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Adding Sympathetic Strings

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So I'm beginning to really get into a guitar mod kick and i've finally found what i need to begin this project. Here's where the hard part comes in.

I'd like to add 8 or 9 sympathetic strings to my old Ibanez GAX-70 clunker that I never play, in order to give me a reason to play it. I have two hurdles standing in my way though.

1. I need to figure out what length and what guage strings i need to use for these sympathetic strings. I have found the zither pins necessary for mounting and tuning them. I'm thinking of having them run from a G to an A on the next octave up, in intervals of halfsteps. As for placement, I think I'm going to rout a cavity into the back of the guitar, recess where the pins go into the wood a little bit, so that the strings are just a little bit off the body. I want to also have the pickup for the recessed into the body, as to save space and conceal them nicely. This is where the second part comes in...

2. I need to build a pickup for this thing. I would honestly be fine with buying a magnet and winding it 500 times with copper wire by hand. But I don't know if that's correct, or what, or even what kind of magnet to buy. And then how to connect it to the electronics. Is it just the positive side is hot and the negative is ground?

Basically, i'm thinking just a bar magnet would probably work alright? since there's so many strings, it sounds a little impractical to make bobbins for each string. If it's not too awfully difficult, I figure I might as well give it a shot. But has anyone here made a crude bar magnet pickup? If so, how did it sound?

I don't really care about being able to control the tone of this thing. I might just go buy a concentric knob in order to adjust the volume, and throw in a little on/off switch for it. maybe I won't even bother with the volume knob. Who knows. I do want the element of surprise though. Just being able to flip a switch and have a sitar coming through my electric guitar. And people turning their heads to see what just happened.

Thanks in advance for all the help. I guess a quick summary of what I need help finding:

-string lengths and guages for the sympathetic strings

-information about building a pickup for them, and also how i would connect it to the normal electronics.

a bit of background, i've worked in a guitar repair shop for about 2 and a half years, so I definitely know my way around the insides of a guitar...just looking to take that knowledge a bit further now. So please don't feel like you need to dumb anything down for me. I ought to be able to keep up with the lingo, and if somehting goes over head, I'll definitely ask you to explain it, but I don't think I'm too far in over my head on this project :D


Tom Eisenbraun

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I've had basically the same idea, although I was thinking of building the guitar from scratch, since it'd be easier to plan out the extra string deal.

For the cavity, I thought I'd find a way to make it tuneable --maybe little fine-tuners that protrude from the end of the guitar. Just to provide more flexibility.

My thought was to add the strings in a cavity at the rear of the guitar, away from the main pickups-- a nice big bout archtop style shape would do it.

Another cool idea would be to add in some kind of autoharp-style chording control --you could add little lockable buttons on the top to isolate the appropriate strings.

In any event, you'd want a way to mute the sympathetic strings altogether, so the guitar is still useful as a guitar.

I have a couple of Kent Armstrong/Dano-style lipsticks here--they're fairly weak pickups and the ones I have are longer than other pickups.

Or even better: a set of Precision-style pickups --just mount them end to end...you could even mount three, or stagger them...give each bar its own volume control --you'd have more control over which tones are made audible, etc.

The main thing that's been stopping me is that...well...I'm not sure what I'd use the guitar for :D But it's definitely on my list of guitars to make, once I've gotten a little better at it.

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