Piezo Pickups and the Natural Sound of Amplified Acoustic Guitars: The Problems It Solved and the Challenges It Still Faces

For decades, professional musicians have faced challenges when it comes to amplifying acoustic guitars. Traditional methods of amplification often resulted in a distorted, unnatural sound that failed to capture the unique characteristics of an acoustic guitar. However, the invention of piezo pickups in the 1960s helped to solve this problem, allowing for a more natural, authentic sound when amplifying acoustic guitars. But despite this breakthrough, challenges still remain when it comes to achieving the perfect amplified acoustic guitar sound.

The Problem of Amplifying Acoustic Guitars

The acoustic guitar is a unique instrument that produces sound by the vibration of its strings, which are transferred to the guitar’s body and then projected into the surrounding air. Amplifying this sound can be challenging, as traditional amplification methods designed for electric guitars do not always produce the desired results when used with acoustic guitars. Many early attempts at amplification resulted in a distorted, “tinny” sound that failed to capture the warmth and natural character of the acoustic guitar.

Piezo Pickups: The Solution to a Long-Standing Problem

In the 1960s, piezo pickups were invented, which use crystals to convert the vibrations of the guitar strings into an electrical signal. Unlike traditional magnetic pickups, which can produce a distorted sound when used with an acoustic guitar, piezo pickups produce a more natural, acoustic-like sound. They work by capturing the mechanical vibrations of the guitar’s bridge, allowing for a more accurate reproduction of the guitar’s unique sound.

Piezo pickups quickly gained popularity among professional musicians, who appreciated their ability to capture the natural sound of an acoustic guitar. They were especially popular in acoustic-electric guitars, which are designed to be played both acoustically and with amplification. By using piezo pickups, acoustic-electric guitars could produce a sound that was nearly indistinguishable from a purely acoustic guitar.

Challenges Still Remain

Despite the breakthrough that piezo pickups represented, challenges still remain when it comes to achieving the perfect amplified acoustic guitar sound. One challenge is the “quack” or “piezo honk” that can occur when using piezo pickups. This is a result of the pickup’s sensitivity to high frequencies, which can cause a nasal, honking sound that is not always desirable. Some manufacturers have attempted to address this issue by designing pickups with a more balanced frequency response, but this remains a challenge.

Another challenge is the issue of feedback, which occurs when the amplified sound from the guitar is picked up by the guitar’s own pickups, causing a high-pitched squeal or howl. This can be a problem in live performance situations, where the volume of the guitar needs to be loud enough to be heard over other instruments. Some solutions to this problem include using soundhole covers, EQ adjustments, or even designing guitars with thinner bodies to reduce the potential for feedback.

Lastly, there is the challenge of creating a truly authentic and natural sound when amplifying acoustic guitars. While piezo pickups have come a long way in capturing the natural sound of the guitar, some argue that there is still room for improvement. Some manufacturers are exploring new technologies, such as “bridge sensors” that capture the vibrations of the guitar’s bridge in a different way, or even using advanced algorithms to analyze and enhance the sound of the guitar.


In conclusion, piezo pickups have revolutionized the way acoustic guitars are amplified, providing a natural and authentic sound that was previously difficult to achieve. By converting the vibrations of the guitar’s strings directly into an electrical signal, piezo pickups eliminate the need for microphones and other traditional amplification methods, allowing for greater flexibility and control over the sound.

However, piezo pickups are not without their challenges. The potential for feedback and the need for careful placement can make them difficult to use in certain situations, and some guitarists may prefer the sound of traditional magnetic pickups or other amplification methods.

Despite these challenges, piezo pickups have become a staple of modern acoustic guitar amplification and are a testament to the ongoing evolution of guitar technology. As technology continues to advance, it will be interesting to see what new developments emerge in the world of acoustic guitar amplification and how they will shape the sound of music for generations to come.