Hello everyone! first post here on Cigar Box Nation. Getting ready to order parts for my first build which I will be doing first week in August. I think I have almost everything figured out but the pickup? There are so many options. Is anyone aware of where I can go to find a list that will compare several different styles, brands, etc? I would expect they all have a significant different tonal characteristics and the hole you cut in the top of your cigar box is dictated by the type of pick up I choose. So once it is done, it isn't exactly easy to switch to a different pick up. Anyway, any thoughts would be appreciated and I am excited for my first build. Thanks. 

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Hi Derek, I don't think one has to put too much thought into pickup specs at your stage of the game. The sound bites you would hear on a manufacturers web site would have the pickup mounted in a solid body guitar using good quality amps ect, so possibly not the sound you might get from a simple box with three strings.

i would suggest, if building a 3string get a cheep 3 string pickup, I think Gitty sells them, I have used them and work through my Pignose amp or through a big amp and pedals and are hard to beat for the money. If a six string then I would say the same thing, start off low budget and find out what the sound is like. If it's just the one build you are doing you can always upgrade to better. Me, I like humbuckers in my six strings, but also have top quality EMG single coil in one CBG that sounds terrific.

We all hear thing differently, so final decision is yours.

good luck 


MGB has great pickups at great prices.


The Five Dolla Make It Holla and the Seven Fitty Screamer are both nice if you don't want to spend much. They are a little too microphonic for my taste but if your like the "authentic" CBG sound (handling noises included) they do the job. I've potted them in wax, with good success, to make them less microphonic.

If you don't want to cut your box for a pickup the mini box buckers mount flat on top of the box and the covers give a nice professional look.

Hi Derek, just wanted to say welcome. Lots of good info here at CBN, good luck on your build. As for pickups, I am not a hardcore connoisseur, I like to support CB Gitty. I have not had any issues with anything I have used, not too mention the costumer service especially if you have questions, is great.

As someone who has installed and used LOTS of different pickups. Wellcome to the wonderful world of choice and confusion!

First there are the pro and high cost pickups. These are designed to feed the unrealistic tone fiends like me. The cater to my unrealistic views of sonic purity. OK they actually sound good. For the most part you get what you pay for. Unless your spending $$$ for Gibson pickups. Some people will never learn.....

Then you have the workhorse mid priced pickups. These vary somewhat in tone. However in live and playing situations they sound great. Both the single and humbuckers in this price range will do wonders.

Then there are the paper weights. Think of a pickup as the ONLY source of tone your guitar will have. If the pickup doesn't have  highs or bottom end no amount of active EQ is going to add it. These pickups are usually thin sounding. And because they are someone microphonic what you put them in really does matter. The good news is you can start with a paperweight pickup. Then, because single coils and humbuckers have standard sizes, replace it with a better pickup later.

Next is what guitar sound do you like?

single coils will always have a bright clear high end. Tinkly sound to them. The over all sound varies from each different pickup made. You could have a huge number of single coil pickups to choose from. Even from the same manufacturer. Each with a different sound variation of the same theme.

Humbuckers have more midrange and bass to them. But lack in the tight highs. Even when split into a single coil using a switch or variable coil tap. Like the single coils you have lots of tone variety within this theme. They do have the advantage to being a lot quieter.

Then there's mini humbuckers, P90's, P60's, gold foil, on and on and on....

And finally string spacing. Single coils have a slightly wider string spacing than humbuckers. Your building the guitar so that shouldn't matter. You can always angle a single coil to make it's spacing shorter. You could also turn a humbucker into a rail style pickup to accommodate wider strings. 

In the end the only bad choice would be to get a pickup that doesn't have the over all sound you want. Choosing one based on your need for tinkly highs or midrange tone power is just choosing between a single coil and a humbucker. And even choosing the wrong one of them using a good to pro pickup your guitar is still going to sound great.

I've never used them from C B GItty. But i have played on old Teisco guitars with flat mount pickups. They have a bright twangy sound. Good for old rock 50's and country. 

Youtube is your friend! You can get a good idea of the different sounds each type of pickup will have. 

I think piezo contact pickups are a great start to putting a pickup in a cigar box guitar. They are easy to wire up and don't require the same grounding needed for a magnetic pickup.

You have a lot of choices in pickups, but since you are just starting out, you might want to install and learn about a Piezo pickup. It is, unlike a magnetic pickup, basically an acoustic microphone. That means that box noise from sliding or you hand movements will likely be picked up by the "pickup". Even so, it is a good place to start. You should look up some of the tone control circuits on this site. A good (simple) tone control can make a piezo perform pretty well. You will also learn some important stuff for future builds.

Eventually, you may want to try a mag pickup since it avoids much of the box-noise issues, but your experience with a Piezo and tone control will serve you well here as well.

You don't need to spend a lot of money on pickups. Just research and choose carefully. A dual rail humbucker in a single coil package is a good step up point.

Regardless of what pickup you choose, you will learn some valuable lessons along the way.

Another choice is Pbass pickups. A bass guitar needs a wide tone range so these pickups are really clear sounding. Again you can go from the crazy expensive to the good stuff. But stay away from the really cheap. I got a set and only half of each pickup worked. Instead of a coil around all four pole pieces it only went around two of them. Got what I paid for. : ) 


Thanks for the feed back. I will keep looking and see what I can come up with. I think I want to try and use  real "pick up". I kind of have my mind made up to not use a Piezo, which may be a mistake for my first build, but I want to try. I am hoping the wiring of these wont be that hard. I see some websites where the volume and tone knobs are already prewired and connected to a 1/4 inch jack. Then all I have to do is connect it to a pick up of my choosing.

Follow up question. Once I do pick a pickup, do most come with instructions on where to place them between the end of the fretboard and the bridge? Thanks again

Placement? Anywhere they will fit. Think of the area between the bridge and neck as one long but permanent tone control. Bridge side is very trebly and bright.  All the way to the neck its mellow. 

Found a vid  on youtube that will help. It's  short. I've clocked it so you can click on the timeline and just hear the bridge, middle and neck positions. On a five way switch you get the bridge plus mid and the mid plus neck. But those sounds are out of phase and don't represent an actual pickup placement on a guitar. If you click on the timeline back and forth as he's playing you can get a real ear for the pickup positions.

He starts on the bridge. Middle position starts at :24 and neck starts at :45.

three pickup guitar demo

Thanks. That helps. I have an electric guitar, and am used to the different position tones but I wasn't sure about how important it was that they were exactly placed in that position. ie would the tone be all wrong for some reason if the pick up were 3-5 millimeters toward the bridge or even toward the neck. If I am using humbuckers which lack brightness maybe I will put it closer to the fretboard and get a little brightness out of them.

Hi Derek, if you wanted a brighter tone from your pickup go towards the bridge. Small moves to the bridge bring more tone changes than small moves to the fingerboard.

Fender slanted their rear pickup to get a balance of bright and slightly warmer on the rear pickup.

I'd listen to some good quality humbuckers, you could be pleasently surprised in their range.



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