Why pickups??? Why not microphones????

Discussion in 'Pickups, Electronics & General Tech' started by gnoll, Dec 7, 2018 at 10:39 AM.

  1. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    This just struck me.

    Take an acoustic guitar with a pickup. If you plug that into an acoustic amp or something, it sounds terrible. If you mic it up, it sounds fantastic.

    Should this not apply to electric guitar as well??? I mean why in the world are we using pickups when we could use microphones?

    Just imagine micing a guitar and sending that signal through a high gain amp. I mean, I can't imagine what it would sound like, but shouldn't it be glorious?? Like, in theory??

    And what about those piezo things? Aren't those kind of microphones?? Why isn't everybody using those?

    Are guitar pickups just one of those things that was invented a certain way and then has stuck around because guitarists are stubborn??
     
  2. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    A lot of electrics guitars don't produce enough good sounding acoustic noise for this to be practical. Sounds like asking for uncontrollable feedback all the time. I've tried piezos into high gain amps too, and it doesn't sound as good as you might think.
     
  3. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    A lot of early guitar pickups were microphone based.
     
  4. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Even a mic in front of an actual acoustic can be a huge pain. Even if it sounded 100x better, I'd not want microphones on my electrics.
     
  5. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    But... 100x better... Just imagine what that would sound like!!! Seems totally worth it to me!!

    What did it sound like????

    What happened? Were pickups just more convenient?
     
  6. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Thin and janky. Harsh. It's not what high gain was designed around, so it was not pleasant. Piezos and acoustics are much more dynamic, more bright, etc., then what you get out of magnetic pickups. It would be like scooping ALL your mids out, cranking all the highs, and then loosing all your sustain.

    Maybe someone could make it work, but I couldn't.
     
  7. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    Early microphone technology (we're talking late 20's/early 30's) was in its infancy. The units were quiet, didn't produce the sound clearly, were fragile, and for the time very expensive.

    Magnetic transducers, pickups as we know them, corrected much of those issues. They were heartier, less prone to feedback, and sounded better overall.

    If you really want your mind blown, look up Lightwave pickups.
     
  8. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    Very interesting though! I'd really like to experiment with one of those guitars one day.

    Wow, yeah, those light-pickups are pretty wild. What I heard on youtube didn't sound so great though. Or well, it seemed to sound kinda like a pickup.

    I'm thinking though... If I recorded some acoustic guitar through a mic, maybe I could try sending that with a reamp box to an amp and see how it sounds...
     
  9. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    That's not too novel of a concept. I've played acoustics with various pickups, including microphones, into amps for years. A lot of players have actually.

    Whenever you add any gain though, it's feedback city. Not the cool, fuzzy shoegaze stuff, but just ear piercing screeching. Re-amping would mostly fix that though.

    You can grab mic'd acoustic samples and run them through some popular VSTs if you want a quick way of seeing how it shakes out.
     
  10. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    Hm, yeah that's sweet, I must experiment with this... Maybe I could even try the same with an acoustic piano... Damn, there's so much stuff to do and try with sound...

    I guess the problem is if I came up with something awesome this way it'd be hard to pull off live. Hmmm, unless maybe I made samples out of the sounds or something...
     
  11. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Think of the difference between an acoustic recorded with a good mic, and a peizo pickup. Now, keeping that in your head... Think of the difference between a REALLY good full-frequency high fidelity stereo, and a JCM800. If anything, a JCM does a WAY poorer job of accurately capturing a guitar's signal than a really high end high fidelity stereo does, so why are we even talking about pickups vs mics when we could just be buying stereo receivers and full-range stereo speakers and REALLY maximize our improvement?

    What I'm getting at, obliquely, is that the magnetic pickup, just like the tube guitar amplifier circuit, and just like a 4x12 speaker cabinet with absolutely zero in the way of tweeters or high-frequency reinforcement... is a really, really, really inefficient way of reproducing the sound of a guitar. It's prone to distortion, it rolls off a tremendous amount of high end, it compresses and handles dynamics poorly, and in fact extreme dynamics often lead to futher distortion, and it's an extremely colored way of amplifying a guitar that any competent electrical engineer would take one look at and burst into tears.

    And, all of those inefficiencies sound fuckin' awesome, which is why we use magnetic pickups and tube amplifiers that can be pushed deep into compression and saturation and speaker cabinets with insanely bad high freqency response. Because, we don't WANT a pristine reproduction of the sound on an unplugged electric guitar.

    I've played an electric guitar with a piezo into a distorted gutiar amp. It sounded like shit - brittle, glassy, thin, and weak. The bridge humbucker sounded way more devastating than the bridge peizo.
     
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  12. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Something I DO like the sound of, however, is a piezo through a full range speaker, combined with magnetics going through a traditional guitar amp at the same time for a very BIG sounding clean sound. The piezos give you boom and brightness, and the magnetics give you sustain. You can take it a step farther and add some chorus or something to the magnetics, while keeping the immediacy and attack of the dry piezos.
     

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