Do you just want to get that warm acoustic tone, but without having to buy an acoustic guitar? Or having to swap between an acoustic and electric guitar between performances when playing live? Luckily, it’s possible to try and replicate an acoustic sound, but using an electric guitar.
It won’t usually sound 100% like an acoustic tone, as this often depends what electric guitar you’re using and what amp you’re playing through. But there are some tricks that can definitely make it sound more acoustic. Here are the best tips.
- Get your amp settings on point
- Use an acoustic simulator pedal
- Select the neck pickup
- Change your strings
I’ll go through all these tips in a lot more detail, but first I think it’s good to address exactly what an acoustic guitar sounds, and how this traditionally sounds different to an electric. Then I’ll move on to how to make your electric sound like an acoustic! So let’s get started!
What Exactly does an Acoustic Guitar Sound Like?
Before jumping into the ways to make an electric guitar sound like an acoustic, I thought it’d be a good idea to address exactly why they both sound different, and what defines an acoustic tone.
Differences Between Acoustic and Electric Guitars
The differences in tone, are caused by the ways the guitars are designed to receive and amplify sound. Here are some of the key differences that cause acoustic and electric guitars to sound so different.
Always hollow bodied
Usually solid bodied, but can be hollow or semi-hollow
Sound is released by the sound hole
Sound is released by the amp speakers
Sound is amplified by the sound board
Sound is received by the pickups
So what exactly does an acoustic guitar sound like in comparison to an electric. Here are some of the most important differences.
- Acoustic guitars sound louder and have more resonance than electric guitars (when they’re not plugged in)
- Acoustic guitars have a warmer and fuller sound
1. Amp Settings
The easiest way to make your guitar sound like an acoustic, and the cheapest way, is to adjust your amp settings. This is an essential step that has a huge impact.
But you should keep in mind, that adjusting your amp settings will only get you so far, and the success you have will be based on your amp and your guitar make and models. So don’t expect it to sound completely authentic. You may need the help of some of the other ways on this list too.
Best amps for sounding like an acoustic
Not all amps are created equal, so their ability to make an electric sound like an acoustic also varies. So what are the best amps for getting this kind of effect.
Usually amps that have more focus on the clean tone, will be best at sounding like an acoustic guitar is being played through it. Amps made by fender are particularly good at this, for example the Fender Hot Rod.
Using an amp that’s specifically designed to suit clean tones will give you the best shot at producing an acoustic sound. Whereas you may struggle a bit more if you’re using an Orange Dark Terror instead.
It almost goes without saying that you shouldn’t be using gain when you’re dialling in your amp settings to make your guitar sound like an acoustic.
Although some amps do require a bit of gain to be able to hear anything at all through them. So turn your gain up to the absolute minimum it has to be if this is the case, and compensate by increasing the volume.
If your amp sounds pretty quiet then head over to our guide on the 4 ways to make an amp sound louder.
Usually it’s best to start on around 6-7 and work from there. Increasing it too much can make it sound more like a twangy electric guitar, but if it’s too low then you’ll use the brightness of an acoustic.
This scooped sound is pretty reflective of an acoustic tone. So I would recommend keeping your mids quite low, aiming for around setting 3 to begin with.
Not all amps have a presence control, but if you’re lucky enough to have one which does, then it can be an effective tool to creating an acoustic sounding tone. It makes your tone sound a bit livelier which is pretty reminiscent of an acoustic guitar. Turning your presence setting up will definitely help create that acoustic style sound.
Check out my complete guide to amp settings to learn about all the different controls on your amplifier and how to tweak them to get the best tone.
2. Use an Acoustic Simulator Pedal
Using an acoustic simulator pedal is the best way to make your electric guitar sound like an acoustic. If you’re new to effects pedals, then put simply, they connect to your guitar and amp to change the tone that’s produced. There are tonnes of different types of pedals out there, and loads of great brands and models available.
How they work
They are specialised EQ pedals which help to replicate the frequencies that acoustic guitars produce sound, mainly by altering the bass, mids and treble. Acoustic simulator pedals come with various controls built in to help you dial in the perfect tone. These usually include a reverb control and tone controls like bass, mids and treble.
How to set them up
Effects pedals are super easy to setup. Normally, when you play guitar without pedals, you simply connect your amp and guitar to each other directly. But when you’re using pedals, you can use them in between your amp and guitar.
So you can first connect your guitar to the pedal, and then connect your amp to the pedal as well, linking your rig together, but without having your guitar and amp directly connected. If you’re using multiple pedals, then you can connect them together in a chain using patch cables which are super short so keep everything neat and tidy.
You’ll also need to make sure your pedals are connected to a power supply. Some pedals and boards come with their own power supplies, but if not then you’ll need to connect them to a power supply. The good news is though, that you can just connect your pedal board to a power supply, rather than all the individual pedals.
best overall acoustic simulator pedal
The Boss AC-3 Acoustic Simulator (Amazon link) pedal is highly regarded as one of the best options out there if you want to turn your electric guitar’s sound into an acoustic tone. Boss pedals are very well-known for being super robust and compact, meaning they’re great if you want to take them out to gigs without worrying about them getting damaged easily. This pedal has 4 modes built in, along with a reverb control and body and top controls to help you get the perfect sound.
3. Guitar Settings
Next on the list of ways to make an electric guitar sound like an acoustic, is by adjusting the settings on your actual guitar.
We’ve already been through how tweaking your amp settings can really help dial in an acoustic tone, but you really can’t forget about your guitar’s controls too. It’s another really simple, easy and free way to transform your electric guitar’s tone into an acoustic one!
- Neck pickup = high bass, low treble
- Bridge pickup = low bass, high treble
Usually in order to get a more acoustic sounding tone, you should use exclusively the neck pickup, or both pickups in combination. Rarely you should use the bridge pickup in isolation. Using the neck pickup will help your guitar sound less twangy and artificial. It almost dulls out your tone, which sounds like a bad thing, but is great if you want to sound like you’re playing an acoustic.
Usually when I am playing my electric guitar, I like the tone control on full because it gives it more clarity and sound a lot sharper. But this isn’t what you want if you’re trying to sound like you’re playing an acoustic guitar. Rolling your tone control back just a touch can help your sound blend more, and has a similar effect as when you switch from the bridge to the neck pickup.
Similar to rolling your tone control back a touch, rolling your volume control back will help you create a more acoustic sound as it makes your guitar sound less calcification and more smooth instead. You don’t have to sacrifice overall volume though. Simply turning up your amp’s volume control will help make your guitar sound loud but without losing the acoustic sound.
4. Change your Strings
The final point on this list is probably the least important, but if you really want an authentic acoustic tone from your electric guitar, then it shouldn’t be overlooked.
Guitar strings have a really big impact on the tone produced, but they’re often overlooked when it comes to creating the ultimate sound.
The string material differs between acoustic and electric guitars. Acoustic guitars mainly use either bass or bronze plated strings with a steel bass. Bronze plated strings produce a more mellow and warm tone, and bass strings sound a bit brighter. Electric guitars on the other hand tend to use steel or nickle strings. Steel strings sound quite bright and nickel tends to sound more mellow and warm.
Generally, I wouldn’t advise putting bronze or brass strings on an electric guitar, it’s best to stick to either steel or nickle. But depending which you’re using, it can be a good idea to consider changing from steel to nickle or vice-versa. If you need a brighter tone, then consider steel strings, and if you need a bit more warmth then swap them for nickel instead.
The thickness of your strings also affects the tone produced by your guitar. Thicker strings sound a bit darker and heavier and thinner strings usually sound brighter and more twangy.
Thicker (or high gauge) strings are more tense so contain more energy. This means that when the string is plucked and vibrates, that the vibrations take longer to disperse so you get a more sustained note. Thicker strings are also louder for the same reason.
Acoustic guitars use thicker strings in general than electric guitars. Usually electric guitars have around a 0.010 gauge set, and acoustic guitars have around a 0.013 set.
It’s not a great idea to go with super heavy strings if you are playing electric guitar as it can make it harder to play. But you can think about increasing the gauge a bit to try and replicate an acoustic guitar’s tone.
If you’re using a 0.009 gauge string set or lower, then consider upping to a 0.011 gauge. If you don’t struggle to play with them, then they can definitely help you create that acoustic tone you’re after.
So there you go! That’s how to make your electric guitar sound like an acoustic! I hope you’ve found this article helpful, thanks for reading. Here are some other posts you might find useful: