Playing cello live is not easy. Especially when the 100 year old cello doesn’t like being plugged in, and when the vibrating from the drums and electric guitars on full blast in the amp I wonder why I have not invested in an electric cello yet…

My first pickup was the Fishman C-100 Classic Series cello pickup, a piezo-ceramic pick up which attaches to the bridge and was very trebly/bright and you could hear a lot of bow noise. 

My second was the Dtar Twin SoundSpot XL pickup a piezo-crystal pickup which was like the Fishman, except slightly less trebly. 

Finally I have found the perfect solution for acoustic amplification. Headway Acoustics “The Band” for cello uses a rubber tube that straps around the cello with the pick up pressing against the wood, unlike other contact pickups I have used which use vibrations from the bridge which often leaves a very scratchy, bridgy sound.

PROS:

- Very natural acoustic cello sound
- Little feedback compared to microphones
- Easy to attach and take off after use
- No damage to the cello when attaching (e.g. no sharp edges, no need for sticky tape
- No batteries or phantom power needed
- Works with simple jack cable
- Sturdy for live situations and too delicate to break while transporting

CONS:

- If it is not strapped on tight enough, it can cause vibrations that cause the pick up to make buzzing sounds when playing certain notes. Unfortunately these buzzes are then amplified. In my experience they are not audible in foldback monitor speakers and usually the sound engineer in a live show will let you know. 
- In my experience while using with a loop machine, if you are using a monitor/amplifier facing in the direction of the pickup, the pickup still picks up the vibrations and then records this in the loop as well, causing a never-ending cycle of dirty loops. 
- Since the pickup picks up vibrations and not an audio signal, you still need to add reverb in most situations, which is less needed if using a microphone. 
- From any distance the hideous black tube can be seen with the text on, but, I guess that is good marketing! 

Johnson String Instrument sells them for USD$190 and ships worldwide. Now go get one for your next live show…

See more information on their official website: http://www.headwaymusicaudio.com/product/the-band-cello/

--- UPDATE 9 DEC 2012 ---

I performed with Michael Kiwanuka with The Band for cello. Watch the video below to hear how it sounds. 

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