What Are Acoustic Guitar Pickups?

Acoustic guitar pickups function the same way that electric guitar pickups do; they have a coil that senses the magnetic vibration of the guitar strings and transcribes them into a sound we all recognize. The pickup converts these sound vibrations into electricity, which will then come from the guitar amplifier. 

If you play acoustic guitar, you know that nothing beats the sound of an unamplified instrument. However, if you want to gig or record with your acoustic guitar, you’ll need a way to amplify its sound. That’s where acoustic guitar pickups come in. This article will explain what acoustic guitar pickups are and how they work.

What Are Acoustic Guitar Pickups?

How Do The Pickups Work?

The main components of an acoustic guitar pickup are coils and magnets. Most pickups have coils and six magnets, one for each string. In a basic sense, these coils and magnets convert the strings’ vibrations into electricity. 

This can work, even when not connected to a power source. When you move a magnetic body over the magnet and coil, an electric current flows through both of them. When you pluck a string on an acoustic guitar, it creates vibrations that change the shape and amount of current flowing through its wires.

The sound of an electric guitar changes depending on how many times the coil is wound. The way coils function will produce different frequencies depending upon their construction, resulting in varying tones for guitars.

Where Is The Pickup Located?

Not all acoustic guitars have pickups. Acoustic guitars use their hollow bodies to spread the sound of the strings. The original purpose of the acoustic guitar was to create sound without being plugged into an amp, with the electricity being transferred out as sound.

Because of this, the sound is very different; electric guitars sound electric and can be manipulated with effects on the amp. Acoustic guitars sound more natural, amplifying the sound of the strings themselves. 

Do All Acoustic Guitars Have Pickups?

Acoustic guitars with pickups are designed to transfer their sound through an amplifier. These are called acoustic-electric guitars because they are essentially a hybrid of the two guitar styles. Users of this style of guitar would be able to plug their instrument into an amplifier for amplification as well as into recording equipment. 

Users with acoustic guitars with pickups can plug their instruments directly into recording software for perfect recording quality. This allows the sound to be directly transferred into the recorder and then manipulated for the desired sound. 

Types Of Pickups

There are three types of acoustic guitar pickups. Magnetic, piezo-based systems (that detect changes in pressure caused by the string vibration) or soundboard and microphone pickups. For example, the LR Baggs Anthem uses a combination of condenser mic and soundhole pickup to pick up as much of your instrument’s sound. The Fishman PowerTap Infinity, have sesors on the actual body that are able to pick up the sound. 

Soundhole pickups are typically fitted to acoustic guitars so they can be found across the sound holes. These types of magnetic pickup usually come in pairs and have a blade-like appearance. 

The internal microphone is typically a small condenser mic positioned within the guitar’s cavity and placed on an arm to allow for perfectly adjustable positioning. The most common model of this type would be found inside, where it can capture excellent audio without picking up any external noise or distortion from other instruments playing nearby.

How Do I Know What Pickups To Use?

You should ask yourself these questions if you decide on an acoustic guitar pickup. Are you playing alone or with other people? Are you using a guitar pick or strumming with your fingers? Is feedback from the amplifier a concern? What’s your budget? Do you need the pickup to be removable?

If you aren’t playing for crowds or need to really amplify your sound, internal microphone pickups will be your best option. If you’re playing in loud environments and budget isn’t a concern, a hybrid-style pickup will be a safer choice to keep your sound consistent. 

Unfortunately, the best way to discover which acoustic guitar pickup is best for you is to experiment with different ones. Every musician has a particular sound they enjoy and wish to emulate. Make sure to listen to recording with different types of pickups to make an informed decision. 

Can You Use A Voice Microphone With An Acoustic Guitar?

While it’s not necessarily a bad thing, using microphones and instruments that are voiced for similar pronounced frequencies can make your vocals sound too shrill. A more appropriate option might be one with less emphasis on the treble ranges.

In a pinch you can use a voice microphone with an acoustic guitar, but it will pick up other sounds than just the guitar. Voice microphones are intended to pull in all types of sound without distinction, so these types of microphones will have feedback issues. 

What’s The Best Way To Record?

The condenser microphone is a much better choice for recording acoustic guitar than the dynamic mic. It has higher sensitivity, which means it will capture more of your sound and less background noise from instruments or vocals in comparison to its counterpart; this also makes them perfect if you want accurate representation.

Can You Put Effects On The Sound?

Plugging in a guitar effects pedal to your acoustic instrument can transform it into something completely different. The tone of the sound is constantly changing with the variety that this device offers, so you will never get bored when using them.

If you’re looking to take your playing in some new directions, adding guitar effects is an excellent way of transforming the sound on any acoustic instrument. Pairing up with a pedal provides endless possibilities that will have audiences’ ears perked right away.

How Loud Can They Get?

Acoustic guitars are some of the loudest instruments in existence. Even a small dreadnought can be quite piercing with its volume, and heavier gauge strings make them even louder! Some acoustics reach around 100dB – which is as loud as a motorized vehicle.


Acoustic guitar pickups are an important part of the overall sound of the instrument. They work by translating the vibrations of the strings into an electrical signal that can be amplified and reproduced through a speaker. The pickup is typically located in the soundhole or near the bridge on an acoustic guitar. While there are many different types and brands of pickups available, they all serve the same purpose – to capture the sound of the guitar and convert it into an electronic signal that can be processed and reproduced by an amplifier or PA system.


About The Author