Stay in Tune vol #97
By luthier Patrick Podpadec
Where do I begin? I just got back from a beautiful wedding, Mr. & Mrs. Frank and Debbie Whittaker that was held down by the lake at the Perry Community Center. It is so nice to see such a happy couple join each of their good qualities to make even a better one. My hat and heart goes out to their successful union.
It is a great venue with a spectacular view of the lake. I played some acoustic music along with my cousin George and his lovely wife Liz. It was a great honor to me to have the chance to play music with these two very talented musicians. I don't get the chance to play music in public much anymore, but it is always a lot of fun when I do. We played during the seating of the guests and as the bride and groom entered the area. The ceremony was held outside and the weather was perfect.
The shop has been staying very busy with thing from broken necks to easy setups. Just when I think I'm starting to catch up with all of my repairs I turn around and see one that I have set aside for a moment because it was not as pressing as some other repairs or I was waiting for something to dry or a couple of new repairs will walk in the shop. I'm not complaining because this is what I have always wanted to do . Sometimes it can get difficult to juggle 6 and 7 things at one time.
I have spent a little time recently on eBay doing a little research on pricing or values on certain guitars and I happened to wonder off into the the electronics area for acoustic guitars. Specifically the piezo pickups with preamps built into the system. Typically these systems in my instrument supply catalogs can run from about 120.00 to 250.0 and even more fore some of the elite systems with built in sound modules such as the Fishman Matrix Blend System. When you add shipping and installation on to these products they start to become a little pricey. I know that that may not be an issue to many musicians but having known quite a few of them over the years I have seen more financially less fortunate ones than I have met financially abundant ones. When I started to see what was available on eBay (which is only one source, I'm sure there is many more)I was blown away at how inexpensive some of the units are. Many times they are offered with “free shipping” also. I thought I would buy a couple of them to try out to see how the quality was and see if they were a viable option to the higher cost units that are available through my suppliers.
The first thing that caught my attention was the wide range of different styles that were readily available. . The range was from simple units with 2-3 band eq s' to ones that hand L.E.D. Chromatic Tuners with a 5-band eq. Some of them have the power supply (battery compartment ) attached to the preamp so the replacement of the battery is easily accessible and some of them had them separated into another small box compartment that also had two styles of output jacks in them. The have a 1/4”guitar jack and a 3-prong XLR jack too. Most of the systems are cool because the preamp box that holds the e slides or knobs and the chromatic tuners are housed in a nice smaller box that would mount on the upper bass side of the body as with most normal systems The only draw back to me is that the other small box that houses the battery and out put jack requires you to put another hole in the side, usually down near the bottom of the lower treble bout or even into the end block. The problem that arises when you put new box into the center of the endblock is that you don't have a solid point left to mount a guitar strap button. The strap button should always be mounted in the center and with a good solid backing like the endblock. I do like, what I call the “2- box” system because the smaller boxes looks better the one huge box cut into the side of the guitar., but of course you are now cutting 2 boxes instead of one . The other styles available are the 1-box large kind with everything in one place and then the other style that I prefer is the preamp that is mounted in the endpin jack and has a small vol & tone thumb wheel controls that mount right inside the soundhole. The draw back is that the Velcro battery bag is mounted inside the guitar and usually requires the player to loosen the strings to replace the battery when needed. This does not occur that often, but when it happens in the middle of a gig it can be a little frustrating. The thing that I like most about this type of system is that there is no cutting a big hole in the side of the guitar. I see now need to do that to a high quality instrument or any for that matter. I feel that it can lower the value of the instrument if the new buyer would prefer not to have a pickup system, or a big square hole in the side of the guitar.
So after purchasing about six different systems in the unbelievable price range of 15.00 to 25.00 with free shipping and checking to see if they all work well (and they do) I have come to the conclusion that this might be a good option for musicians on a budget or some that are not interested in having a famous, pricey named brand preamed piezo system installed into there not so pricey guitar. I also found several very cool units that are smaller to install for ukeleles. These came with a smaller and much lighter power supply. They are powered with the small nickel sized 3v batteries that are found in many watches and other tuners. This is much nicer than the heavy 9v for the smaller ukeleles because of the weight. I'm looking forward to installing some of these units into 3 different guitars right away. Well I'm off to do that now so until next t