Sooner or later if you become serious about your guitar hobby or profession you are going to come across a situation where you need to amplify your acoustic guitar. Maybe you’re in a band and you need to compete with the volume of the other instruments in the band or fill a large space with your sound.
If your guitar doesn’t already have one you’ll be looking for a pickup to install so that you can amplify your acoustic guitar. Because most acoustic guitar pickups are inexpensive, they can easily fit within a modest budget.
As with most hobbies, there are many types of pickups for acoustic guitars on the market.
These acoustic pickup choices can include everything from high-end microphones mostly used in the studio for recording, to simple devices for the everyday player. If you’re in the market for an acoustic pickup or you want to know more about the options available, read on to decipher the array of acoustic guitar pickup choices.
What is an Acoustic Guitar Pickup?
An acoustic guitar pickup is a transducer or a device that converts sound to electronic signals. The transducer does this by converting sound vibrations either via vibrations (piezo) or sensing changes to the magnetic field (Magnetic) to a digital signal then amplified through a speaker.
Not surprisingly, there is an incredible variety of pickups on the market. Read on to find out more on each type of acoustic guitar pickup.
What is a Piezo Pickup?
The term piezo pickup comes from the piezoelectric crystals from which they comprised. Generally, a piezo pickup requires a matching preamp in the guitar. A popular variety of piezo pickup is the under-saddle pickup. Piezo pickups usually install under the bridge on the saddle. They are mounted under the saddle bridge so they can detect the vibrations better. One downside of this type of pickup is you need to drill a small hole in the saddle under the bridge so that you can run the wire. While this activity is not tremendously daunting, you are creating a small a hole into a beautiful instrument, taking on the risk of an error that could potentially affect your guitars natural acoustic sound.
Some musicians avoid piezo pickups as they believe piezo pickups fail to relay the complexity and richness and natural guitar tone. The flip side of this argument is that a piezo pickup can handle louder volumes without feedback. A piezo can be a good choice for performers that need bigger sound from their instrument to compete with other amplified gear in the band.
Acoustic Guitar Microphones as Pickups
The advances in modern electronics have led many players to replace piezo pickups with acoustic guitar microphones. Acoustic guitar microphones have become quite popular for acoustic guitars. Think of it as a microphone similar to what a singer would sing into except its place by the sound hole to pick up the sound.
An acoustic guitar microphone, on the other hand, is programmable. Moreover, you can connect microphones to digital recording systems and synthesizers giving you a big range of tonal options.
Also, wireless microphones with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity are available giving the player even more freedom on stage. Finally, there is no need to drill holes in the guitar for a cable to the acoustic guitar pickup.
Magnetic Pickups for Acoustic Guitars
Magnetic pickups for acoustic guitars use electromagnetic technology to convert the sound. Electromagnetic pickups for acoustic guitars are popular because you can permanently install them in guitars. Special acoustic pickups can be added to your acoustic guitar capture specificisrings.
Moreover, magnetic pickups for acoustic guitars will capture detailed string responses. Magnetic pickups are ideal for recording complex rhythms and where you are looking for a more articulate sound.
One perceived drawback with Electromagnetic pickups are that some players feel that electromagnetic pickups have an artificial sound and that they will “mask” the character of the guitar.
The uses of Magnetic Acoustic Guitar Pickups
- Magnetic pickups for the acoustic guitar are best suited for modern music
- Magnetic pickups are also ideally suited for Electric guitars as the string signal can be modified via effect pedals and other devices giving the player a wide range of tonal options
- Another advantage of electromagnetic pickups is that they don’t require drilling holes for installation and magnetic pickups will not affect the actual play of the guitar making magnetic-acoustic guitar pickups an excellent teaching tool.
Not surprisingly if you play more country, folk or bluesy music you may opt for something other than a magnetic pickup for your acoustic guitars.
Contact Acoustic Guitar Pickups
A contact acoustic guitar pickup is a transducer that can be mounted under the bridge or on the top of the guitar. The difference between an acoustic guitar contact pickup and the magnetic or piezo pickup is that contact pickups convert vibrations to electricity. The contact acoustic guitar pickup transmits the movements of the strings and guitar top.
Many guitarists love contact pickups because they have a rich and warm sound. Because the contact pickup transmits the movement of the strings, a contact acoustic guitar pickup can relay the complexity of the music. Many guitarists believe a contact pickup will produce the most natural and authentic sound making them perfect a perfect choice for studio work.
Why Contact Acoustic Guitar Pickups are popular
- Capture the natural tone and complexity of a guitar
- Ideal for highly experienced guitarists who know their instruments well
- You can connect an acoustic pickup to a digital sound system. Making it easy to record what your playing.
- You can install them on almost any instrument without changing it.
One drawback of the contact acoustic pickup is it can have feedback issues at higher volumes.
Blended Acoustic Guitar Pickup Systems
A blended acoustic guitar pickup system is a hybrid of two or three kinds of pickups. A combination acoustic pickup system can use a combination of acoustic pickups to capture a broader spectrum of sound. Having the sound recorded via different methods gives the musician more options with the tone they produce when amplifying their guitar. For instance, contact pickups can record the vibrations while piezo pickups capture the sound. The Taylor guitar manufacturer is an example of a guitar maker that use of different types of devices in their factory-made products.
As with contact acoustic guitar pickups, blended systems are an excellent choice for studio work and mixing. For instance, acoustic pickups can record the vibrations while piezo pickups capture the sound allowing you to manipulate the different aspects of tone captured by the two different types of acoustic pickup.
One of the contributing factors leading to the popularity of the combination pickup systems is the lower cost of electronics allows multiple types of pickups to be bundled together without having to pay double or triple the price of a single component.
Where can I find Acoustic Pickup?
Your local guitar shop will have them however you can usually get a better price by ordering online. Click here for more details on some of our favorite sound-hole acoustic guitar pickups. Hope this article has helped you in understanding some of the acoustic guitar amplification options available to you.