Rocking An Acoustic Guitar By Making It Electric

Brothers [Armand] and [Victor] took their acoustic guitar to the next level, making their own pickups to turn it into an electric guitar. The result is that awesome electric guitar sound.

The pickups are homemade magnetic pickups. Each string has a steel bolt behind it with three ceramic magnets on each bolt. A coil is also wrapped around all the pickups. That coil is what’s connected to the wires going to the amplifier. When a string vibrates, it changes the magnetic field in the pickup which induces a current in the coil and that is then sent on to the amplifier to be altered as desired and turned back into sound. Of course that meant the guys had to replace their nylon strings for steel ones.

With just the volume amplified the sound isn’t very different but when the amplifier’s gain is turned up and the volume turned down the sound is undoubtedly electric. As you can hear in the video below, Johnny B. Goode, Paint it Black and Satisfaction take their acoustic guitar’s sound to a whole new level.

18 thoughts on “Rocking An Acoustic Guitar By Making It Electric

  1. Interesting version of a very very very common Musician DIY project.

    This is one of the best first projects for a newbie musician wanting to do some hacks should do. you also will be suprised the tonal differences if you wrap the coil differently Buddy of mine has one that is a complete hot mess but it creates a wierd distortion effect that he absolutely loves.

    1. This is the exact project id like to be doing! I got myself an acoustic guitar (which i repaired, the head was broken off) but i dont even play guitar so its more of a hobby project. This build is amazing, i hope i can make it work for the nylon string on my own guitar

      1. I agree, it does look like a fun project! However, it won’t work with nylon strings. You need steel strings as they’ll become slightly magnetized in the magnetic field. As a result, when they vibrate they’ll affect the magnetic field of the steel bolts which will then induce fluctuations in the current in the coils. That fluctuating current is what the amplifier then sees. Nylon strings, however, won’t become magnetized and won’t have any effect on the magnetic field and coils.
        I’m also not sure you can switch to steel strings. See the comment by Dax below where he says that if you put steel strings on a classical guitar built for nylon strings, you’ll bend the neck and break the guitar. Just a head’s up. You’ll have to judge if your guitar can handle it.

  2. FWIW That guitar is meant for steel strings. If it were meant to use nylon strings the bridge saddle would be at 90 degrees to the strings rather than angled. With nylon strings it would play out of pitch as you went up in pitch on the fingerboard.

    1. And conversely, if you put metal strings in a classical guitar built for nylon strings, you’re going to bend the neck and break the guitar.

      There’s a special tensioning rod inside the neck of a steel string guitar to counteract the higher tension. Nylons don’t have that.

  3. I really can’t see the point of what they did, if you are going to hack a guitar at least have one separate line for each string so you can do some nice EQ, tuning and variable effects with the output, otherwise you may as well just buy a cheap fender knock off and try to improve that.

      1. That *is* the point of hacking, if you are going to hack a guitar actually pull-off a real hack and not a bad copy of something you can buy for under $5. Perhaps you did not understand what I was suggesting? One channel for each string, this lets you use DSP on the sound. e.g. 3 USB sound modules fed into a JackRack based system on Linux. Plus mag pickups on an acoustic body really is a waste of all that nicely designed resonance that mostly gets lost with a mag pickup unless you have open strings and they are transferring it back from the body and into another part of the pickup. Even then you will get a better result with multiple channels as they can each be run through a separate compressor to emphasise the harmonics. Only then are you making the most of the unique timbral characteristics of the acoustic guitar.

        1. But hacks are typically (bad) copies of something you can already buy, or cobbled together clever solutions to make something interesting happen. If someone makes a guitar pickup out of a piece of plywood, magnet wire from a toy car motor and a bunch of nails – that is a hack by definition and the entire point of hacking.

          It’s about doing it for the sake of doing it, because you can do it.

          Making a speciality pickup to use with some specialized computer system is no longer a hack, although it can be hackish if badly made. It’s like the difference between bolting a chainsaw to a bicycle frame, and building your own motorcycle from the frame up – the first is a hack, the second is just a DIY motorcycle, and DIY is not necessarily a hack.

          1. Basically, what you mean when you say ” pull-off a real hack”, you’re placing arbitrary standards of quality on a hack, which is retconning the whole term to mean something it never did. A hack is a hack – it’s a coarse solution to a problem or a task, and a “real hack” actually means something properly crude – the kind you’d be embarrassed to show around – instead of something highly polished and well executed. Like wedging a penny in a fuse socket to keep your car going.

            Your misuse of the concept is the same sort of utter stupidity as calling every household tip and trick a “life hack”. E.g. putting white vinegar in a coffeemaker is not a “hack”, it’s just one common way to clean a coffeemaker.

          2. I don’t care how ugly it looks, but that pickup just needed to be wired differently to make it a hack, rather than some kid’s science project. If you can’t see the different that is just a lack of flexibility in your thinking. And calling Jack audio a specialised system was rather ignorant of you so I’m not inclined to consider you an authority on such matters therefore your words are wasted when you are try to lecture me about it. If my 10 y/o can set up Jack Audio and use it for her multimedia experiments it is not specialised.

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