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There are many discussions on the web about the polarity of a piezo. Some say it doesn't make any difference whether you use red or black for ground. Others say it does.
Here is one thread that goes into some depth:
I always do red as positive and black as ground, just because I like to be consistent. But, it probably doesn't make any difference.
Hey Dan, hey Kid,
I've seen a lot of talk about his particular subject on CBN and I'm surprised at how many people are really missing out on the tone of their instruments. In my opinion there are three mistakes that people make.
1) Wiring magnetic and piezo electronics together as one circuit
2) Not using a preamp for the piezo
3) That there are no polarity issues when installing piezo elements
Piezo crystals have a much higher impedance level than magnetic pickups so when you connect and combine the two of them, the overall effect of both is reduced.
To match impedance levels you just gotta use a preamp.
As far as polarity is concerned, piezo crystals are just as susceptible to polarity changes as anything else that is electrical. Picture the crystal as a speaker cone - You need it to push when you want it to push and pull when you want it to pull. If you've ever heard the difference between two out of phase speakers you'll know what I mean.
Having said that, I can still see how cool and unique a mismatched, out of phase, half mag, half peizo 3 stringer could sound.
For my builds I try to keep things simple. I only use one piezo, or if I use two, I wire them in parallel. I never combine piezos and magnetic pickups in the same build. And I always use red as positive and black as ground.
All these other discussions make my head hurt! :-)
I hear ya. ;-)
Simple always does work best.
While we're on the subject of simple and if you have the time -
In your opinion, when is a cigar box guitar NOT a cigar box guitar.
In other words, at what point during a build should you say "This isn't simple anymore".
Well, that is somewhat of an involved discussion, but in MY opinion, there is a fine line between a cigar box guitar, and a novelty guitar made from a cigar box. I think once you start adding magnetic pickups, tone and volume controls, pre-amps, and other accessories, you are getting away from the grass roots idea of what a cigar box guitar is. I know others may have conflicting opinions on the subject.
I think a true cigar box guitar is made from stuff you have lying around. Leftover hardware, scrap wood, etc. You might have to buy tuners and strings, or maybe just use eye bolts and weed wacker string.
Since I sell mine on my web site at www.humidorguitars.com, I assume that potential buyers are probably looking for something a little more polished. But not necessarily...
I feel that once I put mag pups, tone and volume, or other fancy stuff on an instrument, it becomes a novelty guitar. Again, just my opinion.
I try to keep mine affordable, while at the same time, keeping my labor at a reasonable level.
I would agree with everything you said maybe with the exception of electronics. I mean, there's no reason to keep a good sounding cigar box guitar from being heard at louder volumes. I feel the same way about building with what you have lying around. It's the only way to keep things primal.
The reason I ask is that I'm building a small batch of CBG "inspired" 4 and 6 stringers. The build philosophy for this batch is to use only what is available at the big box stores or your local hardware supply (except of course for the tuners and strings) AND not fall into the novelty trap.
You hit the nail on the head with the use of the word novelty. I'm very interested in the way people feel about what is true grit and what they consider fluff.
When all is said and done however, the "No Rules" rule takes effect. Whatever you end up building is cool!