I have an old tambourine I'm using to build a 3 or 4 stringer out of. I would like to install a pickup on it but am afraid to cut a hole in the top. Is this possible? Any
suggestions? I don't want to use a piezo but may have to.

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Stick an electric guitar string on the underside of the skin then a magnetic pickup under that.  Don't cut the skin.  It'll work.


Where'd you pick up that little gem??
As far as I knew only old Lowe, Jim & I shared that little 'state secret'

Great stuff, yep do that

Ps only needs to be a tiny clipping off a string ;)

Oops.  I remember a similar, open discussion in the FB Group where I suggested a small light piece of steel or iron wire on the underside of a wood box or skin when someone didn't want to cut the surface.  Pretty sure it was a box.  And an Aussie named Jef mentioned a guitar string as fitting the trick.

I have used the iron wire since I got a spool of it around and I like the way it works.  It also surprises me how very little movement is needed to produce a clean tone from a mag pup.  We see the huge vibration from the strings on a typical electric guitar and think it must be necessary in order to get any sound.  But I built a tin banjo with the bridge sandwiching the lid and the pup together firmly.  Still get good volume and almost no feedback unless the gain is way too high.  Point is that it doesn't take a lot to distort the magnetic field enough for the pup to work well.

Nice tip!

As a side note, I have also seen a banjo with a single coil from a strat under the head.

It can be seen in this video (she is also a very interesting performer) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NhsVwWQp2M

I don't see why you'd bother remembering that 'awesome' trick when you are already so convinced that the 'true' sound (to just about any soundboard) is in a $2 radio shack buzzer. I think you ought go into mass manufacturing immediately before you enlighten too many potential competitors with your incredible insight :)

To the original poster, Seth...
Why Eric's answer is special.. (And since we're talking about the 'true' sound of the hide)
A tiny clipping of guitar string epoxied on the inside is not going to move like a heavily tensioned length of guitar string that is shortened to an arbitrary length to achieve some desired pitch. It's going to move like a tiny bit of steel which adds almost no mass to a tensioned bit of animal hide with a wooden structure bearing load onto it from some tensioned strings. Think about it ;)
B,b,but won't the mass of the mag pup magnetically stuck to the epoxied string clipping on the underside of the stretched animal hide alter the resonance of the stretched animal hide, thus altering its "true" sound (which is likely to be twangy no matter what you do to it)? ;-) Or does it matter where you epoxy the string on the underside (closer to the neck for warmer tones, closer to the bridge for brighter tones...all of which will still be "banjoey")?

I find it interesting that people wanna add pups of any type to banjos. I always find them pretty loud and twangy, able to cut through the mix, even in bars with lots of noise. Did I mention they always sound loud and twangy? Must be that stretched animal hide acting like a resonator.

Still, it's definitely a neat little trick, worth remembering. For what it's worth (free, actually), I am in the process of receiving an old banjo in its constituent parts; I wonder if it will still sound like a banjo?

I kind of agree with Oily here on not adding a pickup, but I'm kind of a banjo traditionalist myself.  I bet it will be loud enough to keep up with a couple acoustic guitars.

I'm a big fan of piezos for CBGs and can coax some "natural" acoustic tone out of the right box, but I haven't had the same luck with skin heads.  I've built two, and they both sounded pretty crappy even with a lot of dampening of the piezo.  The tight skin is pretty unforgiving when it comes to handling noise. 

This mag pup trick is very intriguing though.  Anybody got some sound samples of this in action?

Very funny image of you trying to attach a piezo to a skinhead just flitted through my brain. I think you might get yer ass kicked...

And do I have the scars to prove it.  The ironic thing is that skinheads are usually amped up.

The image of a skinhead jacked into a Fender Twin is not working for me...especially with a banjo. All I'm seeing now is this:


Oh, the new Volksboxes are out!


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