Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Cheap Route to Amplifying your Acoustic Instrument

If you're like me, you might have quite a few acoustic instruments around that sound great on their own, but need some creative micing or aftermarket acoustic pickups to play any live events.   Even our acoustics need amplification when the venues get larger.   Cheap piezo pickups are a great way to amplify the natural sound of any acoustic instrument.  However, I don't have the heart to drill a new hole into my vintage acoustic guitars.

Strap-Pin-Jack-Plugs are a easy and great way to have a jack without defacing your guitar with a new hole. You will need to remove the strap pin that is on almost every guitar and in some cases, widen the hole to accommodate the new jack-pin. 

Next, we  need to prep the piezo pickups.  I like to glue a small amount of felt on the none wire side of the piezo.  This will help allow the piezo to vibrate more and it makes any removal down the road a little easier.  I wouldn't use any glues that are too strong; making this installment permanent. 

You'll probably want to add at least two piezos underneath the guitars bridge to get the full range of your guitars EQ and string vibration.   Most people like to install one piezo near the bass string side, and one near the treble side on the underside of the bridge.  I've added a 3rd piezo in the middle of the two other piezos and haven't noticed any volume loss due to resistance.  So feel free to experiment. 

The placement of the piezos on the underside of the guitar bridge should overhang off the bridge slightly.  This should allow the piezos to vibrate more freely.

From here, we have some options on how we wired the multiple piezo pickups.  I chose to wire mine in Parallel.  Making each pickup run independently.  You can however choose to wire the pickups in Series.  This will make the pickups function in conjunction of each other changing the sound and characteristics of the overall sound.   You may however run into resistance problems with this wiring.  The overall volume output may be slightly decreased. 

Other tips I've found useful in going this route in amplifying acoustic instruments.  You most likely will need to run an extra ground wire from the jack sleeve to the underside of the bridge and through a bridge-pin hole to make contact with a few strings behind the bridge saddle.  This will reduce any extra noise in the amplified signal. Using an EQ pedal or having the sound-person at the board roll off any frequencies that may be unpleasant, so you can customize your sound with the EQ.  I think one of the best resources for buy cheap piezos is the site:  You can get a 12 pack for about $10 and start amplifying anything you want.  I've even used these pickups to plug in my acoustic foot stomp box drum.

Have fun, experiment, and try not to damage any of your vintage equipment. Here's a picture of a mandolin I recently did an installation on. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

Live Show in Kurosaki (黒崎)

Had a live show with a band dubbed AYA (Now "Godzilla Snacks).  A ragtag group of people without a band home.  I think we pulled it off.  Some originals we worked out.  I was really thankful people were so supportive and seemed to enjoy the music.  I had guitar difficulties all night.  Time to replace all of my 10+ year old cables probably.   I was impressed with this band Yogi.
Only a two piece this night, but some quality shoegaze music with some crazy electronic effects.  There will be another show with some of the same members soon.  Might have to use a different name for that show.