I'm a fingerstyle guitar player and at the moment I own an electric and a classical guitar and I'm looking forward to buy an electroacoustic guitar mostly for the sake of recording covers. The question is - do the pickups record the sound of e.g wrist thump? I can't find any information about this.

If it is not possible, would it be better to buy an acoustic guitar and a good microphone instead? The electroacoustic ones seem to be much more expensive. My current aim is the Martin GPCPA5 as it is recommended for fingerstyle.


Simple answer, yes, a (most commonly used) piezo pickup will pick percursive actions performed on the guitar.

However the result may be quite different from what you hear acoustically, as the sound is not reverberated by the guitar body and is not (obviously) air propagated.

In fact this is true even for the actual guitar playing. Piezo pickups are extremely convenient and have a sound that can be interesting for certain purposes, but this sound capture method is far from faithful. High end products try to compensate for that with electronics and results can become acceptable, but even so not the most faithful. (I'm not even entering into the issue of amplification, as you say your main concern is recording).

So, if you aim for fidelity of sound capture in a studio environment a ~150$ condenser microphone from a budget brand (say Behringer or Samson) will do a better work than a piezo.

Some high-end "electrified " guitars use an internal (real) microphone rather than a piezo (or a combination of both). I'm not familiar with these type of products though, so I don't know how they compare with an external microphone.

Now, a "not so high-end" factory integrated piezo does not make a guitar that much expensive, so perhaps going both ways, i. e. buy a guitar with a piezo and add the microphone later on if you're not pleased with the result in the studio (the piezo is always a good asset for a simple live or demo recording setup).

[EDIT] Additionally (as suggested by a comment from the OP), if both captured sources are available they can potentially be used together. Now I don't advise this route, as it may be more in terms of complexity and post-production work than one bargains for and the usefulness of the results is rather unpredictable. But no harm in discussing the idea, so here goes...

Consider that either the external mic or the piezo will capture both types of sound (strings vibrating and hand percussion sounds) to some extent. But tone and volume of each type of sound will be different in each sound source, so it's possible that they can be combined in some way to some advantage.

I suppose the best approach is to record the two sources in different tracks and later experiment with the mix to look for the best result (this is against the recording best practices of "keep it simple" and "get it right at the source" but I'm considering the special requisite to record the percussive elements and achieve the best balance and overall tone for both strings and percussive sounds). If one really does wish to take this to the extreme, EQ and compression can be used in one or both sources, to enhance the best elements of each source.

In summary, certainly possible and perhaps useful, but I would rather try a simple setup and focus on the music :-)

  • Thank you so much for such a comprehensive answer! I have a few questions that I would love to get an answer to. Is Fishman F1 Analog a piezo pickup? That Martin I have written about has that pickup. Also would it work if I mixed electroacoustic line sound and a microphone sound (for the percussion sound)?
    – INbahn
    Sep 13 '17 at 8:55
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    Good answer, so the more expensive approach is the better one - electro-acoustic and mic. This will give the best of both worlds - the mic can be placed to pick up percussive sounds in many different places, but just buying an acoustic will be regretted at some point. As ever, I'd be looking at pre-loved...
    – Tim
    Sep 13 '17 at 10:26
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    @INbahn, it appears both Martin and Fishman don't just plainly state the type of pickup used, but in Fishman's parlance the F1 Analog has a "UST" (= under-saddle transducer). Now microphones, electro-magnetic pickups and piezo pickups are all transducers, but only a piezo could be used in an under saddle configuration, so there you go. Regarding mixing both sources, yes, it can useful, I'm editing a more detailed explanation in my answer. Sep 13 '17 at 19:29
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    @JoséDavid - pre-loved = second hand, used, as found on Ebay, etc.
    – Tim
    Sep 14 '17 at 10:36
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    In fact, 150$ is plenty enough to buy a mic that will sound better than any PU – there are usable small-diaphragm mics available for as little as 30€. These may not always have so great frequency response and can have strange nonlinear effects at very low or high volumes, but they generally have good transient response and no hard cut-off, so for a close-miked guitar you can always get ok results given good room acoustics, placement and properly-setup EQ. (It should be noted though that any mic except USB models also needs a preamp. But so does a piëzo PU, so...) Sep 14 '17 at 21:28

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