Graphtech Ghost Pickups Installation saga


Master Member
I wanted to give back to this board a bit, so here's a post about my adventures with the Graphtech Ghost piezo saddle pickups for solidbody guitars. These are supposed to give a decent acoustic sound option for solidbody electrics, which is really convenient for gigs, obviously.  Apparently more and more pros are using this setup, or the LR Baggs system.  For instance, I read somewhere that Pearl Jam does this now (not an endorsement, but you get the point).  They are saddles for a strat, made out of the graphtech fiberglass-like stuff, each of which has a wire coming out the bottom, attaching to a little internal preamp w/ a 9 volt battery.  It's advertised as being for Strat or Tele, the Tele version having longer intonation screws. It outputs in stereo, so you can use a Y cable to get a piezo and magenetic separate output; attach a normal cable, and it automatically blends the two signals.  Pretty neat on paper.

My plan was to install this in the Nashville Tele I'm building, about which there's a thread in the DIY finishing section. Unfortunately, telecasters have a really small control cavity (who knew??).  It's almost as if whoever designed the thing didn't even stop to consider the possibilities of active electronics!  Graphtech is verging on false advertising selling a "Tele" version and giving instructions for routing the little wires through the Tele bridge plate. My plan was to use a concentric pot for master vol / tone for the mag pickups, and the second pot for the piezo master volume (it would be 'always on', just turn off the volume to take it out of the mix). With that control setup, there's no way in hell you can fit a 9v battery and that little circuit board along with all the extra wires. I decided I had three options:
1.  Route a battery-sized hole under the pickguard in my new one-piece body (using a hand drill and some router bits), having never done this kind of work before.
2.  Give up on the tone control, and go with dual 500k mini-pots (master vol for mag, and for piezo), and try to somehow squeeze it all in there.
3.  Install it on my POS partscaster, which is as much a guitar-tech educational tool as it is a guitar, and see if it worked and I actually liked the sound enough to eventually try 1. or 2.

Of course I did #3. The partcaster has already had a hardtail conversion, so there is all the room in the trem cavity to help me out.  Honestly, it was a lot harder than I thought; I needed to drill or enlarge three holes in the body, as well as rout little areas between the bridge and the pickguard.  I also had to do a total rewiring.  As you can see, there's a lot more wire going on here.  It's not a complicated thing if you understand basic guitar electrics, but it's more of a project than I expected. 


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One thing I learned is that the Chinese Squire bodies are made of, I guess, sawdust, held together by the paint job.  Just terrible wood to work with.  I'm looking forward to putting together the W body a lot more now.
I also had to trim the length of every single wire in the project just to get it to fit all under the pickguard.  On this particular body, there's a 'shelf' under the middle pot which really limits you.  I had to put the battery in the trem cavity, and ended up putting the majority of the piezo - to - preamp wires back there too. From pictures, it looks like W strat bodies are more roomy, but this would still be a tight squeeze for most because you'd need to mount the battery under the pickguard. I used the third (middle tone) pot for the piezo volume, and the middle pot for a master mag tone. Graphtech sells options for this setup like on/off switches, mid boost switches, and I think other stuff.  You'd probably want to go with 'mini' pots all around and really plan it out if you were going to put those in as well.
I also ended up having terrible problems with short / grounding out, and eventually ended up with a lot of masking tape over the 'hot' wires.  It worked itself out, but if you're picky about what your guitar's guts look like, installing this thing poses a challenge.


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Thanks for the info; I love my Tele Thinline's sound unplugged - it's louder than my ES-335 - and was thinking about installing this system; looks like if you want to go with this on a Thinline you'd need a rear route...
Now that it's all back together, I'm pretty pleased but not ecstatic. The little wires off the saddles are only really noticeable to guitar buffs, my wife couldn't see the difference. You could also drill holes through the bridge itself, under the saddles, and route them under the bridge.
I like the saddles, my guitar seems to have some more sustain now and a little more balanced tone, though it may just be my imagination.  As to the sound, I posted a little demo clip: It's not a real professional demo at all, but it'll give you an idea.
Since I don't have the Y cable yet, I haven't really explored the possibilities of simultaneous acoustic - electric sounds, but I'll get there and if it's cool, I'll post another little demo.

To my ears, it needs a little treble boost, but once that's done, it does a decent impression of one of those slim ovations, maybe a cheaper model. A little bit plasticky, but it does pick up squeak and finger noise in an acoustic-like way.  You can even tap them and get a sound! Not gonna show up on anyone's  hit record, but maybe good enough for a live show if you are only playing a song or two with acoustic. I kinda like the possibilities of mixing the two signal types, and I don't dislike the piezo -> regular guitar amp sound, it adds another option. 

So, what do you think?  Anyone had similar experiences? You guys think I ought to take a router to my beautiful one-piece swamp ash tele for this? Or wait to put it on my second warmoth (Mahogany Musiclander with p-90s and trem???).  I'd be especially interested to hear if anyone has put these in a thinline or other semi-hollow.


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i like the sound of those pickups. Sounds better than my Boss AC-3 acoustic simulator. i had also thought of doing this to my tele, figured id have to put a control cavity in the back of the body to fit all the electronics. id say if you want this on your tele, then do the mod.

tfarny  I'm shocked, I have heard the claims before , but never heard a demo of the sound, I woulda sworn you were playen an accustic guitar.

It sounds good and is now on my short list of wants
JacktheHack: if the inside of a thinline is tighter than a strat, this may be tough.  On the other hand, I probably could have done it more efficiently, and I may in the end find a way to put this in my solidbody tele.

Brian: Yeah, you could put a control cavity on the back of your tele, I just don't have a lot of woodworking tools or experience with precision routing.  A separate control cavity would let you put the battery and the preamp there, it would need to be probably 2" by 3" and deep enough for the battery. Actually, just a 9v battery box rout on the back, may take care of it - doesn't W offer this as an option on Basses? The circuit board is pretty small and would go against the side of the stock Tele control rout. That may be the way...
And yes, I like this a lot better than the acoustic simulators I've heard. I think the reason is because it's not a simulator, it's an actual acoustic pickup with a preamp.

Phrygian, I picked the graphtech based on internet reviews; there were some pretty negative 'not ready for prime time' reviews on the Fishman stuff.  I haven't tried any of the other systems, though.
There's no way that setup would fit in a top route Thinline, but there'd be plenty of room on a rear route, will have to shelve that idea for a future build. Top routed Thinline has a cavity just a little larger than a regular Tele
Hmm. I've always been tempted to do something like that. And it does sound more acousticy... but like you said, so plasticky and quacky in that uniquely piezo way. Personally I'd be a little disappointed, but if you're happy that's all that matters.
Funny you should mention Pearl Jam. I've seen Mike Mcready play these live on a tobacco sunburst strat. He does it on a DVD I have somewhere to. To be honest I have always wondered why on earth one of the most popular rock bands in the world feel the need to do this. He has a wealth of quality electro acoustics with a far superior live acoustic tone at his disposal, why take the convenient option? 

To my ears it sounds just like the Boss acoustic simulator, ie. not THAT convincing. I can see the convenience of having the option, but if I needed an acceptable acoustic tone I'd just buy the boss pedal and leave my guitar alone.
I don't think the allure of these systems is to REPLACE the acoustic guitar, rather to give the facility to either mix the two signal paths simultaneously or obviate the need to switch guitars in mid-song.
I guess I'm just an old grump*, but I still think magnetic electric guitar pickups sound better than anything that's been possible with piezos to this date. It's still improving - to the point where if I had some reason to try to pretend to be playing an acoustic when I wasn't (like money :glasses10:) - I might try it. For a few decades there, bands like CSN&Y and Yes miked acoustic guitars onstage in stadiums, quite successfully - now even the Grand Ole friggin' Opry has gone piezo; they (quite successfully) mike the dobros, fiddles & banjos, while the "acoustic" guitarists wobble around quacking and fizzing like plasticine robots. Don't you just wish Dave Matthews would buy a real, electric, Telecaster and a Twin Reverb and spend six months learning how to sound GOOD?!? Unless you're Eliot Fisk, John McLaughlin or Paco De Lucia acoustic guitars suck anyway. :binkybaby:

I, still, just can't see the advantage of modifying a great guitar to put something on there that makes it sound worse than it already does. Different, fine, but not worse. Grumble grumble grrggh...  :sad: :icon_scratch: :evil4:

*(oh - really?)  :icon_tongue:
i actually have that system in my schecter. it actually came stock with it!!! :headbang1:  i've got the C1 E/A and i love the way it's setup on there.  it's got a vol/tone knob for the mag pups and seperate ones for the piezo.  the reay key to the magic is the mini switch for the mag-piezo-both selection.  the piezo tends to be a little brighter than the mags but with a mahogany semi-hollow body and stock Duncans the mags make it more of a blues-jazzer anyway  :glasses10:  i'd recommend have a battery route added to your next project.  i think it's just like 15 bucks or somn like that.  you could save some space AND it would be a lot easier to get to when you need to replace it.
Interesting POVs! I can see both the negative and positive side of this thing.
Noone is claiming this'll make your average electric sound like a well-miked Taylor. However, are you going to go through the trouble of miking your Taylor for, say, one song at a gig where the PA sucks and the audience is too drunk to notice? Maybe you don't even have a nice acoustic and the right mic for it, maybe you're an electric guy who wants to get the acoustic sound once in a while. Most people (even including Dave Matthews!) will just buy an Ovation or similar and plug it into the PA.  I disagree with Stubhead that a clean single coil sound is 'better' - they're really apples and oranges, to me. The point of this system is that it may sound close enough to an Ovation to make the Ovation route unneccessary.  And I've heard acoustics played live that sounded no better than this setup.
Additionally, you have options like mixed pup types, simultaneous acoustic / electric playing, and other features which add to your possibilities.  I mean, to me, out-of-phase wiring always sounds like a mistake was made somewhere, and I'd never have it on my guitar, but some of you guys make a point to add out-of-phase options to your super custom gear. It just expands the options.

The real question is, does it have enough usable acousticness (acousticity?), and are the additional sounds you can get cool enough, to justify the effort and expense? For me, I guess, the answer is yes.  While I'm playing it, I'm thinking about how my Guild sounds way better, but on the recording the difference is somewhat less noticeable and live it would be much less noticeable. I'm still not sure if I want to rout out my lovely new Warmoth for this, though, but there's no rush.

"Unless you're Eliot Fisk, John McLaughlin or Paco De Lucia acoustic guitars suck anyway" - I know this is an electric guitar forum, but really?
i'd personally recommend it just based on my experience with the schecter but so far i've only liked em in semi-hollows cuz my strat had a fishman system in it stock and i hated it.....not enough acousticallity/acousticism (figured i'd add to the list) but the way i see it....even if it won't satisfy you like a breedlove or taylor or whatever it'll at least be another usable tone at you disposal that's not too complicated to get.....

by the way.....after listening to those guys it's pretty hard to think of anything that don't suck :rock-on:
jackthehack said:
I don't think the allure of these systems is to REPLACE the acoustic guitar, rather to give the facility to either mix the two signal paths simultaneously or obviate the need to switch guitars in mid-song.

My point exactly. Mcready used it on the song Daughter, with the acoustic sound on all the way through. Again, I don't see the point given the quality of acoustic guitars/pre amps he would have at his dispossal. Hes a bit of a guitar collector on the quiet.

As for Acoustics sucking unless your Mclaughlin/Paco. Thats a ridiculous comment.
tfarny- Good post i agree with everything you said, especially the out of phase wiring, I just dont get it, every time I have tried it, and sometimes by mistake, it sounds like crap, might as well be playing a kazoo. I have been down the exotic mind boggleing every switch combination path, and I do believe simple is better. even humbucker splitting( into a single) and paralleling the two humbucker bobbins is all an over rated big waste.

That said, I do wanna try the piezo pickups

I have decided I will just build a different guitar for each sound I want, theres no such thing as a 1 guitar for all sounds, you can keep your modeling amps and guitars too, I dont want em.

I wanna build a couple guitars like CB's stuff, I don't have any like his, and I'm sure they sound good too. I'm just looking for a reason to build 20-40 more axes, they are artwork to me
Soloshchenko said:
jackthehack said:
I don't think the allure of these systems is to REPLACE the acoustic guitar, rather to give the facility to either mix the two signal paths simultaneously or obviate the need to switch guitars in mid-song.

My point exactly. Mcready used it on the song Daughter, with the acoustic sound on all the way through. Again, I don't see the point given the quality of acoustic guitars/pre amps he would have at his dispossal. Hes a bit of a guitar collector on the quiet.

As for Acoustics sucking unless your Mclaughlin/Paco. Thats a ridiculous comment.

not just acoustic my have that level of skill and taste is just ridiculous.....i'm partial to Al out of the three...... :glasses10:
If anybody is still curious about that graphtech stuff, I finally got a Y cable, so I can do simultaneous acoustic and electric sounds from the same guitar.  Live, obviously, you'd plug the piezo into your PA and the electric into your amp.  For simple home recording, I just plugged them both into my I/O and from there into the computer - no 'real' amps at all.  Just to give a flavor here's a simple, quick and dirty demo of that setup:

Play with the balance left-to-right to get different effects. For me, this is the best argument for using this system - you can't really do this with a normal guitar, and to me it really does sound like two different guitars playing very close together. Also, I think the presence of the electric sound covers up the most 'quacky' elements of the piezo.  I wish I had a more 'pro' recording setup, keep in mind this is with a $200 piece of computer gear, some software, and a cheapo guitar. Also wish for a better singing voice, more guitar skills, etc., but hey you can't have everything can you?