Differences between Piezos and Magnetic Pickups

50-004-0X Product Image 2When it comes to electrifying a cigar box guitar (or really any stringed instrument, for that matter), there are two basic options: either a piezo pickup (sometimes called a contact pickup), or a magnetic pickup. Well, really there is a third option – a microphone – but we’ll not cover that here. So, what are the main differences between a piezo element pickup and a magnetic pickup?

A piezoelectric element is a very simple, yet remarkable device. In its most simple form, it consists of a disk of brass or other conductive metal, on which a very thin disk of ceramic is adhered. Continue reading “Differences between Piezos and Magnetic Pickups”

How to Cut a Rod Piezo

Rod Piezo Closeup DetailRod piezos can give you great improvements in overall tone and sound on your instrument builds, compared to a standard disc piezo. However, the standard rod piezo is made for a 6-string guitar, and at 2 ¾” in length, is often longer than a cigar box guitar builder needs or wants for embedding in a bridge. Fortunately, it is a fairly simple process to cut the rod piezos to a shorter length, for 3 or 4-string setups. However, it is important to cut it them in a certain way so you don’t ruin them, which is what this article will show you.

You can get Rod & Disk Piezos and all sorts of other great guitar and cigar box guitar gear over at our C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply Web Store. Browse on over and check it out!

Continue reading “How to Cut a Rod Piezo”

How to Eliminate Hum and Buzz on your electric Cigar Box Guitar

Electrifying your cigar box guitar or other homemade instrument build can be a very rewarding experience. Being able to plug into an amp not only gives you more volume, but it opens the door to a huge range of effects that would not otherwise be available. And it is a proven fact that having a pickup in a guitar makes it easier to sell – being able to plug in and rock out evokes images of Eddie Van Halen and Slash and is sure to get any would-be rocker’s blood pumping.

Our Disc-o-Tone pre-wired harness is a great way to add a pickup to your build.

Our Disc-o-Tone pre-wired piezo pickup harness is a great way to add a low-hum pickup to your cigar box guitar. No soldering required!

In an ideal situation, electrifying your build is as simple as gluing in a piezo (or mounting in a magnetic pickup), wiring it to a jack, and bingo. Continue reading “How to Eliminate Hum and Buzz on your electric Cigar Box Guitar”

How to Ground Cigar Box Guitar Pickups Without a Metal Bridge

Cigar Box Guitar craftsman Glenn Watt shows you how to ground your pickup to reduce humming, even if you’re not using a metal bridge!

Don't Get Mad - Get Grounded!

By Glenn Watt 

The simplest solution to your most maddening problem

For the love of all that’s good, why is my magnetic pickup humming?

You’ve installed a magnetic pickup in your cigar box guitar, and the darn thing is making noise.

“Oh, just ground it to the bridge.”

That’s the advice you read in every online forum.

“I can’t ground to the bridge, ‘cause the bridge is wooden.” you think to yourself, fuming behind your computer, and wondering what your next move is.

Well, you’re in luck. There’s more than one way to roast this chicken.

The solution: Ground to a metal tailpiece.

The point in grounding to the bridge is to connect the strings to the ground loop. Continue reading “How to Ground Cigar Box Guitar Pickups Without a Metal Bridge”

How to Install a Mini Humbucker in a Cigar Box Guitar

Glenn walks you through how he installs the mini humbucker pickup in the “Mi Amor” cigar box guitar he designed for C. B. Gitty.

How I Took This Cigar Box Guitar to a Whole New Level

The Mi Amor meets the Snake Oil Humbucker: A Killer Combo

It sounds raw and dirty.

A single coil pickup in a cigar box guitar has grit and a surly swagger. But for this build, the sound of a solitary single coil pickup is missing something.

When designing the Mi Amor – a recent addition to the C.B. Gitty line of guitars – I wanted it to have a big punch. Picture a cinder block-sized fist, wearing brass knuckles, being thrown into your gut. You know, really taking the air out of you.

Yeah. That’s what I wanted for this CBG.

And the Snake Oil Humbucker gave me just that.

Continue reading “How to Install a Mini Humbucker in a Cigar Box Guitar”

How to Install a Pre-wired Pickup Harness in a Neck-through Cigar Box Guitar

54-020-01 How-to Guide PagesThis illustrated guide written by Glenn Watt walks you through how to install the C. B. Gitty Part number 54-020-01, “Pre-Wired 4-String Single Coil Pickup Harness with Volume and Tone.” Cutout and drill bit sizes are given and the steps clearly shown for mounting one of these handy pre-wired pickup harnesses into cigar box guitars.

The principles in this guide can also be used for most any single-coil or humbucker pickup with a neck-through cigar box guitar, where you often have to notch down into the neck (and brace underneath it) to get the pickup into place.

 

How to Install a Pre-Wired Piezo Harness in a Cigar Box Guitar(C. B. Gitty Product #50-014-01)

In this article, CBG craftsman Glenn Watt walks us through how he installs one of C. B. Gitty’s Basic Pre-Wired Piezo Harnesses (Product #50-014-01)

So you want to hear that new gitty you’re building through your amplifier that’s been sitting unused behind the holiday decorations in the basement? Do you want to make certain that you can crank that little bad rabbit when everyone leaves and you’re left to your own devices in a quiet home? Or maybe you’re looking to level-up and retro-fit a pickup into a guitar you already have that’s been sorely needing a little volume. In the Pre-Wired Piezo and Jack Harness from C.B. Gitty you have the simplest way to electrify your instrument with the most basic of installation requirements.

What You'll Need - Tools and Parts
What You’ll Need – Tools and Parts

Continue reading “How to Install a Pre-Wired Piezo Harness in a Cigar Box Guitar(C. B. Gitty Product #50-014-01)”

Introduction to using Magnetic Pickups

A typical humbucker magnetic pickupIf you have been thinking about using a magnetic pickup in your next cigar box guitar build, but aren’t sure about how they are different from piezo pickups, then here is a quick overview for you. Magnetic pickups can be a nice addition to most any cigar box guitar, but they do require some different handling and some knowledge of their unique properties.

Be sure to check out magnetic pickups and other great gear (all at great prices) over at C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply!

  1. Magnetic pickups respond only to the vibration of the strings, not the acoustic vibration of the instrument body.
    • It is the interaction between the vibrating steel strings and the magnets in the pickup that cause slight voltage to be created, which is picked up by the amplifier and reproduced as recognizable sound.
    • With a piezo pickup, which responds to pressure changes from string/instrument vibration to create voltage. So while a piezo responds to the instrument’s vibration, and as such will pick up more of the acoustic properties, the magnetic pickup responds only to the strings.
    • This means that a magnetic pickup underneath the same strings should sound the same on a Les Paul electric guitar, a cigar box guitar, or a cinder block. The acoustic properties of the instrument itself do not come into play. This can be both a good and a bad thing – if you want a CBG that sounds like an electric guitar through an amp, then it is great. If you want a CBG that sounds like a CBG through an amp, then it is not so great.
  2. Magnetic pickups need to be mounted directly under the strings.
    • While a piezo can be mounted inside the box, a magnetic pickup cannot. It has to be mounted such that the poles are very close to the strings, so that the string vibration will excite the magnets.
    • The distance from the strings can vary, but it is generally in the range of 1/4″ to 1/2″ – usually, the closer they are the more sound you will get out of the guitar.
    • Personal preference comes into play here. Getting the magnetic pickup into the right position almost always means cutting an appropriately shaped hole in the top of the instrument so that it can extend through it. Mounting it fully inside the box is almost guaranteed to yield poor results.
  3. Magnetic pickups require strings that have some steel in them.
    • Magnets are only excited by “ferrous” metals – such as the steel in standard guitar strings. Non-ferrous metals, such as brass and bronze, and non-metallic substances like nylon, will not produce any sound through a magnetic pickup.
    • Standard acoustic guitar strings, even Phosphor Bronze and 80/20 Bronze, have steel cores and will work for magnetic pickups. There are also nickel-wound strings sold specifically as electric guitar strings.
    • Usually electric guitar string sets are somewhat lighter in gauge than acoustic sets — this is because acoustic guitars need to produce a lot more sound to be effective, and heavier strings under greater tension produce more sound. Since the only thing electric guitar strings need to do is excite the magnets, they can be lighter in gauge and still work great – keep in mind that the electric guitar has the amplifier to do all of the work of making the sound louder.
  4. There are many variations in how magnetic pickups can be combined and arranged in a build.
    • There are both single-coil and double-coil (humbucker) varieties of magnetic pickup, and they can be used singly or in matched pairs on a build. One popular configuration is to have one pickup close to the neck and one close to the bridge, with either a switch or some sort of fader potentiometer to either select between them, or blend their sounds together.
    • Some builders go even further and put both a piezo and a magnetic pickup in their build, with a switch or pot to select between them, so they get a blend of electric guitar and acoustic guitar sounds. When it comes to guitar electronics, the possibilities are pretty much wide open to experimentation.
    • There are very few hard-and-fast rules of what is right and wrong, so feel free to experiment and try new things!

We hope that this brief overview of magnetic pickups is helpful and answers some of the questions you might have in regards to using one in your build. There is a great deal of additional information out there, on sites such as http://www.CigarBoxNation.com, as well as a number of books published on the subject.

Happy building!

Piezo Wiring Diagrams

Putting electronic components into a cigar box guitar, and getting everything properly wired and connected, can be a daunting task for the first-timer – but it doesn’t have to be. In this article we will present several basic wiring diagrams created by Ted Crocker, and discuss each of them in some detail to help you understand what is going on.

Don’t forget that you can get most of the parts shown in this article, including piezos , jacks, volume potentiometers and potentiometer knobs , right in our C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply Web Store!
Continue reading “Piezo Wiring Diagrams”

Rod Piezo Primer

Rod and Disk PiezosWhen looking at the use of piezo elements as pickups in acoustic instruments, and specifically in cigar box guitars, there are two main types that get used – disk-style piezos, and rod-style piezos

While disk piezos are perhaps more prevalent, because they tend to be cheaper and easier to find, many builders feel that the rod-style piezos offer superior sound and tonal quality. This article delves into the differences between disk and rod-style piezos, and takes a close look at how rod piezos are put together.

Don’t forget that you can find all sorts of great rod and disk piezos in various sizes and configurations (and at great prices!) over at C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply.

First, a little bit of piezo basics. Piezoelectric elements, whatever the type, are based around layered ceramic wafers and conductive metal. Continue reading “Rod Piezo Primer”

Soldering Tutorial

This article covers some of the key basic methods for successful soldering, whether on your Cigar Box Guitar or other electronics project. Filled with photos and good advice that comes from years of experience, this short tutorial will have you successfully soldering in no time.

Topics covered include: the importance of tinning your iron and wires, what good solder joints look like, soldering to a tone/volume pot,  soldering to a piezo, and wire aesthetics. If you have been uncertain about your soldering skills, this tutorial is a great place to start improving.

 For great deals on potentiometers, piezos, jacks,
hook-up wire and other CBG parts, be sure to check out our
C. B.
Gitty Crafter Supply Web Store
!

Continue reading “Soldering Tutorial”

Using Piezos in Cigar Box Guitars: Part 1 – Piezo Basics

Piezo ElementsA lot of new Cigar Box Guitar (CBG) builders (and more than a few veterans) tend to get a bit uneasy when the topic of piezo pickups comes up. Everyone seems to have a different idea of how to use them. Some folks say that they should be built into the bridge, others attach them to the exterior of the bridge; some mount them inside the box lid, others attach them to the outside of the lid. Add in concepts such as insulation methods, multiple piezos, volume potentiometers and wiring schematics, and the waters tend to get pretty muddy pretty fast.

This two-part article is meant to be a basic “here’s what you need to get started” approach to helping people install a piezo pickup into their Cigar Box Guitar build. We will cover the basics of what piezo to use, where you can put it, how to mount it, and how to wire it to a jack. We will also briefly discuss the topic of wiring in a otentiometer.

Be sure to check out our web store for a nice selection of piezos, jacks and other components at great prices!

Continue reading “Using Piezos in Cigar Box Guitars: Part 1 – Piezo Basics”

Using Piezos in Cigar Box Guitars: Part 2 – Placement & Mounting

50-014-01-Product-Image Full SizeThis article is a continuation of the Piezo 101 Introduction to Piezo Basics. In this article we move from theory and general information to how-to info you can put to direct use in your builds. There are two main themes to this section: WHERE you should mount your piezo, and HOW you should mount it. Both of these are very important to consider when your goal is to get the best possible sound out of your cigar box guitar.

Be sure to check out our web store for a nice selection of piezos, jacks and other components at great prices!

Continue reading “Using Piezos in Cigar Box Guitars: Part 2 – Placement & Mounting”

Video How-To: Installation of a Pre-Wired Magnetic Pickup Harness in a Cigar Box Guitar (C. B. Gitty’s “Florentine Screamer”)

In this video, Glenn Watt walks you through installing a pre-wired magnetic pickup harness, in this case the “Florentine Screamer” sold by C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply. While the video only shows that specific harness, the methods could easily be used to install other such harnesses that include a pickguard/cover plate. If you have been wanting to take the plunge into using a magnetic harness in a cigar box guitar build, take a look!

Video: How to Install a P90 “Soap Bar” Pickup in Cigar Box Guitars

In this 10-minute video, Glenn Watt walks you through every step of installing a P90-style soap bar pickup in your neck-through cigar box guitar. P90’s have an almost mythic reputation and a cult-like following for their tone and sound, and they sound absolutely awesome in cigar box guitars.

More good news: you can find inexpensive P90-style pickups at C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply! Click here for the “pickup only” version that you wire yourself, or click here for the pre-wired no-solder pickup harness!

Wiring Mono and Stereo Jacks for Cigar Box Guitars, Amps & More

In this article we will show you the differences between mono and stereo output jacks, and how to wire them for use on your cigar box guitars.

A lot of folks have questions about wiring jacks: how do you tell mono from stereo, which lug is positive and which is negative, and can you use a stereo jack with a mono cable (the answer is YES, you can – see the final paragraphs below for how).

This article covers “phone” style jacks, which are made to be mounted in a panel via a threaded shaft and nut, with the soldering lugs for attaching wires extending off of the back. They also have one or two “prongs” that stick off of the back and make contact with the tip of the plug.

First, let’s take a look at the differences between a mono an a stereo jack. These photos show the popular Neutrik/Rean brand phone jacks, but these principles apply to jacks from other manufacturers as well

The differences between mono and stereo phone jacks.

 

So you can see that the stereo jack has one more solder lug and prong than the mono jack does. This is because to have stereo sound, you need both a left and right channel (so that you can hear different things out of the left and right speakers of your stereo) plus the ground. A mono jack only has a single channel plus the ground, for handling mono sounds – like what guitar pickups put out.

Mono Jack AnnotatedHere is a close look at the mono variety of phone jacks. Click on the photo for a higher resolution photo.

Notice that the longer lug, which if you look closely in between the yellow wafers is connected to the long prong that sticks out of the back, is the positive. The shorter lug, which is connected to the “sleeve” part of the jack which touches the “barrel” of the plug, is the ground/negative.

This is the standard style of jack most often used when installing pickups in cigar box guitars. They are also often used as input jacks on mono amplifiers and other audio equipment.

You can buy these exact Neutrik/REAN brand mono jacks here on CBGitty.com.

We also have “economy” grade mono phone jacks available here, if you want to save a little money.

 

Stereo Jack AnnotatedNow for a closer look at the stereo variety. Click on the photo to the right for a higher-resolution version.

The stereo jack has the extra lug and prong mentioned above, but otherwise is very similar to the mono jack. If you hold a stereo jack like the one shown in the photo, then from left to right the lugs should be Positive Left, Negative/Ground and Positive Right.

You can verify this by looking carefully in between the yellow wafers that make up the body of the jack. The lug that connects to the longer prong (#3) is the right channel positive. The lug that connects to the shorter of the two prongs (#1) is the left channel positive. The lug that connects to the sleeve that touches the “barrel” of the plug (#2) is the ground/negative.

Now let’s take a look at how they look wired up.

As always, RED is POSITIVE and BLACK is NEGATIVE/GROUND!

 

Wiring Example - Annotated

The photo above shows how you would wire both jacks for MONO use. Note that lug #1 on the stereo jack has no wire soldered to it. In this configuration, both the mono and stereo jacks could be used on a cigar box guitar with a standard mono amp cord. Once installed no one would be able to tell that it is actually a stereo jack.

If you wanted to wire the stereo jack for actual stereo usage, you would simply solder on another positive lead to lug #1. Some builders sometimes do this if they have more than one pickup in their guitar that they want to hand off to a special amplifier setup, but that is a more advanced topic we don’t need to get into here.

So that’s about it! We hope this article has helped clear up any confusion you may have had about how mono and stereo jacks work, and how to make use of them.


 

Want a pickup in your guitar, but not interested in all of the wiring and soldering and shenanigans? Try one of C. B. Gitty’s pre-wired pickup harnesses! Click the image below to see what we’ve got…

C. B. Gitty's Disc-o-Tone Harness