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What Is a Banjo Pickup?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 15 April 2014
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A banjo pickup is an electronic device that helps to amplify the sound of the acoustic banjo instrument. Pickups are common for all sorts of stringed instruments. They help to provide sufficient amplification whenever musicians are playing these acoustic instruments in large areas. Because acoustic instruments do not have built-in amplification, their sound levels max out at relatively low volumes, and they can also be drowned out by louder electrical instruments. Pickups are a main alternative to using a microphone to capture acoustic sounds through the air.

By accomplishing a direct line for banjo sounds, a banjo pickup is often the most effective way to amplify the music of this instrument. Many of these items include a cord or connector that goes from a sound-receiving metal element to a connecting jack that can be plugged into a standard amplifier. A variety of pickups have their own volume controls, so that the musician can change the volume while using the banjo.

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Many banjo pickup models work with all sorts of banjos including the full range of bass and tenor banjos, as well as different four string, five string, or six string instruments. These devices can be placed on the underside of the banjo head or directly under the bridge. The quality of a pickup is dependent on how well it can intercept the sound without receiving additional “fuzzy” sounds from ambient noise. Generally, musicians talk about banjo pickups according to how they affect the natural timbre of the sounds that come out of the acoustic instrument.

Some issues with banjo pickups include the fasteners and materials used to effectively hook them into place on the acoustic banjo. Musicians also analyze how many internal controls the pickups have, and how easy it is to install them and uninstall them as necessary, since many banjo players perform both amplified and non-amplified shows on a regular basis. Size and shape may also be an issue with these devices, in relation to the individual model of banjo that they are needed for.

Different manufacturers make banjo pickups with the specialized needs of banjo players in mind. When buying these items, it helps to look at electronic specifications, as well as warranty provisions and return policies. In some cases, incompatibility or other issues can make a particular banjo pickup difficult or impossible to use with a certain banjo.

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