Putting foam around pickups

 In Tutorial

Hey folks,

Here’s a little tutorial for how to put foam around pickups, like Satch techs Mike Manning and Gary Brawer have settle on every Ibanez JS used for live performance. The advantages are numerous, foam stuffed around prevents the pickups and its springs from vibrating with the soundwaves, causing unwanted noises in very high volume situations. The foam of course preserves the natural feedback and its tone quality, and finally she stops the pickups from moving around.

Equipment Necessary :

  • 1 plate of acoustic foam
  • Cutter
  • Pair of scissor
  • Graduated ruler
  • Pencil
  • Cutting mat

1 | Trace guidelines

Take a piece of acoustical foam, and draw a rectangle of height 71mm and width 41mm (around 2.80in – 1.61in). Draw the form of the pickups inside, the distance between the pickups and the pickup ring is about 3mm  (0.12in) from the height and 4mm (0.16in) from the width, a little bit less but cutting the foam is difficult and you can easily stuffing it in your guitar.

cutting foam around pickups tutorial joe satriani mike manning gary brawer ibanez js saturax

2 | Cutting all

Cut right in the foam with a cutter. Take it easy because the slower you go, the most precise you get, indeed it’s hard to keep the foam in shape when you cut in. Smart advice : begin with the inside before the outside, it gets easier this way to be precise.

cutting foam around pickups tutorial

cutting foam around pickups tutorial joe satriani mike manning gary brawer ibanez js

cutting foam around pickups tutorial joe satriani mike manning gary brawer ibanez js

3 | Remove the support

Then cut on the sides about 10mm (0.4in) from the edge and remove the support. You might think that you can use the support for an other pickup but keep in mind that it’s foam, not wood. The material is too soft to get precise enough for two cuttings at once, the roudings are very difficult to deal with, give priority to quality over quantity.

cutting foam around pickups tutorial joe satriani mike manning gary brawer ibanez js

cutting foam around pickups tutorial joe satriani mike manning gary brawer ibanez js

4 | Cut the angles

Remove the angles with a pair of scissors, it get easier this way to insert the foam on the next stage because the edges of the pickup ring are rounded, this way it matches better the body cavity.

cutting foam around pickups tutorial joe satriani mike manning gary brawer ibanez js

cutting foam around pickups tutorial joe satriani mike manning gary brawer ibanez js

5 | Install the foam

Put the foam in the space between your pickups and the pickup ring, be careful it’s fragile! You can use soft tools like a ruler or a pencil to insert step by step the foam round pickups.

cutting foam around pickups tutorial joe satriani mike manning gary brawer ibanez js

cutting foam around pickups tutorial joe satriani mike manning gary brawer ibanez js

cutting-foam-around-pickups-10.jpg

6 | Final result

Here’s the difference between the pickups before and after. On the right the bridge pickup is a little bit higher than the neck pickup on the left, but the foam don’t have any kind of incidence on it, it’s just a matter of taste.

Before

cutting-foam-around-pickups-11

After

cutting-foam-around-pickups-10

The aesthetic is a bit different, I used a foam that matches precisely the cosmo/chromed color of the Ibanez JS2prm but usually Satch’s techs uses a similar shade, no matter what color is the finish of his guitar. Only a few people notice that Joe’s guitars have foam around pickups on stage, usually we don’t see that unless we get close to him or maybe sometimes if you pay attention on some live DVDs, so don’t worry if you think you guitar will look very different it’s not going to happen. 😉

cutting foam around pickups tutorial joe satriani mike manning gary brawer ibanez js js2prm saturax

Final result on the legendary Ibanez JS2prm.

Many of you asked us on Joe Satriani Universe social medias to make that tutorial on so there’s no doubt it will be useful and instructive for all guitar players! If you want more tutorials and have some ideas you can submit them in the comments, meanwhile have fun on guitar and see you for other tutorials and lessons.

Saturax
My name is Robin Angelini, aka Saturax. I’m a guitar player, teacher, arranger and composer from France. Today I live in Paris, I teach guitar everywhere in France and on Skype. saturax.fr
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  • Nick Gasser

    Have you noticed any real difference between playing with and without the foam?

    • Hi Nick! Actually yes quite a bit, I usually play at low level when I’m home but it removes a bit some “humf” that come from the body resonnance, not that much but still enough to notice.
      On stage I feel a better control on the feedback, no risk on losing control. I don’t play too loud but I think it’s way more notable when you play at very high volume like Satch does most of the time.

      • Nick Gasser

        Huh, I’m definitely going to give this a shot!

        • Yes you definitely should, it also give a cool visual aspect I’m now familiar with. I’ve install the foam on every guitar I own, the only mistake I’ve made was on my JS1200 when I used a pen instead of a pencil so you can see the pen marks, but it’s not a big deal.

  • Jin Su

    I did it, and when Mr. Moderator(Saturax) can figure the Sustainiac installation out? I am highly recommended that goes to be the next tutorial.

    • Amazing custom ! Thanks for posting your pictures, and nice custom guitar by the way, love the chrome pickups! Are they a FRED and a PAF Joe?
      About the Sustainiac, actually I should order a Sustainiac pickup and if I do – just a matter of time – I will make a tutorial for everyone.