floor free from obstacles will serve this purpose.

It is also necessary to keep all the tools required for the exercise within reach to make the work easier.

Make notes and take pictures

As much as you would like your new pickups and your guitar’s tone, knowing how to change to the previous pickups is also necessary. Take pictures or create diagrams of the pickup’s height, wiring, and where the strings go.

Remove strings

For this exercise, you can either use an automatic guitar tuner or unwind by hand and cut with wire cutters if they are slack. Changing guitar pickups often presents a good reason to switch to new strings.

Clean your guitar

As unrelated as this may sound, changing guitar pickups provides an excellent opportunity to clean the instrument’s fretboard and body since the strings have been removed. Clean the guitar’s bridge, remove any dust or grime on the fretboard and polish the fret.

De-solder pickup wiring

Once the cleaning is over, look for the points where pickup wires are connected by flipping the guitar.

When they have been located, place your heated soldering iron against each point which would result in the solder turning liquid. Then pull out the wires and remove the solder. To protect the guitar’s body, place a rag or cloth over the body to avoid accidental slip marks.

Remove the pickups

After each wire has been pulled out, turn the guitar back to remove the pickups. In most guitars, there are often screws holding the pickups in place, which you have to remove.

If your guitar had mounting rings around the pickups, you should remove the screws first before you can altogether remove the pickups. Here, learning how to change guitar pickups gets interesting.

Mount your new pickup

For guitars that have pickup rings, the new pickups should be in the rings. Sometimes the new pickups may not fit the guitar’s body cavity, so you should file the picking mounting plate’s edge down. Once the pickups are in the rings, send their wires towards the back cavity through the hole.

Place the pickup into position by carefully pulling the wire from the back and replacing the mounting screws to hold it firmly.

Figure out the wiring style

There are different ways to wire a guitar, so knowing what you want from your pickups will help you identify the suitable wiring style for your guitar. You can also use the diagram of your previous pickup to understand how to wire your new pickup better.

Connect the new wires

After you have figured out the ideal wiring style for your guitar, the next step is connecting the wires, which is a crucial step. It is also essential to carefully solder the wires as a poorly soldered connection can result in tone issues.

Test your guitar

Testing the guitar comes after the connections have been put in place. Avoid restringing your guitar without testing.

Connect your guitar to your amp, then gently touch each pickup screw with your screwdriver. The response you get from the active pickup determines whether or not you have done it right.

Restring your guitar

Once you are sure that your guitar’s wiring is correct, seal the cavity and restring the guitar. Set the pickup height to suit you, and enjoy new tones on your guitar!


Changing your guitar pickups is an easy way to get better tones while playing, thus making it a rewarding exercise. Knowing how to change guitar pickups is knowledge that you will be glad you have.

Jim Henneberry

Jim Henneberry

I love playing my guitar, and my kids got hooked along with me.
This is a family thing now - why don't you join the family fun? :)