Why Direct Mount?

Some players, myself included, have noticed a subtle but palpable difference between direct-mounted pickups and those mounted more traditionally in pick guards or mounting rings.

It was originally popularized by Edward Van Halen in his original Frankenstrat and various parts-mutt touring guitars, but it never really caught on in mass-produced instruments – maybe only a select few besides Eddie’s own EVH series.

I originally discovered the benefits in the neck pickups of my “parts-o-caster” Strat builds, and I recently noticed it in bridge humbuckers as well. I’m now fully a believer!

Direct mounted 59/Custom Hybrid

Direct-mounted 59/Custom Hybrid. Not messing around.

This is accomplished as the name implies, by mounting the pickup via small wood screws directly into the wood of the body’s pickup cavity. There seems to be an increase in resonance, and it imparts this woody “you are there” effect when the guitar is played. There’s “more” of your guitar there, more “umph” and “cluck” to picked notes. Sustain seems to be improved too, since the pickup appears to be sensing vibration from being directly connected within the cavity as well as from the strings!

If you’re using a moderate to high output pickup, a direct-mounted pickup also seems far less reliant on height adjustment to sound as if it’s in the “sweet spot” – usually it already just does. If not, one could quickly and easily build up the mounting surface with small wood shims to raise the pickup in the cavity accordingly. The guitar sounds more alive in your hands: more punchy, percussive and authoritative. Going forward I don’t see myself building any more Superstrats using mounting rings for their pickups. From now on all my pickups are going straight into the cavity!

Next time you’re in a music store and you notice a guitar with a direct mounted pickup, try it out. A/B it with a similar guitar with a pickguard or a mounting ring. See if you don’t notice a little extra something that you don’t hear in suspended pickups!

Jay Hale

About Jay Hale

Jay Hale is a guitarist and guitar-builder located in Los Angeles who has also occasionally moonlighted as a guitar tech for bands like Quiet Riot.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/darthkazi Ian Ballard

    I did this and it worked very well.  I had to use a piece of veneer underneath to make the Trembucker/short legs pickups work, plus, if the pickup cavity is routed out where the legs would go, you need something to mount to, such as a piece of veneer wood.  Tone-wise it was awesome! The only complaint I have, was that it made the guitar more prone to microphonics and I did have some feedback issues that were, at times, difficult to control.

  • AntiFeed

    Ya, I would suspect that you get the hell of feedback. I usually underfeed the PU with the foam from the suppliers box (also with indirect mounts). Does this kill all the advantage of direct mount?

    • Mike Lloyd

      Nope….no feedback, works like a gem. Modern pups don’t have those problems. See the MM Petrucci models, in addition to several others, such as the Suhr Modern. Weird how that works eh?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Blaze-Hauser/100001413204288 Blaze Hauser

    I`m a big fan of direct mounting for two reasons: #1 is comfort though. I was watching a John Petrucci video and he said the mounting rings get in his way, which they do for me as well, so I was encouraged to try it, and I liked it very much. I use high output pups, so I actually like to have a bit of distance to keep the highs from rolling off. #2 is because of looks, I like the way it looks! haha. As far as microphonics go, sometimes it can happen and some people will get new pickups for directmount or repot the old ones to cut back on that. It seems to happen more in lower output pups from my experience. Since i`m not changing my pickups anytime soon, I filled the cavity with paraffin wax to seal the pickup and levelled the surface with about 1/2″ of pickup on top.

    • eviltobz

      Dude! that needs photos!!! :) potting your entire cavity sounds interesting/cool/awesome/scary.

    • Mike Lloyd

      Cool idea, but just remember, the pickups on rings still fall into that same cavity. Therefore, if using a modern pup, you won’t have a problem with, or without the rings.

  • http://twitter.com/markeydsod Travis

    But where do you get screws for this method of mounting a Seymour Duncan? I ordered a dozen from Stew Mac, but the threads only match Gibson Humbockers.

  • Gerardo

    Ignorance… a bliss.
    Humbuckers that are microphonic (that make a sound when you tape de plate) will pick the vibrations…. as well as all the feedback. Pickups that are waxed WILL NEVER PICK ANYTHING! No vibrations or sounds other than the vibration of the strings.

    Direct Mounted pick ups in theory would add to the resonance of the guitar, just like a tight neck joint would. The less loose parts, the better the vibrations would travel trough the body.

    • Mike lloyd

      I’m glad you didn’t build my guitars…you have some reading to do Gerardo because you are incorrect. Ahh the Internet, just propagating lies.

      • GerardoTejada

        I have experience with microphonic pick ups, waxing them kills It. So, If you dont have a degree in electrical engineering please shut up. Otherwise is my word against yours

  • Gerardo

    Direct Mount is when you cant in any posible way adjust the height of the pickups. Parker Guitars dont have direct mounted pick ups, they are floating on top of some foam.

    So even when there is better resonance there would be no way to lower the pickups when you change to heavier gauges or if you want to lower the action of your strings.

    Direct Mounting means you will have to work with a fixed gauge and action. Set and forget. What you have is what you get. am

    • Juan Carlos Hernández

      that it is not completely true. in direct mounted pickups you do get to adjust de height of the pickup. usually companies put the pickup in a base made of a piece of foam flexible enough to let your pickup high and close to the strings or far form them if your screw them tightly in the wood. for example ibanez, ernie ball, fender etc. that gives the pickup no mater what type stability. even some strats have a piece of material under their pickups to prevente them from moving loosely inside its cavity. few companies even put screw inserts in the wood of the body so you can use screws that are not for wood. if your guitar does not let you adjust de height of your pickups due to a lack of that piece of foam or just cut a piece of material and put it under the pickup and voila!

  • pivot13

    Something not mentioned here is the fact that, on some SD pickups, the pole piece screws extend below the humbucker mounting legs/ears. This means that the directly mounted PUP might not sit flush when mounted without making adjustments inside a flat-bottomed pickup cavity. See http://www.seymourduncan.com/products/dimensionpages/sh4.shtml

    I bought the SH2/SH4 Hot Rodded Humbucker set to replace the directly mounted pickups on my guitar. I haven’t done this yet, but I’m planning on drilling hallows holes in the bottom of my pickup cavities to allow for the extra screw length.