If you’re going to play your songs live, you’ll have to make the decision on how you are going to amplify your acoustic guitar.

Sure, you can kick it old school and mic the guitar, but you’ll most likely discover that the mic is going to feed back before you start getting the volume you desire. This is exactly the reason pickups for acoustic guitars were invented.

But the benefits of pickup equipped acoustic guitars don’t end there. Not only do you not have to keep you guitar in the stage mic’s hot zone, you can roam about the stage freely (well, sort of) and still have your guitar pumped out the mains and monitors. However, there still may be spots on the stage where your guitar will feedback, spots on stage where you won’t be able to hear yourself, and limits to how far your cable will allow you to go.

Pickups have become so common place that many of even the least expensive guitars are now factory equipped with not only the pickup, but a pre-amp as well. And, interestingly enough, most of the highest end acoustic guitars are not equipped with any pickup or pickup system what so ever.

The quality of pickups and pickup systems (pickup, pre-amp, battery pack and sometimes mics) vary widely. And the sound quality of the pickup/pickup system is often reflected in the price. In fact, the owners of some of the afore mentioned high-end guitars will spend more on retrofitting their guitar with a pickup or pickup system then some of the pickup equipped guitars retail for…with a case!

Of course, how good a pickup sounds is in the ear of the beholder, but it is generally judged by musicians and soundman by how close the amplified signal sounds like an acoustic guitar: and to some, how close it sounds to the actual acoustic guitar that is being played when it’s not being amplified.

There are several ways to achieve a more natural acoustic sound, including mixing an internally mounted mic with the pickup’s signal or using digital modeling (sometimes called imaging) to convert the signal to one that sounds more natural.

In part 2 of this series, we’ll look at some of the various types of pickups and their strengths and weaknesses.  



Jake Kelly is a man on the constant search for enlightenment, if anyone finds it let him know so he can get some. For more of this hombre’s ramblings and the rest of L2P check out L2Pbandspace and L2Pnet.com.


Originally posted 2010-12-30 19:10:24.