A Better Acoustic Pickup for Cigar Box Guitar: How I Install a Piezo Rod & Preamp

Get the most out of your acoustic/electric cigar box guitars with an inexpensive piezo rod & preamp unit. 

In this video, I show a simple mounting technique for neck-through cigar box guitars.  The sound is fantastic and really allows a great tone response from the strings.  (Scroll down for a demo of the finished guitar, too.)

Additional notes:

Parts used:

C. B. Gitty 4-Band Preamp & Piezo Rod Unit [with Volume Knob &a...

For the last 24 years, I have built my cigar box guitars with the stick-through-box method. In the past, I put a simple piezo disc pickup under the box lid and hoped for the best.  This new method is so much better in sound response.

Here's how it sounds when done:

Building tips:

I always make sure to notch-out the 1x2 poplar neck on my table saw, allowing the wood to only make contact with the underside of the box lid at the edges and right under the bridge.  (This allows the majority of the box lid to vibrate freely, giving louder volume and better tone.)

When mounting the piezo rod, I make sure that the "contact notch" under the bridge is at least 1/4" wide.  This allows me to go back and create a groove for the pickup by taking an deeper swipe in the middle with my table saw.

The rod is held in place with a quick line of glue from a hot glue gun

IMPORTANT - Cut the pickup groove to the exact depth where it will be flush with the wood notch.  The pickup needs to make contact with the underside of the box.  

I must give a big THANK YOU to John Nickel and Harry Harne for inspiration.  Nickel showed me that piezos really need to be mated to preamps in order to achieve proper string response and a fuller tone.  Harne had the audacity to just wedge a piezo rod between neck and box... an idea so simple, yet one that works perfectly.

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These sound so much better than the round piezos to me. The round ones are good for a certain tone if that's what you like or need for a certain song though.

Got a question, would the sound even be better with a conventional bridge that housed the piezo versus under the lid?

I did that, once on a Cohiba box lid.  It was a half inch thick, I knew it'd be a problem if I just had it under that lid.  I cut a channel into the bottom of a wood bridge, and hot-glued directly to it.

Yeah, I think my next one might have a piezo incorporated in the bridge, have to make the bridge like a conventional electric acoustic bridge for best results.

I have been using rod piezos since i started building & playing 4 years ago, i tried a disc one a couple of times but it sounded so awful i replaced it. I use a separate bridge piece with a 3mm / 1/8" slot machined in in about 1/4" deep, piezo goes in then a floating bone or horn bridge sits on top to carry the strings. Great  tone. I do not glue the piezo in at all. The rod piezos usually have to be shortened a bit, The offcuts can have new leads soldered on them & are then usable on diddly bo's!

Can you just cut one of these things shorter in length.. I have an oddball build I'm messing about with and a short one of those might just work.. 

Hi, yep I have cut them shorter at times.

Taff

Great concept, I use a variation by mounting the rod piezo in a grooved piece of hardwood, and capping it with a piece of chrome steel rod, part of a motorcycle wheel spoke. This assembly is mounted on the top of the box, held there by string tension. The advantage is that the sound is transferred direct from the strings with no input from the box itself.

See attached pic

Attachments:

Just found these cool little ones online.. I've ordered a couple to see what they're like.. They're just 1.6 inches long so they'd be ideal for either a 3 or 4 string..

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