The Acoustic Pickup

Collaborations of DJs and pop artists are all the rage right now. If you look at the Billboard Chart, you’ll probably see the likes of Calvin Harris and Rihanna teaming up for a song.

But the days of music with true instruments are not entirely gone. Actually, there’s often an acoustic song rendition in the concerts of pop artists such as Justin Bieber (who also collaborates with DJs like Skrillex). Such renditions are done with the help of acoustic pickups — a music technology that is as enduring as DJ equipment itself (we’re looking at you, Technics SL-1200).


Acoustic Guitar Pickups

The pickup is the device that gets a guitar’s sound into wires so that the tone and volume can be tweaked using other devices. There are as many of it as there are guitars, and it comes in several different kinds as you’ll see below. There are examples for each type of acoustic pickup at GL Mag in case you’re interested to see them.

Soundhole pickups are probably the most ubiquitous and easy-to-use type right now. As the name implies, they are simply slid into a guitar’s soundhole and its wire may be left dangling.

That said, contact pickups or “bottlecaps” are actually considered less invasive than the type above. Bottlecaps are tiny, passive pickups that only need to adhere to a guitar’s top to work. They can be removed easily without harming a guitar’s finish.

In contrast, undersaddle piezo transducers require drilling on a guitar besides end-pin-jack installation. These “invisible” pickups are installed under the saddle (a piece of white plastic or bone) in the bridgeplate. They are commonly composed of small strips of piezo crystals that convert vibrations into electrical signals.

Another type of pickup that requires invasive installation are the internal mics. As their name implies, they are basically microphones meant to be used inside a guitar.

And last but definitely not the least are the multi-source systems, which are basically just the combination of 2 or more types of pickups. The combined pickups are controlled through one preamp.

Keeping Tabs on Acoustic Pickups

Multi-source systems were just the beginning of the innovations in pickup technology. Now there’s Jamstik+ and A Little Thunder by Andy Alt. With more innovations on the way, the acoustic pickup will likely endure long enough until real instruments are popular again. And that’s something MTab and SSL will definitely keep tabs on.

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