Removing Fishman Pickup from Vintage Martin? Effect on Acoustic Sound?

Recently bought a vintage Martin D-21 that has a pickup installed under the through saddle. I believe the pickup is a Fishman matrix as it has a strip of reddish gold tape in the saddle slot, the battery holder on the headblock, etc.  Unlike Frank's instructions on, the saddle was not glued in or segmented.  It just fell out when I removed the strings.  I don't need the pickup.  I have a lot of questions....Can I expect the acoustic tone or volume to improve if I remove the pickup?  If not, I'll just leave it in, but I would love some more volume.  How can I remove the pickup from the saddle slot without damaging the guitar?  Just chisel it out? I expect I will need to add an ebony shim before glueing the saddle back in since the action is not too high.  What is the preferred glue for the saddle?  Titebond?  Hot hide glue?  What is the best way to fill the endpin jack hole so I can use an endpin?  Anh help would be greatly appreciated.

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Was a deeper section routed into the bridge for the pickup thickness? Or was the saddle just resting on top of the pickup with gaps visible at the ends? Post some clear closeups if you can. The pickup should just lift out; I'm confused by your question of how to remove it without damaging the bridge.
This guitar deserves to be treated with some respect, and the job done by someone with experience.

I assumed that the pickup was glued in since it did not fallout with the bridge, but I was able to easily loosen it from the saddle slot with a small screwdriver.  The pickup sits above the bottom of the slot, there is no routing that would make it flush.  The bottom of the saddle is flat, so the ends of the saddle are apparently not contacting anything.


I do not intend to disrespect my guitar.  I have built three guitars so far and they came out reasonably well, but I have no experience in removing Fishman pickups since I don't use them.  I also have not built with a through saddle yet.  That's why I asked questions on this forum before I did anything.  You say the job needs to be done by someone with experience.  What kind of experience is needed to remove this pickup? 

Stephen, I was reacting to the many ways this old guitar could be further screwed up if the saddle slot had been modified by the installer. If the bridge hasn't been modified for the pickup (other than a hole for the wire) this should be an easy job for you. You will need to make a new saddle. Make it snug and lube it with a little hide glue in the slot when you install it.

Here's the easy way to deal with the endpin:,_parts/Acoustic_guitar:_Bridge...

I think Greg means that the job should be done by someone with experience removing fishman pickups from a vintage martin.  It sounds as though you're going to do the work yourself so you should check this out first:

Partially it depends on whether you intend to keep the pickup functioning (since I detest piezo pickups you can guess my answer - but it might be worth "something" in trade of equal worth like a stale flat beer <grin>).  Anyhoo saddles typically aren't glued in and should be a loose friction fit where a pliers or end nipper can pull them out without much of any effort at all - after all you're pulling mostly against a spruce top although the bridge is rosewood (I believe - haven't seen a 21 in quite a while).  As far as removal of the pickup goes long ago I made a tool for deepening saddle slots from an old coil spring  from the seat of a '67 Chevy pickup truck - the width was close to Martin saddle diameter so a little grinding on the edges and then grinding the other two sides at 90 degrees to make a "hook" gave me both a tool that I could hook under one of the thin end edges of a under-the-saddle piezo and/or also scrap the saddle slot smooth and level to accept a pickup (before I realized that piezos made all guitars sound essentially the same with a flat "Donald Duck" character).  A similar tool could be made from a piece of square stock or any tempered wire or an old small file, etc.

As far as shimming up the saddle afterward I'd first just try the action without a shim - you might like it - then, if not you can scratch a thin line on one side of the saddle to determine how much higher you actually want it with a sharp pointed tool (the piezo PU compresses under string pressure) and, unless the existing saddle was already bone, horn, ivory, titanium, or some other very hard light material, replace it with a new one of one of these materials - unless very old the Martin probably came with a melamine plastic saddle and replacing that with one of these other materials will make the guitar much louder. 

Technique has much to do with loudness and for almost 20 years I played truly "acoustically" - no pickup nor amplification - to crowds numbering up to around 300 in an outdoor setting.  During the process I eroded away my pickguard and bit of the top but such is the price of art (tools wear under use!).  I used a nitrocellulose "extra heavy" pick Fender branded and a heavy right hand flatpicking technique that simulated fingerpicking patterns during "chords" with melody and lead runs which carried quite far.  I found that most any good "bronze" set of light gauge string carried well the difference mostly being in longevity and breakage - the poly wrapped strings lasted longest from "finger funk" but sounded like an uncoated set that had 4-6 hours heavy use right out of the package and after a year really didn't seem to be worth the premium cost.  The highest action that you can stand that allows your technique will seem the loudest - a good flatpicker (if you aren't already) can give tips in the area.  And you might like medium strings but I truly didn't find them louder just much duller on the lower pitched string harmonics - they did last longer and  since bridge and backing plate pin holes do wear after many years the number of changes might be important).

Sorry that this turned out to be a longer response than originally intended but true acoustic loudness is tricky and one really has to consider if their guitar is a "tool" to accomplish a particular purpose or an "objea' " (yeah, I can't spell French) to be polished, and admired cuz there will truly be wear that accompanies loud acoustic playing.

Enjoy your axe,


No personal experience but it seems that if the saddle was just resting on top of the piezo element, it might not have had optimum contact for good transfer of acoustic sound.  Most of piezo installations have pretty stringent requirements for firm contact between the saddle and the bottom of the slot--makes for a better quack.<G>  I recently had a combo piezo/microphone pickup (Baggs Anthem, great pickup!) installed at Gryphon and there is no discernible change in the unamplified sound from before--and the guitar is and was a great sounding guitar with incredible acoustic volume.  

I'd check the slot and the saddle's bottom for uniformity and try the original saddle to see what happens.  If action comes out low, a new one may be needed, and the resulting greater break angle may make it louder, besides.  And gluing a through saddle seems to be the accepted means of insuring good contact--otherwise, it could tilt just enough to reduce contact and sound transmission to the bridge and the top.  A loose drop in saddle might have the same result but the drop-in slot holds a well fitted saddle firmly in place.


I think there's a commercial plug available to allow re-installation of a conventional endpin jack.  StewMac?  Worth looking for... .


IIRC, Frank has an article on replacing through saddles on




If the saddle, "just fell out", you need a better fitting saddle.


The quackstick should just lift right out.


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