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29 December 2011

How to Fit a Ukulele Pickup

Today's project was to fit a pickup in my £11 Stagg US-10 Ukulele.

My inspiration was a series of posts stuck up by Electric Ukulele Land on the Electric Ukulele Land website. After some words of encouragement and a few pointers from Julian Davies I got onto ebay and ordered the pickup: a UK-2000... from Hong Kong.

It arrived this morning!

Here are a load of photos taken at various points throughout the day. Some are a bit blurred, but I've stuck them up anyway... I keep forgetting about the 'macro' setting on the camera :-)

And no, this isn't something I've done before, so I could no doubt have done things differently. I'll call out where I think that I could have done better.

Here is the pre-amp. The UK-2000 has a low battery indicator, Treble, Bass and Volume controls. A battery was included along with 4 screws to attach it to the body.

And here we have the jack with the washer and bolt for securing to the body

I've included this picture to show you how the wiring works. The pickup (top middle) and the jack (right) both come with jacks that plug into the pre-amp (left). There's no soldering required. Simplz.

For completeness, here's a shot of the pickup. It's advertised as a "SPIRAL PIEZO CABLE PICKUP". And top left and right are a cable tie and fastener. I didn't use them in the end.

I tested the pickup before I went any further...

I don't think that there is any convention for where you place the pre-amp, but you can see here the face-plate on the UK-2000 is contoured and a perfect match for 'the hips' of the body.

I had to cut the body to fit the pre-amp. This had me sweating, so I went a bit over the top trying to get it right. First I cut a template in card...

I taped the wood all round where I wanted to put the pre-amp, and then taped the template on top of that...

The cutting took a while, but that was because I did it with a Stanley knife. I just went round and round it again and again until I'd worked the blade through the wood. The picture's poor, but you can sort of see that I got surprised by hitting the internal bracing (top and bottom).

Here's a shot of the pre-amp in place. Of course, it didn't fit first time... I had to file it to get it right. One thing to watch here is to make sure that you have enough clearance for the battery latch. Mine was too tight originally and the battery kept wanting to pop out.

Next up, I tackled the bridge. I took off the strings and popped out the plastic.

I masked the ends of the bridge and lowered the hole beneath where the plastic sits - this is where the pickup goes.  Then I drilled a hole in the body for the pickup itself.

Update 31-Dec-11: I could and maybe should have drilled the hole in the bridge itself for an 'invisible' finish. Next time!

Here is a shot of the fitted pickup. The pickup wire runs the length of the bridge underneath the plastic. This was one of the more difficult jobs... I struggled to feed the pickup through from inside the body. In hindsight, I should have fitted the jack socket before fitting the pickup so that there was no chance of me damaging it.

Next I fitted the Jack. I stuck on a bit of masking tape, marked and drilled a hole. And I got the hole too small and had to file it! Damn! 

Like a fool, I removed the masking to do the filing and look what happened! I was cursing at this point. Getting the Jack screwed in place was the most difficult part of this whole project for me.

Finally, I could plug everything together and put the pre-amp in for the final time. I don't have a drill-bit to fit the screws at the moment, so they're not currently fitted. Another thing I didn't do was to tie down  the wires inside the body. The bits came with the kit, I just didn't see the need to do it.

And the very last thing to do was to fit some strings. The first set of Aquilas that I've fitted myself.

The strings are colour-coded. Come on Aquila... think about your poor unfortunate colour-blind ukers!

And here's the final product...


I haven't done much with it yet so can't really comment on the sound. I'll maybe blog on that another day...

Update 2-Jul-2012: I was reminded recently that a sound check was in order. Check out my post if you would like to hear what this baby sounds like.


  1. Nice work nonetheless. Thanks for the tips. I'm going to tackle the very same inexpensive pre-amp, but if they are anything like the guitar ones I'll be satisfied. Happy uke playing for years to come, on this joyous little instrument!

  2. Thankyou for commenting my anonymous friend! Actually, my son felt inspired to have a strum last week on this very instrument. He's showed no interest up until this point. Ha ha! I think I might have a bite!



  5. There is NO indication of polarity for the 9v battery on the UK-200 I just received - does it work either way?

    1. "does it work either way?" - I would doubt it. Just checking mine and if you pop out the battery holder and look inside, you'll see that the + & - are marked inside. Also, the end of the holder has a larger hole for the negative, and a smaller hole for the positive.

      I can see that inside the UK itself, both terminal connections are made with springs, and I'm guessing this is what is confusing you? If yours is the same as mine then you will see the words "UK-2000" printed inside. The spring to the bottom left of the word is the negative and the spring to the bottom right of the word is the positive.

      Hope this helps, Jackson.

    2. Thanks - I'll be starting the project SOON !

    3. Thanks - I'll be starting the project SOON !