Nothing beats that warm acoustic tone you can normally get from such a guitar unless you actually own one. You may already have an electric guitar or perhaps you only need the acoustic tone every now and then – maybe you just want a swap when playing live. The good news is you can learn how to make an electric guitar sound acoustic, without actually buying one.
It is worth noting that the sound will not always be 100% similar to the acoustic tone. The sound you can achieve depends on many factors. For instance, it depends on what kind of electric guitar you have, not to mention what amp you rely on. With all these, there are a few tricks that can easily push your performance towards an acoustic one.
What does an acoustic guitar sound like?
Before twitching settings and performing various tips and tricks to turn your electric guitar into an acoustic one, you need to understand what the acoustic guitar actually sounds like. You need to become familiar with the acoustic tone, but also figure out what kind of elements make it sound differently. You can then focus on those elements in order to achieve the sound you want.
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Play both an electric guitar and an acoustic one and you will notice completely different tones. These differences are given by more factors. One of them is the actual design. Different types of guitars are built to receive the sound and amplify it in different ways. What kind of differences are you trying to replicate then?
For instance, acoustic guitars will always have hollow bodies. The hollow design allows the sound to be deeper and more emotional. On the other hand, electric guitars are most commonly found with solid bodies. Sure, you can also find semi-hollow or hollow bodies in electric guitars, but such models are quite rare.
Another difference in design relates to how the sound is released back – whether as you practice or for your audience. In an acoustic guitar, the sound is released through the so-called sound hole – quite obvious in the middle of the guitar. When it comes to electric guitars, there is rarely such a hole. The sound is released through amp speakers then.
Even receiving the sound in different types of guitars will work on different principles. Take the acoustic guitar, for example. It comes with a soundboard, which actually amplifies the sound. The electric guitar does not have such a thing. Therefore, the sound is received by its pickups, bringing in completely different operating principles.
You can notice many of these differences as you actually look at two different guitars. You can notice the design aspects, as well as the elements responsible for the sound. A closer look will reveal even more differences that will affect the sound and tone. For example, acoustic guitars have pretty thick strings, while electric alternatives come with thin strings.
Now, based on these differences, learning how to make an electric guitar sound acoustic seems quite difficult. But before moving on, you have to understand what the acoustic tone actually sounds like. First of all, an acoustic guitar will most commonly be louder than an electric one – sure, when the electric one is not plugged in.
The same rule applies to the actual resonance. There is more resonance in an acoustic guitar, but a plugged-in electric alternative may reach similar levels. Other than that, the acoustic tone tends to be fuller. It is more emotional and can trigger more feelings. It also feels warmer and likely to resonate with the audience.
Based on these differences, trying to sound like you are playing an acoustic guitar can be a pretty difficult job. You must come up with a warm tone, but also a full sound. You need to ensure a clean sound that can trigger emotions. Fortunately, you can achieve all these with an electric guitar as well if you play your cards right.
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Bring in an acoustic simulator
The sound is different, regardless of how clean it is. No matter how hard you try to keep it clean, the sound of an acoustic guitar is unique and hard to replicate without any tricks. The acoustic sounds elemental. It is clear and has a woody depth. Bring in the natural grain of the wood and the thick strings – you just cannot get these with electricity.
Electric guitars are full. The pickup is what transfers the motion. The way the sound is amplified is different. However, you can get quite close to an acoustic guitar with an acoustic simulator. Its name is self-explanatory – this device has the one and only purpose to replicate the acoustic tone while using an electric guitar.
There are a few good options out there – some of the more popular than others. The traditional design with a pedal will not let you down. It can turn a classic electric guitar into a bright instrument. It will have a woody tone as well. There are more features out there that can help in the process. For example, opt for tone shaping features for reverb too. Plus, you want more acoustic body sounds to emulate too.
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If this is the first time you try a simulator, opt for something inexpensive – look for value for money. Sure, some of the most expensive simulators out there come with lots of features, including the possibility to replicate different acoustic tones, based on what you play. But then, if you are not sure about it, an inexpensive item will do for your first experience.
Acoustic guitars and acoustic simulators
If an acoustic simulator can turn an electric guitar into an acoustic one in so many different ways, you probably ask yourself – what would the sound be if you mix an acoustic guitar with a simulator? How far can you take the sound experience? The good news is you are less likely to ruin anything if you plug an acoustic guitar into the pedals for electric guitars. They will match and there are no issues at all.
The sound will be a bit dodgy though. If you think you can take the acoustic tone to another level, you are wrong, so do not even bother. The effects pedal for electric guitars are obviously designed for such guitars only. They are meant to take the frequency range and handle the impedance output associated with an electric guitar and not an acoustic one.
There are, indeed, a few different ways to amplify the acoustic tone and bring in more emotion and depth. However, you would have to find something that was specifically made for acoustic guitars. You can find multi-effect units that will help you reshape the acoustic tone and get a few different options. Again, different brands come with different features and prices.
Clean the signal
Cleaning up your signal is probably the quickest and easiest solution when not sure how to make an electric guitar sound acoustic. You can do it even if you actually get an acoustic simulator. A clean signal will give you a cleaner sound. You need to work on that signal chain as often as you can and you have to take your time.
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If you use a simulator or any other similar rig, keep an eye on the effects pedals as well. This is where things can get messy. For instance, you can turn these effects off, but also pull them out of the chain. Feel free to turn the effects down too if you cannot do anything else. Take it as low as possible and the sound will change.
Take a look at your amplifier as well. If you have never worked on its settings, perhaps this is the right time to figure out what each of them does. Some settings are defaulted by the factory and may not necessarily help in your attempt to replicate the acoustic tone. Go through all the settings and make sure you have the cleanest ones.
Make sure you know how to adjust the master volume, gains, and actual volume. You need to know what each setting does. To keep it simple, the cleaner the signal is, the more acoustic your guitar will sound. Sure, a simulator will get you to 99% of the acoustic sound. But even without one, cleaning the signal will give you 90% of it, which is not too bad.
Work on the actual volume
The volume is similar to the signal chain. You need to work on it a little in order to come up with a more acoustic tone. What you need to do is limit the pickup output in the electric guitar – simple as that. The idea is to have a less electric tone. You do not want it to be that hot. Lower the output pickups with magnets – easy to find in commerce.
On the same note, work on the volume knob a bit too. You want to clean up the tone. This knob is often overlooked by many guitarists, yet it has a serious impact over how the tone feels. It can add to the overall expression, but it does require proper tweaking. From many points of view, this is one of the best-kept secrets of your guitar.
Tweak the amp settings
This is another quick option when not sure how to make an electric guitar sound acoustic. Practically, all you need to do is to work on the amp settings. The change will be noticeable straight away. It is quick, efficient, and inexpensive. However, you need a bit of experience with the amp settings – practically, you need to know what each setting does.
On another note, you cannot get to 100% acoustic tones with this method only. Furthermore, it also depends on the guitar model you have, as well as the amp type. It is less likely to sound 100% authentic, yet it will get you close enough. It is important to know that different amps will come with different settings. Normally, those with a focus on a clean tone will be better.
Again, a clean channel is a must. You should never use gain when working on the amp settings to make the guitar sound acoustic. Some amps may need a little gain to help you hear anything. If you have one of these models, turn it up to the minimum level. You can also compensate by tweaking the volume up a little bit.
The treble settings are not to be overlooked either. They mostly relate to the high-frequency sound you should be able to output through the amp. The higher this frequency is, the sharper the output sound will become. There is no such thing as a general setting that works for all guitars. It depends on what type of guitar you have, as well as the amp.
Start around six or seven and work your way up or down from this value. If you go too high, the guitar will sound too electric. If it goes a bit too low, you might reach the clarity of an acoustic guitar. Again, different models come with different results. You need to mess about with these settings and figure out which one gets you closer to an acoustic.
The bass is also worth a bit of attention. These settings relate to the low-frequency sounds that come through the amp. Put the bass up, and your sound will feel like an explosion. It will be alright to a certain level, but if you exceed this limit, chances are you will lose the acoustic sound – it is simply unnatural. Start around four and work your way up or down, based on what it sounds like.
The mids should definitely be considered as well. They relate to the middle-range frequency sounds coming out through your amp. Turn the settings up and the tone will become thicker than normally. Lower the settings and you will achieve a scooped sound. This setting is not the best in terms of carrying sounds, especially if you are in a band and you play with other instruments too. Start with the settings around three and go from there.
Keep an eye on the presence too, yet not every amp out there has full control over it. If you have one of the advanced amps with presence control, it can be a pretty good tool in reaching a more acoustic sound. The sound will be quite lively – similar to what you can get from an acoustic. Turn the presence up and try out different settings.
Just like the present, the reverb is another setting that you may not be able to find in all amps. You might be lucky though – if you have this setting, go for it. The reverb occurs when a particular sound hits a surface and comes back. The effect is similar to an echo. Acoustic guitars do have this effect. Going too high will make it sound fake though. Start around setting six and go from there.
Adjust the guitar settings
Guitar settings go in more directions. Different guitars come with different sounds, hence the necessity of messing about. What works for some guitars will not work for others either. To keep it simple, there are a few basic settings you need to be aware of. From that point on, you need small adjustments here and there based on the sound you achieve.
Altering the guitar settings is another inexpensive solution when not sure how to make an electric guitar sound acoustic. Start with the pickup settings. Most guitars have three or more selections. These are the main ones. One of them is for the neck, another one for the bridge and the last one deals with both pickups.
The neck pickup is responsible for a low treble and a high bass. The bridge pickup has opposite effects. For a more acoustic sound, you should focus on the neck pickup – or both pickups at the same time. Do not work on the bridge pickup by itself. The neck pickup allows you to sound more authentic. It makes the tone dull. Sure, it is not the most exciting sound, but it is similar to what you can get from an acoustic.
The guitar will also provide tone control, which is another common setting that can push towards the acoustic sound. If you use the electric guitar for its actual purpose, you need the tone control on a high setting – more is better. It will give you extra sharpness, but it will also make the guitar quite clear. However, this is not what you want to achieve if you are after a more acoustic sound.
From this point of view, roll the tone control down a little. Your sound will blend in a more efficient manner. Do not go all the way down though. Simply go lower and lower until you reach the perfect sound.
The volume is often overlooked, but such a small setting can make a major difference. Avoid going for a high volume. Instead, put it down a little. The sound will feel more acoustic and smoother. Do not kill the volume though. Plus, you can also work on it in conjunction with the amp volume control. You can get a louder sound, but without losing the acoustic tone.
How about some new strings?
Strings often make a difference in what your sound feels like – more electric or more acoustic. Most people never pay attention to this aspect, especially newbies. However, while the difference will not be massive, different strings will add to the overall effect if you also work on other settings upfront. So, what do you need to know here?
The string material is worth some importance. For instance, acoustic guitars tend to come with bronze or bass strings. The steel bass is also quite common. Bronze plates strings come up with a warm tone. It feels mellow and comfortable to hear – it can definitely create a connection with the audience. On the other hand, bass strings are slightly brighter, but not too bad either.
Electric guitars normally come with nickel or steel strings. Nickel is closer to the acoustic sound because it is warmer. Steel is brighter and more intense – not the best choice. Based on all these, it may sound like a good idea to fit brass or bronze strings on your electric guitar, but not really. It is better to just alternate between steel and nickel.
The string gauge is pretty important too and refers to the thickness. Thick strings will get you closer to the acoustic tone because they sound heavy – some may say they feel a bit dark. On the other hand, thin strings are twangy. Sure, the brighter sound might be helpful at times, but not when you want an acoustic sound.
High gauge strings are highly recommended when unsure how to make an electric guitar sound acoustic due to the extra energy they have. When the string vibrates, the vibration is longer. Sounds are longer and notes are more sustained. For the same reason, the volume will also be higher. This is also why most acoustic guitars come with thicker strings than electric guitars.
Normally, electric guitars come with 0.01 gauge strings, while acoustic guitars feature 0.013 gauge alternatives.
To get there as quickly as possible, you might imagine that fitting the thickest strings you can find is your best bet – not really a good idea. It will be hard to play the guitar like this. Increase the gauge a little though and you will notice a different sound. You can slightly increase the gauge as you get used to playing the guitar.
The bottom line, learning how to make an electric guitar sound acoustic is not the most difficult job in the world. Sure, you are less likely to achieve the perfect sound. You will never sound like an authentic acoustic guitar. But then, altering more settings simultaneously and making a few changes can get you quite close.