Volume 15 - Piezo Pickups

Written by Patrick Podpadec on . Posted in Northcoast Voice


                                               Stay in Tune                                                 vol#15
                                                                                           By Luthier Patrick Podpadec

     It’s kind of funny how certain repair jobs seem to run in succession. This last couple of weeks I have had more pick up replacements than I've ever had before. Most of these have been of the acoustic piezo type. It seems that everyone wants to replace or add one to their guitar. I guess, that in itself is not a bad thing, it just seems that the price of the piezo systems that are available are coming way down in price (which is good) and everyone wants one in their instrument. I have seen some of the more simpler styles as cheap as $20.00 and as high as $150.00. The one thing to remember when your thinking about adding one is that the pickup itself does not respond well without the addition of a preamp. Whether or not it is a pressure sensitive type (piezo) or a vibrational type (transducer). Both of these style of pickups need  additional power in the form of a preamp with a nine volt battery or run through a amp supplied with phantom power. The pickup itself produces a very weak signal. Without the additional power supply the sound that you get tends to be very tinny or “quacky” The preamp gives you the ability to adjust the undesirable tone with the bass, treble and mid range eq. Just a few years back, these preamp systems were fairly high priced and only a few manufacturers were available. Today your options are many and the quality of the products are very competitive. This new technology has opened the door for many acoustic guitarists to play out at the open mikes and different venues that wouldn’t of been possible years ago.

    I remember growing up in the era of James Taylor , Jackson Brown and other folk players that had difficulties performing live acoustic venues. After people like Michael Hedges came along, things started to change Today you can find inexpensive guitars (as low as $120.00) with built in electronics with a  tuner and everything. It’s amazing!. The only problem that I see (only from a luthier’s point of view) is that guitarists will end up thinking that a cheap guitar will sound as good as a expensive (or high end) guitar when plugged in, just because of the electronics. To me, I believe that a guitar or any instrument’s tone should stand  alone on it’s own merits without amplification.  I personally strive to build the best sounding and best playable instrument without electronics. Not to say that I would not put a pickup system in it , it’s just that I want the guitar to sound just as good around the camp fire as it would in front of ten thousand screaming fans. I also would not like anyone to think that all pickup systems are created equal. The old adage that says “you get what you pay for” often times applies to pickups and their preamps. Of course this is also true with magnetic pickups on electric guitars. When it comes to any one particular pickup system, It’s hard for me to recommend one over the other because they all offer different tonal qualities. Along with the fact that each player has his or her preferences.

    Some of the brand names like Fishman and L R Baggs have generally been good choices for my customers in the past. But even between these two there are many different styles to choose from. I suggest that if your looking to add a pickup system to your guitar to read as much as you can about them in publications like Guitar magazine or Acoustic guitar magazine Or if there is any questions you might have that I may have missed in this article please feel free to drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Before I leave I would like to mention a musical event that is coming up in the middle of Dec. It’s called “The Woodchoppers Ball” It’s a non-profit event, hosted by Mr. Brian Henke. All proceeds go directly to the homeless and it is not to be missed! I have been attending for 7 or 8 yrs now and I feel there is no other place that you will hear as many top notch guitarist in one venue. If you like fingerstyle music  you will not be disappointed. Please check out the following info

The Woodchoppers Ball
Saturday, Dec 12 7:00p
at Kent Stage, Kent, OH

Benefit for the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. With Brian Henke, Todd Hallawell, Robin Kessinger, Helen Avakian, Greg Gilbertson, Tim Thompson, Kyle Reeder, Eric Wilson, Stephanie Jackson. Hosted by Charlie Brown
For tickets contact Kent Stage 175 E. Main St. Kent, OH 44240 (330) 677-5005

Thanks Again!

Patrick from Wood-n- Strings/Liam guitars