When it comes to buying an acoustic guitar, there are many factors to consider. One of the most important decisions you’ll need to make is whether to purchase a guitar with or without a pickup.
A pickup is an electronic device that amplifies the sound of your guitar, allowing you to play live or record your music.
Understanding the differences between acoustic guitars with and without pickups can help you make an informed decision.
Without a pickup, your guitar will produce a natural, unamplified sound. This can be great for solo performances or intimate settings but may not be loud enough for larger venues.
On the other hand, a guitar with a pickup can be plugged into an amplifier or sound system, allowing you to play in front of larger crowds.
Deciding whether to buy an acoustic guitar with or without a pickup is a personal choice that depends on your playing style and needs. In this article, we’ll explore the impact of pickups on sound, the pros and cons of playing live versus recording, and how to choose the right guitar for your style.
We’ll also discuss top brands and models, installation and removal of pickups, cost and value considerations, and explore further options.
Key Takeaways on Should I Buy an Acoustic Guitar with or without a Pickup?
- The decision to buy an acoustic guitar with or without a pickup depends on your playing style and needs.
- Acoustic guitars without pickups produce a natural, unamplified sound, while guitars with pickups can be amplified for larger venues.
- Consider the impact of pickups on sound, playing live versus recording, and choosing the right guitar for your style when making your decision.
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- Why Do Old Acoustic Guitars Sound Better?
Understanding Acoustic Guitars
Acoustic guitars are popular among musicians for their warm, natural sound and versatility. They come in a variety of body shapes and sizes, each with its unique sound and feel. Understanding the different types of acoustic guitars can help you make an informed decision when choosing the right one for you.
Acoustic guitars come in several body shapes, including dreadnought, parlor, jumbo, classical, and travel. Each shape has its unique tonal characteristics and is suited for different playing styles.
- Dreadnought: The most common body shape, dreadnought guitars have a full-bodied sound and are ideal for strumming and flatpicking.
- Parlor: Smaller than dreadnoughts, parlor guitars have a brighter sound and are great for fingerstyle playing.
- Jumbo: Larger than dreadnoughts, jumbo guitars have a deep, booming sound and are ideal for players who want a lot of bass.
- Classical: Classical guitars have a wide neck and nylon strings, producing a warm, mellow sound that is ideal for fingerstyle playing.
- Travel: Smaller than parlor guitars, travel guitars are designed for portability and have a bright, punchy sound.
The materials used in an acoustic guitar’s construction can also affect its sound. The top of the guitar, known as the soundboard, is typically made from spruce, mahogany, or sapele.
Spruce is the most common and produces a bright, clear sound, while mahogany and sapele produce a warmer, more mellow sound.
The back and sides of the guitar are often made from mahogany, sapele, or rosewood, which produces a rich, full-bodied sound. The fingerboard and bridge are typically made from ebony, which is durable and produces a bright, clear sound.
If you plan to perform live or record your music, you may want to consider an acoustic-electric guitar. These guitars have a pickup system that allows them to be amplified, giving you more control over your sound.
Some acoustic-electric guitars have built-in preamps and EQ controls, allowing you to adjust your tone on the fly.
Decoding Guitar Pickups
When it comes to buying an acoustic guitar, one of the most important decisions to make is whether to get one with or without a pickup.
A pickup is an electronic device that amplifies the sound of the guitar, making it louder and easier to hear in a performance setting. In this section, we will decode guitar pickups and discuss their different types and features.
Types of Pickups
There are two main types of pickups: soundhole pickups and piezo pickups. Soundhole pickups are the most common type of pickup and are mounted inside the soundhole of the guitar.
They are easy to install and remove, but they can sometimes produce feedback and are not as accurate as other types of pickups.
Piezo pickups, on the other hand, are mounted underneath the bridge of the guitar and are more accurate than soundhole pickups. They are also less likely to produce feedback, but they can be more difficult to install and remove.
In addition to the types of pickups, there are also different pickup systems to consider. One popular pickup system is the Fishman Sonitone, which is a single coil pickup that is mounted inside the guitar. It is easy to install and produces a clear, bright sound.
Another popular pickup system is the Rare Earth pickup, which is a humbucking pickup that is mounted underneath the bridge of the guitar. It produces a warm, natural sound and is less likely to produce feedback than other types of pickups.
The Impact of Pickups on Sound
When it comes to acoustic guitars, pickups can have a significant impact on the sound produced by the instrument.
Pickups are electronic devices that capture the vibrations of the strings and convert them into an electrical signal that can be amplified. This allows the guitar to be played at higher volumes and in larger venues.
However, the addition of a pickup can also change the tonal characteristics of the guitar. Some players prefer the natural sound of an acoustic guitar without a pickup, while others prefer the versatility and convenience of having one.
One of the main ways that pickups can affect the sound of an acoustic guitar is by altering the mid-range frequencies. This can result in a more focused and compressed sound, which may be desirable for certain styles of music but can also take away from the natural resonance of the instrument.
Another factor to consider is the dynamic range of the guitar. Without a pickup, the sound of the guitar will be more responsive to the player’s touch and can produce a wider range of tones.
However, with a pickup, the sound may be more consistent and controlled, which can be beneficial in certain situations.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to buy an acoustic guitar with or without a pickup will depend on the individual player’s preferences and needs. It is important to try out different guitars and pickups to find the sound that best suits your style and playing environment.
Playing Live Vs Recording
When it comes to playing live versus recording, the decision on whether to buy an acoustic guitar with or without a pickup depends on the intended use. If the guitarist plans to play live, a pickup is essential. A pickup allows the guitar to be amplified, which is necessary for playing on stage.
When playing live, the guitar needs to be heard by the audience, and a pickup provides the necessary amplification. Without a pickup, the guitar’s sound will be lost in the mix, and the audience will not be able to hear it.
A pickup also allows the guitarist to adjust the volume and tone of the guitar, which is essential when playing with other musicians on stage.
On the other hand, if the guitarist plans to record, a pickup may not be necessary. When recording, the guitar can be mic’d up, which will capture the natural sound of the guitar. Mic’ing up the guitar can also provide a warmer, more natural sound than a pickup, which can sound artificial.
However, if the recording is going to be done in a live setting, a pickup may still be necessary. When recording live, the guitar needs to be amplified, and a pickup can provide the necessary amplification.
Choosing the Right Guitar for Your Style
When it comes to choosing between an acoustic guitar with or without a pickup, it’s important to consider your playing style and the type of music you want to play. Here are some factors to keep in mind:
Style of Music
Different styles of music require different types of guitars. For example, if you’re into hard rock or metal, you’ll want a guitar that can handle high-gain distortion and heavy riffing.
On the other hand, if you’re a fingerstyle player, you’ll want a guitar with a wide neck and low action to facilitate intricate fingerpicking patterns.
Pickup vs. No Pickup
If you’re planning on playing gigs or recording, a guitar with a pickup is essential. A pickup allows you to amplify your guitar’s sound and play through a PA system or recording interface. However, if you’re just playing for yourself or a small audience, a guitar without a pickup may suffice.
If you’re a percussive player who uses techniques like tapping, slapping, and drumming on the guitar body, a pickup can be helpful in capturing those sounds. However, it’s important to choose a pickup that can handle percussive playing without distorting or clipping.
Ultimately, the decision to buy an acoustic guitar with or without a pickup comes down to your individual needs and preferences.
Consider your playing style, the type of music you want to play, and whether or not you’ll be playing gigs or recording. With these factors in mind, you can make an informed decision and choose the right guitar for you.
Top Brands and Models
When it comes to choosing an acoustic guitar with or without a pickup, there are many options available from various brands. Here are some of the top brands and models to consider:
Martin is a well-known brand in the guitar industry, and they offer a range of acoustic guitars with or without pickups. Their models with pickups include the Martin D-28E and the Martin GPCPA4. These guitars are known for their high-quality construction and excellent sound.
Fishman is a popular brand for guitar pickups, and many acoustic guitars come equipped with Fishman pickups. The Fishman Sonitone pickup is a popular choice and is featured in many guitars, including the Martin D-28E and the Taylor 214ce DLX.
Taylor is another well-respected brand in the guitar industry, and they offer a range of acoustic guitars with or without pickups. Their models with pickups include the Taylor 214ce DLX and the Taylor 110e. These guitars are known for their excellent sound quality and playability.
Gibson is a legendary guitar brand, and they offer a range of acoustic guitars with or without pickups. Their models with pickups include the Gibson J-45 and the Gibson Hummingbird. These guitars are known for their rich, warm sound and excellent construction.
Yamaha is a popular brand for beginner and intermediate guitar players, and they offer a range of acoustic guitars with or without pickups. Their models with pickups include the Yamaha FG800 and the Yamaha AC1M. These guitars are known for their affordability and high-quality construction.
Fender is a well-known brand in the guitar industry, and they offer a range of acoustic guitars with or without pickups. Their models with pickups include the Fender CD-60SCE and the Fender Newporter Player. These guitars are known for their excellent sound quality and stylish design.
Epiphone is a subsidiary of Gibson and offers a range of affordable acoustic guitars with or without pickups. Their models with pickups include the Epiphone DR-100 and the Epiphone Hummingbird Pro. These guitars are known for their affordability and high-quality construction.
Alvarez is a brand known for its high-quality acoustic guitars, and they offer a range of guitars with or without pickups. Their models with pickups include the Alvarez Artist Series AD60CE and the Alvarez Regent Series RD26CE. These guitars are known for their excellent sound quality and playability.
9. Little Martin and GS Mini
For those looking for a smaller acoustic guitar with or without a pickup, the Little Martin and GS Mini models from Martin and Taylor, respectively, are excellent options. These guitars are known for their compact size and excellent sound quality.
Installation and Removal of Pickups
Installing and removing pickups can be a hassle, especially for those who are not familiar with the process. However, it is important to know how to do it properly so you can switch between acoustic and amplified sounds as needed.
When it comes to installing pickups, some models are easier to install than others. Some pickups require a professional installation, while others can be installed by the player themselves. It is important to read the instructions carefully and follow them closely to avoid damaging the guitar or pickup.
On the other hand, removing pickups is usually a simpler process. Most pickups can be easily removed by unscrewing them from the guitar. However, it is important to be careful when doing so to avoid damaging the guitar or pickup.
Cost and Value Considerations
When deciding whether to buy an acoustic guitar with or without a pickup, cost and value considerations are important factors to keep in mind.
Firstly, it’s worth noting that acoustic guitars without pickups are generally more affordable than those with pickups. This is because the addition of a pickup adds to the cost of manufacturing the guitar.
Therefore, if budget is a concern, it may be more cost-effective to purchase an acoustic guitar without a pickup.
However, it’s important to consider the value that a pickup can add to the guitar. Acoustic guitars with pickups allow for amplification, which can be useful for live performances or recording. This added functionality can increase the value of the guitar in the eyes of the buyer.
When it comes to resale value, acoustic guitars with pickups tend to hold their value better than those without.
This is because the added functionality of a pickup is often viewed as a desirable feature by potential buyers. Therefore, if resale value is a concern, it may be worth investing in an acoustic guitar with a pickup.
It’s also important to note that the cost and value considerations can vary depending on the quality of the guitar. For example, a high-end acoustic guitar without a pickup may be more expensive than a budget acoustic guitar with a pickup.
In this case, the added value of the high-end guitar may outweigh the added functionality of the pickup.
Exploring Further Options
When it comes to buying an acoustic guitar, there are a few options to consider beyond just whether or not to get a pickup. Here are some factors to explore further:
1. Electro-Acoustic Guitars
If you want the best of both worlds, an electro-acoustic guitar might be the way to go.
These instruments have a built-in pickup, so you can amplify your sound when you need to, but they still have the traditional sound and feel of an acoustic guitar. This makes them a great option for musicians who play in a variety of settings.
2. Electric Guitars
While not technically acoustic guitars, electric guitars can be a good choice for some players. They have a different sound and feel than acoustic guitars, but they offer a lot of versatility when it comes to tone and effects.
If you’re interested in exploring different genres of music or want to experiment with different sounds, an electric guitar might be worth considering.
3. Acoustic Guitars for Beginners
If you’re just starting out on guitar, you might want to look for an acoustic guitar that’s specifically designed for beginners.
These guitars are often more affordable and easier to play than more advanced models. They can be a great way to get started on your musical journey without breaking the bank.
4. Acoustic Electric Guitars
If you’re interested in playing live shows or recording your music, an acoustic electric guitar might be a good choice.
These guitars have a pickup built in, so you can plug them into an amplifier or recording equipment. This makes them a versatile option for musicians who want to explore different settings and styles.
Whether to buy an acoustic guitar with or without a pickup ultimately depends on the player’s needs and preferences. For those who are just starting their musical journey, a guitar without a pickup may be a better choice as it is more affordable and easier to maintain.
However, for experienced guitarists who perform live or record music, a guitar with a pickup may be necessary to achieve the desired sound and volume.
When it comes to choosing the best acoustic guitars and pickups, there are many options available on the market. It is important to do research and read reviews to find the best fit for your needs. Some of the best acoustic guitars with pickups include the Taylor 214ce, Martin D-28, and Yamaha FGX800C.
For those looking for the best acoustic guitar pickups, the LR Baggs Anthem, Fishman Rare Earth Humbucking, and Seymour Duncan Woody HC are all highly recommended.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of having a pickup on an acoustic guitar?
Having a pickup on an acoustic guitar allows the player to amplify the sound of the guitar, making it easier to play in larger venues or with a band.
It also provides the option to record the guitar’s sound directly into a recording device, eliminating the need for a microphone.
Which type of pickup is best for an acoustic guitar?
The best type of pickup for an acoustic guitar depends on the player’s needs and preferences.
Piezo pickups are popular for their natural sound and affordability, while magnetic pickups are known for their warmth and clarity. Soundhole pickups are also a popular option, as they are easy to install and remove.
What are the differences between active and passive pickups for acoustic guitars?
Active pickups require a battery to operate and have a higher output than passive pickups. They also have an onboard preamp that allows for greater control over the tone.
Passive pickups do not require a battery and have a lower output, but they offer a more natural sound.
How do onboard preamps affect the sound of an acoustic guitar?
Onboard preamps allow for greater control over the tone of the guitar, including bass, mid, and treble frequencies. They can also provide additional features such as built-in tuners and EQ controls.
However, some players prefer the natural sound of an acoustic guitar without any added electronics.
What are the pros and cons of adding a pickup to an acoustic guitar?
The pros of adding a pickup to an acoustic guitar include the ability to amplify the sound, record directly into a device, and play in larger venues.
The cons include the added cost, potential for feedback or unwanted noise, and the possibility of altering the natural sound of the guitar.
Does using a guitar pick affect the need for a pickup on an acoustic guitar?
Using a guitar pick does not necessarily affect the need for a pickup on an acoustic guitar. However, players who prefer a brighter tone or play with greater intensity may benefit from the added control and amplification provided by a pickup.
My name is Howard Matthews and I have been playing the guitar since I was knee-high. My parents like to joke that I was pulling the strings even before I was born. In fact, one of my earliest memories is sitting on the couch with my dad’s guitar, wreaking havoc on the chords.
Now, 40 years later, I can attest that I play them much better than I did back then. I have followed in the footsteps of both my parents – much to their delight – and have been the main guitarist in my band for the best part of three decades.
Music has always been my passion, and until recently my life has been so consumed with it that I haven’t had a moment to have a breath (and I wouldn’t have it any other way)!