As we’ve watched the ukulele climb back into the spotlight of solo instruments for gigs and performers, we’re seeing more and more people playing ukulele with a pickup. If you’re just getting started on your ukulele journey, you might be looking at all these different models of ukuleles and wondering just what is a ukulele with a pickup? Here are a few questions answered for you about buying and playing a ukulele with pickup.
What Is a Ukulele with Pickup?
If you’re brand new to the world of electric instruments, you’ll need to know that a pickup is an electric device that is located inside your ukulele that allows you to connect your ukulele to an amplifier (amp) so that your ukulele can be heard better in a concert or public setting.
A pickup senses vibrations from a stringed instrument and converts them to an electrical signal that can then be put through an amplifier. Pickups can be found on both acoustic ukuleles and solid body ukuleles.
Types of Pickups
Depending on the type of ukulele with pickup you choose, you’ll see that not all pickups are created equally. There are different types of pickups for different types of ukuleles. Hollow body acoustic and solid body electric ukuleles have very different sound profiles, so the type of pickup you’ll find on each will be different.
Magnetic pickups are generally found on solid body electric instruments. They are usually located on the top of the instrument just above the bridge where the strings are attached to the body. Sometimes these types of pickups are attached to guitars near the neck or the pickguard.
A magnetic pickup works with – you guessed it – magnets! Each magnet in the pickup is wrapped with super fine enameled copper wire. When you strum or pluck the string of a ukulele with a magnetic pickup, the pickup creates a magnetic field that allows the sound to travel through a cable and into an amplifier, and out through a speaker. These types of pickups also work great for plugging your instrument into a computer for recording.
More commonly, though, on acoustic ukuleles, you’ll find either an active or passive pickup, with or without something called a preamp. Let’s take a look at how these pickups work, and the pros and cons of each.
Read more: Can Ukulele Strings Break?
Soundboard or Under Saddle Transducers
A soundboard transducer is a type of pickup that consists of a small disc that sticks to either the outside or inside of your ukulele. An under saddle transducer is inserted into the saddle slot on the bridge of your ukulele. Both of these pickups are easy to use and create wonderful tones when used correctly.
The soundboard transducer must be positioned correctly to work, depending on where on the soundboard you place it.
Active and Passive Pickups
Another option for getting a ukulele with pickup is an active or passive pickup. These types of pickups are installed in the interior of your instrument and have their own benefits and disadvantages.
An active pickup has something called a preamp installed with it. The preamp translates the sound from your ukulele consistently and precisely, so what you hear is what the audience hears. An active pickup with a preamp requires some kind of power source, usually a battery of some kind, so it can add a little bit of weight to your ukulele.
A passive pickup does not have a preamp installed, and sometimes requires the instrument to be run through a preamp somewhere to get the same kind of consistent sound quality that you get from an active pickup. However, you can get more varied sounds from a passive pickup, with or without an external preamp. An instrument fitted with a passive pickup is also somewhat lighter than an instrument with an active pickup because you don’t have the weight of the preamp.
Both of these are good options for when you want a ukulele with pickup capabilities. But this begs the question: do you need a pickup in your ukulele at all?
Do you need a pickup?
You might be asking yourself now, do I need a ukulele with pickup? If you’re trying to decide, you can ask yourself a few questions:
- How often to you plan to play in a public setting? Playing a ukulele with pickup can sometimes be easier for amplifying your music than putting a microphone in front of your instrument. While using a microphone to amplify the sound of your ukulele in a performance setting is also a great way to be heard, it can also make it difficult to move – you don’t want to move too far away from the microphone. It can also make a stage or performing area crowded if you need two microphones – one for your voice and one for your instrument.
- Do you already have an amplifier or access to an amplifier for practice? While it’s not always necessary to own an amplifier when you’re looking at purchasing a ukulele with pickup, sometimes it’s good to have one so you can practice adjusting the tone and volume of your ukulele. Having your own amplifier when you’re playing a ukulele with pickup will also allow you to add effects using different pedals that are plugged in to the amplifier.
Advantages of playing ukulele with pickup
As I stated earlier, there are lots of advantages to playing a ukulele with pickup. You can plug your instrument in to an existing sound system. It doesn’t require an extra microphone in front of your instrument. And it can open up a whole new world of fun sound effects for your songs and performances!
If you’re not sure about installing a pickup in your ukulele, or if you’re not ready to invest in a brand new addition to your ukulele family, fear not – you can talk to the experts at the Terry Carter Music Store and find the perfect pickup to add to your ukulele. The experts at the Terry Carter Music Store can help you choose a pickup that best suits your needs and install it professionally!
So take a look at all the options in the Uke Like the Pros store. Who knows? You might be the next uke superstar!