Acoustic Guitar Pickups
Playing unamplified is a great experience – the sound that you are making comes from your guitar and not a box somewhere remote from you, to play quieter you play softer, to play louder you play harder and all the members of the band can hear each other. However in the real world of strange venue acoustics and non-concert conditions amplification is a necessary evil. What is the best method of amplifying gypsy jazz guitars?
Microphones – if you have a full PA system with main speakers pointed away from you, plenty of monitor speakers facing you and preferably a sound engineer then using an external microphone for amplification is possible. There are still problems – you mustn’t move in relation to the microphone (not too much of a problem when seated) and it can be difficult to get sufficient volume without feedback. There is also the problem of transporting a big PA around – until you reach superstar status and festival organisers do everything for you.
Magnetic Pickups – not a good solution for most players as the sound becomes too much like an electric guitar, some older players did use the Stimer pickup which fitted in the soundhole but the sound was an acquired taste and interfered with picking techniques.
Contact Pickups – these are pickups that acquire and transmit the vibrations from the guitar itself (rather than the air around it) and are much less prone to feedback. They are usually based on a piezo crystal system, sometimes with pre-amplifiers in the guitar, sometimes without. They are often mounted in the bridge but can be a tape which is stuck onto the body of the guitar (cosmetically better on the inside). These pickups tend to produce a crisp quite trebly sound which is very good for projection but which might lose some of the mid-range mellowness of the guitar.
Combination Microphone/Contact pickup systems – The guitars had 2 separate pickups in the bridge and the body of the guitar and the sound from these could be mixed using the onboard preamplifier (they were Yamaha APX models). You can then have a condenser microphone on a small boom stand pointed at the upper end of the fretboard at getting the ‘air’ sound of the guitar. Most of the volume comes from the contact pickups but the microphone input definitely enhances the sound. Some use guitars with Big Tone pIckups in the bridge or a slightly different system with a small clip-on condenser microphone fitted to the edge of the soundhole. This has the advantage of not requiring heavy microphone stands and you don’t have to worry about moving away from the microphone.
Babik listening to Django circa 1950 with early Stimer pickup and foot on a pre-53 Stimer Amplifier
I’m a Dutch guitar player, mainly Djanjo style jazz ballads on an archtop, (chord melody) and Bossa Nova on a nylon strung guitar. For some years I have followed JWC Guitars keeping in touch with Tony in order to stay informed about the development of these guitars. Some time ago I played a JWC D-hole in the Belgian Dealer’s Shop and was very enthusiastic. I notice that the top is more bent and that a thinner skin is used. I am looking for a more open sound which I hope to find in a good D-hole so I await the new series. I struggle with amplification for the acoustic guitar. Many Gypsies use the Big Tone., but serious Luthier’s know that these pickups are passive, cheap, loud and as it is simple to install, it is very popular among Gypsy Jazz Players. With a critical ear BigTone does not amplify the full sound spectrum from a good guitar. There are pick-ups that will amplify the resonance of the top soundboard (B-band, Shadow, Schatten etc., Can you give me an advice? – Louis Frederix.
As regards Pickups – as you say most acoustic guitars can be fitted with Piezo Biggertone Pickups under the bridge.
Stimer pickups are still available – and can be adapted for D-Holes but are dated and a question of taste.
this link may be of interest
Saddle pickups are very good these days but…still take only the string vibrations, not the soundboard. Only Highlander has a saddle pick-up that claims to be also sensitive for vibrations of the downside. Very good sound reproduction, much more tonal spread than the Big Tone’s, which are only favourite in the gypsy-community, If the client wants to copy the bad taste of Gypsy Performers, so be it.
Highlander Pickups Installation.htm
The Biggertone is an active Bigtone pickup for Selmer style Oval-Hole & D-Hole guitars: – delivering a realistic tonal spectrum with a steady and powerful output, – not only loud but also perfectly string-to-string balanced without feedback . – it can be connected to almost any type of acoustic or electric amp, recording desk or PA system. -installation is easy and only demands a good study of the included detailed manual. Biggertone pickups are handmade of quality components and individually tested . They are the result of a long time research with the best Bigtone-performance possible today. There are 3 standard bridge heights available : 19mm – 21mm – 23 mm Other heights can be made on simple request !
Biggertone Pick-Ups – Video
Closing title sequence features Duet by Paul Vernon Chester and Nick Mellor Stimer playing ‘Djangology’
Biggertone active pickup BAP1 :
ebony bridge (L)127x(W)14 mm.
available heights : 19mm – 21mm – 23 mm (specify with order please)
piëzo-ceramic element sealed into the bridge
active output preamp
detailed installation-instruction sheet
tin- box package
Biggertone Passive Pickup BPP1
Although our active system is recommended it is possible to order the ‘passive’ version of the Biggertone. Please note that an outboard preamplifier will be necessary for the best result. Same specs as the BTP1A but without the active output preamp & battery holder. Quality end jack plug included
The Micro Chevalet is an ingenious pickup solution built in France by Patrick Inghilleri. This pickup allows one to amplify a Selmer type guitar without having to do any drilling whatsoever. Just place this bridge on your guitar like any other and connect the cable to the cleverly mounted mini-jack on the bass side of the bridge. A larger 1/4″ adapter is attached to the tailpiece with a piece of velcro. This system is very easy to remove so it is attractive to anyone who doesn’t want to modify their guitar and/or wants the flexibility of changing bridges. This pickup has a fantastic sound and has become popular with some of the top young French players such as Adrien Moignard and Mathieu Chatelain.
The pickup also comes with a beautiful hand made wood box which you can use to store the pickup when not in use.
Benedetto Pickups Archtops
The highest quality, no-compromise range of signature jazz guitar pickups available anywhere. All Benedetto pickups are handmade in Seymour Duncan’s Santa Barbara, California workshop. They’re each fully shielded and include detailed wiring and installation instructions. According to Bob Benedetto, this pickup is “the best sounding jazz pickup I’ve ever heard. There isn’t even a close second.”
Magnet Alnico V Bar
Cable 4-Conductor shielded. Allows multiple wiring options.
DC resistance 12.10 K Ohms
Inductance 7.10 H
Series – 4.29 KHz
Split – 7.93 KHz
Body Measurements 2.74 x 1.49 x .70
Centres of Mounting Legs – 3.062″
Part No. – 11601-03
Schatten HFN-S2 Pickups for Selmer/Maccaferri Instruments
The HFN-S2 is designed to give you a full, rich sound and will reproduce exactly what your guitar sounds like. These pickups utilize an elegant combination of materials: rosewood for its main structure and arching with a light weight brass shell for its noise shielded piezo unit. Total weight of the pickup is a very light 0.2 ounces (7 grams). It will not affect the acoustic sound of the instrument when not in use.
The HFN-S2 will fit virtually all Selmer/Maccaferri instruments with standard Selmer style bracing. For more information on fit and bracing,
HFN-S2 Artist models are available with either one or two thumbwheel volume controls. These thumbwheel controls simply stick to the underside of the lip of the sound hole. A single thumbwheel control would be used to control the volume of the pickup. The second thumbwheel control would be used if you wish to add a secondary pickup magnetic pickup. Having 2 thumbwheel volume controls allows you to mix and blend both pickups as you like. Installation is quick and simple and takes about 20 to 40 minutes depending on pickup model. All HFN-S2’s come fully wired, complete and ready to install. The Artist models also include a self-adhesive velcro mount Cordura nylon battery bag. Neat and tidy.
In the quest for the smallest and lightest amplification setup take a look at small microphones that could be attached to your guitars. On Bireli Lagrene’s Live Jazz A Vienne DVD that most of the guitars are amplified using a small microphone taped just below the soundhole.
The Microphone used on all of the guitars on the Lagrene DVD is the Shure Beta 98/s, it is a miniature super cardoid.
The PRO 70 is also cardoid condenser microphone that comes with a small metal box (with a belt clip) which contains a single AA battery as power supply (though phantom power can also be used) and interfaces it to an XLR microphone cable.
It is supplied with a lapel clip and the instrument clip shown on the right of the photograph which is designed to fit it to acoustic guitars.
- Miniature condenser microphone is ideal for both vocal and acoustic guitar applications
- Natural and articulate vocal reproduction when used as a clip-on lavalier—clothing clip included
- Excels in pickup of acoustic guitar with included instrument adapter
- Cardioid polar pattern reduces pickup of sounds from the sides and rear, improving isolation of desired sound source
- Switchable low-frequency roll-off
- Corrosion-resistant contacts from gold-plated XLRM-type connector
- Operates on battery or phantom power
- 6′ (1.8 m) cable permanently attached between microphone and power module
Experiment with using the clip to mount the microphone on the outside (left) and inside (right) of the guitar. The first thing to notice it that the clip is quite bulky and will only fit a D hole gypsy guitar, it touches the strings if you try to fit it to an oval hole (though you could discard the clip tape it on an oval hole). Although it looks bulky when mounted on the outside it doesn’t get in the way because most picking is nearer to the bridge than the fretboard. It seems to work better when mounted inside because there is much less feedback and the sound stays the same.
How does it sound? It gives a good clear sound with plenty of ‘middle’. It isn’t ideal as a single source of amplification because it is difficult to get the top end punch that you need for gipsy jazz and it is hard to get it up to sufficient volume at gigs in large or noisy rooms without feedback. However, when combined with the Bigtone Piezo pickup it is ideal – the Bigtone provides the punch and high end and the microphone fills out the mid-range and gives the sound some ‘air’. The Bigtone reproduced the percussive plectrum upstrokes when playing rhythm so there doesn’t appear to be any need for an external microphone around the soundhole. This is a good combination with the Bigtone pickup – and everything fits into your guitar cases or the gig bags which the AER amplifiers are supplied in, – no more big heavy bags filled with microphone stands (Use a wireless microphone for announcements to avoid any).
B-Band Acoustic Soundboard Transducer (AST 1470) – The B-Band AST is made of the same exclusive Emfit film material found in the UST but designed to fit at the bridge plate or soundboard of an instrument. The AST has a very wide frequency response and dynamic range to capture all the tone details of an acoustic instrument. AST has all the advantages of a microphone without the positioning and feedback issues that are usually associated with mics.
The AST is very thin, lightweight and compact. Because of its size and the adhesive on the back, it is easy to navigate to fit anywhere inside an instrument without critical positioning. The construction of the AST is a long consistent structure that ends with a connector for easy plug-in fitting to a B-Band preamp without soldering. Compatible with all B-Band preamps, the AST can be used as a stand-alone source or in combination with a UST with a B-Band dual source preamp. AST can be used with any acoustic instrument with good access to the surface that it will be mounted.
Shadow Electronics Acoustic Guitar Pickups
SH EC 22 – Preamp Condenser Microphone & Pickup
Shadow`s soundhole fitted preamps for acoustic & classical guitar are designed for sonic clarity, ease of installation and preservation of your instrument. The SH EC 22 Megasonic is an easy-to-fit preamp system for acoustic and classical guitar. With the pre-amp control pots and separate volume controls for condenser microphone and piezo under saddle pickup that will be able to reproduce the sound of your instrument faithfully. Because Sonic pre-amps are installed into the soundhole there is no need to cut a hole in the bout/frame of the guitar. It only touches your guitar in two spots: the rubber coated clip which slides over the edge of the sound hole and a velcro pad under the soundboard.
- adjustable high-quality condenser microphone
- under saddle piezo bridge pickup with 2.5mm plug
- feedback suppression switch
- piezo volume, bass, midrange (via trim pot) and treble controls
- microphone volume control
- endpin connector and cable
- incorporated 9-volt battery compartment
- controls are easily readable from the lip of the sound hole
- velcro stickers for simple mounting
- measurement pickup: height: 2mm; width: 2.2mm; length: 70.2mm
Shadow SH NMG-EP
Shadow`s SH NMG-EP endpin preamps are designed to fit specific sounds of different types of instruments. Their easy installation and low power consumption make these products very user-friendly and popular. NanoMAG is a small size magnetic pickup that fits at the end of the fingerboard. It is the only pickup of this kind on the market which provides an acoustic sound, but can also produce a sweet blues or jazz sound. It is very resistant to feedback and has incredible dynamics. NanoMAG is a breakthrough in magnetic pickup technology that outperforms all the rest.
- NanoMAG pickup with endpin preamp for acoustic guitar
- easy installation without damaging your guitar
- incl. battery pouch (for a 9V battery)
- Battery life: 750 h
The Shadow pick-up with the small black bar, will surely produce good quality, but as is has to be put on the end of the fretboard: that is where the problem arises: normal acoustic guitars have a straight end to the fretboard, in the neighbourhood of the soundhole. With Django guitars its a different story: the oval holes have no straight end to the fretboard and the D-hole models have a much longer fretboard, extending over the hole. Where does one place this black bar pick-up? So I’m afraid that this pick-up should not be mentioned here as a possibility for such guitars as it cannot be installed. – Louis
Shadow SH NFX-MAC
Nanoflex Pickup for the Django Reinhardt Guitar
It is the first time that a Selmer Maccaferri style guitar is amplified with a pickup that reproduces that special sound truly. You will hear the gipsy soul and the fantasy of their jazz music with every touch of the pickup faithfully reproduced by Shadow’s SH NFX-MAC. The pickups mount under the bridge and connect to the detachable preamp unit with volume and tone control, input and output sockets. No modification of instrument needed! The Shadow Nanomag pickup will surely be a good product, these people know what they are doing. I have a Shadow pick-up, also with Nano-technology, it consists of 2 small pads that are put under the feet of the ebony bridge, so taking the vibrations of the top of the guitar which of course gives the broadest tonal spectrum of the whole soundboard. The less attractive thing is that the small wires of the pick-up are visible; going to a small pre-amp that is put at the end of the tailpiece: but It’s a construction that does no harm to the guitar: no holes to be drilled, no internal pre-amp with difficult battery-switching. – Louis
Miller Pickup – Because the casing of Stimer is with 10 mm rather high and a touching of the strings at certain guitars is possible, the Miller– pickup has a very thin casing. The bottom is not pressed in but fixed with 4 screws to the casing. This allows perfect assembling and – if necessary – better access for repairs. There are 2 systems available to attach the pickup on the soundboard, a) with the supplied transducer adhesive and b) with spring clamps suitable only for original Selmer sized o-hole. A very nice volume control, not so big and heavy as the original. Finished in brass and chrome. Available with Volume control. Miller modelled it to the original Stimer ST-51 pickup of the 50s. So the original magnet has been measured out, also the single coil is manufactured close to the original as well as form and material of the housing to reproduce an utmost authentic sound. Miller Pickup
Krivo pickups are a collaboration between their designer and the community of players that use them, all of the various models have resulted from player requests, comments and encouragement. They implore all their customers to share ideas and constructive input. As a Professional musician he has tested every design, He strives to make professional quality pickups for working musicians More and more professionals are using his designs and he will stand behind every product to assure that each Krivo customer is satisfied with their pickup. I will make sure you get a pickup you enjoy playing or your money back. In General, The humbuckers are more acoustically transparent and bright and the flat top single coil is the closest to the traditional “ Jazz box” Darker “Stimer” sound. Made by hand in Oregon USA in small batches, only a limited number produced per month. These are the thinnest on the market – less than 1/4″ thick Krivo Pickups for Django Gypsy Jazz ( Selmer) Style guitar. DJANGOBUCKER humbucking noise free pickup. The only Humbucking Pickup for Gypsy Jazz Guitar. and Slimmer in Profile than Both “Stimer” And “Peche La Mouche” Models ( only 5/16″ ( 6mm) thick) Hand Wound with vintage Formvar Wire, Mogami cable, Neutrik connector, and Real Maple Wood finish Excellent alternative to traditional “Stimer pickup”. These pickups are very responsive to EQ so a wide range of tonal colours are at your disposal, from bright and transparent to thick and coloured. Works equally well with a tube amp or Schertler, AER type acoustic amps. Uses neodymium magnets for Clarity and Brilliance with strong lows. The innovative ”Optimized Microphonics” design Senses Acoustic vibrations from soundboard in addition to string vibrations. (This pickup has great string balance, Specialized for use with Argentine type strings, Adjustable poles so you can use ANY strings you like, adjustment wrench included) mounts with non-invasive easily removable putty. No modification to the instrument and mounts in seconds. fully shielded for noise elimination. less than 1/4″ thick, very lightweight. excellent transparent Acoustic tone. Uses regular 1/4″ guitar cord, just plug right in! see the Video to hear this pickup in action. More models Available, Single coil, Blade sensor integrated volume models on any type for an additional cost.