Can You Put a Pickup on a Classical Guitar? (+Best Recommendations)

Pickups are a fairly common occurrence in steel-string acoustic guitars. But what if you want to amplify a nylon-string classical guitar?

Can you put a pickup on a classical guitar as well?

For starters, you can always use an external mic and a PA system. But with that comes the problem of annoying feedback upon increasing the volume beyond a certain threshold.

Well, don’t worry!

In this article, you’ll learn everything there is to know about amplifying a nylon string guitar using a pickup. Not only that, I’ll share with you some of my favorite affordable products that can get your guitar loud in no time and with zero installation or modification.

Let’s begin!

Can You Put a Pickup on a Classical Guitar?

Aside from receiving hate from purists (like when you do when playing a classical guitar with a pick), there’s nothing stopping you from installing pickups on a classical guitar.

However, there’s a catch!

Magnetic pickups won’t work on classical guitars, as there’s no magnetic field generated around nylon strings like it does in the case of metal strings.

Hence you’ll need either an undersaddle piezo pickup or a soundboard transducer to amplify a nylon string guitar.

There are a few different varieties of transducers available in the market, from ones that attach to the bridge to those that stick on the soundboard of your guitar. We’ll go through all these options a little later in the article.

Do Soundhole Pickups work on Nylon String Guitars?

Most soundhole pickups (like the Fishman Rare Earth or DiMarzio Acoustic Pickup) are magnetic which require strings to be made of a ferrous metal or steel to produce sound.

Since nylon strings won’t react with magnets, soundhole pickups WILL NOT work on classical guitars!

So the solution to this is a piezoelectric pickup that uses a compressed crystal to sense the vibrations and converts them into voltage signals.

Will a Piezo Pickup work with Nylon Strings?

As explained above, a piezo pickup only senses the vibrations around it and not the magnetic field. So it WILL work with nylon strings.

In fact, this is the most commonly used setup (besides a microphone) for classical guitars when it comes to live performances or playing in an ensemble.

Now that you know what kind of pickups work on nylon string instruments, let’s quickly cover how this setup is different from an external or internal microphone.

Pickup vs Mic

Here’s the key difference between pickups and mic when it comes to sound: A (good-quality) mic will usually produce a more natural or realistic sound under favorable circumstances.

Notice that I use the term ‘favorable circumstances’ here.

Whether you’re playing in a small studio or on a large performance stage, a microphone will pick up (no pun intended…) the “air” or the ambience of the surroundings.

Now if there’s a loud amplifier or PA system around you, a mic (whether internal and external) is prone to feedback. This can be very inconvenient when you can’t make a lot of adjustments in your setup or like to move around while playing.

This is not the case with pickups. A pickup won’t be noticeably threatened by other instruments or ambient noise. Being in direct contact with the instrument, the pickup will only amplify the instrument producing a more ‘direct’ sound.

The trade-off to this is in the sound quality. Pickups in any acoustic instrument will sound perceptibly worse. Just like how your voice sounds on a telephone call vs. in real life.

So, here’s the takeaway:

Microphones are sonically the better choice for situations like recording where you don’t have to worry about other instruments or feedback.

On the other hand, for playing with a band or for live performances, pickups are usually preferred. They’re both more convenient as well as more resistant to feedback.

Also, a high-quality mic tends to be much more expensive than a good pickup system.

So, What Is The Best Pickup For A Nylon String Classical Guitar?

Depending on your budget, you can get both cheaper and very expensive products on the market.

But choosing one isn’t going to be easy. There are dozens of options, and different pickups from different brands often have different tonal qualities.

To make it a little easier for you, I’ve shortlisted a few options in different styles.

For soundboard transducers, Fishman, K&K and Kremona make some great products at an affordable price.

My favorite ones are the K&K Pure Mini, Fishman SBT-E, KNA Piezo Pickup NG-1 and KNA AP-1 Portable Pickup.

And if you need microphones recommendations, I highly recommend checking out the Miniflex Mic Model 2, Bartlet clip-on Guitar Mic, L.R. Baggs ANTHEM-SL-C, and the DPA 4099.

Conclusion

It turned out easier than it seemed to be, right?

Well at least that’s what I hoped for when writing his article.

To summarize:

Yes, you can put a pickup on a classical guitar! There are a lot of cheap options that require no modification or installation. Plus, these clip-on style pickups are super-convenient as it’s pretty much a plug-and-play device.

Pickups won’t sound as natural as a high-quality microphone let alone the natural sound of your guitar. But they’re certainly a convenient way to amplify the instrument. You can even pair a pickup AND a mic to get the best of both worlds.

If you have more doubts or have anything else to say, I’ll be waiting for your comments down below.

Thanks for reading!

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