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  1. #1

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    I am a babe in the woods with regard to pickups for archtops. I don't even know much about pickups for flat-stops because I have always mic'd my acoustics. Now I have an L-12 that I want to use mainly for acoustic playing, but I also want the option of a pickup. I think that trying to mic an archtop effectively is probably a waste of time (but maybe I need to talk to Marty Grosz about that, lol).

    Here is a rundown of my thinking so far.

    Most important, I don't want to put any holes in the top of the guitar.

    I want a pickup that will not interfere with low action. This guitar had a Kent Armstrong floating humbucker when I bought it, but in order to accommodate the pickup, the previous user had to set the action quite high.

    For years, I played blues/rock with a ES-345 and loved it, but I was playing pretty raunchy material and the humbuckers were exactly the right pickup for my style. But generally I don't like the sound of humbuckers for jazz. I know that that is heresy but I prefer a somewhat brighter sound. For the same reason, I am not fond of flatwounds. I will be playing it through a custom made tweed-style amp that is somewhat like a 50s Fender Tremolux. That may change. I do like the sound of early amplified archtops, like Charlie Christian's sound, but I wonder if that has more to do with the amp.

    Is there a thread or a site that might give me a good overview of archtop pickups? As I said, I am really a novice in this area and would appreciate any input and guidance you guys can offer.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Hi doc,

    I'm new to the archtop scene, hopefully someone with broader knowledge than me will check in here. My only advice would be to check out archtop.com. They carry the old style pickups with the sound you're looking for including Kent Armstrong's handmade line. I'm thinking about a floating single coil for my archtop (p90ish sound). I don't know if they're skinny enough to accomplish what you need, but it's worth looking into. They also sell the harnesses and stealth controls you can mount to the underside of the pickguard.

    They even carry the old style rod mounted D'armond Rhythm Chief. Their stuff is not cheap but they have a great deal of knowledge and experience. Hope this helps.

  4. #3

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    If you actually know who Marty Grosz is, perhaps you ARE one of the people who should be mic'ing your guitar. I can walk you through how to get a really workable mic rig going, provided some simple stage geometry. The trick is using a clip-on "lavalier"-style microphone instead of something on a stand, but there are a couple tips/tricks to dealing with it.

    But if you are intent on electrifying it, especially in those early electric styles, then yes... the pickup has a lot to do with it, and especially if your'e already playing a tweed-style amp.

    You're only real option is something like a vintage DeArmond or a reissue.

    But another question is... what year L-12, because that can make the difference as far as how much room there is under the neck.

  5. #4

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    There are several pickups out there that are thin. Kent Armstrong makes a Slimbucker pickup that is 7 mm.

    Kent Armstrong Archtop Series Slimbucker Side Mount Humbucker Pickup

    I have a Dearmond RC 1000 reissue, which I think is 8 mm.

    If you don’t have more clearance than this, you are going to be hurting for a pickup you can mount under the strings...

    There’s also the Fishman bridge pickup, which some people like.

    Archtop Guitar Pickup | Fishman

  6. #5

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    hi, Doc.

    i hear you, and unlike most i don’t feel like flatwounds and humbuckers necessarily rhyme with archtops, too.

    i needed to turn an old small-bodied Framus acoustic archtop into an easy-to-plug-into-any-guitar-amp thing, and had a hard time finding pickups that could fit in that narrow space...

    i found a stick-on thing that was branded by National Resophonics, though designed and built for them by Villex Pickups at the time - it was indeed meant for dobros, where pickup space’s at a premium by design.

    beside the impossible thickness of ~5mm, what i loved most of it was its sonic signature, extended through the upper range like no humbucker i had ever heard before, though technically using two coils for being totally hum-free. and, another bonus in my tone quest, plenty of microphonics - touch sensitivity, if you want, somewhat similar to a contact transducer.

    i just realized only now that National Resophonics have in the meantime changed their supplier, so the current version of the ultra-slim thing isn’t made by Villex any longer - but one’s there nonetheless, with the same brand, meaning it shall not be that different from the previous one, if National aims to serve the same clients of the very guitars.

    hope this helps you to look in a direction that, i’m aware, isn’t exactly germane around here... but that’s the beauty of archtop guitars, ultimately: they lend themselves to different sonic contexts and applications, if only by changing strings, bridges and tailpieces. and pickups, sometimes, too!

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by campusfive
    If you actually know who Marty Grosz is, perhaps you ARE one of the people who should be mic'ing your guitar. I can walk you through how to get a really workable mic rig going, provided some simple stage geometry. The trick is using a clip-on "lavalier"-style microphone instead of something on a stand, but there are a couple tips/tricks to dealing with it.

    But if you are intent on electrifying it, especially in those early electric styles, then yes... the pickup has a lot to do with it, and especially if your'e already playing a tweed-style amp.

    You're only real option is something like a vintage DeArmond or a reissue.

    But another question is... what year L-12, because that can make the difference as far as how much room there is under the neck.
    I am no expert on Marty Grosz but I love the guy! About a year ago, when I was first looking into getting an archtop to play swing and older-style jazz, I came across Marty Grosz. He appears to be one of the few modern players who still uses a mic to amplify an acoustic guitar. I really enjoy his playing (and his very weird sense of humour). For me, an acoustic with a pickup never really gets that true acoustic sound. I have always used a mic to amplify an acoustic guitar at gigs. Grosz seems to have an extensive discography and I have been trying to find as much as I can on youtube.

    Thanks for your very kind offer. I would be glad to have you walk me through this. It would be really good to have all three options, if at all possible: fully acoustic, amplified acoustic, and electrified with a vintage style pickup. Fully acoustic is obviously a matter of getting the right set up. I am hoping that the new frets, which should be done in less than two weeks, will do the trick. When I got the guitar, the truss rod adjustment was somewhat ceased, but that has been fixed also.

    So because of the fret job, I can't do any measurements on the neck right now, but it is a 1937 L-12, if that helps. Even with 75 year old frets it sounds terrific but I have to play very lightly on the higher strings especially, or it gets somewhat "plinky." I am not a particularly light player and I am hoping that the new frets will allow me to really dig in when I need to.

    This guitar has inspired me to get back into professional gigs (but only small local or even neighbourhood gigs) so I think the largest combo I might be in would be guitar, acoustic bass, very light percussion, and something like a clarinet or sax. Maybe piano. From your youtube videos and Campus Five site, I know that you have a really good acoustic and electric set-up so I am really open to your advice.

  8. #7

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    Ok so I recorded this the other day; literally just a K&K Definity pickup with a high end EQ cut. Nothing else.

    Was planning to mic it but I was playing on click and couldn’t be bothered to hunt down my headphones lol.

    Sounds... nice I think.

    After years of moaning about this pickup, turns out the installation was dodgy.

    So for rhythm and early jazz sounds you could definitely do worse. I’ve also used this with the Tonedexter but TBH it’s not a great match with this guitar and pickup



    Miking is the Rolls Royce option. I prefer micing for this kind of work but an awful lot depends on the room and so on. And the bandleader. It requires patience and consideration.

    The main times I’ve managed to use a miced solution was at swing dance festivals and theatre gigs where they actually take the time to get a good sound and care about the music. But even an SM57 works pretty well.

    The main problem here is monitoring. Drumless is fine. With drums, depends how they play and what their set up is.
    Last edited by christianm77; 02-28-2021 at 12:41 PM.

  9. #8

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    Krivo offers a really thin pickup, perhaps the thinnest available. I've never tried one, but there are some forum members who have. I think ChristianM has one, and seems to be happy with it. I'm very happy with my DeArmond Rhythm Chief, but it's not the thinnest available. I prefer the sound to any other pickup I've tried. A mic might be what you prefer, and good luck with getting that to work for you.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    Krivo offers a really thin pickup, perhaps the thinnest available. I've never tried one, but there are some forum members who have. I think ChristianM has one, and seems to be happy with it. I'm very happy with my DeArmond Rhythm Chief, but it's not the thinnest available. I prefer the sound to any other pickup I've tried. A mic might be what you prefer, and good luck with getting that to work for you.


    this is the Krivo micro-Manouche DI’d and maybe slightly Eq’d.

    i don’t think I have a recording of the Krivo for rhythm guitar. I really like it and it’s about as acoustic a sound as you are going to get from a magnetic pup but it has a low feedback threshold on my Loar.

    It’s quite far away from the strings.... and there’s not much clearance there lol

    Both this and the K&K can be installed to guitars without any drilling or irreversible changes. However the Krivo is a lot neater and I don’t know what the K&k might do to old nitro lacquer. Obviously for the Loar I don’t really care.

  11. #10

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    Don: IIRC, your L-12 is a '35, not a '37. The tailpiece certainly suggests as much, and the D'Aigle listing indicated '35 as well. Have you been able to otherwise confirm the date? Is there a visible serial number?

    As far as pickups go, the best one to get is an old Dearmond "monkey on a stick" floating pickup. They sound great with various string sets, and there are even a couple of reissues available. Original ones are expensive, new ones are much less so. The come in gold plate as well as chrome plate. Chances are that a Dearmond will fit. It should not be that hard to find someone willing to lend you one for a test fitting.

    Properly installed, a Dearmond will have a very minor or no effect on the acoustic response of the guitar. There are three basic models from which to choose - the FHCC/Guitar Mike, the Model 1000 (also available as a reissue) and the Model 1100 (also available as a reissue). They are all great.

    The best place for you to get practical info about these and other pickups is on this forum.
    Attached Images Attached Images Advice on archtop pickups-gib-l12-35-donwallace-jpg 

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by rbbrnck
    hi, Doc.

    i hear you, and unlike most i don’t feel like flatwounds and humbuckers necessarily rhyme with archtops, too.

    i needed to turn an old small-bodied Framus acoustic archtop into an easy-to-plug-into-any-guitar-amp thing, and had a hard time finding pickups that could fit in that narrow space...

    i found a stick-on thing that was branded by National Resophonics, though designed and built for them by Villex Pickups at the time - it was indeed meant for dobros, where pickup space’s at a premium by design.

    beside the impossible thickness of ~5mm, what i loved most of it was its sonic signature, extended through the upper range like no humbucker i had ever heard before, though technically using two coils for being totally hum-free. and, another bonus in my tone quest, plenty of microphonics - touch sensitivity, if you want, somewhat similar to a contact transducer.

    i just realized only now that National Resophonics have in the meantime changed their supplier, so the current version of the ultra-slim thing isn’t made by Villex any longer - but one’s there nonetheless, with the same brand, meaning it shall not be that different from the previous one, if National aims to serve the same clients of the very guitars.

    hope this helps you to look in a direction that, i’m aware, isn’t exactly germane around here... but that’s the beauty of archtop guitars, ultimately: they lend themselves to different sonic contexts and applications, if only by changing strings, bridges and tailpieces. and pickups, sometimes, too!

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hammertone
    Don: IIRC, your L-12 is a '35, not a '37. The tailpiece certainly suggests as much, and the D'Aigle listing indicated '35 as well. Have you been able to otherwise confirm the date? Is there a visible serial number?

    As far as pickups go, the best one to get is an old Dearmond "monkey on a stick" floating pickup. They sound great with various string sets, and there are even a couple of reissues available. Original ones are expensive, new ones are much less so. The come in gold plate as well as chrome plate. Chances are that a Dearmond will fit. It should not be that hard to find someone willing to lend you one for a test fitting.

    Properly installed, a Dearmond will have a very minor or no effect on the acoustic response of the guitar. There are three basic models from which to choose - the FHCC/Guitar Mike, the Model 1000 (also available as a reissue) and the Model 1100 (also available as a reissue). They are all great.

    The best place for you to get practical info about these and other pickups is on this forum.
    DOH! Hammertone, You are indeed correct. It is a 1935. Geezer memory kicks in again. Thanks for your vigilance.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by campusfive
    If you actually know who Marty Grosz is, perhaps you ARE one of the people who should be mic'ing your guitar. I can walk you through how to get a really workable mic rig going, provided some simple stage geometry. The trick is using a clip-on "lavalier"-style microphone instead of something on a stand, but there are a couple tips/tricks to dealing with it.

    But if you are intent on electrifying it, especially in those early electric styles, then yes... the pickup has a lot to do with it, and especially if your'e already playing a tweed-style amp.

    You're only real option is something like a vintage DeArmond or a reissue.

    But another question is... what year L-12, because that can make the difference as far as how much room there is under the neck.
    As Hammertone pointed out, this guitar is a 1935, NOT a 1937. I knew that but as I said to him, geezer memory...