What can I use for pickups on a shoe guitar or a cigar box guitar?

So, I posted this question like a year ago, but life got in the way with this project. You know how it is.

Anyway, I want to make a shoe guitar. Seems like a great way of exploring what kinds of weird and wonderful things can be guitars. and I have questions about what to use for pickups. I guess I’ve done research, because I have a lot more questions than I did then.

So, the instructions explain what pickups are, but don’t say what kind I need. I Google it, and the answer, according to Google, is a piezo. Piezos are nice and cheap. But it’s my understanding that a piezo amplifies an acoustic guitar, and an acoustic guitar gets its sound from the vibrations rattling around in its hollow head, so a piezo wouldn’t be any good on a guitar that doesn’t have a hollow head.

Is that accurate?

So, I suppose I’d need magnetic pickups. But wouldn’t those be difficult on a weird shaped guitar? Because don’t you need one string carefully over each magnet?

So, what if I stuck with something easier, like a cigar box guitar? Those are hollow, so a piezo would work (if I’m right about what a piezo does.) But how would that sound? Wouldn’t it sound like an amplified acoustic guitar?

Now, I feel like I heard somewhere that anything with a speaker in it can be made into a piezo, a clock radio, or a digital watch with an alarm. A speaker is essentially a diaphragm that converts electrical signals into sound, and a piezo is a diaphragm that converts sound into electrical signals - they’re basically interchangeable.

Is that accurate?

Lastly, a question that’s a little basic, I guess… but does it need to be powered? My understanding is that the amplifier is powered, not the guitar itself. Or does the guitar need some sort of preamp system? What would I know? They’ve never even let me hold an electric guitar.

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This might be a good question for Chat GPT.

I wish I knew the answer and I’m curious if anyone here does. It’s interesting for sure.

I also want to see this guitar when you do finally get it made.

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I don’t know a lot, but here’s what little I do know: Cigar box guitars are a thing. At least, I know they are on an acoustic level.

It sounds like you have some interesting plans!

Part of the sound achieved does come from the hollowness of the instrument. Perhaps a boot, or maybe even a bootie, with some internal component that provides stability, could contain a cavity with enough resonance to create acoustic sound.

Electric guitars are not powered. The amplifier is powered. It is possible to play an electric guitar without plugging it in, of course. But because they typically are not hollow, the music comes across kind of flat-sounding, and without any real appreciable volume. In theory, you should be able to turn almost anything into an electric guitar if it can be plugged into an amp, as long as you can make room in said item for the internal components that create the sound.

What if you found a cheap, beat-to-heck electric guitar and took it apart? That might provide you with some ideas on reverse engineering. Perhaps you could even use some of the parts to build yours?

And I also want to see this guitar! What a cool idea.

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My wife built cigar box ukuleles for a while. I know she put a pickup in at least one of them. I’ll see if she has any advice for you, she mainly picked up most her knowledge feom loys of YouTube videos.