A pickup is an electronic device that when installed or placed onto a stringed instrument, makes it possible for the instrument to be played through an amplifier, a public address system, and even a computer with the help of a standard audio cable.
A traditional acoustic stringed instrument, such as a ukulele, uses its own hollow body to project sound outwardly without the use of any electronics. However, with the use of a pickup, you can give your uke a ‘boost’ so to speak. With a pickup, you can simply plug one end of a cable into your uke and the other end into the sound system of your choice, and you can utilize the electronics to give your ukulele an amplified sound.
As mentioned, a pickup in your ukulele will give you the opportunity to sound louder and possibly fuller, but you may also lose some of the natural tones from your uke that you were hoping to achieve in the first place. It really all depends on what style of music that you play and where you are playing.
So, in this article, we will break down the advantages and disadvantages of having a pickup in your ukulele, as well as giving you some advice on how to get one installed.
Read more: How to Play the D chord on your Ukulele?
With that in mind, if you are interested in buying a ukulele with a pickup, or having one installed in your current uke, be sure to check out the selection of pickups that we have available at our online store.
How Does a Pickup Affect a Ukulele’s Tone?
Ukuleles are typically made from wood or wood composites, and their thick, hollow bodies will naturally project sound out of their sound holes when they are strummed, picked or plucked. Ukes can be made from various types of woods, such as spruce, mahogany, rosewood and cedar, to name a few. All of these different types of woods will give a ukulele its own, unique sound when played. Some woods will have a deeper tone, while some woods will have a brighter tone.
Also, the type of ukulele you play will have its own, unique tone as well. The most common types of ukuleles are soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone, all of which vary in size and have their own unique sounds in conjunction with the type of wood that they are made from.
That being said, playing your uke with a pickup through an amplifier or P.A. system will definitely affect its overall tone, but that may not necessarily be a bad thing. A pickup will certainly amplify your volume and make you louder, but you may also lose some of the natural tones from the type of wood or type of ukulele that you are playing, so definitely keep that in mind.
Do I Need a Pickup Installed?
With all of this to consider, whether or not you need a pickup in your ukulele really comes down to your playing style, where you intend to play and what tones you want to achieve. If you’re just playing at home or perhaps in front of a few friends in a smaller, more intimate environment, then a pickup may not be all that necessary. But, if you are playing in front of a large crowd or in a venue that has a more modern sound system, a pickup will give you a bigger, louder sound that more people in the audience will be able to hear, as well as giving you more options depending on what type of amplification system you are using.
Also, as mentioned, using a pickup will ultimately change the overall tone of your ukulele and you may not hear as much of the natural qualities of the wood. However, using a pickup can also give you a more aggressive sound and give you more variety as far as what sounds and tones you want to achieve.
How Do I Get a Pickup Installed?
If you decide that having a pickup in your ukulele is the right path for you, there are several options available. You can have a pickup installed into a ukulele that you already own, purchase a pickup that simply attaches to the outside of your uke’s body, or if that all seems too complicated, it’s easy to buy a ukulele with a pickup already installed.
If you’ve never installed a pickup into a ukulele before, it’s a smart idea to have a professional do it for you, like at Uke Like The Pros. A professional has the right tools and experience to have it done correctly, and the last thing that you want to do is cause any damage to the ukulele if you’ve never installed a pickup before. Installing a pickup involves drilling into the body of the uke, as well as making necessary adjustments to the strings and the saddle. If you don’t have any experience with these things, it’s very easy to crack or split the wood on your ukulele, or at the very least, damage its finish.
A different option from having a pickup installed is buying a pickup that simply attaches to the outside of your ukulele, which are known as “stick-on” pickups. These types of pickups allow you the same experience of being able to plug into amplifiers or other sound systems but without the need to drill holes into your uke or make other, seemingly extreme adjustments. Keep in mind that a stick-on pickup may not give you as big of a sound as a permanently installed pickup, but stick-on pickups are definitely less expensive and less intrusive on the body of your ukulele.
Our Top Picks for Ukulele Pickups
While there are many options for ukulele pickups out there, here are a few that we have available at our online store that we enjoy. And, if you decide to buy one and get one installed, we can do the installation and a full setup at our store for you. So, here are some of our favorite picks for ukulele pickups:
This pickup has a solid output that works well with or without a preamp. Also, its double-sensor technology can be installed with the included double-sided tape, or by gluing it onto a flat bridge plate.
The dual pickup system in this setup gives you a very pure and dynamic sound. The volume and microphone controls also allow you to do a lot of fine-tuning to find the exact tone that you want.
This external pickup will give you the freedom of being able to adjust the volume, treble and bass without having to permanently install it into your ukulele. It also comes with a carrying case for easy transport.
Whether or not you like the natural tones of a ukulele without a pickup, or the slightly more aggressive sound of an amplified uke, pickups for ukuleles will at least give you plenty of choices and options depending on what road you want to explore with your playing and performing. Either way, it all just comes down to how you play, what you play, and what sounds you want to achieve.
The Uke Like The Pros Online Store has several options for pickups that you can buy and install yourself, or have the pros install for you.
Enjoy your playing!