From Acoustic to Live on Stage: How to Get Your Acoustic Guitar Performance Ready!
One of the questions we get here at Ear Craft Music quite often is how to get an acoustic guitar without any electronics equipped to play out live. If you have ever tried sticking a microphone in front of the sound hole of a dreadnought guitar during a live performance, you know that it can be very challenging to have a good sound without running into feedback and volume problems. The good news is that it is easier than it ever to equip your guitar with a pickup system with only minimal modifications. This article will provide a step by step process on how to decide what system is right for you, what you will need moving forward, and how to choose the right PA system or acoustic amp for your performance and budget.
Step 1: The Guitar
One of the nice things about the current guitar market is that most acoustic guitars over $300 have an electronics option, making the process of adding a pickup or preamp moot. Many of the acoustic guitars we offer for sale from Ibanez, Washburn, Taylor, and Seagull (coming soon!) have active electronics and even tuners built into the guitar. These are typically under-saddle piezo pickups that have an eq and volume section on the side of the guitar. The Taylor Guitar Expression System 2 is one of the best sounding pickups in the industry right now, as it uses the piezo technology without over compressing the pickup under the guitar’s bridge saddle. Instead, it uses three separate elements with custom mounts for an optimum balance of tension for each section of the guitar.
For those that wish to add a pickup system to an acoustic-only, we carry of number of options from manufacturers such as Fishman Transducers and Seymour Duncan. These companies have a variety of systems that include magnetic “sound hole” pickups that mount to the edges of your guitar’s sound hole without permanent modification and sent the signal to an output jack that replaces the strap button on the bottom of the guitar (permanent mod.) Other systems include a hidden preamp with batteries, such as the Fishman Rare Earth series, one of which includes an on-board gooseneck microphone for super accurate sound reproduction! We also offer some under saddle system, such as the Matrix Infinity System, that have a classic acoustic electric tone that so many artists have used over the years. These systems range from $100 to $300, plus a little extra for installation. Contact us to schedule a time to have your pickup system installed!
Step 2: Preamp
One of the huge advantages of buying an acoustic guitar with a pickup system is the fact that it carries a preamp installed at the factory. Other aftermarket systems have preamps included without having to carve a hole into the side of the guitar. For those other systems, it is highly recommended to run an external preamp to allow players some control over gain, EQ, brilliance, and overall volume. These systems can be used like a small pedal board and often have extra effects available, such as compression, reverb, chorus, and delay. The best all-in-one preamps also have 1/4” and balanced XLR outputs, giving live performers and studio musicians plenty of option to connect to the house system or recording desk. The Fishman Platinum Stage EQ ($149.99) is a great example of an affordable Preamp /DI for any type of acoustic instrument, from Guitar and Mandolin to even Upright Bass.
Step 3: Amplification
Depending on what kind of live performance you have in mind, an acoustic guitar amp may be all you need to get the performance done. One of our favorite and best selling amps is the Fishman Loudbox Mini, a 20lb tone monster that sports 60w of clean acoustic headroom and inputs for one acoustic instrument and an XLR input for a microphone. Each channel has its own volume, eq, and reverb controls, making for an easy to use and great sounding amp for any application. It even has a combined XLR DI output to hooking into larger PA systems or powered speakers for acoustic jam sessions, open mics, and coffee houses. For just $329.99, this mini PA in a box could be yours and is always available at Ear Craft Music!