A banjo pickup is an electronic device that aids in the amplification of the acoustic banjo’s sound. Pickups are widely used on a variety of stringed instruments. When musicians play these acoustic instruments in large spaces, they help to provide adequate amplification. Acoustic instruments have no built-in amplification, so their sound levels are limited to low levels, and they can be drowned out louder electrical instruments. To capture acoustic sounds through the air, pickups are a popular alternative to using a microphone.
A banjo pickup is often the most effective way to amplify the music of this instrument because it achieves a direct line for banjo sounds. A cord or connector connects a sound-receiving metal element to a connecting jack that can be plugged into a standard amplifier in many of these items. The volume controls on a variety of pickups allow the musician to adjust the volume while playing the banjo.
Many banjo pickup models are compatible with a wide range of banjos, including bass and tenor banjos, as well as various four string, five string, and six string instruments. These devices can be mounted directly under the bridge or on the underside of the banjo head. The ability of a pickup to intercept sound without receiving additional “fuzzy” sounds from ambient noise determines its quality. Banjo pickups are generally discussed in terms of how they affect the natural timbre of the sounds produced the acoustic instrument.
The fasteners and materials used to effectively hook them into place on the acoustic banjo are some of the issues with banjo pickups. Many banjo players perform both amplified and non-amplified shows on a regular basis, so musicians look at how many internal controls the pickups have and how easy it is to install and uninstall them as needed. In relation to the specific model of banjo for which these devices are required, size and shape may also be an issue.
Banjo pickups are made a variety of manufacturers with the specific needs of banjo players in mind. When purchasing these items, it is beneficial to review electronic specifications as well as warranty and return policies. In some cases, incompatibility or other issues can make using a specific banjo pickup with a specific banjo difficult or impossible.