When you strum an acoustic guitar hard, the sound tends to get brighter. With an unprocessed electric guitar, hitting the strings makes the sound louder but doesn’t really alter the timbre. The Acoustifier process described here imparts some of an acoustic guitar’s dynamics to a dry electric guitar. When I tested this with some guitar players, they thought the acoustified sound was the guitar’s natural sound — until I bypassed the effect, that is.
To create this effect in your DAW using plug-ins, you’ll need a dynamic range expander and EQ with both high-pass and high-shelf stages. Figure 1 shows the setup for PreSonus Studio One, but the same applies to all recording software.
The Acoustifier needs to be in parallel with the track you’re processing, so create a bus. Insert an expander and EQ in the bus, and add a post-fader send to this bus from your main guitar track. For the best results use a track that has fairly consistent levels, because the incoming level to the Acoustifier has a big effect on the expander’s performance.
Now solo the bus and you should hear your guitar track. If not, check the input channel’s Send settings. Edit the expander threshold to match the guitar’s peaks. For example, if the loudest peak is around -10, set the expander threshold near -10. An expansion ratio of about 1:2 is a good place to start, and choose the maximum expansion range. An attack time of around 20–30 milliseconds prevents distortion. Keep the release short, say 50 ms. We want the expanded sound to be fairly percussive, so it coincides with the peaks of your playing.
Start playing. With the bus still soloed, verify that the expander is emphasizing the peaks of your playing. Set the EQ’s high-pass filter to around 1 kHz, with a 12 or 24 dB/octave slope. For the high shelf, start boosting around 600 Hz. When using humbuckers, which aren’t as bright as single-coil pickups, you can be fairly aggressive with the boost. Even 12 dB will work in some cases.
If needed, edit the expander settings so that the high frequencies jump out on hard strums but aren’t heard much at all when you play softly. Once the expander and filter settings have been edited, mix in the dry electric guitar track. Now adjust the mix to find a balance where the Acoustifier effect doesn’t dominate but instead subtly enhances the electric guitar sound.
It does take some tweaking to get the settings right, but once they hit the sweet spot, you’ll be rewarded with a more vibrant and dynamic dry electric guitar sound.
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