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View Full Version : Should I add a pickup to an old expensive Martin ukulele?



Baskervils
07-22-2012, 09:10 AM
I have a nice old Martin baritone ukulele. I paid a little more than the eBay average to get it from a dealer, because I wanted an arrow straight, pitch perfect neck as a recording / performance instrument.

I'd like to perform with it, but I'm wary of damaging the instrument by installing a pickup. I could purchase a cheaper uke with a pickup built in, but I'd love to use this one.

Anyone found a good, fairly non-destructive option for pickups in old ukes?

spookefoote
07-22-2012, 09:42 AM
Why not fit a piezo with flying lead instead of drilling a hole in the body?

The Big Kahuna
07-22-2012, 09:43 AM
I used to use a soundhole pickup on acoustic guitars. Can you get them for Ukulele?

Fermin
07-22-2012, 09:47 AM
My experience with this is very limited, but according to the guy that installed the under the saddle pickup on my uke (who has more than 30 years of experience with electronics), if the pickup is good the quality of the wood is not so important as que quality of the strings. Hearing how different my ukulele sounds through the pickup, I tend to agree with him, so my advice would be to just use a microphone on the Martin, or get a good pickup and strings on a cheaper uke.

Installing a pickup would definitely affect how the uke sounds when played accoustic. If you really want to put a pickup on the Martin, you could use an external piezo, like the one Aldrine shows in this video:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7io5GPZXYcQ

patico
07-22-2012, 10:04 AM
absolutely nooooo

it would be a crim to drill a hole in an old ukulele that's perfect for plying, as you describe your's.
buy a cheaper one with a nice pick up, or mic up your old fav one

Tootler
07-22-2012, 11:14 AM
My experience with this is very limited, but according to the guy that installed the under the saddle pickup on my uke (who has more than 30 years of experience with electronics), if the pickup is good the quality of the wood is not so important as que quality of the strings. Hearing how different my ukulele sounds through the pickup, I tend to agree with him, so my advice would be to just use a microphone on the Martin, or get a good pickup and strings on a cheaper uke.

Installing a pickup would definitely affect how the uke sounds when played accoustic. If you really want to put a pickup on the Martin, you could use an external piezo, like the one Aldrine shows in this video:


or you could try one of these:

http://www.microvox.demon.co.uk/banjopage.htm

I'm thinking of getting one as you can swap from uke to uke.

jazzbo
07-22-2012, 11:32 AM
so my advice would be to just use a microphone on the Martin, or get a good pickup and strings on a cheaper uke.

I totally agree with the above, unless the playability of the old Martin is so good that it affects your performance. I have a Kanile'a that plays like slicing hot butter, but I also have an inexpensive Pono that plays perfectly. I would definitely choose the Pono if I needed to have an onboard PUP, and I expect that it would sound as good as my K, under those circumstances.

Baskervils
07-22-2012, 01:11 PM
absolutely nooooo

it would be a crim to drill a hole in an old ukulele that's perfect for plying, as you describe your's.
buy a cheaper one with a nice pick up, or mic up your old fav one

Thanks guys! I think maybe I'll leave this uke untouched. I'm a bit nervous about sticking those piezo pickups to this old finish. I can see it tearing off big chunks!

OldePhart
07-22-2012, 01:16 PM
An under saddle transducer is not going to pick up the lovely nuances that make the old Martin such a great uke and I don't care what the so-called experts say - when you put a compression ribbon between the saddle and the bridge it has to have some impact on the acoustic performance, however slight.

The piezo transducers are basically just compression sensors so they pick up very little of the acoustic characteristics of the instrument.

I'm not a big "worshipper" of vintage instruments so if it was just a case of "eh, I like the uke but I need to perform with it" I would probably go ahead and put a transducer under the saddle. On the other hand, if it's a case of "this thing is magical!" - my recommendation would be to mic it or buy another uke with a pickup for live performance and just use the old Martin in the studio.

John

G Hill
07-22-2012, 11:34 PM
Well, I don't agree with the consensus of opinion here. I own a Martin Baritone and have installed a JJB electronic pick-up.
Yep, I drilled the hole! This pick up attaches to the inside of the soundboard wiith a spot of superglue (I used the double pick up option) not under the saddle and it sounds great.
Has it affected the acoustic tone? in a word NO. My reasons for installing the pick up are two fold. #1, I want to perform
with this instrument, it plays and feels perfect for me and, #2, I like to use straps with an end pin.
I should qualify that i've bought this instrument to play and not as an investment and decided first that it was a keeper.
If you feel you might want to sell yours on in the future you might want to consider the effect it may have on the value.
For me it was a no brainer. I have my strap end button and the amplifying electronics I desire. btw the JJB pickup is passive so you
will want a preamp to get the best from it, I got a Fishman platinum pro, does a great job imho.
Hope this pitch from the 'dark side' is of use ;)
BTW, there are thousands and thousands of Martin guitars with pick ups, arn't there????
cheers
Gary

PhilUSAFRet
07-23-2012, 12:48 AM
Depens on whether you want to maintain it as a "collectable" or as a "Player". Sometimes you can't have it both ways unless it's an original, factory installed
item.

You can get a very highly rated Behringer Microphone for $21.99 and a satisfactory if not great mic stand at places like Musician's Friend, etc. for less than $20...for the occasional use with a PA system or amp.

spookefoote
07-23-2012, 12:52 AM
Thanks guys! I think maybe I'll leave this uke untouched. I'm a bit nervous about sticking those piezo pickups to this old finish. I can see it tearing off big chunks!

What, they're so good that they fall apart when you fasten a piezo to the inside of it with a bit of double sided tape? Is it made from papier mache?

jackwhale
07-23-2012, 09:36 AM
I have and absolutely love a Martin baritone. It has a wonderfully 'woody' tone that feels very alive. I have struggled with the same question. Mine is in near perfect condition, and I finally decided to leave it alone. I'm now looking for another Martin that has some wear and I'll put a MiSi in that one.

RyanMFT
07-23-2012, 10:52 AM
Well, it's your ukulele, so you should do with it as you wish.

My perspective on better vintage instruments is that we should do what we can to play, enjoy, and conserve them. Almost all my ukuleles have had many years with previous owners, and I expect they will all outlast me and so I prefer to keep them as unaltered as possible. However, do with it as you wish since it is your ukulele. If it will bring you great pleasure to perform with it, perhaps you should install a pickup and enjoy it. These aren't the holy grail, they are ukuleles which were built to make music.

If you were wanting to alter a Dias or Santo ukulele, I would say......NO, leave it as it is, but there are a lot of Martin ukuleles out there and yours should be enjoyed....

OldePhart
07-23-2012, 12:05 PM
I have and absolutely love a Martin baritone. It has a wonderfully 'woody' tone that feels very alive. I have struggled with the same question. Mine is in near perfect condition, and I finally decided to leave it alone. I'm now looking for another Martin that has some wear and I'll put a MiSi in that one.

Honestly, I have two ukes with MiSi pickups. They are very convenient and as undersaddle transducers go they are good - but if you're looking for the very best acoustic tone to show off a vintage uke that sounds great acoustically, no UST is probably the best choice. I think soundboard transducers or maybe the I beam thing that goes under the bridge plate inside the uke would be a better choice.

John

Futch
07-23-2012, 01:36 PM
Use a mic. I front a six piece band including clarinet, piano, bass, percussion etc etc. I always use a mic for my ukulele and it works just fine even at high volume, no feedback ever and a natural sound. I'm sure if I can make a mic work in this situation then it can work in any. I just don't get the whole pickup thing, none of them sound much like the instrument.

Baskervils
07-23-2012, 06:10 PM
What, they're so good that they fall apart when you fasten a piezo to the inside of it with a bit of double sided tape? Is it made from papier mache?

There is a bit of crazing on the surface and I'm afraid that sticking something on the surface and ripping it off a few times might not be a great thing to do.

kimmylele
07-23-2012, 06:41 PM
IMO if you're collector you might use external piezo to keep your martin with originals.
but if you're musician you can install under saddle I think it will not effect with your old construction.

Doc_J
07-24-2012, 01:46 AM
There is a bit of crazing on the surface and I'm afraid that sticking something on the surface and ripping it off a few times might not be a great thing to do.

In my youth we used bees wax to temporarily 'adhere' vibration sensors to objects.

emmaemme
07-24-2012, 04:37 AM
There is also the Kremona piezo which looks like a great idea as long as you don't snap it off. I have had no experience with it personally.

http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/MTYwMFgxNjAw/$%28KGrHqZHJDQE8fdBgM%288BPNovylBLg%7E%7E60_12.JPG

http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/MTA4N1gxNjAw/$(KGrHqFHJCME8fP(UEqEBPNpfGP+gg~~60_12.JPG

GKK
07-24-2012, 05:19 PM
I own a Martin Baritone and have installed a JJB electronic pick-up.
Yep, I drilled the hole! This pick up attaches to the inside of the soundboard wiith a spot of superglue (I used the double pick up option) not under the saddle and it sounds great.
Has it affected the acoustic tone? in a word NO. My reasons for installing the pick up are two fold. #1, I want to perform
with this instrument, it plays and feels perfect for me and, #2, I like to use straps with an end pin.
I should qualify that i've bought this instrument to play and not as an investment and decided first that it was a keeper.
If you feel you might want to sell yours on in the future you might want to consider the effect it may have on the value.
For me it was a no brainer. I have my strap end button and the amplifying electronics I desire. btw the JJB pickup is passive so you
will want a preamp to get the best from it, I got a Fishman platinum pro, does a great job imho.
Hope this pitch from the 'dark side' is of use ;)
BTW, there are thousands and thousands of Martin guitars with pick ups, arn't there????
cheers
Gary

:agree:
I also, installed a JJB single passive piezo transducer mounted under the sound board and it sounds Great! I use an L.R. Baggs Para Acoustic DI.

If you plan to keep the Martin, go ahead and install a pick up, if you're going to sell it down the road I wouldn't do it.

Ken Middleton
07-24-2012, 06:59 PM
I don't know any professional or semi-professional Martin player that uses a pickup. They all want that magical acoustic Martin sound. You can only get it from a good old Martin and a microphone.

webby
07-24-2012, 10:53 PM
There is also the Kremona piezo which looks like a great idea as long as you don't snap it off. I have had no experience with it personally.

http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/MTYwMFgxNjAw/$%28KGrHqZHJDQE8fdBgM%288BPNovylBLg%7E%7E60_12.JPG

http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/MTA4N1gxNjAw/$(KGrHqFHJCME8fP(UEqEBPNpfGP+gg~~60_12.JPG


I'm sold on that, it looks perfect.

The Big Kahuna
07-24-2012, 11:23 PM
There is also the Kremona piezo which looks like a great idea as long as you don't snap it off. I have had no experience with it personally.

http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/MTYwMFgxNjAw/$%28KGrHqZHJDQE8fdBgM%288BPNovylBLg%7E%7E60_12.JPG

http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/MTA4N1gxNjAw/$(KGrHqFHJCME8fP(UEqEBPNpfGP+gg~~60_12.JPG

http://www.thebigkahuna.co.uk/mic.jpg