How do I wire guitar pickups?

This article brought to you by
Joey P.
(Joey in the discussion forums)

pickup installation tools
pickup installation tools


Pickups are a major source of the sound of a guitar. I don’t care how good of quality wood or amp you have if you don’t have a decent set of Seymour Duncan, Dimarzio or EMG in your guitar then you don’t know what your missing. Before attempting this modification you must know exactly what sound your chasing. You can try visiting the major pickup replacement companies pages and flip thru there description page or you can check out Harmoney for other guitarist opipions. Ok, you know what pickups you want, now we can start the job.


  • Solder Iron
  • Solder
  • Solder Flux
  • File
  • Needle nose Wire Cutters
  • Wire Stripper

How to…

  • Step #1: Get a schemtic for your guitar and study it. You may search for a schemtic to your guitar at StewMac. Also included w/ the pickups will be an instruction sheet. You should study the instructions carefully. Once you are confidence enough and understand how the schemtic is layed out you may begin.
  • Step #2: I.d. each wire on the new pickups and the old pickups. The new pickups should have a color code in the instructions or they can be found on the companie’s webpage. You’ll have to use your schemtic to i.d. the old pickups color code. There are no standard international color code for pickups, so please study the instructions and make sure you do as it says. Most replacement pickups have 4-5 wires, while most stock pickups only have 2 wires. The stock pickups usually has at least 2 wires are “hot” and “ground”. The hot wires carries the guitar signal to the amp. The ground helps grounds the pickups so they do not create static.
  • Step #3: Remove the old pickups from the switch using the solder iron to melt the solder. Make sure you remember which orginal wire was hot and ground so when you put your new one in, it goes exactly where the old wires went.
  • Step #4: Prepare the new pickup wires w/ your wire stripper. Strip 1/8″ of the wire and twist the copper wiring. Do this to all your wires.
  • Step #5: Grab the needlenose wire cutter and use it to hold the wire in your left hand while you hold the solder iron in your right hand. Heat the solder joint up, as soon as the solder melts, push the wire thru the loop. Wait about 10 seconds for the solder to cool down and then tug on the line and make sure the solder joint is secure.
  • Step #6: Put the pickguard but don’t screw it down just yet. String on string on the guitar up and plug the guitar into your amp. Make sure it sounds good and everything is wired up correctly. If it sounds good then you may screw the pickguard down and restring the guitar.

Guitar Tech…

  • A guitar tech would normally charge anywhere from $20-$35 to wire up a new pickup. The more pickups you want the more he will charge. If you are want a humbucker installed in a single coil slot they will have to route the guitar body and route the pickguard. A cheapier and easier alternative is to buy a humbucker in a single coil size.


  • Everybody knows how to use crazy glue but hardly anyone knows how to use a solder iron. A solder iron is just like a glue gun but only a thousand times hottier. It’s not hard at all to learn how to solder, it will take a little bit of practice but you will catch on quickly.

This article brought to you by
Joey P.
(Joey in the discussion forums)

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