Posted by: Jon | November 21, 2006

Replacing Pickups

-by Jon Cheema 

One of the most cost effective ways to improve the overall sound of your bass (or guitar) is to replace the stock pickups. Take a minute and imagine yourself as Bono of U2. Bono is a great, powerful singer, but what if he were to sing through a $5 karaoke mic? You know, something that you would buy at Walmart. (no offense to all our Walmart fans out there). Anyways, Bono would sound terrible. Believe it or not, the same can be said about guitar/bass pickups. The pickups in your instrument act as it’s “microphones” and capture every ounce of sound that the strings can dish out. So simply put, bad pickups = bad sound. Now don’t get me wrong, not all pickups sound awful, and not everyone will be able to even notice this. However, even if you are the only one who notices, it will affect your playing by giving you confidence in your sound. Most pickups actually sound fairly decent, depending on the quality of the instrument you purchase. As a basic rule of thumb, the lower the price tag, generally, the cheaper the components are inside. Replacing pickups is fairly easy. In fact, all you really need is a soldiering iron, screwdriver, and some basic electrical knowledge. I went about replacing the stock pickups in my Fender Jazz Bass the other night with some Custom Shop ’62 pickups. Below I will explain how I went about doing this…

1. Remove the strings, and pickguard from your instrument.Pickguard

2. Read through the electrical schematics provided with the pickups. If the replacement pickups are designed for your specific bass you should have no problem. However, if you are replacing for example, passive pickups with actives, the instructions should be read. (I know, I know, I said it. Read the instructions!!!)

3. Use a soldering iron to un-solder the pickup wires of the old pickups from the pots, and unscrew the stock pickups from the body of the guitar.

Solidering4. Strip the wire leads of the new pickups and solder them to their designated location on the potometers. Be sure to heat the solder nice and hot to avoid cold-solder-joints.

**Note: The ’62 pickups came with brass hum cancelling plates. These are placed underneath the pickups and wired to the ground circuit. (Normally, the wire connected to the bridge) I say this because Fender surprisingly forgot to included it in the directions.

5. Next, screw the pickups into the existing screw holes.

6. After waiting a few minutes for the solder to cool, carefully bend the pickup wires so they fit into the body cavity. Following this, replace the pickguard, and then the strings.

7. Finally, after your instrument has been re-assembled, plug it into your amp and check that there isn’t any overwhelming hum or buzz. This could mean faulty wiring.

That’s it! As simple as that. You should notice a drastic increase in the quality of the tone your instrument produces. You will be happy with every penny that you spend and hopefully, be more confident with your sound.

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Responses

  1. Great article, Jon! Soldering is one of those skills that is great to know and can save $$$ and time over taking your bass or guitar to a busy tech. For those still leery of soldering themselves, head to http://www.kingbass.com/soldering101.html for more soldering tips. Get it? Tip? Solder? Ah, never mind…just go.

  2. Tips… funny. I giggled. What does that say about me?

  3. My guitar is too crappy to replace pick ups either that or I’m to lazy or Both!

  4. tony…..a lot

  5. Hmm… sounds like you two played in a band together… 😉

  6. If anyone is looking I have a nearly new S. Duncan bridge position and a nearly new Fender custom shop vintage neck position pup for sale. I decided to go with SCN’s in my Jazz Bass right after I bought these.

  7. One great tone builder that often gets overlooked is as simple as a pack of new strings. Forty hours on a pack and you’re back in the mud again. I used to think that you had to break one before you changed them! Something else to consider is shielding the cavities while you have the p-ups out to cut down on noise. I think Active Bass has a how to on the subject.

  8. Yes largemouth, properly shielding the cavity of your guitar/bass will get rid of tone robbing hum and/or feedback. Also, like you said, strings are another important aspect that is overlooked. In the future look forward to an article about selecting the proper bass strings.

  9. i tried to, instead of soldering, just cut the wirtes then splice them back together, but it did not work. does anyone know how to fix this?

  10. I’ve never been gutsy enough to try this aidan, hopefully someone else can chime in…

  11. Great article and very useful

    Thank you!

  12. HI! , i bought a bass with fender custom 60 jazz bass pickups. the thing is that when both volume pots are at full position the overall sound is lower and with almost no bass, if i turn a little down any volume pot the volume reacts abruptly, and the tone the same… or its closed.. or fully open. any idea of the problem? thanks!
    oh there are 500k pots

  13. hi.

    please advise me on the correct pots I need for Mod Shop Fender SCN pickups for Jazz bass. I wish to go passive rather than acive.

    Thanks in advance,
    Regards,
    Ian

  14. You actually spoke about a few engaging points here. I found this by searching Bing and I must confess that I already subscribed to the blog site, it is very decent 😉


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