Acoustic guitars are not only great for solo performances and studio work, but they can also be used to amplify other instruments. Fortunately, many acoustic-electric guitars come with pickup systems.
There are three major types of acoustic guitar pickups: magnetic, piezo, and microphone. Each has its own unique sound.
Acoustic guitars with pickups
Pickups are a crucial part of any acoustic guitar. They enable you to plug your instrument into an amplifier and play it through a speaker or PA, and they allow you to shape the tone of your guitar’s sound.
Acoustic guitar pickups can come in a variety of different styles. Some of the more common types include soundhole pickups, piezo pickups, and magnetic pickups.
Soundhole pickups, which sit directly in or around the soundhole of an acoustic guitar, are popular with players who enjoy a string-forward sound. They’re easy to fit and come with a jack and endpin connector on the inside of the soundhole, which allows you to connect your guitar to an amplifier.
A more advanced version of a soundhole pickup is the transducer pickup, which uses piezo technology to sense the vibrations of the strings and body of an acoustic guitar. These are generally considered more reliable than soundhole pickups, and offer less feedback problems.
These pickups are often found on higher-end acoustic guitars, and some even come with preamps that allow you to adjust the tone of your guitar before it’s played. Some come with EQ sliders for bass, mid and treble, while others offer blend controls to help you get the most out of your guitar’s sound.
Another type of acoustic guitar pickup is the microphone-style pickup, which uses a small condenser microphone to capture the acoustic sound of an acoustic guitar and send it to an amplifier. The microphone picks up a wide range of frequencies, and many players use this system to achieve an almost ‘natural’ acoustic guitar sound that they can’t get from any other pickup.
Microphone-style pickups are also easier to install than some other pickups, and come with a jack and endpin connection on the inside of the soundhole. However, they are not as good at picking up percussive body tones as some other pickup types, and can be a little unwieldy to attach.
Transducer and piezo systems, which work by detecting physical vibrations rather than generating a magnetic field, are also more reliable and easier to install than some other types of pickup. They can also have a distinctive “piezo-quack” sound that some people find unpleasant, but they’re easy to control and are widely used on many nylon string acoustic guitars.
Acoustic guitars with piezo pickups
There are a number of different pickups available for your acoustic guitar. These pickups vary in price and quality and can make a huge difference to the sound of your instrument. The most important thing to remember is that the right pickup for your acoustic guitar will depend on the type of music you play and your personal playing style.
Many acoustic guitars come equipped with piezo pickups, and they’re a popular choice amongst both beginners and advanced players alike. They’re also incredibly reliable and easy to install. They’re especially popular on newer acoustic guitars, and they’re often included in factory-installed systems.
These pickups are made from a series of piezoelectric crystals that sit under the bridge of the guitar. They are typically inexpensive and have a good reputation for resisting feedback at high volumes. However, they can also produce a “quack” sound when driven hard.
The most common piezo acoustic pickup is the undersaddle transducer. This is a thin piece of piezoelectric material that’s placed under the saddle, and it can be easily installed on most acoustic guitars.
USTs are an ideal option for fingerstyle guitarists, as they produce percussive tones that’re more articulate than magnetic pickups, and they’re very responsive. They’re also a good choice for smaller-bodied acoustic guitars and classical instruments.
Another common acoustic guitar pickup is the rod-style piezo pickup, which uses a metal rod to attach to your soundboard. These pickups have a bright, percussive tone that can be difficult to distinguish from other types of acoustic pickups.
Piezo pickups can be either active or passive, and they’re usually designed with a volume control and tone knob. Passive pickups can be installed without a preamp, while active ones are typically designed with a preamp.
Both undersaddle transducers and soundboard transducers can be combined into a single setup, which allows you to combine the natural tone of your microphone pickup with the attack and detail of the soundboard transducer. You can also use a preamp with these pickups if you’re plugged into a PA, although most acoustic guitars don’t have built-in pickup preamps and it might be better to avoid combining the two.
Acoustic guitars with magnetic pickups
Magnetic pickups work by converting the vibration of the guitar string (which have a steel core) into an electrical signal. They come in single-coil and humbucker forms and are used for both acoustic and electric guitars.
These pickups are incredibly popular because they allow guitarists to play at a much higher volume without any unwanted feedback. They are also excellent for fingerstyle players and provide a clear and crisp sound with a pleasing warmth that’s just right.
They’re able to produce a wider range of frequencies than other types of pickup, which can be useful for players who want to experiment with different sounds. They’re usually a bit more sensitive than other types of pickups, so they can capture the nuances of your playing better.
Some acoustic guitars with magnetic pickups can be combined with other types of pickups for a hybrid system that offers more control over your tone. They’re a little more expensive than other types of pickup but can be well worth the price for the control and flexibility they offer.
A common option for acoustic guitars with magnetic pick ups is to blend a piezo pickup with an internal microphone. This can help reduce feedback in a more feedback-prone environment or give you more control over your tone in a more intimate setting.
Another option is to use an external pickup and combine it with a bridge plate transducer. This allows you to hear your acoustic guitar’s tone more clearly, but it requires a battery.
Unlike magnetic pickups, these types of pickups can be more difficult to install and may require some routing beneath the saddle and a small hole drilled into the bridge of your guitar. You’ll also need a preamp to boost the signal so you can get the best possible tone out of these pickups.
In general, it’s better to choose acoustic guitars with magnetic guitar pickups when you’re just starting out as they’re more affordable than other types of pickups and can be easily installed. However, they’re not as effective if you’re already a more experienced player, so it’s important to do your research before making the decision to go with an acoustic guitar with a pickup.
Acoustic guitars with microphones
The right microphone can make all the difference when recording acoustic guitar, so it’s important to know your options. There are a few different types of microphones that work well with acoustic guitars, including condenser mics, ribbon mics, and dynamic mics.
Many engineers will choose to use a condenser microphone for recording acoustic guitars because of their ability to capture the full range of the instrument and to reject other noises that can affect the sound. They also tend to be quite sensitive, so it’s important to get a good quality one if you want to get accurate recordings.
Another option is to use a ribbon mic, which can help you capture the natural warmth of an acoustic guitar. They are less common than pencil condensers, but they can still be a great choice for recording acoustic guitars.
These mics are known for their ability to keep your recordings free of coloration, which is especially helpful if you plan on putting your recording through a mixing console or computer. They can be expensive, but they can also be a great investment if you’re serious about capturing the sound of an acoustic guitar.
If you’re looking for a high-quality condenser microphone, the Neumann KM 184 is an excellent option. It’s a small diaphragm condenser that is incredibly sensitive, so it can capture all the rich tones of your acoustic guitar.
This mic is extremely durable and has a flat-face design that makes it easy to position, so you can capture the most natural sound possible. It’s also very affordable, so it’s a good choice for both beginners and experienced musicians on a budget.
A dynamic mic is another popular option for capturing acoustic guitar, especially when you’re working on a tight budget or if you’re recording on stage. These are a bit more durable than condenser microphones, but they’re not as sensitive and can be more difficult to position.
Regardless of which microphone you decide to use, it’s essential that you don’t get too close to the acoustic guitar when recording. Getting too close can create a boomy sound or can over-emphasize bass frequencies, which can result in a bad sound.