Jan 022009

Yes, I do. I avoid pickups in acoustic guitars as much as possible. Just mike them up. Most people don’t mike them up, but nothing sounds better.

Here are points in favor of my ridiculous opinion:

Bluegrass bands played into mikes for years and years. Many still do. A little feedback here and there when you don’t have a competent sound person, but all in all it can be done and is done every day all over.

Bob Dylan back in the first twenty-five years of his career, give or take, miked his acoustic guitar when he played solo. It sounded great. I always liked the sound and feel of his floppy-pick strumming. Like on all those bootleg series CDs. Once he started plugging in, the solo sets lost a lot. Listen to the “Real Live” and “30th Anniversary” albums to see what I mean.

Along the same lines are many others who miked up their guitars and sounded geat: Joan Baez, Mike Seeger, on and on.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not talking about miking an acoustic guitar when you have a bass player and a full drum kit. You got to in those loud circumstances. But for folkies like me, who perform solo or with one or two other folkies, nothing beats the miked-up guitar. Especially my 6-string dreadnaught. I couldn’t stand the thought of slapping a pickup on that thing because it just sounds great the way it is.

I think 90% of the solo, folk, acoustic, whatever guitar players that I see out there are plugging in. Probably half of them are pulling off a decent sound, thanks to Taylor and Martin electronic magic. But a lot of folks are still plugging in and getting that piezzo under-saddle quack quack that sounds like rubber bands stretched across one of those cardboard trays that comes with a frozen salisbury steak dinner. yeah, I guess I feel kind of strongly about this subject. A lot of folks are pulling off a nice plugged-in sound alright, but I’ve struggled a lot to get there myself.

About two years ago I wanted to buy a 12-string. I decided to buy one with a pickup in it, because there are just some places where you don’t have good hands on the sound board and you just don’t want to be fighting the feedback on a guitar mike. So I bought a great Guild 12-string I think the model is GAD212, something like that. It is a mahogany dread and has a Fishman piezzo under-saddle pickup. It sounds like the quacky duck rubber band salisbury steak thing. I think that whoever invented those pickups was trying to get the most un-guitar-like sound possible. But, there are those places where you almost got to plug in, because there’s a drunk or half-asleep guy at the board. And there are a lot of world-class masters out there who plug in and sound great. Beppe Gambetta, for example.

OK, so here is where I start sounding like a commercial. I just bought a new gadget to help with the piezzo. I bought Fishman’s Aura pedal for 12-strings. It is pretty expensive, but it makes the guitar sound like a guitar. Actually, it makes it sound like a bunch of guitars. The pedal is pretty simple, so a dummy like me can use it without too much worry. Just plug in and you got three things to adjust. There’s a big knob with sixteen settings that are supposed to be sixteen different digital models of guitar and mike combinations. They are not labeled, so you just have to use your ear to get a mellow, strummy mahogany dread sound, or a chimy Taylor sound, or a whatever guitar through a whatever mike. There’s also a blend control to add in as much piezzo quacky as you like, which I think could help in a bar to add some punch back into the warmth of the digital images. Then there’s a phase switch which boosts the bass and probably helps with some feedback problems on a PA, we’ll see.

The pedal is made of metal. And, I’m a poet and I know it. The pedal looks like it will hold up a long time–that’s what I am trying to say here. So, I hope that it does because it was a little pricy. But I think I have finally found a good way to plug in at a gig and feel confident that I can control my sound. I’ll write something after I road test the pedal to see if all my happy dreams came to pass.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.