5 Ways to Destroy Your Acoustic Sound

Five common actions that can tank your acoustic tone.
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Why class up your act by adding some beautifully organic acoustic-guitar textures to your performance? That’s boring. If you really want to make an impression on an audience, here are some tips for using your acoustic guitar to send them running for the exits.


Mic It!

The sound of a great acoustic guitar captured by a quality microphone is a beautiful thing—when you can somewhat isolate the instrument in a recording studio. Club stages, however, are typically full of renegade signals—your band’s other instruments, air conditioning, audience chatter, bar noise, room reflections, and so on— that can leak into the mics and play havoc with your lovely acoustic-guitar tones. If you blow mic selection and placement in an open and raucous environment, your source sound has a fabulous chance of sucking.


EQ It!

Onboard, pedal, and rack preamps for acoustic guitars typically offer EQ, and I’d wager that many players start futzing with tone tweaks mere microseconds after strumming their guitars. Equalization is a powerful tool for improving and/or enhancing frequency spectrums, but boost the mids too much and—shazzam!—you just crap-ified the natural tone of your acoustic.


Compress It!

You might think that smoothing out your attack by compressing an acoustic guitar’s signal will produce a balanced, shimmering tone. In many cases, you’d actually be right. But if you don’t know how to apply compression artfully, you may increase the level of low-frequency resonances, fret buzzes, and finger squeaks—none of which are very pleasant to listen to.


Process It!

A lot of acoustic guitarists have made excellent use of effects such as reverb, delay, chorus, and overdrive. Not-so-excellent deployment of processing can transform your performance into an operatic tragedy of indistinct muck.


Crank It!

Don’t be a sissy. Turn up that acoustic just like you would an electric solidbody and rock hard. Losing your guitar a bit in the band’s onstage mix? No biggie—simply send your acoustic to the monitors and crank those up, as well. And don’t forget to give the crowd a thrill by leaning over the wedges at the edge of the stage and strumming your heart out. Hey, if they can’t stand the feedback, that’s their problem.


Think About It!

Seriously. Do you really want to offend potential fans with ugly acoustic-guitar sounds? Hopefully, the answer is “no.” But if you dive blindly into processing, miking, and other live-sound applications without at least understanding the basics, you run the risk of tanking your tone. So do some homework, use rehearsals to experiment and refine (rather than just jam), and get your sonic act together before you step onstage.