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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Which pickup?

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revellfa - Posted - 10/19/2020:  10:27:40

I’m in a band that does rock covers “Life is a highway”, “Brown eyed girl”, some CCR, and just a little folk

What kind of pickup would you guys suggest? I want it to sound like an acoustic banjo but a little blusey warmth  is ok. I’ve gotta watch feedback. Two electric guitars and drums round out the band

I’ll probably use a preamp and go through an amp or pa

Edited by - revellfa on 10/19/2020 10:29:11

KCJones - Posted - 10/19/2020:  10:39:22

Ive tried Schatten, I've tried Jones-Hatfield, and I've tried a few random piezos.

Strangely enough, the best luck I've had is from a random no-name triple piezo pickup from Amazon.

One goes on the underside of the head directly under the bridge, another on the underside of the head about halfway between the bridge and neck, and the third attached to the center of the inside of resonator. It works well.

The real trick is getting decent tone while eliminating feedback, which mostly takes place in the preamp/eq area. I have a Boss GEB l-7 which works well for EQ, I didn't have a lot of luck with a simple hi-mid-lo eq you get with most preamps. There's lots of preamps out there so I won't say much on that, I think most work well if you get a decent brand. I use a Fishman Loudbox Artist which had a preamp and some effects built in, and it works well enough. Reverb and Compression help to try to get more 'banjo' tone out of it.

It takes a lot of experimentation to get what you want. As we giggled around, I found that feedback was largely dependent on the room and house PA. Some were not an issue at all, some were impossible to manage. 

Edited by - KCJones on 10/19/2020 10:41:17

Bubbysaar - Posted - 10/19/2020:  12:07:36

I've personally used the fishman rare earth but ive settled on the BJ-01 from schatten. They're simple and to my ear sound the best.

plars - Posted - 10/19/2020:  12:18:40

EMG banjo pickup is the best that I have tried. I use it regularly with my bluegrass band but everyone plugs in. No feedback issues whatsoever.

Dragonslayer - Posted - 10/19/2020:  13:44:52

Personally I'm partial to the Toyota Tacoma, but I know people who have used Ford F150s and been happy with them......

(Ok I'll go sit in the corner now :))

Mike Rowe - Posted - 10/19/2020:  13:57:45

I second the EMG ACB.

Frailin_Brayden - Posted - 10/19/2020:  19:00:06

I'm a big fan of the Gold Tone ABS. However, I don't use the preamp that came with it (too quiet and started to make some squeeling noise). Instead I use a boost eq pedal called the Two Stroke by Orange Amps...waaay more volume and lots of EQ versatility! I also have had very little problems with feedback/noise if any.

jimbopicks - Posted - 11/09/2020:  18:00:05

None of them sound particularly good to my ears. Of the ones I've used the Schatten sounds the best combination of not bad sound, not detrimental to acoustic response, and good volume before feedback.

banjomike19 - Posted - 11/09/2020:  20:49:37

EMG! Or if you can , blend the Gold tone Clip condenser mic. on with the EMG

pdbanjo - Posted - 11/21/2020:  10:15:16

FWIW, I bought a 1st generation Fishman pickup 20yrs ago and found it in a box of banjo stuff a couple months ago. I remembered not having much luck with it sounding like a banjo when I first tried it but I ran directly into the board and never had the board in front of me long enough to really dial it in. That said, I reinstalled it in my banjo and ran it thru a Fishman Loudbox Mini. These 1st gen pickups required a separate preamp that only has Volume, Hi and Low tone knobs. Additionally, the little metal piece that Fishman recommends be placed under the middle foot of the bridge I have moved to the front on the bridge and affixed it with good double sided tape. I found this to be the best position on my banjo to reproduce the closest sound to an acoustic banjo. FYI: It's never going to sound totally acoustic when you electrify any acoustic instrument.  

Now that I'm using a quality acoustic amp I am able to tweak the sound to where it really sounds like an acoustic banjo. I've been using this set up now for a couple of years. I've had a lot of folks tell me how great my banjo sounds from the FOH. I run a direct out from my amp to the board and the engineer makes it sound right out front. He does have a notch filter to temper some high frequencies but that's all.

I'd recommend the Fishman Rare Earth pickup. I understand this new model does not require a preamp but IMO you'll still need an acoustic amp. Additional gear loading into a gig is always a downside not to mention the cost but for playing with other electric instruments and drums I feel this is a must have. The amp on the back line is my monitor so the banjo does not need to be sent to the monitors as long as the band members can also hear it.

Sweetwater ( ) Music has some great deals right now on Fishman amps but they don't carry the pickup. Good luck.

Edited by - pdbanjo on 11/21/2020 10:25:59

banjohood - Posted - 11/21/2020:  10:39:52

I've gigged with the following: EMG ACB, Fishman Rare, Gold Tone, Kavanjo, K&K, McIntyre, and Schatten. Most of them in my own banjos, but some of them in borrowed instruments.

I still use EMG in one banjo and it's pretty good (has some electric guitar-ness to it), but Schatten in the other two that are my main gigging banjos. For cost, ease of installation, no batteries, no maintenance, reliability, and usable sound, the $100 Schatten is hard to beat. And if you use it with a ToneDexter ($400 modeling preamp) you can get really close to acoustic tone.

If you go in the direction of a mic, the Bartlett banjo mic is great.

Ed Banjer - Posted - 11/22/2020:  10:43:06

I'm not super experienced at playing plugged in, but I have had great luck with the Schatten pickup run through an LR Baggs Gigpro preamp. I've played several open mics with acoustic guitar playing leads and fillers to my hack style of clawhammer banjo playing and singing. We honestly have had more problems getting the guitar to sound right depending on the PA system. The banjo is just plug and play..... except that one time my cat chewed the wire of said Schatten pickup before a gig. Bad kitty!

Ks_5-picker - Posted - 11/22/2020:  17:12:59

About a year ago I bought a Alvarez which had a jazz master pickup and I kept it when I sold the banjo. I recently tried to part out a great parts banjo I had and had no success so I rebuilt it with aluminum flange,tension hoop and tone ring from a 70s Aida in the prewar oriole rim with the Robin Smith neck.
I put the jazzmaster pickup in and it really sounds like a banjo,it saved 3.4 lbs of weight!
I tried it plugged into a Simmons 200S electric drum amp and was really surprised how good it sounds with the volume up.

Joe the banjo guy - Posted - 11/23/2020:  06:06:34

I have a Schatten and an SM-57 that I have velcroed to the coordinator rods. I run both of those into a dual input DI/Preamp from Radial that can blend them.  I think it sounds very nice.  The Schatten is very sensitive to placement, so if you go with a Schatten, take a lot of time to experiment with placement.

I would give the 57 approach a try just by itself, because you probably already have one, and it's about as good in terms of volume and feedback rejection as any other single thing I've tried. Velcro the 57 to the co-rods and get as short an xlr cable as you can find. wrap it around the rods and out between the flange and resonator (i have one of the thumbscrews removed for this). Then I have the other end of that xlr velcroed to the brackets.

Obviously the big disadvantage is that it's going to impact the acoustic tone if you leave it on, and it's a pain to take on and off if you don't want to leave it on. But, it works well, so if you're primarily playing your banjo on stage, I suggest giving it a try.

If you opt for a single pickup, the Baggs Venue DI has like a 4 or 5 band EQ, which can really help you dial in a better banjo tone.  Magnetic pickup is generally going to be able to get louder before pickup than a piezo, but personally I just don't like how they sound.  But, if you're playing in a rock band, the subtleties of tone don't matter much.  It'll end up sounding banjo-like enough for the audience when it's mixed in.  My experience with EMG ACB was that it wasn't very road-worthy.  Seemed pretty fragile.  I'd maybe try a Kavanjo or Fishman if you go magnetic.  

I'd avoid a clip-on mic approach due to feedback concerns (but I haven't really tried putting any of those inside the resonator, which I think helps blunt feedback).  

Edited by - Joe the banjo guy on 11/23/2020 06:16:57

steve davis - Posted - 11/30/2020:  13:54:20

I've been using a Jones Acoustic Plus since 1986,but lately I've gone back to a Shure 57 for the tone.
Plenty of power and a great "distancing" effect by backing away from it while still playing strongly or setting the banjo down and picking up a guitar.
I love not having a cord.
Probably have to rethink this when my big electric band starts gigging,again.

Helix - Posted - 12/12/2020:  13:49:23

I don't know what your budget is, but I like this one.

Funny someone mentions standing back from the Mike to solo, we can talk about that off forum

Aradobanjo - Posted - 12/21/2020:  04:37:03


Recently, I moved away from Shure 98. I currently use a Cling-On. My banjo still sounds like a banjo.

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