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Jun 9, 2023 - 7:58:31 AM
266 posts since 10/26/2008

Howdy everybody,
It's been brought to my attention by the guys I play tunes with that I need to look into pickups. Per my guitar player, a banjo mic might not be the best approach and I guess everybody is going to be plugged in. I know nothing about electronics and equipment. I need said pickup quickly, by the 24th of the Month, and will obviously need time to get it installed. My question is....what should I be looking for that is probably in stock and can ship quickly but also won't break the bank? I'd prefer something that is simple and not too heavy as I'll probably just leave it on my banjo full time as opposed to taking it on and off.
Will leaving a pickup in like I plan alter the sound of my banjo in any sort of way? Thanks y'all I hope everybody is pickin to their hearts' content!
Jim Bob

Edited by - Texasbanjo on 06/09/2023 08:16:09

Jun 9, 2023 - 10:26:18 AM
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2578 posts since 8/30/2012

Two basic options. Piezo or Magnetic. Be advised that neither will sound like a banjo, at all. They'll sound like an electric guitar, you're basically going to have the tone of a telecaster with a 5-string neck on it.

You can get stick-on piezo pickups on Amazon for $5. You can also buy name-brand versions, Schatten or K&K, for $100+. They sound about the same, but the name-brand ones have better wiring and soldering. Schatten makes a dual piezo+mic option. Never tried it, it's expensive.

Fishman makes a magnetic pickup. Deering makes one too, that's built right into the banjo head. They both sound about the same. They're both expensive. If you go magnetic, your best option is the Jones-Hatfield Banjo Pickup. It's similar to the Fishman, but better.

The piezo pickups might alter your acoustic sound a little bit, since it's a weighted device and wire physically connected to the head. It depends on which one you use, and where you stick it. I don't really notice it on my banjo. The fishman magnetic pickup doesn't change much at all. I don't know what the Kavanjo sounds like acoustically, but I imagine having a big pickup attached to the head has to affect something.

Feedback will be a problem for you. A big problem. Get ready for that struggle.

You're going to want to get started on your pedal board. Preamp and graphic EQ at a minimum. Probably need a reverb pedal, and a compression pedal too.

Clip-on condenser mics are also an option. Same issue with feedback, but they sound better.

Jun 9, 2023 - 10:37:13 AM

266 posts since 10/26/2008

Thanks, Steven, that was super helpful

Jun 9, 2023 - 11:41:07 AM
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4724 posts since 9/12/2016

I have one with piezo and another that uses the magnetic concept==I don't pedals .I run it thru my mesa boogie right out to the mixer--I did have to buffer out the gain to get a natural dynamic response--I did it with alternative pick up locations and some physical buffering of hillbilly design--I suppose a compressor and EQ would do this but it ain't where I ended up--I do piddle with effects in the studio--but I keep it simple when in the jam

Jun 9, 2023 - 12:42:22 PM
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706 posts since 9/20/2011

Plus one for what Steven said.

I've tried them all. I went through an extensive and costly experimentations of piezo, magnetics, as well as clip-on microphones.

I settled with the EMG ACB-5 magnetic because it gave me the least feedback of all the options. Not the cheapest option.

One of my bands has drums and amped guitars, so it was my best option for maximum volume without feedback.

I use a LR Baggs Para DI to try and get a less electric guitar sound. It helps - you can tell it's a banjo, but just.

Leaving it on the banjo doesn't impact acoustic sound imo.

Good luck!

Edited by - pjfolino on 06/09/2023 12:47:14

Jun 9, 2023 - 1:08:49 PM

266 posts since 10/26/2008

Thanks Tom and Peter! Preciate your input

Jun 9, 2023 - 3:00:47 PM
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311 posts since 8/22/2013

A few months ago, when I started gigging with a "garage bluegrass" bar band, I asked this same question on the hangout - wanting something that wouldn't sound like all the "weird electric" sound I hear on so many pickups. I want to try to stay with the natural banjo sound, only louder. I ended up going with the suggested Jones-Hatfield pickup and the LR Baggs Venue DI preamp.

I'm loving the pickup
Great piece and easy to install. Works perfectly. And Jack Hatfield is wonderful to buy from and communicate with!

Unfortunately, I bought the preamp used and the tuning mode has stopped working :-(. I don't know if that's an LR Baggs issue or the chance you take when you buy a used product?

I"m also using a bluetooth receiver/transmitter which I absolutely love!

Jun 9, 2023 - 3:07:14 PM
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4724 posts since 9/12/2016

In my set up what comes thru the monitors does not have to be what is sent to the crowd--Some use a mic and pickup together which gives this ability==

Jun 10, 2023 - 9:01:31 AM
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1896 posts since 2/28/2003

I use an original Jones pickup with a Fishman Platinum Pro preamp and I'm very happy with the tone. The Jones pickup doesn't affect the acoustic tone at all. You put a small metal shim under the center foot of the bridge, and nothing touches the head directly.

The attached picture shows my preamp settings. To set this up, I played my banjo through a good quality condenser mic in one channel, and the pickup/preamp in the other channel, and played with the preamp controls until it closely matched the microphone sound. Attached is my reference picture to document where the controls should be set (for me, your mileage may vary). Here is a Video clip.

Honestly, 99% of your audience will not care about the tone difference between a pickup and microphone. They WILL notice the relative loudness compared to the rest of the band, and any feedback noise. A pickup will give you easier control of those factors than a microphone would. 


Jun 10, 2023 - 9:17:23 AM

1896 posts since 2/28/2003

Originally posted by lyndabee

Unfortunately, I bought the preamp used and the tuning mode has stopped working :-(. I don't know if that's an LR Baggs issue or the chance you take when you buy a used product?

If everything else works, it might just be the mechanical foot switch. That should be easy to replace. Does it still mute when you stomp the switch?

Jun 10, 2023 - 9:31:14 AM

266 posts since 10/26/2008

Thanks Sam. I’m way in over my head on all this and appreciate the input

Jun 12, 2023 - 10:28:56 AM

302 posts since 7/22/2012

Set the banjo level first. Do not play your loudest when setting this volume. Then bring the rest of the band up to that. Then boost the master volume. If you let the other band members set their volumes, then try to bring the banjo up, you will be in trouble. I think this is probably useful advice for pickup or mic.

Someone made this point years ago. I had a good sound man do it this way not long ago (without me telling him). I played acoustic banjo into a directional mic, band had drums and electric guitar, but we were well-spaced, no real problem with feedback. Wasn't in a noisy bar though, I grant you. I step further back from the mic sometimes, step in for solos.

You may find a different solution, great.

Edited by - Banjfoot on 06/12/2023 10:31:33

Jun 14, 2023 - 8:48:10 PM
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12851 posts since 10/27/2006

I'm a big fan of the EMG after seeing Tim Weed play it. Easy to install on a banjo with co-rods.

The Kavanjo sounds better than one would expect and there isn't that much mass. I'm a dealer as is Deering but prefer the EMG these days.

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