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Picking-up Solid Body Resonance


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First starters, let's not talk about tone woods. Woods resonate when you strap strings to them, and that is good enough for this topic.

Guitar pick-ups are electromagnetic devices to detect string osculation and turn this into an electrical signal. That's all well and good.. And works quite well. But solid body guitars resonate. And some quite nicely. In fact, often times when I am just having a quiet strum with my Stratocaster I will put my ear to the body and listen to the sound coming through the wood. This is even useful if I can't quite get a string in tune by "ear", because it is a much smoother sound.

So here is my questions: It wouldn't exactly be a pick-up in the classic sense, but is there any kind of "pick-up" that specifically aims to capture this guitar body resonance?

I have tried to do research on this on my own, but I guess I don't even have the vocabulary to start a search, because I keep ending up at dead ends.

Edited by sirspens
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Piezo pickups will do what you describe, provided you can find a way to mount them directly to the body. A piezo relies on being physically excited to generate an analogue of the vibrations, as opposed to a magnetic pickup which relies on transducing a strings' vibration and proximity into a voltage which can be amplified.

The effect you get out of it may not be entirely what you're 'hearing' though. With your ear pressed against the body you're also listening to a filtered version of the body's vibrations through your ear canal and skull, rather than what's being transferred naturally through the air to your ears.

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6 hours ago, curtisa said:

The effect you get out of it may not be entirely what you're 'hearing' though.

Good point. That is the purpose of a piezo pickup, but from what I understand they tend me be a bit "clinky" sounding.

I can test this easily, though. I am going to buy a fairly cheap but highly rated piezo pickup and attach it to the back of my cheap test guitar.

I'm going with this one, It has three contact points. That way I can get a good distribution of sound across the body.

I'll get back to you on this.

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  • 3 weeks later...

It has been a while, but I tried this out. I placed 3 piezos on the back of my guitar, distributed across the body.

The result was.... pretty eh...

First, it wasn't very loud. Barely loud enough if you cranked the amp all the way up to get anything out of it.

Second, it had a very clanky sound. Not very inspiring.

It got me thinking, though. I wonder if you connected piezos to some kind of gel pack that was embedded in the guitar if it would give you a smoother sound.

I don't know. I'm still thinking about this. There has to be an interesting way to pick up the actual resonance of a solid body.

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On 1/11/2016 at 8:06 PM, Prostheta said:

 I bet the messiest place to sense the vibrations in the body would be in a bolt-on neck joint. Just imagine! haha

Frank Zappa had this done to a Stratocaster. I tried it myself. Handling noise (Including the Pick Attack) swamps the string vibrations, You get artificial reverb off the Springs. You can "play" the lacquered body with the friction of your fingertips (And hear the friction of your clothing against the rear of the body). VERY unmusical, even if you're Avante-Garde, just UGLY.  Still glad I tried it as now I *know*.

Piezos need to see a higher impedance than a guitar amp input - FET preamps are normal - the "Treble-only" sound and low volume is a direct consequence of impedance mismatch.

Prostheta is entirely correct about piezos needing to be under direct pressure from the source of the sound (Underneath a fixed Fender bridge is ideal) - the Gel Pack idea is a non-starter - filtering by electronics is cheap and easily repeatable.


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