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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Banjo Pickups - Advice


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/360296

ChrisGeier - Posted - 01/12/2020:  15:38:16


Got to the point I can play gigs. Now I need a pickup and could use direction. Got a Deering Special II for now.

Chet - Chesterfield, Va


Edited by - Lynne on 01/13/2020 04:08:02

Blackjaxe47 - Posted - 01/12/2020:  16:41:04


Why do you want to use a "pick-up". Most of the pro's use the mic, allows you to move in when doing a lead-in or break and stay in the background picking tasteful back-up and again moving in when you want to emphasize. What I have experienced is pick-up's on banjo's drive sound people crazy.
The only reason I can see is if the entire band is electric and you need something to get your banjo up to their amp level. There are several manufacturers of banjo-mandolin pick-up's someone here will steer you in the right direction. And congrats on reaching that level, have fun.

johnahunter - Posted - 01/12/2020:  16:50:02


I used a  Schatten BJ-02 Series for a number of years. It's a piezo pickup installed under the bridge. Easy to install but does require a pre-amp (Schatten has one, but I used a Behringer that worked fine). It worked OK - no feedback but it has that piezo sound which you may or may not like. Also, it's adhered to the underside of the head, so it will impact the natural un-amplified sound of the banjo.



I recently switched to the GoldTone ABS system that's a dynamic mic on a gooseneck with a stomp-box that provides a bit of boost if required for solos. The mic mounts to the hooks on the banjo so there's no permanent modification to the instrument. The install takes a minute or so and there is a significant improvement in sound (to my ear). It is a mic, so feedback can happen, but I've never had an issue with it during a gig. 

pasdimo - Posted - 01/12/2020:  16:51:49


I agree with Blackjaxe47, but if an amplification is necessary I would use a DPA 4099. It’s an external mini mic fixed on the instrument and gives the most natural sound you can get. Also it depends on the sound system. This excellent mic also works very well for recording.

Old Hickory - Posted - 01/12/2020:  18:31:52


quote:

Originally posted by Blackjaxe47

Why do you want to use a "pick-up". Most of the pro's use the mic, allows you to move in when doing a lead-in or break and stay in the background picking tasteful back-up and again moving in when you want to emphasize. 



The only reason I can see is if the entire band is electric and you need something to get your banjo up to their amp level. 






You're describing a concert or listening club situation with a band on stage and a quiet, respectful, audience in theater seats or tables paying full attention to the music.



Take the band to a loud bar where the musicians have to compete with crowd noise -- some of which gets picked up by the microphones -- and getting a mic'd acoustic instrument over the din becomes a challenge.



Sometimes the performance space is too crowded to allow for vocal and instrument mics or controlling instrument volume by moving off and on the mic.



I greatly prefer the sound of my banjo through a microphone into a PA system run by someone who knows they're doing. But I play through a pickup when necessary.



To answer the original question: I use a Pickup the World transducer run through an LR Baggs Para Acoustic preamp/DI box.  It's OK. Not great.  The best banjo sound I've heard as an audience member was through a Fishman Rare Earth pickup.  I'll eventually need a pickup for a second banjo and I'm leaning toward one of those.

KCJones - Posted - 01/13/2020:  14:43:18


You'll get lots of answers, there's more than one way to skin a cat.



Jones-Hatfield is an option. I use one and it works great. Only problem is it ships with a 1/8" jack that you'll have to swap out for a 1/4". But it sounds better than a sticky piezo and has less feedback issues than a mic.


Edited by - KCJones on 01/13/2020 14:43:36

ChrisGeier - Posted - 01/14/2020:  09:45:54


quote:

Originally posted by Old Hickory

quote:

Originally posted by Blackjaxe47

Why do you want to use a "pick-up". Most of the pro's use the mic, allows you to move in when doing a lead-in or break and stay in the background picking tasteful back-up and again moving in when you want to emphasize. 



The only reason I can see is if the entire band is electric and you need something to get your banjo up to their amp level. 






You're describing a concert or listening club situation with a band on stage and a quiet, respectful, audience in theater seats or tables paying full attention to the music.



Take the band to a loud bar where the musicians have to compete with crowd noise -- some of which gets picked up by the microphones -- and getting a mic'd acoustic instrument over the din becomes a challenge.



Sometimes the performance space is too crowded to allow for vocal and instrument mics or controlling instrument volume by moving off and on the mic.



I greatly prefer the sound of my banjo through a microphone into a PA system run by someone who knows they're doing. But I play through a pickup when necessary.



To answer the original question: I use a Pickup the World transducer run through an LR Baggs Para Acoustic preamp/DI box.  It's OK. Not great.  The best banjo sound I've heard as an audience member was through a Fishman Rare Earth pickup.  I'll eventually need a pickup for a second banjo and I'm leaning toward one of those.






I play keyboards mostly. No acoustic instruments in band. Think banjo on Grateful Dead tunes.

Old Hickory - Posted - 01/14/2020:  14:12:58


quote:

Originally posted by ChrisGeier

I play keyboards mostly. No acoustic instruments in band. Think banjo on Grateful Dead tunes.



I would definitely use a pickup for that situation.  Run it from DI box/preamp directly to PA, or into a guitar amp mic'd to the PA.



Either the Fishman or the Hatfield-Jones sold by Jack Hatfield.  His is like the Fishman except it's passive (no battery). He claims that makes it quieter and more natural.  I don't know.



Good luck.

PeterJ - Posted - 01/17/2020:  13:59:28


I use both a Jones and a Fishman in two different banjos. Both are older pickups, passive, which means you’d need a preamp to get enough signal. I used to use a clean boost pedal into a DI box, now I use a Radial PZ-Deluxe, which has DI built in.

Also, it helps to use a compressor (our digital mixer has one built in, but a good pedal works) because it keeps volume spikes from causing feedback and helps with the overall signal clarity.

Both pickups works great in our band (electric guitar and bass, drums) — plenty of signal, decent tone. No, it will never sound like a ribbon mic in a studio, but it definitely sounds like a banjo.

We cover a few Dead songs, but I mostly play lap steel on those. Will have to try Sugaree on banjo...

mrbook - Posted - 02/09/2020:  21:37:39


I used to play a lot with a band where everyone was plugged in, and my banjo was lost trying to use a microphone. I got a small condenser mic (I think an AKG PRO-70, guessing without opening my case) that I attached to the banjo and plugged right into the PA (it has its own preamp). I could finally be heard equally with the other instruments. Most of my current playing is fine with a stage microphone, but I usually keep it in my case so it it available if needed. I never liked the sound with a pickup, but it works for other people.


PeterJ - Posted - 02/10/2020:  10:22:47


Bill - how’s the feedback situation with that mic?

stanger - Posted - 02/10/2020:  12:19:54


There are lots of good reasons to choose a pickup over a mic for a gig. I've played the banjo in public every way there is- with pickups, mics, a combination, nothing at all, and even once through a megaphone someone held in front of my banjo.
There's no 'best' or 'worst'. What may work the best for one situation won't be the same for another situation.

My main performance banjo isn't my best sounding banjo. It is the one that stays in tune the best, doesn't feed back too much in a mic, and it has a pickup stuck to the underside of the head that's been there for close to 30 years now. That pickup has save my goose more times than I can count, and it's nowhere the quality or accuracy the new ones have.

These days, there are so many good banjo pickups available, along with so much excellent amplifiers, that using only a microphone would be nothing but one more piece of gear to haul around. A microphone has to be really good to avoid feedback, and banjos are notorious for their microphonic feedback.
Every microphone, no matter how good, has a sweet spot. If you move out of the sweet spot, the banjo is lost to the crowd. A pickup allows me to move around onstage, with volume I can control very easily, and I can use a mic with it in combination if I want a 'pure' banjo sound.

The audience doesn't know or care that that pure sound is. The banjo sounds like a banjo with a pickup, and if a mic is used, it still sounds like a banjo. The pure tone is something only we banjo addicts care about very much.

Chris asked a simple question. He didn't ask for opinions on banjo tone.

Here's my simple answer: If I wanted to go get some gigs and had no gear, I would go buy a Sure microphone to sing in, an acoustic amp on the small side that allows a mic and a pickup in separate channels, and take that amp with me to try out banjo pickups through before choosing one.
The choice could be a pre-amped piezo pickup, a magnetic pickup with or without a pre-amp, a small internal mic, or a combination of any of them. All can sound so close to acoustic that their sound will be completely satisfying.
But it all depends on the amp you will use. The pickup that will sound the best is the one that works with the amp the best. That's why it's important to buy the amp first. If a microphone plugged into the amp sounds good to you, then any pickup will sound OK. But one type or a combination will sound better than the others, and that one will only be found through trial and error.

If you don't want the bother, then I would choose either a Fishman or a Baggs for a piezo pickup, and either a Fishman, Baggs, or a Duncan for a magnetic pickup. Stewart-MacDonald has a good mag designed to attach on the rim rods of a banjo, and they're pretty good too. All the others have been making banjo pickups for a very long time now, and all the kinks were worked out long ago.

There are plenty of others to try, though. Deering is now making a banjo head with a magnetic pickup in it that sounds very good to me, but it's speedy, and will take some time to install.

But no matter what you use, the audience won't care or notice anything. And there is nothing that will ever recreate the sound of your banjo that you hear when you are sitting in your home, playing it in your favorite chair. That sound is yours alone, and is only found in that house, in that chair.

Try to find an acceptable sound you like. It doesn't have to be the house tone to sound like a banjo and sound just fine on the job. If a cheap pickup works to get some gigs, save up some money for a better one later on.
Or save up for a speedy microphone instead.
regards,
stanger

steve davis - Posted - 02/12/2020:  07:43:48


I'm still using my Jones Acoustic Plus pickup that I bought in 1986.It delivers good banjo tone My homepage music was done by simply plugging in my non-preamped Jones directly into my USB in the front of my computer.

When I use a preamp at gigs the signal goes to the board where lots of tonal adjustments are available.



Plenty of power when the drums and keyboard are present.I still play into a mic,sometimes.


Edited by - steve davis on 02/12/2020 07:45:58

mrbook - Posted - 02/17/2020:  19:48:17


Peter - I have never had feedback problems with the AKG condenser mic. I have played in up to 9-10 piece bands, sometimes with a sound man, but more often with it being set before we start. People can finally hear the banjo along with plugged-in acoustic guitars, fiddles, electric guitars, pedal steel, etc. I have used it less frequently lately because I have been in different playing situations, but I usually have it ready to go when I go out to play.

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