I'm going to be playing a show with a rock artist soon, so I dug out my Gerald Jones pickup and installed it. IIRC, it really needs a preamp for best results. What do you recommend? Does it need to be a preamp for acoustic instruments, or will other types work effectively? Also, how close should the electromagnetic unit be to the underside of the head?
Behringer makes a knock off of the Fishman Pro EQ (model number is ADI-21 I believe) that sells for right at $30. I've had one for a couple of years, it's seen a lot of stage time mostly as a EQ / DI for an L.R. Baggs fiddle pickup. Can't touch it with anything else for the price.
Ira, in our group (which has drums, electric guitar and electric bass), I use an old DOD Bi-FET preamp, which is standard clean boost pedal for guitar. You could also try a Boss GE7 (eq pedal) which has a graphic equalizer and overall boost slider. I run from the stompbox into a a second clean boost, an MXR microamp stompbox, for solo boosting, then into a Boss tuner pedal and a Whirlwind IMP2 d.i box. Having the tuner pedal inline means I can cut off the signal for silent tuning.
Interestingly (or not), when I use a different banjo with a Fishman pickup (the pre-Rare Earth model), I don't need to use the DOD pedal first - I get plenty of signal, so I just hit the microamp for solos. The Jones has a lower output, which I've read is deliberate.
The all-in-one units that others have mentioned are great for keeping the clutter to a minimum, but I built up bits and pieces over the years, so I use individual boxes. Along with boosting the gain, the preamps help with impedance matching, and the sound is more natural.
One other thing -- you'll need to figure out how to control volume for backup and solos. You could turn up your clean boost pedal, then use a standard guitar volume pedal to lower the output for backup. I don't know how it would work if you put the volume pedal first -- you might cut back the signal too much.
I stick the shim to the underside of the head, and keep the pickup a thick business card's distance away. Just be sure to check that your head hasn't loosened over time -- you don't want the pickup to touch the shim -- you won't get any sound (I learned this the hard way once before a gig).
Thanks, guys. When I play electric guitar, Peter, I run through a pedal board that includes a Visual Sounds Route 66. The Route 66 includes a compressor, which I adjust to use it as a clean boost. You think that might work?
Ira, I know that a lot of guitarists use their compressors as a clean boost, so that's a great place to start. In fact, we sometimes add a little compression on the banjo at the mixer, because through the PA, it can be too dynamic. The compressor gives a little more pop and helps even out the sound overall.
Definitely worth a try -- I've read on the gearhead forums that those Rt 66 boxes are great, and people seem to really like the compressor. Also, Visual Sound uses an active buffer in theior pedals that supposed to be really good (as in, it doesn't mess up your tone)
Are you going to use an amp with a mic, or run straight into the PA? If you're going into the mixer, you'll need a DI box. I used to always go direct into the mixer, but lately it's faster to just use my lap steel amp for banjo -- it's already miced. The tone is actually pretty good, and it's one less cable to keep track of!
Pat McGee. I recorded a banjo track on one of his songs in 1996 and played a few shows with him in '96-'98. He recently looked me up on Facebook and asked me to do some more stuff with him. He's a goodun, I tell you what: