Pickups

Can this be done? and how?

1

I have a 5120 and a jumbo acoustic electric. They are both wonderful guitars and I love the way they sound. I have been considering adding a piezo electric pickup to my Gretsch 5120. But what I would like is to use a blend pot and have ONE output jack that I can plug in to a combo guitar amp. Can this be done and sound good? A mix of piezo and magnetic pickups. No stereo jacks and only One output. Thanks.

2

It can be done.

Check out the LR Baggs T-Bridge, here..

I don't know what post diameter and spacing the T-Bridge wants (I'm sure it's in the detailed specs), but obviously you'll have to have a bridge base to suit it. Then you'll have to position it on the guitar in the optimum location for best intonation, and you may as well pin it, because it will have to stay there.

You'll need another hole into the top for the wire from the T-Bridge; I'd put it under the bridge base if possible, for neatness. I'm sure the Baggs site can advise on what blend pot to use and how to wire it.

But your issue is going to be tone. With a single output, you won't be able to optimize for acoustic vs electric tone at the amp - and a setting that works best for one will likely not be best for the other.

So you'll have to do your tone control at the guitar. Piezos are very sensitive to eq; I like have separate (active) mid, bass, and treble. Maybe you can get by with bass and treble. But you have only four pot positions on the guitar, and you'll still need tone for the electric side - as well as volume control. So you're coming up short.

If you want to stay with four pots for originality, you have decisions to make. You could do without a separate electric-side vol pot, and use the single blend pot to control volume to both sides of the instrument. But that means that if you need to turn down the electric, you're unavoidably turning UP the acoustic.

So I'd rather add a pot and have separate volumes for electric and acoustic.

There are, of course, other possible configurations. But without separate tone control OUTside the guitar for the piezo, you're going to have get all the control you can ON the guitar.

My Carvin AE185 combines magnetic and piezo pickups in a single output, with a nicely tailored internal tone control for acoustic - and does a decent job. The acoustic output sounds surprisingly nice into a guitar amp; there are interesting tones to be had by blending the two into the single output - but it doesn't really make a convincing acoustic by itself.

If I was doing it, I'd want the option to separate the acoustic output. Either a stereo jack (that normalled to both outputs active if using a mono cable) - or a second output for acoustic. Then you could EQ and treat the acoustic separately for most convincing tone into a separate amp or the PA.

3

If I was doing it, I'd want the option to separate the acoustic output. Either a stereo jack (that normalled to both outputs active if using a mono cable) - or a second output for acoustic. Then you could EQ and treat the acoustic separately for most convincing tone into a separate amp or the PA.

I will be using it for live shows so I am trying to get away from using 2 amps. Maybe I would be better off using an effects pedal, if one is available, to combine the outputs.

4

There are switching pedals, yes. A-B-Y in configuration. A, B, or both. Stereo out into the pedal, let the pedal do it. I don't know if you'd have phase or grounding issues. I wouldn't think so.

But, just a thought - at live shows (or rehearsals for them), the acoustic side should go into the PA, where it would get the more natural full-range reproduction - and more appropriate eq - than an electric guitar amp provides. You wouldn't have to carry an extra amp. You'd just need the cooperation of the soundman. (And if you really want it to sound like an acoustic, I'd recommend an acoustic preamp.)

But both pickups can route to a single mono output on the guitar. As detailed previously, you just have to work out the eq and volume compromises in the best way for your application.

To keep from drilling extra potholes in the guitar, you could do it on a stereo jack and come out to a breakout box giving you an electric and an acoustic output. From the electric side of the breakout, go to your electric pedals. From the acoustic side, go through the acoustic preamp (LR Baggs and Fishman make good stuff). You could put a volume pedal on either side (or both). Then run the two chains back together in a "reverse breakout" with a single mono out, which goes to your amp.

It's complicated on the floor, adding two pedal-size switchboxes and the acoustic preamp. But you get all your acoustic tone treatment (and whatever else you want) outside the guitar - and keep the piezo out of your electric effects (which will sound like dog doodoo anyway). You can work separate volume pedals into either or both separate chains, between the breakout(in) boxes.

Presumably the intention is to get more-or-less convincing acoustic tone from the electric guitar. I don't know if you want convincing acoustic at the same time you have electric going, or if you want just one or the other.

If at the same time, then one way or the other you simply have to treat the two outputs separately in eq and effects if not in amplification. Otherwise the blend of acoustic and electric through the same amp sounds ... a little different than straight magnetic pickup output, certainly brighter and more percussive. It can sound good - but no one goes "where is that acoustic guitar coming from?" Guitarists may hear "oh, there's some piezo in that signal."

If you're wanting to switch between electric and acoustic sound (ie keep the blend either all-magnetic or all-acoustic), then you still need to eq the sides very differently (unless you want midrange-brash thin peaky piezo tone).

In that case, try an acoustic emulator pedal on the straight electric first, without doing any of these mods. They're more convincing than dry un-eq'd (or badly eq'd) piezo output, with onboard eq and other processing designed to make an electric sound like an acoustic. Boss's is pretty good.

Certainly cheaper, less trouble, and less invasive to your 5120 than a T-bridge retrofit that doesn't give you the tone-tweaking capability you'll need.

Then it's just another pedal on the floor, and quick switch between acoustic and electric tone.

6

Piezos into electric guitar amps almost always sound awful. Not just "not great" - plain horrible.

7

Another option would be to use an amp modeler (Line 6 Pod, etc.) --- along with one's preferred drive pedals, etc. --- for the electric output and plug both into an acoustic guitar amp or keyboard amp (which are usually full-range).

John McLaughlin said in a recent interview that he no longer uses an amp at live gigs, but plugs his pedalboard directly into the PA, and can get all the tones he likes that way, both electric and acoustic.

8

I was researching this very idea about two months ago. The only change is that the piezo was going into my 6120. The hickup was that the bridge for both LR Baggs and Fishman had a different radius than the neck, which didn't make any difference to me. The pick up poles are the same. The schematics for both are on thier webistes to see if the fit your 5120. After my initial contact with LR Baggs and Fishman, they suggested that any configuration is plausible, just send them the idea and they will advise me on how to set it up, which they did. Take your time and scetch it out if you have to. As Proteus mentions, that are allot of options. Anyway,

My idea was to keep it simple, one "channel" for the peizo and the other for the pickups and having an outboard preamp for that acoustic sound with an additional guitar output. Not a big fan of stereo cables for guitar.

So, I'm getting ready to get this project on the road and I asked my guitar tech to see if he could do the work which he could. But AGAIN, somebody rains on my parade. He asks Why? I couldn't give him a rational answer so maybe a Godin is on the radar. (I think that he was taking me out of me beating up my 6120)

BTW, I saw that there was a post on peizo pickups on the Pages some time ago. That may give you more info. If I find it, I will send it along.

9

I have a Godin LGX-sa/T, the whole entire everything electric-acoustic-synthacess guitorchestra enchilada. It's "magnificent" in its own way, but with compromises in every department (except synth access, where it's as good as I've heard in accuracy and response).

Yup, 3 output cables - though if you don't plug into one of the 1/4" jacks, I think you get a blend of acoustic and mag pickups from the other. (But see above: blending them into an amp can sound "nice" - assuming sufficient piezo eq - but no one is fooled into thinking they're hearing an acoustic and electric together.


(Side-rant: I despise the typical piezo-out tone even from most acoustics with inbuilt electronics. Yep OK, it's functional. It's easier than mic'ing an acoustic guitar, it's more practical, soundmen can deal with it quickly (rarely well), it's a "solution" for amplifying a damn acoustic guitar live. It's also become bloody universal, for everyone from big stars playing "unplugged" [as if...] to singer-songwriter night at the local karaoke hole. And not even the "big stars" get what really sounds like an acoustic guitar out of it. Always has that piezo tinkleclang sheen. It can definitely be done better or worse - but if name-your-star's acoustic on his/her headline tour or major production TV show doesn't really sound like an acoustic [other than sounding like an acoustic with piezo output], what chance do we have?

The hell of it is that we've all been hearing acoustics amplified that way for so long that we almost accept it. We distinguish between good acoustic-piezo sound and bad acoustic-piezo tone. [Clue: if it involves delay or any time-based effect such as chorus, it may be an interesting guitar texture, but it's already disqualified from "good acoustic tone."] And God help us, people even record with this aberrant abomination: there they are in a presumably equipped recording studio, with mics in the closet [geez, at least SM57s], and they PLUG THE ACOUSTIC INTO THE BOARD. As I say, it's a tone. It's another flavor of something recognizable as guitar, but we shouldn't accept that it's an acoustic guitar tone.)


Now that I've staked out my prejudice, on with the acoustic-electric discussion. I get something like an acceptable, sonically-pleasing "oh that's a nice-sounding acoustic effect from a piezo in an electric guitar" by running the acoustic out of the Godin (or the Carvin AE185) through a Fishman Aura rig, which uses some sort of voodoo modeling to correct for the deficiencies of piezo reproduction by adding yet more electronics. Somehow it does improve the output greatly - and has the benefit of having settings that distantly emulate a whole range of different acoustic guitars, all further tweakable with the onboard controls.

Also, the Godin has a competent 3-band LR Baggs eq specifically optimized for the acoustic pickup (as well as regular tone pots for the electric output). I use a combination of both the internal and the preamp - always into the PA, NOT a guitar amp - to get what my ears accept as good faux-acoustic tone. I could use either one alone, but not as effectively. And if I had neither, I wouldn't even want to plug the thing in. That's how serious the piezo-eq issue is.

So there. With the acoustic output routed to the PA and suitably treated, the mag pickups going through my pedals and into amps as God intended, and the 13-pin output driving guitar synth of choice, itself stereo-outed into the PA, I can pretend to be a one-man army of diverse tone. And, while willingly making fun of myself for the pretense, a listener willing to engage even the slightest suspension of disbelief can imagine they're hearing full-on electric guitar, an "acoustic" that doesn't offend the ear, and whatever funky or symphonic majesty I'm trying to conjure from the synth. (The most transporting moments I've had with the rig were when driving orchestral samples via MIDI from an iOS device. Boy howdy.)


But I'm getting too rhapsodic. Here's what's wrong with the Godin as an electric guitar: maple over mahogany, bolt-maple neck, ebony fingerboard - at 25.5" scale. That stout and rigid combination apparently provides the kind of mechanical stability that assures accurate synth triggering - and it's a spec shredders can love - but it doesn't suit my ideal vision of a sweet, responsive, organic, juicy electric guitar.

The factory pickups were seriously deficient; I put in some variety of GFS RetroTrons to try get a little Gretschier, not with notable success. I do have reasonable switching from double-coil to single-coil, but if I was standing or falling as a musician on the electric sound of this guitar, I'd still be searching the ideal mag pickups for it. Something to both warm it up and make it spongier - and to retain the requisite sparkle and twang for my taste.

Besides the inherent compromises of a piezo pickup in any guitar, here's what's wrong with the Godin as a faux-acoustic: maple over mahogany, bolt-maple neck, ebony fingerboard, and a tremolo - at 25.5" scale. It's a recipe for clang-clang, and it delivers.

I also have a Godin "Acousticaster", the thinline Tele-looking spruce-over mahogany enclosed hollowbody that started Robert Godin's acoustic-electric trek in the 80s, and, as you'd expect, with more of a resonant chamber and a flexier top, it sounds more "acoustic" than the un-processed LGX-sa (or whatever the model number is). (This one. It looks like they don't do it with tremolo anymore.)

Disclaimer: I don't claim my experiences with the LGX-sa necessarily reflect how the current model behaves. Mine is 12 years old or so, and changes made to the spec since it was built may have improved it.

But wait! Not that it needs improving. It probably does as good a job as can be done in combining the conflicting demands of the three outputs. (And in fairness, the electric spec - humbuckers on a maple-over-mahog arched slab, 25.5" scale - is ideal for the higher-gain, shreddier, more modern-prog player for whom the guitar had to have been designed.) The guitar is extremely well made, ridiculously stable, plays great, and the hardware looks new 12 years on.

It's a guitar that can easily be one's main ride (if one requires the multiple outputs), and one can get on perfectly well with it. Assuming some typical pedaling on the electric side and the acoustic processing mentioned, it's really just fine. It's just that it remains a sort of inert tool, oddly for all its features lacks personality. Kinda generic. (You know, PRS-like!) It's hard to really love as an electric guitar.


My other piezo-output-on-top-of-mag-pickup guitar (which I got before the Godin) is the Carvin AE-185. (Is that the right model?) It's also maple-over-mahogany, but it has an extensively chambered Tele-shaped body and set 24.75" neck, with Carvin's trademark 860-pole (I exaggerate) hot humbuckers - and a glued-on acoustic bridge and saddle. Strangely, the guitar loses nothing as an electric from this configuration - the hot pickups can be dialed down and actually get pretty juicy - and the acoustic output sounds more inherently acoustic (in the piezo domain...) than the Godin's.


I've long had at least an intermittently recurrent ambition to do all this to a Gretsch - take a medium-depth hollowbody with 100% Gretsch genes (and pickups), build in the acoustic output, and get synth access besides. I do have material that incorporates all three outputs, and I'd like it to sound as Gretschy as anything else I play.

So I get the interest in doing this. But I was aware of the factors that come into play in doing it well, and realized that a hollowbody was never going to give me the synth-access stability of the Godin slab. The project would be an experiment without guaranteed success. If I did it to a guitar I could reasonably "sacrifice" to the experiment (say a used Electro hollow), and it came out as wonderfully as I could hope, I'd wish I'd used a pro-line. If I used a pro-line and it came out no better than I fear, I'd be sad.

So it's languished on the backest of burners.

Them's my adventures in dual-and-triple outputland. Takem for what they're worth.


I also take to heart Parabar's notion of ditching the guitar amp completely and running EVERYTHING into the board. I tried that on a series of gigs years ago with a POD. When I'd ideally programmed the patch in the POD and magically/luckily hit upon something that worked in the room we were playing - and the soundguy got it right out front, and gave me the right feed in the monitors - it worked.

All those factors rarely came together - and it was usually my programming that was deficient. Somehow whether I built the tone on headphones (clearly stupid), or in a basement or other practice room, it rarely sounded as imagined in the venue. Sometimes (often) that was eq, other times it was the mix of a given effect. With enough time and experience, and more rooms to test tones in, I would surely have gotten better at it.

Technology has improved with time, plenty of guys use all kinds of modelers live now, and it can surely work. Paradoxically, what should be its greatest attraction - that you set up a tone once, lock it in, and can always depend on it - was the greatest liability for me. We ALL tweak our amps to particular rooms, and through the night as we feel the need - and most of us twiddle our pedals too. You can still do that with a modeling rig, whether Line6 or Kemper amp, POD, or something computer-based. But tweaking parameters and settings on a computer or similarly fiddly interface feels much different (tediously daunting) to me than twisting knobs.

Having said that, I'm going to try to use modeling apps in iOS as the front end for a guitar rig, and see how times have changed.

I also found that, even when the POD-to-PA sounded great, it lacked the responsiveness of guitar into amp. No listener would know the difference, and I don't even know that it made me play differently, but it was (as others have said) more like playing the recording of a guitar than playing a guitar.


Anyway - all those considerations aside - even if you're going direct into a PA, you'll STILL need a separate output for the acoustic "side" of any hybrid you buy or build. It just needs such different eq.

Hate to belabor the point. Once again, I suggest: before doing any of this, try an acoustic emulator pedal for your electric. Buy it from one the etailers with no-questions-asked return policies. It will work as well as bad piezo.

Sorry to run on so.


Register Sign in to join the conversation