Okay so you have been playing for a while and getting pretty good. Your friends and fellow ukers notice and ask you to perform for them at a party, festival, or some other occasion. To be heard you have some decisions to make. Do I mic up my uke? Or do I instal a pickup?
Well to me there is an obvious choice - instal a pickup. Why? well having a pickup makes you more adaptable for live performance. With a pickup you can plug into an amp, or directly into a PA via a DI box. You will not always have a good quality acoustic mic available if you want to mic your uke as opposed to installing a pickup.
My advice is to not skimp on a low quality pickup. Always buy the best you can afford. Once again Why? Well simply cheap pickups sound cheap. They destroy the natural sound the uke is producing, which is the last thing you want to do.
Okay, when you bought your uke, what convinced you to buy the one you did? Possibly looks, but most likely it was the sound it made. Let’s assume it was the sound. Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense then if you installed a pickup you would want it to reproduce the acoustic sound of your uke? well, a cheap pickup will not do that.
There are so many variables that go towards interfering with your natural tone and sound of your uke. Bad pickups, cheap amps, or if you are using a mic cheap mics and cables. Once again, always buy the best gear you can afford. The old saying you get what you pay for is so true.
Okay with this all out of the way let’s look at some pickups. Basically there are two types - active and passive pickups. Without getting into hours of typing here let’s just say actives don’t require a preamp and will need a power source like a battery inside the uke.
Sometimes these pickups will have a outside power source too. Active pickups often add lots of tone, sound boost, and presence to the uke. They tend to drive the sound making it quite “in ya face”. this is great if you want that sound (it often is not a natural sound). One of the down sides to active pickups you have to replace the battery every now and then and Murphy's law they will always go dead during a performance and the uke will lose its sound.
On the other hand passive pickups don't need internal batteries so they never go flat. Another positive for passives they tend to interfere less with the ukes natural sound. The downside for passives is if you are not using good quality PA or amp you may want to run a external peddle type preamp. However if you are using a good pickup and PA or amp it is not a problem.
I have tested dozens of pickups - passives and actives. I have also talked to many people around the world who know pickups. Through this I have come up with only 4 pickups I would ever use. The rest are inferior to these pickups and will not reproduce the quality of your ukes sound and tone.
So what are my choices for pickups?
Active Pickups - Misi Trio or LR Baggs 5 0 The interesting thing about both of these pickups is they have identical elements. The element in both pickups are made by LR Baggs. The only difference between the two is the LRBaggs has a tone control and a flat watch battery inside the uke. The MISI trio has no volume control or battery inside.
It uses a recharge system of where you plug your uke into a power source for 30 seconds and it recharges for 130 hrs of use. The Baggs battery life is suppose to be around 300hrs. I have a few ukes with Baggs and MISI and I have no issues with either one.
Passive Pickups - well the only two I recommend are made by the same company K&K twin spot or K&K Aloha. K&K pickups interfere with the natural sound of the uke less than any other brand on the planet - you get a true representation of your ukes natural sound just louder.
I love these pickups and not just because of am a K&K dealer. I have many of my ukes with these pickups in them. Both pickups are very similar but if i had to choose I would go with the Aloha because it is designed exclusively for the uke.
Well there you have . I hope this has enlightened you on this topic a bit more. If you want some advice on what your ukepickup requirements are contact me via my uke business website - www.trevorgollaghermusic.com