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RafterGirl
12-26-2017, 03:53 PM
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?

DownUpDave
12-26-2017, 04:08 PM
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.

SoloRule
12-26-2017, 05:54 PM
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?

Croaky Keith
12-26-2017, 11:29 PM
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.)

RichM
12-27-2017, 01:28 AM
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.

DownUpDave
12-27-2017, 02:17 AM
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.

Booli
12-27-2017, 03:57 AM
WARNING: wall of text ahead, but detailed answer therein :music:

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/ :)

Patrick Madsen
12-27-2017, 06:20 AM
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.

RafterGirl
12-27-2017, 09:52 AM
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 :eek: 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.

RafterGirl
01-04-2018, 05:14 PM
Update ...... I played with the pick-up at church band practice tonight. Sounds great & I don't have to worry about standing really still & staying close to the mic. I opted for the MiSi in the Gary Gill short neck tenor that's on it's way to me.

buddhuu
01-04-2018, 11:59 PM
Cool. The minimal invasion of an undersaddle pickup and endpin jack are such slight modifications that I can see no rational likelihood of regretting such a choice. Chopping a big hole in the side of a uke for the purpose of installing a preamp though... I'd wince at that.

If I'm fitting pickups to instruments I always opt to keep the preamp and controls outboard - although I would be happy enough to use a small endpin-mounted preamp. I really don't like adding a ton of weight to instruments, nor taking up unnecessary space in the body chamber. The smaller and lighter the instrument the more it would worry me.

I actually use a Zoom G3 electric guitar FX pedal as my acoustic preamp, EQ and DI box! That way I find that adding a pickup costs me less than 15 per instrument.

RafterGirl
01-05-2018, 01:19 AM
In another thread we had discussed amps, pre-amps, DI, etc. and how to "plug-in" to the church PA system. Last night I used an audio cable with XLR end that plugged into the snake (I believe that's what it's called). No pre-amp or DI required. The MiSi pick-up has an onboard pre-amp. The sound guy had me play for a little while and he made adjustments from the big sound board in the back of the church. When we were both happy with the way it sounded, we started practice. It sounded good to me, but I'm new to being plugged in, so my tastes in sound may not be as refined as those who play in public a lot. I could definitely hear my ukulele in the mix a lot more than when I was just playing into a mic. I was probably not nearly close enough to the mic before. Being able to move around a little more while playing was really nice. I will never be one to "prance about" while performing, but it's nice not to have to be a statue behind a mic. On the downside, now that my ukulele voice can be heard more, I really can't mess up too much while playing. I'm still competing with an electric guitar, an acoustic guitar, and a piano, so I'll still blend in. However, there was one Sunday that all the other instrumental folks were out of town and it was just me and the singers.

DownUpDave
01-05-2018, 02:50 AM
Update ...... I played with the pick-up at church band practice tonight. Sounds great & I don't have to worry about standing really still & staying close to the mic. I opted for the MiSi in the Gary Gill short neck tenor that's on it's way to me.

Great to hear you are enjoying the pick up and seeing it's benefits. Smart move to have your Gary Gill outfitted with the Misi. When I order a uke I get a pickup installed so when it arrives I am prepared to plug in, be it that day or two months down the road.

I am also very impressed with the progress you have made. Not only in the instruments you are acquiring but the fact you are performing in public with them, Bravo!!!

buddhuu
01-05-2018, 03:35 AM
In another thread we had discussed amps, pre-amps, DI, etc. and how to "plug-in" to the church PA system. Last night I used an audio cable with XLR end that plugged into the snake (I believe that's what it's called). No pre-amp or DI required. The MiSi pick-up has an onboard pre-amp[...]

I had a tenor with a Misi. Still wish I hadn't sold it. The must be one of the most convenient pickup designs ever. I hate batteries.

RafterGirl
01-05-2018, 10:54 AM
Yes, that’s why I got the MiSi. Plug it in for 60 seconds and it’s charged for 8 plus hours. The instructions say it will be charged for 16 hours “depending on style of play” but I don’t know what that means.

RafterGirl
01-05-2018, 03:24 PM
Great to hear you are enjoying the pick up and seeing it's benefits. Smart move to have your Gary Gill outfitted with the Misi. When I order a uke I get a pickup installed so when it arrives I am prepared to plug in, be it that day or two months down the road.

I am also very impressed with the progress you have made. Not only in the instruments you are acquiring but the fact you are performing in public with them, Bravo!!!
Thanks. Any opportunity to play is good with me. Playing at church has been a good learning experience. It's just strumming chords, but playing in time with the singers and the other instrumentalists takes some practice. Plus the music is not always is the easiest to play keys. I'm really learning to embrace the dreaded Emajor. It's all good.

Booli
01-05-2018, 03:52 PM
...On the downside, now that my ukulele voice can be heard more, I really can't mess up too much while playing. I'm still competing with an electric guitar, an acoustic guitar, and a piano, so I'll still blend in. However, there was one Sunday that all the other instrumental folks were out of town and it was just me and the singers.

more.reasons.to.just......PRACTICE DAMMIT! LOL :)

Glad to hear you are having FUN!


I had a tenor with a Misi. Still wish I hadn't sold it. The must be one of the most convenient pickup designs ever. I hate batteries.

Aye brother!

Mi-Si is my jam. Love it for all of those reasons.

I've installed my own in 3 ukes and 2 guitars over the years.

RafterGirl
01-06-2018, 02:42 AM
more.reasons.to.just......PRACTICE DAMMIT! LOL :)

Glad to hear you are having FUN!



Aye brother!

Mi-Si is my jam. Love it for all of those reasons.

I've installed my own in 3 ukes and 2 guitars over the years.

Trust me, I'm practicing ...... a lot. The band leaders have been very good about giving me the lead sheets as early as possible and giving me links to videos of the songs. Chordify is my new best friend. The lead sheets have guitar chords, but I can figure it out pretty easy.

Anything special I need to know about the MiSi, other than plug it in for 1 minute and then play for up to 16 hours? I did see that the owners manual says to charge it for 2 minutes for the first 2-3 cycles. I did read somewhere on UU that leaving it plugged in is a bad idea. How many hours of play do you typically get?

Booli
01-06-2018, 09:37 AM
Trust me, I'm practicing ...... a lot. The band leaders have been very good about giving me the lead sheets as early as possible and giving me links to videos of the songs. Chordify is my new best friend. The lead sheets have guitar chords, but I can figure it out pretty easy.

Whatever the chord NAMES, they are the names of the SAME chords on uke. If there are chord pictograms that also show the finger positions across 6-strings of guitar, you can just ignore that and play the NAMED chord on uke as you would if you had uke chord pictures.

A G chord is the same whether played on guitar, uke, piano, just different fingerings per each.


Anything special I need to know about the MiSi, other than plug it in for 1 minute and then play for up to 16 hours? I did see that the owners manual says to charge it for 2 minutes for the first 2-3 cycles. I did read somewhere on UU that leaving it plugged in is a bad idea. How many hours of play do you typically get?

That is right, first 2-3 times double the charge time, and for me at least 16 hrs betw charges

Also if you leave it plugged in this depletes the charge because the insertion of a plug into the jack activates the electronics, and thus they use all the power saved in the capacitor if left plugged in.

Similarly do NOT leave it plugged in to charge overnight or more than a mins or two after the first few charges. Doing so can cause the capacitor to actually explode inside your uke. Think of about 3 firecrackers going off at the same time in your hand. When a capacitor explodes it makes a nasty POP noise and there are whisps of white smoke and the acidic smell of burnt plastic (which is the electrolyte inside the capacitor having been cooked beyond the potential of it's energy storage).

Same thing if you charged up a battery too fast or for too long, it would explode too. Battery chargers should have a circuit to sense when to stop charging, and thus shut off without causing harm, but the MiSi charger is not sophisticated, it mere converts wall power to 9v DC that you can use in a 1/4" jack, and the 'protection' is YOU, in that you know not to charge too long. :)

RafterGirl
01-06-2018, 10:00 AM
Thanks Booli. 16 hours is great. Does the sound just get weak when it's running out of juice? Do you keep track of your playing time or carry a charger with you just in case?

Not really guitar chords then, but not chords I'm not familiar with or can't find on chord charts. The chords I have seen on the lead sheets are things like C2 or C3, E2, C (no 3), G (no 3). Some are just chords I've never come across since I started playing, like G#m7. Lots of motivation to learn & practice.

Brad Bordessa
01-06-2018, 04:36 PM
Thanks Booli. 16 hours is great. Does the sound just get weak when it's running out of juice? Do you keep track of your playing time or carry a charger with you just in case?

The bass becomes muddy and the output starts to sag. Happens so slow that you don't really notice it until you recharge. I would guess you can go for a LONG time before sound actually stops coming out. When you recharge the sparkle comes back and your sound is tight again.

I wouldn't worry about topping up before 16 hours has gone by. I always have without any trouble. Just as long as you're not charging for long periods like Booli said. But yes, do carry your charger with you! Just a good practice.

DownUpDave
01-07-2018, 01:34 AM
The bass becomes muddy and the output starts to sag. Happens so slow that you don't really notice it until you recharge. I would guess you can go for a LONG time before sound actually stops coming out. When you recharge the sparkle comes back and your sound is tight again.

I wouldn't worry about topping up before 16 hours has gone by. I always have without any trouble. Just as long as you're not charging for long periods like Booli said. But yes, do carry your charger with you! Just a good practice.

Good advice about having your charger with you. If you haven't been on the Misi website do so, it shows how you can us a 9v battery to recharge in a pinch. Have one of those with you as well.