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Playing the guitar is a very special experience that will change your life in so many ways. But where to start?

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Acoustic Electric Guitars

Players who anticipate playing live with their acoustic guitars and want the freedom to move about while they play may want to consider an acoustic-electric guitar. Acoustic-electrics use a pickup system that allows you to simply plug into an amplifier or mixing board rather than having to stand stationary behind a microphone.

Traditionally, acoustic guitars were amplified by placing a microphone near the soundhole or by a standard magnetic pickup that spanned the soundhole. While the former method worked well enough, it limited the performer's range of movement. The latter method created problems with feedback and didn't always convey an accurate reproduction of an acoustic's natural sound. In the 1960s Ovation Guitars, at the behest of Glen Campbell, created an acoustic guitar pickup system that solved both problems--the piezo pickup.

A piezo pickup is a crystalline structure that senses changes in compression and emits an electrical signal accordingly. When placed under the saddle, the piezo detects the vibrations from the strings. Since the electrical signal the piezo creates is not very strong, a preamp is necessary. Today, most acoustic-electric guitars employ a setup just like that first Ovation. The preamp is typically located on the side of the guitar that faces up when playing, and often includes volume and tone controls. Some preamps even offer built-in tuners.

Other amplification methods are used as well, such as magnetic soundhole pickups, condenser microphones, and ribbon transducers. While these are gaining in popularity, piezos are still the most common amplification systems used in acoustic-electric guitars.

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