I'm new to Electric guitars and I have a simple question:

If I buy ANY electric guitar on Ebay (really ANY), can I buy some new pickups and install them on it without compatibility problems?

In other words, is the system of an electric guitar standardized enough that any pickup will give me a usable signal on any guitar?

Furthermore, what is the broadest range of electrics that might be sitting inside the body between the pickup and the output jack?

  • Can you clarify what you mean by 'what is the broadest range of electronics'? You can use a wide variety of pickups, but ultimately it comes down to what fits in your guitar, which will leave you with a LOT of options in most scenarios
    – WeRelic
    Dec 7, 2013 at 7:05

3 Answers 3


The question may appear simple, the answer's not.

First consideration - physical size of pick-up. Whilst a lot of single-coils may look the same, they may well not be a direct fit into any-old guitar. The same applies to humbuckers, probably more so.Depth needs to be looked at.

Second - the pots, caps and their values may not match replacement pick-ups.

Third - The general wiring in the cavity will be for the original, so replacing say, a two wire pup with a 3 wire is going to cause further problems.

Fourth - If you think by fitting, say a Strat. pup, your guitar will sound exactly like a Strat, prepare for a disappointment.

Fifth - consider passive against active electronics.

Sixth - Really, really good luck ! Yes it can work, but there's far more chance of enough problems that it ends up either going to a guitar tech. or in the skip.


In principle, yes, you can pop pretty much anything into your guitar, but this may depend on your skills and experience in electronics, woodworking, metalwork etc.

If you are new to this then the first hurdle is the size of the pickups, and how they are wired. It is a fun learning curve though, as except for guitars with complex active circuitry, they are quick and easy to replace. An experienced tech can replace the full set of electrics in ten or fifteen minutes.

I would suggest asking the seller what the electrics are, or even get some photos sent through.


The easiest and most foolproof way to check for 'Compatibility', is to measure the hole under the pickup's edge guard and compare that with the dimensions the supplier provides for the ones you want. There will be a guard that comes with your electronics that hides that hole.

If you're on ebay, send the seller a message and inquire about the dimensions, chances are they'll have no problem taking a minute to measure it for you.

They aren't really standardized from what I've seen. Some are larger than others and some are smaller. The hole that gets routed into your guitar when it is built is made with generic pickups in mind, or generic style of pickup.

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