DIY Guitar Pickup Replacement – GuitarHeads

Capturing Your Guitar Tone Without Going Broke – DIY Guitar Pickup Installation

Guitar tone comes from the fingers, right? So why do so many guitarists invest a fortune into new pickups? Well, I am not quite sure. I would assume that for most guitarists, noise is the main catalyst for DIY guitar pickup replacement. That has always been the case for me. Regardless of whether guitar tone comes primarily from the fingers or not, too much noise will mask it. No one is going to know how good your guitar tone is when it is hidden behind a wall of noise. However, I have still never understood the point of outrageously priced guitar pickups. I mean, I have some guitars with expensive pickups… but those are the stock pickups that came in the guitars, not some ridiculous DIY guitar pickup experiment.

Recently I decided to clean up the noise in my 1987 Fender Squier Strat. I was torn as to what direction to take with it. I really had no problems with the sound of the stock pickups, but the noise was bad! Any good guitar tone coming from my fingers or from anywhere else was not going to come out of these pickups accurately. I understand that there is always an acceptable amount of noise involved in a three single-coil configuration, but this was a good bit more than the norm. I contemplated for a while. Do I try to improve the shielding in the pickup cavity? Do I switch out the pickups? If so, what kind of pickups should I get as replacements: rail, lace sensor, side-by-side single coil-sized humbucker, stacked humbucker? So many options. Since I really liked the sound of the guitar, I decided to re-shield the guitar first. I did this with aluminum air conditioning tape. And I made sure to do it right! This proved to decrease the noise a bit, but still not enough. So when I came across the idea for a dummy coil pickup, I knew I had to give this a shot. Basically, this is done by wiring another single coil pickup, minus the magnet, to the other pickups, but wired in reverse. This cancels the noise of the pickups. And this method worked splendidly in my Strat. So there was no need for replacement pickups. Read more about the dummy coil pickup method here at

Closeup Shot of Strat-Style Guitar Pickguard, Strings, and Pickups on DIY Guitar Pickup Page

Photo by Basti93 / CC0 1.0

However, if no other methods worked and I was left with no option other than a DIY guitar pickup switch, then what kind would I get? Well, I found a brand called GuitarHeads. They have a variety of styles and colors to choose from. And I have heard these in action. I have installed them on two different guitars, and the results on both are great. Low noise, high output, clarity, low price tag… what more could you want? Check out a demonstration here.

My suggestion would be to try them out in a backup guitar first. That way, if they do not capture the guitar tone you’re looking for in your main axe, then they are still probably suitable for the backup. In the event that your are poor like me and ready to attempt a DIY guitar pickup installation project, then check out the wiring diagrams available on the Seymour Duncan website.