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I am playing rhythm guitar in a big band, which is a new project for me. The guys whose sound I like the most in this context are Freddie Green and Django Reinhardt. What they have in common is that they liked to play an accoustic guitar without amplification (they differ in other ways quite a bit, but I'm thinking more of the sound of the rhythm guitarists in Django's bands).

I really want to be able to reproduce the acoustic sound of my instrument with as little alteration as possible, so that I really capture the timbre of the acoustic guitar, which I prefer in big band context.

I play a Flame Maple, 5th Avenue Series, Godin Guitar. I like the sound of it. The maple gives it a good percussive sound (note that this exact model isn't available right now, but it's like the one at the end of this video).

I play a decent 30w amp with minimal effects. UPDATE: I am using a sunn alpa 112r amp.

So I'm thinking I should get a microphone for my guitar, and play it through the amp, rather than playing through the pickups. I don't like the sustain using pickups gives me, and I also don't like that it amplifies the subtle harmonics I get from muting strings more than it amplifies the percussive sound of the guitar.

My questions are:

1) Does the mic'd guitar through an amp setup make sense?

2) What is the minimum cheapest gear I could get to accomplish a very literal amplification of my sound.

3) Based on this question I came up with one potential setup with:

Is this the right setup? Do I need the pre-amp? Is this the right cable? Also, would I benefit from a pre-amp even if I do use the pickups? I am very new to amplifying my sound. I have always played acoustically, but the big band setup requires a little more output.

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    I doubt whether a condenser mic is the right tool for this job. It'll pick up the sound from the instruments around you too, and you won't be able to turn up the amp much without getting feedback. They are mostly used for recording, not live amplification. Maybe if you can find a hypercardioid one? – Your Uncle Bob May 1 at 21:35
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    @your-uncle-bob That mic is a cardioid. May work fine. Especially because it is not a large diaphragm condenser. – b3ko May 1 at 21:45
  • What is a good example of a hypercardiod mic that is common? I was hoping to use the guitar amp because I already have it and am trying to save money. Seems that won't work? – bart cubrich May 1 at 21:52
  • Easiest would probably be to go to a guitar shop with your guitar and amp and try every pickup they have until you find something (or a combination) that you like the sound of. There are many types, with different characteristics, and also systems which blend pickups with a mic; have a look at this:; thomann.de/blog/en/amplify-acoustic-guitar-2 – Your Uncle Bob May 1 at 22:02
  • It seems that the mixed style are very guitar dependent. Know anythign about ones that work with guitars with f-holes? – bart cubrich May 1 at 23:12
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Using a mic to amplify a guitar absolutely can make sense, but it also brings a hoard of problems that you don't really want to deal with in a live setup. I would strongly avoid plugging a microphone for an acoustic instrument into an onstage amp, that's a recipe for feedback disaster.

Specifically in a big band setup, you will just need quite a bit of volume to survive below the brass and drums. That's basically the reason pickups were invented: they solve this problem very well. Of course, they do sound very different from an acoustic guitar. As you said, magnetic pickups receive very little of the percussion on the top. Piëzo pickups take a lot more of this sound, so you may consider switching to a guitar with piëzos (or installing a piëzo bridge). Those have their own issues – often brizzly treble, which many acoustic guitarists like (for cutting through the mix); I personally don't like it for acoustic sound and specifically it's very untypical for jazz. However, this can be tamed with EQing and/or flatwound strings; I quite like piëzo through a slight chorus and a mellow guitar amp (not an acoustic amp).

Independent of what pickups you use, you could also mic the guitar additionally, but not send this through the amp but only to the PA. Then the audience will hear the acoustic sound, but you still don't have as much feedback issues.

  • Anecdotally, I know Freddie Green played through a mic, as did Marty Grosz, so some configuration like this must have worked. – bart cubrich May 7 at 19:11
  • I am ultimately going to try out the idea of a peizo pickup with a preamp. There are a lot of models, but I am going to try one that slips under the bass foot of the bridge (floating bridge on my guitar) referred to as a "wedge" pickup. I'll see in a few months if I like this setup. – bart cubrich Jul 25 at 17:44
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You are on the right track, but here are some additional things to look at:

1) Does the mic'd guitar through an amp setup make sense?

A mic'd guitar through an amp probably won't give you the pure acoustic tone you want. The amp itself will change the sound a lot. You will probably get a cleaner sound by using a small powered speaker, instead of the amp.

2) What is the minimum cheapest gear could I get to accomplish a very literal amplification of my sound.

Specific product reviews are outside the scope of this forum.

Is this the right setup?

You may have a problem with impedance matching. The signal from that preamp is most likely not meant to be sent to a guitar amp, so it might sound distorted. This is another reason to look into a powered speaker instead of an amp.

Do I need the preamp?

The mic you link to will require phantom power to work properly, so you will need something to supply it, and that preamp can do it.

Is this the right cable?

The cable you link to is unnecessary. You can connect the mic to the preamp with a normal XLR cable, and the preamp has both XLR and 1/4" outputs, so you can use regular cables for that connection two.

Also, would I benefit from a preamp even if I do use the pickups?

Probably not because of the impedance issue I mentioned above.

  • So is the best idea a different style of mic, and can you give an example of the kind of speaker you are talking about? It seems to me that I need the pre-amp, a speaker, and a mic, but I don't know enough for shop for these yet. – bart cubrich May 1 at 21:50
  • @bartcubrich I think that mic will work fine, but as some people have pointed out feedback is going to be your main concern. Feedback is caused when the sound from the speaker is being picked up by the mic, so you will need to keep the speaker in front of you. leftaroundabout has a great suggestion for this: use the pick-ups and a small amp on stage just for you to hear yourself, and send the mic'd sound out the house for the audience to hear. – Peter May 2 at 13:28
  • Isn't an amp with tones set at flat the same as a powered speaker? – Tim May 2 at 17:03
  • @Tim No, guitar amps usually have two amplifiers: a preamp and power amp. The preamp is usually designed to color the sound to some extent. Some amps allow you to bypass the preamp, so that might be an option, but the OP will still have to deal with matching impedance. A keyboard or "acoustic" amp will producer a cleaner tone than a normal guitar amp, but again impedance may be an issue. – Peter May 2 at 17:31

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