External Pickup for Mountain Dulcimer - Kala amp?

Gale A Barr
Gale A Barr
@gale-a-barr
4 years ago
34 posts

Hi all -

  Sorry for the delay in responding - work and fragile health of my father has been requiring my attention. Thanks again for all of the suggestions. I am going to the different options as time and budget allows. 

  

Richard Streib
Richard Streib
@richard-streib
5 years ago
191 posts

Gale, you have gotten lots of good responses. I have a condenser mic made, according to the box for vocals (lavalier clip on) or an instrument microphone.  It comes with a pinch type clip for a guitar sound hole. 

Ron Ewing  ( http://www.ronewingdulcimers.com) sold me mine probably 10 years or more ago. He made the clip-on apparatus for the dulcimer, which looks a lot like his capos, just longer to span the body of the dulcimer. Sounds great though it takes some experimentation to find the sweet spot for mounting it. It is a pretty nifty set up.

It runs on one AA battery. The power pack attaches to your belt, pocket or music stand. You will need a cord with female XLR on one end and 1/4" male fitting on the other to attach to your amp. I use a cheap (legacy) karoke amp which has a cassette deck and it sounds pretty good. I am sure it could sound better with a higher end pre-amp and amplifier.

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Rob N Lackey
Rob N Lackey
@rob-n-lackey
5 years ago
415 posts

The best stick-on pickup imo is the Schatten Dualie.  I've used a lot of pickups since the 70s to amplify nylon string guitars and this one is better than anything I've ever had.  I actually got it when it first came out to try to get the "Willie Nelson" sound from a little Argentinian classical guitar I have.  I combine mine with a Boss GE-7 equalizer/preamp which I got in a pawn shop for around $25.  Couldn't resist it; mint in the box.  Now I've upgraded my amplifier to a Fender Acoustisonic 150, but I've been using the Boss still.  I have other effects I use as well.  Now I just have to get a good vocal mic to round out the equipment.

Oh yeah, Schatten makes a dulcimer pickup as well now.  I have not tried it as the dualie has satisfied my needs wonderfully.

 

Gale A Barr
Gale A Barr
@gale-a-barr
5 years ago
34 posts
Ken, Dusty, Robin -
Thanks for the excellent, thoughtful responses! I may try the violin pickup at first just to get a feel for it and then start looking into the other options you have suggested, like the SM 57 mike and Roland amp. Thanks again and have a happy New Year!
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
5 years ago
1,591 posts

Gale, for the record, Robin has a lot more experience with this stuff than I do and you should take his advice over mine in a heartbeat.  He plays gigs far more regularly than I and has also created phenomenal recordings.  I trust his recommendations wholeheartedly.

I can only share what I have gone through.  Over the last 5 or 6 years I bought several cheap and one rather expensive ($120) external pickups hoping to be able to amplify one or more dulcimers.  I gave or threw the cheap ones away and never use the more expensive one (which I would gladly sell for a hugely discounted price so long as the buyer does not blame me for the disappointing sound).  I also bought and later gave away a small, cheap amplifier.  I was never able to achieve anything close to acceptable sound quality.  I consider all that wasted money and time.  If you add up the external pickups and cheap amp that I bought, together they would represent almost the total cost of an SM 57 and a small, portable, Roland amp.

If you just want a quick and cheap way to amplify your sound for an upcoming gig, there are indeed options available. But you might want to think more long-term about a permanent way to create a satisfying amplified sound. 




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Robin Clark
Robin Clark
@robin-clark
5 years ago
237 posts

Gale A Barr:


Hi all -


 


   I am looking for some advice on any moderately-priced external pickups that work well with a mountain dulcimer and would work with the cute Kala amp I bought for my tenor uke this past summer. See attached for photo of amp and cord.  My DH gave me a gift certificate to Elderly Instruments and looking to use that if possible.  I don't have a lot of knowledge of "electrified" dulcimers but trying to learn from this site and others. Thanks in advance for any advice!



Hi Gale,


I wouldn't look to spend too much on a pick-up system if you just intend to plug your dulcimer into a small amp like the Kala one you have.  Although, as Dusty says, a mic' will give good quality sound, that amp will not take a dynamic mic' like the SM57.


The simple solution I would suggest would be some sort of clip or stick on peizo pick-up.  I played a gig last week and used a cheap Cherub WCP-60V violin pick-up (less then $10 from Amazon).  The pick-up has a long slender clip that will fit into almost any dulcimer sound hole.  You could plug this direct into your Kala amp and, with some experimentation on positioning, should give an OK sound.  You can improve the sound by wrapping an elastic band around the clip to make it pinch together a little firmer.


Cherub violin pickup.jpg


If you want a better tone (peizo pick-ups can be a little harsh) then you can add a cheap pre-amp.  I use the Behringer V-tone Acoustic ADI 21 for gigs.  It is a great bit of kit for improving the sound of cheap pick-ups and lifting their output to line level.  It is a little technical to explain but basically this box will allow you to plug your dulcimer into any amp or p/a system and control the tone and volume.  When using it I can get one of those cheap Cherub pick-ups to sound very natural through a small acoustic guitar amp or into a p/a system.  They are about $30 from Amazon (remember to get an additional lead to plug the box into your amp).


Behringer Vtone acoustic Adi21.jpg


Overall a mic' will give the very best sound but only if it is plugged into a very good sound system.  When using small guitar amps cheaper solutions are a more pragmatic option.


 


 

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
5 years ago
1,970 posts

Dusty has a good point.  I was recently introduced to the condenser microphone, which isn't like the usual hand-held stick mic.  It's a sort of Omni-pickup that you put on a stand in front of you.  Nothing attached to your instrument.  They pick up both the instrument and your singing very well.  I've seen them on Amazon for around $75.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
5 years ago
1,591 posts

Gale, as Ken demonstrates, there are some very affordable options out there.  My advice if you want to be able to amplify several instruments would be to get a microphone rather than an external pickup.  The industry stand-by is the Sure SM-57.  If you look online you can find deals where you get the mic, a chord, and a mic stand for around $100. I made that purchase a few years ago and then more recently bought the Sure SM-58, which is basically the same mic but for vocals.  And I'm sure there are less expensive mics out there that would also do the job.

I just think that whatever you spend, a good microphone represents a better-sounding and more versatile option than an external pickup.  I have never been satisfied with the few external pickups I've tried.

But you might also pose this question in the Technology/Software/Amplifying Group here at FOTMD.  Some people have a great deal more experience than I with amplifying instruments.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
5 years ago
1,970 posts

I use simple contact piezo pickups that I get off the Net; cost about $3-$5 each.  The sticky tape does not bother the dulcimer's finish.  Sometimes I replace the tape with 3M double sided tape...

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updated by @ken-hulme: 12/27/17 03:20:42PM
Gale A Barr
Gale A Barr
@gale-a-barr
5 years ago
34 posts
Should add that I have a standard size McSpadden and a couple of Folkcraft dulcimers I would like to amplify...
Gale A Barr
Gale A Barr
@gale-a-barr
5 years ago
34 posts

Hi all -

   I am looking for some advice on any moderately-priced external pickups that work well with a mountain dulcimer and would work with the cute Kala amp I bought for my tenor uke this past summer. See attached for photo of amp and cord.  My DH gave me a gift certificate to Elderly Instruments and looking to use that if possible.  I don't have a lot of knowledge of "electrified" dulcimers but trying to learn from this site and others. Thanks in advance for any advice!

Amp.jpg
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