How do I Mic a Guitar?

PICKUPS AND MICS

What are some options when it comes to amplifying my guitar?

The most popular type of acoustic guitar pickup is the under-saddle piezo. This is the kind most often found in guitars with factory-installed electronics. They’re relatively easy to install (although the job is best done by a professional), and they faithfully reproduce the acoustic sound of the instrument. Their most common criticism is that they can sound "quacky"—that the attack sounds unnatural. Most of the currently available under-saddle pickups have addressed this problem, however.

Piezo pickups are also available in a stick-on format. You mount the pickup to the top of the guitar (either on the inside or the outside) with some adhesive putty, double-stick tape, or permanent glue. Stick-on pickups can yield great results, especially in low-volume situations or in conjunction with another kind of pickup.

Another popular option is the magnetic pickup, which is easily mounted in the soundhole. The magnetic pickup’s greatest strengths are its low cost and high resistance to feedback. While some of the cheaper models yield a somewhat "electric" sound, higher-end models offer excellent bass response and a smooth attack.

All of the above pickups are available in active or passive models. An active pickup has a built-in or on-board preamp, which boosts the electrical signal it provides. Although not absolutely necessary, most passive pickups benefit from using an external preamp, as it fattens the sound and makes it louder.

Some of the newer, high-end systems involve a combination of a pickup and a microphone. The microphone adds some "wood" to the pickup’s sound and also picks up percussive effects on the body of the guitar. Players in loud bands will probably find that the mic feeds back too easily, however, and won’t be able to glean the system’s benefits. While some of these systems offer "blending" controls on the guitar, most need to be used with an external two-channel preamp or mixer.

On the other end of the cord, the most popular choices are to either plug directly into a venue’s PA system or to use a special acoustic amp. An acoustic amp is essentially a small, full-range PA in a portable package. Because an acoustic guitar’s sound is much more complex than an electric guitar’s, it doesn’t tend to sound good through amplifiers made for electric guitars.

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