Magnetic pickups, are nothing new to the millions of guitarist in the world, their dependability and versatility is undisputed. Finally this style of pickup, with all it's potential has been applied to the acoustic banjo. The Kavanjo Pickup System, is a magnetic pickup based on a humbucker style. And just like those guitarist, the Kavanjo helps the banjoist finally compete in live venues previously reserved for higher volume instruments. It does this while maintaining the banjo's unique sound. Giving banjo players the confidence to tackle outside venues and large concert halls with a tool that has been lacking for decades. It provides studio musicians an infinite number of sound possibilities and offers those of us that will never 'play out' ...hours of entertainment in the privacy of our own homes. I have compiled a handful of commonly asked question to help with getting the most out of your Kavanjo Pickup System, as well as a few good user tips.
Q. What is a magnetic pickup?
A. The two basic components of this type of a pickup is, the 'coil' and the 'magnet'. The coil is a bobbin, wrapped thousands of times with a coated copper know as 'magnetic copper wire'. This wire is just a little thicker than our hair and is wound on special machines to insure precise distribution of the wire through out the bobbin.
The magnets on the other hand, creates an environment that when the string is plucked, energy from the north and south poles of the magnetic field is disrupted. These waves are then "picked up" in the coil(s) which registers them as an electrical signal or current. This signal is sent down an instrument cable to the amplifier, guitar amp, mixing board, DI or computer.Tip: When running into a computer, you will first be required to convert the signal from Aneloge to Digital.
Q. What strings are best to use?
A. With this style of pickup, you will want to use Nickel (steel) strings. Nylon strings will not register a signal at all, for they lack any metal. Stainless steel strings lack enough iron in them to create a good disruption in the magnetic field.
Q. How tight can I make a banjo head that has a Kavanjo on it?
A. The mylar plastic that makes up the banjo head is so strong on a melecular level... you can bring it up to what ever tension you prefer, remember your head tension will directly affect your bridge height in relationship to the strings. The bridge height will affect your strings 'action' which is the distance that the string stands away from the frets. Installing a banjo head with the proper diameter and crown height Is one of the most important details.For example, Deering banjos (2006 to current) use a medium crown 11" head with the exception of Goodtime banjos which use a high crown 11" head. We will investigate more about, head types and styles, and their effect on tonallity in future Q&A's.Tip: Having your banjo head tuned appropriately for your banjo is a must if you want to get the most out of your instrument with the least amount of effort. Amplification:
Q. What type of Amplifier do I need?
A. There are two routes you can go with amps, solid state or tube...Tube amps are said to have a warmer tone due to the fact the electricity is conditioned through a vacuum tube(s) in the pre amp section and the main power is conditioned with tubes as well. Solid state amps can be half the price of a tube amp and the Kavanjo sounds great through this style of amplifier. A 25-35 watt amp is a good place to start and is the equivalent of having your own little monitor on stage with you. You do want an amp with a some headroom, so in a practice setting the volume knob might be set at 2-3 but in a live show set between 4-7. Turning up to 9-10 on most amps will overdrive your signal and give you distortion, which in some styles of music like hard rock is great. But if you want a clean banjo sound get some "headroom". Tip:
If you have a really good sound person and mics are not in short supply, have them set a mic right in front of you at waist level that you can step up to for the more acoustic moments, leaving the Kavanjo through the amp as your live sounds' foundation. The sound person can mic the amp or take a direct line (DI) from it. I suggest going to a music store that specializes in electric and acoustic guitars and play through as many amps as possible to find the one YOU like. Electric guitar amps or acoustic guitar amp, you won't know which is best for you till you play through them... Take a band mate to get a second opinion!