Pickups, amps & equalizers

July 29, 2005 at 08:22 PM · I am looking for information on experiences with different pickups as Baggs & Fishman. I have an old Barcus Berry with the putty and wondering if the others are better. I also need specifications for an amp (wattage-keyboard, guitar) when I am not run through a mixer and also foot pedal equalizers. My cocktail gigs need some boost.

Replies (7)

July 29, 2005 at 08:24 PM · We have recently approved a "wiki" on this topic. Please check it out! If you have anything to add, please do. A "wiki" is a way for us to share our collective knowledge about a topic, with it all going into one article that ends up being kind of like an encyclopedia entry. Registered violinist.com users can edit the wiki, in order to add anything that it does not already cover.

August 12, 2005 at 05:19 AM · You can't go wrong with a LR Baggs bridge pickup fitted to your instrument. Anything that actually has the piezo(pickup) built right into the bridge is going to to better than something that just sticks, screws, or wedges onto the instrument. There are other manufactures besides Baggs that fit this bill.

Depending on whether or not there is already a PA at your gigs , you may be able to get away with just running a small preamp/DI box such as the LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI or Fishman Pro EQ, and not worry about an amplifier. These will pocket sized boxes will boost your piezo signal to the mixing console and let you shape your sound, as well as allow you to control your volume. A line is sent directly to the mixing console from the preamp/DI box and your sound is just amplified through the existing stage monitors and through the PA. This setup will probably do fine for a lounge or small club.

Depending on how many and what type of instruments, how loud the stage volume gets, venue size, etc., you may want to consider personal amplifier. I recommend an acoustic style amplifier for violin, they have all the same features for tweaking your sound as the preamp/DI boxes I mentioned, and then some. Most all of the big name amp manufacturers have an acoustic series amplifier designed just for acoustic guitars, banjos, mandolin, and violins with piezo type pickups. If you are playing a small club with say, a bass player, amplified guitar, and drums, then I would say 60 watts, bare minimum. If no drums, you might get away with slightly less.

There is no "cheap" way to do it, but at the very least you should get the Baggs pickup or similar and a preamp/DI. This is the way most of the pro fiddlers run their sound and compared to the price of an electric violin, it is not all that expensive($200-300) to do. You won't regret it.

August 12, 2005 at 02:13 AM · I second Craig's assessment, and add the more knobs on your preamp, the happier you will be.

August 12, 2005 at 12:31 PM · I perform very frequently in a violin/keyboard duo. We use our own Roland keyboard, so have our own sound system with us at all times. We use all Peavey equipment. We have both a 200 watt and a 1200 watt amp. There is no discernable difference in volume between the 2 amps. We use the 200 watt as a monitor amp. I will play acoustically as often as I play amplified. I have both a Barcus Berry and Fishman piezo pickup, both attach to the bridge. I have found the sound to be quite realistic if the wire attached to the pickup does not contact the instrument at any point. It appears the pickup is so sensitive that it will pull vibrations off the wire contacting the body of the instrument or the tailpiece and give a distorted sound. I also use a Sennheiser wireless instrument rig, and love it. It was not cheap, running about $500 about 5 years ago, but I have never experienced any dropouts from it...ever.

August 12, 2005 at 06:18 PM · I disagree, Craig -- you can do it "cheap", if you've got a soldering iron, a handy technical genius, and a few parts and pieces of things. :)

I myself use a small radio-shack battery-powered condenser lapel mic suspended over the bass f-hole. I put a stronger battery in it, so the signal is nice and strong.

My dad (engineering genius) helped me (or rather, I told him what I needed, then stood back and watched him) build a simple pre-amp using a standard op-amp chip, a couple of in/out jacks, a toggle switch, a potentiometer, a couple of resistors to clean up the signal and a 9-volt battery in an Altoids mint box. The result is a really powerful pre-amp with a nice clear signal; I'm usually turned all the way down while everyone else is turned way up. It ain't perfect; I should get a smoother pot for volume control, something so that it doesn't pop when I turn it on and off, and probably some better cables.

I spent about $20 for the mic, and the rest was parts lying around -- including a drapery hanger bent into shape that fits over the tailpiece for the mic, some velcro to hold it in place without modifying the violin, and all the parts for the pre-amp. You can probably buy all the parts for $10 or less, total, at any electronics store.

The schematics (which we modified only slightly from the most basic) for the pre-amp are at http://www.muzique.com/schem/projects.htm.

You can also supplement such an arrangement (haven't tried this yet, though I plan to) with a homemade piezo element by taking apart a ~$1.00 piezo buzzer.

What I'd like to try (when I have the time to invest) is a dual mic/piezo arrangement with (if I can get it small enough) a mini tube-based pre-amp. Maybe add in a separate mic for vocals, too. (Singing and playing ain't so easy at the same time, though!)

Anyone tried such a thing?

August 13, 2005 at 02:31 AM · I guess I should have been a little more clear in my definition of cheap. I will counter and say that not all mics and piezos are equal, the concept is the same but the quality is not. Not saying you can't do it your way and have it work or even sound half way decent, but there will be a difference in sound. There countless types of piezos and mic designs, each good for different things and having unique characteristics.

These companies have spent quite a bit of time researching and perfecting the products, finding out what works best for it's intended purpose, ie

type, placement, epoxies, etc. Not rocket science by any stretch, but certainly more than just a "buzzer".

If your happy with your sound and your setup, then I guess that's really all that matters.

August 17, 2005 at 07:08 PM · It absolutely depends on what you're looking for in the output. In my case, I just wanted as clean and clear a reproduction of the violin sound as possible. I was surprised to come so close to achieving it with what I used, but it really is quite passable.

It doesn't add any ambience, it doesn't mask any bow noise -- but the tone of the violin is good and there isn't much noise. I've got a better mic for "studio" (such as it is!) situations, with a small tube preamp.

It's a long way from being anywhere near as good as a professional studio, of course. It's not perfect -- but I'm cheap. :)

Next I'm going to try to build a wireless setup!

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