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Thread: Pick-ups or not?

  1. #1
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    Default Pick-ups or not?

    I'm trying to decide if my next (and last) ukulele should have a pick-up or not. My ukulele family consists of an Islander acacia laminate soprano for camping, a KoAloha concert, and a new Loprinzi cedar/rosewood concert with a MiSi pick-up that I just got on Christmas Eve. I'm most happy with concert scale, but I do fine with my soprano. I had a nice tenor and loved the sound, but not the scale, so I moved it on to a new home. I have my eye on a tenor body/concert scale neck uke that would be a great final piece to my little herd. Up until a few weeks ago, I didn't have a huge need to play plugged in, but wanted the ability to do so when I wanted. So I had the pick-up added to my Loprinzi build. I just joined the worship band at my church two weeks ago and have been playing my KoAloha concert with a mic set up. That has worked just fine, but I'm anxious to plug in my new uke and hear the sound difference. I hate not getting a pick-up in the tenor/concert and then wishing I had it down the line. But it's extra money. Do most folks have multiple ukuleles with pick-ups?
    Last edited by RafterGirl; 12-26-2017 at 04:55 PM.

  2. #2
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    I own six tenors and five of them have pick ups. I like having the option to choose which instrument I think works best for a particular song on stage. Unlike what some people say these ukes all sound different when plugged in. A pick up does not make all ukes sound the same, get the pick up installed and enjoy your uke on and off stage. You never know where you will be playing in the future.
    Last edited by DownUpDave; 12-27-2017 at 12:13 AM.
    Ukuleles.............yes please !!!!

  3. #3
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    Bowral NSW AUSTRALIA
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    Get the pickup installed, worry about the cost later
    All the best,
    Campbell

  4. #4
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    Thumbs up

    If you are going to install a pick up hopefully you are also investing in a good AMP ! They go hand in hand! So the question is do you want to spend money on a AMP?
    Brenda

    Please participate in our Mike Lynch tribute thread :
    http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/...Tribute-Videos

  5. #5
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    I would suggest having the pick up, as you are going to be playing with your church group, having a back up will be a good thing.

    (I started out getting ukes with pick ups, but have come to prefer using a mic.)
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.
    Formerly known as uke1950.

  6. #6
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    I have a love/hate relationship with pickups. I love the convenience and that most soundboard operators know how to deal with them. I hate that I have never heard a pickup on an acoustic instrument that sounds as good as the instrument properly mic'd. If you are going to be performing regularly, I advise having an instrument you like at the ready with a pickup. If you have time to get it mic'd properly (as I imagine you would at church), you certainly don't need to use the pickup. However, if you play at an open mic or a festival, where you generally have about 20 seconds to get your levels right, the pickup will be a blessing, warts and all.



  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by RichM View Post
    I have a love/hate relationship with pickups. I love the convenience and that most soundboard operators know how to deal with them. I hate that I have never heard a pickup on an acoustic instrument that sounds as good as the instrument properly mic'd. If you are going to be performing regularly, I advise having an instrument you like at the ready with a pickup. If you have time to get it mic'd properly (as I imagine you would at church), you certainly don't need to use the pickup. However, if you play at an open mic or a festival, where you generally have about 20 seconds to get your levels right, the pickup will be a blessing, warts and all.
    This above exactly. An acoustic instrument through a mic always sounds best but you don't always have that option.
    Ukuleles.............yes please !!!!

  8. #8
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    WARNING: wall of text ahead, but detailed answer therein

    If you are not going to move around on stage at all and can pin your feet such that your instrument stays in place in front of where the mic is set from your pre-show soundcheck, then you do not need a pickup.

    OTOH, of you want freedom of movement, or intend to prance around the stage like Taimane Gardner, a pickup will be required.

    Having said the above, due to the immutable laws of physics, both the most elaborate expensive pickup, and/or 'best' mic will not ever render the sound that you yourself as a player hear with your ears.

    This is a fact of science based upon our human hearing and the limitations of audio transducers, in that none of them respond the same way as the diaphragm of your ear drum.

    Striving for this is a slippery slope and fools errand, and many companies have made a valiant effort to 'approximate' the natural acoustic 'in-air' sound of the instrument, but just HOW accurate or authentic the sound is rendered, is so completely subjective to the listener that generalized, blanket statements are usually anecdotal manifestations of bias confirmation, cooked up to rationalize against buyer's remorse, especially if the mic or pickup is 'expensive' for the buyer.

    LR Baggs Five.0, Mi-Si and K&K are all affordable to most of us. Sure more exotic options exist, but crossing the point of lesser returns is easy even if only spending a little bit more.

    $500 for a pickup???? nahh, 30+ yrs of audio engineering experience tells me this is previous tech wrapped in some new shiny box and pretty much just snake oil.

    There are many OTHER variables in the signal chain between your pickup or mic output and the end speakers in the amp or PA that will be the output where the audience will hear your sound, and all of these can make a great pickup or great mic sound like crap, and usually make a crappy pickup/mic unlistenable.

    Some may want to defy reason and try to get a silk purse out of a sow's ear and go 'cheap as chips' all the way, but doing so will only punish the audience, while depleting your funds that can be used to get better equipment.

    'Buy cheap, buy twice'.

    I have pickups in about 1/3 of my ukes, which are more than 2 dozen as of now, but I am not playing out live currently, and mostly just recording at home and for that, I have a spectrum of different kinds of microphones that I use.

    If I was to do an open-mic thing, I'd rather actually use whatever mic is there on the stage and not even worry about it. I do not hop around when I play so being in the mic's sweet spot is not an issue for me. Open mic is about gaining performance experience and not being OCD about the uke sounding exactly like it does when I practice at home.

    If I was in a band situation and had more control over the sound shaping, then maybe I would use a pickup and some pedals, but there would be lots more planning involved for this that would make all of this worth it.

    Installing the LR Baggs, Mi-Si pickups is NOT rocket science and each only requires the drilling of 3 specific holes, and K&K pickup requires the drilling of only 1 hole, and each of these has a hole for the endpin jack as one of the holes.

    Anyone with a drill and lots of finesse, patience and attention to detail can install one of these pickups in less than 30 minutes. Lots of tutorial videos exist on YT.

    So pickup now vs. no pickup vs. pickup later?

    It should NOT direct which uke you buy, for any uke with an included pickup, whereby the electro uke sells for less than $300 USD is NOT going to have an LR Baggs, Mi-Si or K&K pickup but some cheapo (Belcat or other Chinese) pickup that is using noisy electronics based upon preamp circuits from 20 yrs old tech that is not desirable for audiophile sound because they have lots of self-noise that manifests as 'hiss'.

    So, you can get a better uke WITHOUT a pickup for your budget price, and then later have ANY pickup installed or do it yourself, spending ~$150 USD for the pickup itself from a reputable vendor.

    Doing the pickup AFTER, with a quality unit, both YOUR ears and your audience will thank you for it.

    /stepping down from soap-box/
    Just the FAQs __________Less > more.__________Serenity now, insanity later.

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    I suggest you also install some sort of volume control with the pickup. Or, buy a small K&K Belt mounted preamp. I found with out a volume control, it tough to modulate the volume changing between lead riffs and rhythm. I'll never install another pickup without a control placed in the sound hole or sideport. The K&K has a plug in VC that works really well as does LR Baggs.

  10. #10
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    Thanks everyone for your replies. To clarify a little...... The ukulele I'm looking at is in the $700 price range, and the pick-up I would have installed would be a MiSi. I don't think the extra money for a pick-up is my main concern as much as altering the ukulele to add something that I may not use much. Especially if playing with a mic is an option with perhaps better sound quality. So far, playing with a mic at church has worked out well. I will definitely not be prancing about at church I am more than content to be tucked behind the row of singers, happily "making a joyful noise unto the Lord." I have a bum knee, and a gentle sway with the music is all I can muster.

    Other than at church, I don't see myself performing much. I am not a good singer. I'm hoping that maybe I can find my voice and become more confident in singing as I progress in playing the ukulele. It's a goal to work towards. I may try the open mic thing with my local ukulele group to gain the experience as Booli pointed out. At church I am strictly instrumental support.

    It's interesting to hear that some folks have gone from using pick-ups back to using a mic, and that many seem to have a love hate relationship with pick-ups. Learning from the collective wisdom of UU is what I'm after as a novice player. I suppose having a pick-up doesn't mean it has to be used. But I have this picture in my mind that going to the bother of installing one means I'm committed to using it. In any event, I do have one very nice uke with a pick-up now, and I guess I'll see how I like it.
    Last edited by RafterGirl; 12-27-2017 at 07:01 PM.
    My ukulele family.....
    Islander Acacia laminate soprano
    KoAloha concert - circa 2006
    Loprinzi cedar & rosewood concert
    Gary Gill concert scale tenor, Douglas Fir & Mahogany

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