Story about development
From the dawn of the history of electric acoustic guitars ~ Ichiro Katayama ~
A development chief in an acoustic guitar company
I started working for an acoustic guitar company in 1976, and since having started to relate to guitars, I have been into manufacturing. Back at the time, it was the dawn of Piezo type electric acoustic guitars. After two years in manufacturing, fortunately, I was assigned as a development chief.
My ideal is to precisely reproduce electrically amplified acoustic guitar sound
It is ideal to precisely reproduce acoustic guitar sound with precision. Pickups back then were roughly classified into magnet type, piezo type and open-mic type. Among those, piezo type pickup soon became the mainstream of acoustic guitar pickups as it evolved respectively. In those days, how it looked like an acoustic guitar was emphasized in course of selling it. Piezo type pickup was more stable than open-mic pickups and had less howling, it sounded more acoustic with it than with magnet type one and it did not disfigure the look of a guitar. Probably those are why it was so popular.
Electric acoustic guitar has gained citizenship and established the position
The sound of piezo pickup back at the time had novelty, but often was pointed out of its difference from acoustic sound. Ovation pioneered the method of placing piezo pickups separately under each of the six strings. The cutting-edge technology and drastically different look and sound created by non-wood materials perhaps were an allergen to “acoustic” supremacist. Also piezo type electric acoustic guitar even reproduces the playing noises at not important audibility level with acoustic guitars and that caused players to change playing method according to the sound characteristics. Farther more, since the pickup electrically reproduces the sound, it caused a change that lighter gauge strings became the main stream and it seems that they change strings on their guitars much less often unless they are professionals. Although electric acoustic players were aware of the differences of sound quality from acoustic ones, electric acoustic guitar became popular with a background that acoustic guitar players were losing their positions in bands with electric guitars, key boards and percussions. Players were useless with open-mic pickups in a band. Magnet type pickups made as loud sound as electric guitars. But electric acoustic guitars with piezo pickups had more distinguishable characteristics than other string instruments. Even though it was far from acoustic sound, they felt it was still closer to acoustic sound than other ones. Since then, electric acoustic guitar has gained citizenship and established its position.
Culmination of research SMPU system
As already mentioned, I was a development chief of electric acoustic guitar. Back then, my goal was to reproduce amplified acoustic sound as precisely as possible with an electric acoustic guitar with piezo pickup mounted under the saddle. To be straight to the point, I have achieved it to a certain extent. But I hadn’t reached my goal when I left the company in 2008. In 2015, this idea popped up in my head suddenly, in the middle of researching of Acoustic Chamber which I was developing, and with no hesitation, I ended up in applying myself for the idea. Come to think of it, the sound of an music instrument that we hear comes from its vibrating shell. If you are to pick up the sound from an music instrument, why not placing the pickup device on the outside of the instrument, instead of on inside? Newly released Katayama’s guitar which has a device named SMPU is the culmination of my research. I am dreaming of that this system continues to develop and contributes to the electric acoustic guitar scene in the future.