Photo 1

Are you the sort of player who views effects as an extension of your guitar? Then chances are you’ve at least thought about installing effects inside your guitar, where you can control them as easily as your tone and volume knobs or pickup selector. It’s a fairly easy job, though it pays to work out the details in advance.

This project requires basic soldering and wiring skills. If you haven’t acquired them yet, check out our Sept. 2014 “Build Your Own Stompbox” article, which introduces both topics. In fact, I’ve used the distortion circuit from that project as a demo circuit for this one, though the techniques covered here apply to any small, simple effect circuit.

Most gain effects—boosters, distortions, fuzzes, and compressors—have relatively low current draw, and unlike ambient and modulation effects, they can still sound great when the battery
starts to lose its charge.

The usual ass-covering applies: Don’t do anything stupid or dangerous. Get help if you lack needed skills. And proceed at your own risk.

Part 1: It’s All About the Battery

Any circuit you’re likely to install will probably require a 9-volt battery, so your first task is figuring out where it will go. (Chances are the battery will hog more space than your circuit board, as inPhoto 1.) And as we’ll see, the battery may also determine which effect you install.

Photos 2 (left) and 3 (right)

Your first task: Open your guitar’s control cavity, grab a 9-volt, and see where it fits. On a Les Paul-style guitar, there’s usually room between and around the pots (Photo 2). Better yet, if the control cavity is deep enough, you can just lay a thin piece of foam on top of the pots (Photo 3).

Photo 4

Strat-type guitars are a tighter squeeze, though the battery should fit between the knobs and pickup selector. In Photo 4, I’ve secured the circuit board to the back of the volume pot with double-sided foam tape. I used a thin piece of foam to insulate the battery from the surrounding hardware.

Photo 5

Sometimes it’s an easier fit, as in the spacious control cavity of the Gretsch baritone guitar in Photo 5. If only it were always that simple!