If you’ve ever wondered how you can make acoustic guitar sound electric then you may be thinking you just need two separate instruments that could end up being costly. What you really need to do is get one guitar, an acoustic electric guitar, and it will achieve this sound for you.
This kind of guitar combines both the playability of an acoustic guitar with the volume you would get from an electric guitar. It comes with built-in pickups that help amplify like an electric guitar sound plus you can use it as a standard acoustic as well.
In this guide we are looking at how you can make that acoustic electric guitar sound like an electric guitar. We will guide you through the differences and then tell you how you can achieve the desired effect.
What is an Acoustic Electric Guitar?
This type of guitar is an acoustic that comes with built-in pickup systems or a microphone. It can be plugged into a PA system too as well as into effects pedals to get different results. It’s a highly versatile instrument that takes you one step higher than standard acoustic guitars.
The pickups in these guitars are usually one of three types and they are what amplify the acoustic guitar sounds so that it mimics electric guitars. We have detailed the type of pickups below.
- Magnetic Pickups – These are similar to the pickups you would get on an electric guitar. They have been designed so they are mounted underneath the strings right at the soundhole. The pickup will then capture the vibrations which come off the strings as you play them, converting them to the sound you hear. You don’t need a preamp with these pickups and the installation is fast and easy. Remember that they won’t work with nylon strings.
- Piezo-Electric Pickups – These pickups are located underneath the saddle of the strings right at the bridge. They give you a more natural sound quality than magnetic pickups do, plus they are easy to install. You will need an onboard preamp for these pickups and a power source to be able to play.
- Microphones – Many of these guitar types will feature a condenser microphone that has been placed inside of the guitar. It will deliver a richer, warmer tone that is closer to the natural sound of an acoustic guitar. The system is quite expensive though and can be tricky to install.
Why Should I Use an Acoustic Electric Guitar?
These types of instruments are usually used in music genres that need a bit more volume than a simple acoustic guitar could provide. The guitar has to be plugged into an amplifier which gives it a reliable, tonal output.
Due to the versatility and the electric guitar sound these instruments produce, many musicians will use these in live concerts. It can amplify the sound without having to use a stage microphone. This is why so many people prefer using this style of guitar.
As well as these benefits, an acoustic electric guitar gives you the freedom of movement. You can control the output from the pickups easily, even when you are playing at high volumes. Guitars like this can be found at reasonable prices too, usually coming in lower priced than an electric guitar.
Differences Between Acoustic Electric and Electric Guitars
- Acoustic electric guitars can be used while they are plugged in and while they are unplugged too whereas an electric guitar can only be played when it is plugged in.
- You will find that acoustic electric guitars are easy to use and to play. Electric guitars usually take some adjusting before you are ready to play.
- An acoustic electric guitar can be plugged into an amplifier that you would use for a standard electric guitar so that the sound is louder. However, it doesn’t need an amplifier like an electric guitar does.
How to Make an Acoustic Electric Guitar Sound Like an Electric Guitar
Now we are into the main part of our guide where we tell you how you can achieve that electric guitar sound and remove acoustic tone from your acoustic electric guitar. It can be done but you will need some professional mixing software and other tools to achieve the right guitar tone.
By adding in a few effects to the acoustic sounds, you eliminate that warm acoustic tone and replace it with ones an electric guitar would make. You can use different audio effects, music loops and even virtual instruments to create a song that would make people think you are playing an electric guitar when you really have a physical acoustic guitar.
Technology has meant that we can change the tones of many different instruments through the use of effect pedals and mixing software. If you want to change your actual acoustic guitar into an electric version, you’ll need the right technology to create the real illusion.
Buying a Pedal
In this section we are going to talk you through the different effects pedals you will want to use to achieve the desired effect.
1 – Multi Effects Units
A multi effects unit comes with a lot of different sound effects built into it which allows you to try out different electric guitar sounds while still using your acoustic guitar. Having one of these units is a really good investment as a guitar player. Unlike a pedal which only has one function, these units give you multiple effects which makes them much more versatile. Most of the time they will have far more effects than you will ever actually need.
2 – Synth Pedals
Another great tool you will want to use is a synth pedal. They give you so many opportunities to experiment with a lot of sound effects that can add in the right sound for an electric guitar. By using this type of pedal, you can mimic the sound of another instrument and swap between acoustic and electric guitar.
Synth pedals are commonly used by musicians to create the sounds of other instruments other than the real acoustic guitar they are playing. Commonly they are used for organ effects but you can pretty much recreate any effect you can think of.
The pedals at the higher end of the market are so good that if you closed your eyes and listened to the synthesized version of the instrument and then the real one, you may not be able to tell the difference between them. When using a synth pedal for an electric sound you will want to play around with glissandos and oscillations for that desired effect.
3 – Distortion Pedals
Any guitar can get a classic rock feel with the use of a distortion pedal. It gives the guitar that dirty, fuzzy sort of sound that is often associate with electric guitar in rock music.
An acoustic guitar has a lot softer, warmer sound than an electric one does. Adding in some intense distortion effects using these pedals can be a great choice.
A fuzz pedal could be the right option for you here. They are known to dominate over the tones of the instrument more than any other distortion pedals. This means that if you use a fuzz pedal strategically it will hide the acoustic tone quality of the instrument more effectively than if you used another type of pedal.
Another way to make your acoustic sound electric is to record your music using mixing software and then distorting it that way. First of all, record your acoustic guitar and then listen to it without any sort of effects. Then you can add in the right effects that make it sound like an electric guitar. Things like reverb, EQ and distortion are all effects that electric guitars have so you want to add these into your track.
Customize the effects you have added as much as you can to get rid of any acoustic tone that may be there. The reverberation should be changed and use high-frequency damping. A basic low boost for the sound will give you the deeper, wider sound and get rid of realistic acoustic tones. With the distortion, you need to change the pre-gain and post-gain so that it doesn’t sound like an acoustic.
To add to the overall effect of the recording you will want to setup a bass line. This usually should be set to 160BPM but you can always experiment with different tempos. A basic baseline is just a drum beat which is played on a loop but this adds more fullness to the recording and will oust those acoustic tones you no longer want.
Copy the main track you have created for the guitar and align it with the baseline. Where you set your track to start playing should be aligned so that they keep in time with each other. Otherwise it sounds like one big mess of music.
Using certain playing techniques on the guitar can create the illusion that you are playing an electric when actually you’ve got an acoustic guitar. An example of this is with power chords because, when played on acoustic guitars, they create a more metallic and vintage rock sound on the instrument.
Power chords will use the bass strings of your guitar. This produces a heavier sound that resembles that of what an electric guitar would if you were playing that instead. You may also want to stay away from the traditional picking patterns which are often used on acoustic guitars because these won’t make it sound like an electric. Picking patterns are brilliant for acoustic guitars but you don’t normally hear them played on rhythm and lead guitars which are electric.
Instead, you can try to pick the notes like a lead guitarist would from a rock band. To create the effects of an electric guitar you can try some pitch bends. Then combine them with the power chords which hints at the style of classic rock guitarists when they are shredding on their strings.
Combining the techniques we’ve mentioned above with a distortion pedal gets rid of those natural acoustic tones which you’re guitar is used to making. Playing in a style that suits the genre of where electric guitars are typically used helps massively at this point.
Hopefully the information in this guide has been helpful enough for you to make your acoustic sound electric. No matter what sort of guitar you own, technology is the key to changing the tone and giving you that desired high quality electric sound. Do some research to find the right pedals for you and then master some great playing techniques to make you sound great. Remember to get that acoustic electric guitar for the true effect.
Can I make my acoustic guitar sound like an electric?
It is possible to do this by using our advice above. You will have to get a certain type of guitar that takes electric guitar parts and acoustic guitar parts and then combine them together. Remember that it’s never going to sound exactly the same because, at the end of the day, they are different instruments.
Do I need to buy pedals and mixing software?
While the mixing software is only necessary for you if you want to record your instrument, we would say that pedals are vital for making your acoustic sound like an electric guitar. This is because they provide the right distortion and fuzz effects to the guitar strings which takes away that acoustic element. Similarly, you can make an electric guitar song like an acoustic with acoustic simulator pedals which give you a warm tone like an acoustic guitar.