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 mount pickups 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!

Join the Conversation


  1. 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.

  2. 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?

    1. 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?

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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

    2. I have to sortof confirm what you’re saying. Adding mass to the boddy changes the resonance, and having the pups vibrate with the body adds tone and adds properties of the woods actual tone, but it doesn’t “add” acoustic sustain of the body… Just changes it and adds recorded done/sustain. It’s not a structural component like a neck or tremblock, but the more secure, the more “real” the sound

  6. 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

    1. 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!

      1. FOAM, guys, foam… you speak of supposedly “better resonance” but foam is absolutely not a good transmitter of sound, in fact it is transmitted probably better through air (floating mount) than through the type of foam used.
        Actually the whole concept of having the pickup “transfer acoustic waves” from the neck and or body wood is absolutely RIDICULOUS. If ever there was a benefit, it would have something to to with the pickup moving in phase with the vibrations diffusing through the strings and body material, not to “resonate” per se, as solidbody pickups are magnetic transducers, not piezoelectric transducers.
        Some funny guys will come along and say “why do when I put a solidbody , -not touching the stringsat all – in front of hifi loudspeakers the guitar gives an output?? Wouldn’ that prove that pickups transfer sound?” NO. It’s the couple strinsg + magnetic pickup that, in this case, transfers acoustic waves picked up in the air (or through the body by resonance, say if the sound is very loud). This is just feedback that makes the whole instrument vibrate and the vibrations are transmitted to the ferromagnetic strings, which move in front of the magnetic pickups, in a way that is not unlike what is happening inside a microphone with the vibrating membrane which has a voice coil glued to it.

  7. 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.

  8. Direct mount is a great way to get squeal and microphonic noise and render your guitar useless, depending on the pickups you use.

  9. interesting. i have ESP LTD KS7 with active EMGs 81-85 but passive mount in the guard… and also ESP LTD BS7 DiMarzio direct mount passive pups… apart the obvious passive vs active electronics no loss in tone, sustain… both guitars are neck thru…

Leave a comment


Your Cart