In my previous post, I discussed multi effects pedals and stompbox pedals. Today we will be discussing if you need an acoustic guitar effects pedal.
“But Max, why would I need an effects pedal for my acoustic? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of it being acoustic?” You do have a point, you probably won’t be playing out of an amp around a campfire or for your relatives around the holidays. But what about for others situations?
What about that time you were playing at that bar and some dingus in the back kept telling you to play Wonderwall. Wouldn’t it have been nice to turn on a distortion pedal and slay blues licks until their face melted so they would stop asking?
Or how about that other time you were playing in your living room and your neighbor beat on the wall because it was 4 am? How awesome would it have been to turn on a wah pedal so your neighbor could cry himself to sleep to the rhythm and crying of your wah guitar?
Ok, those events didn’t happen (except the first one definitely did), but even though it would seem weird to use an effects pedal with an acoustic, it is still possible, and you should do it.
Pedals and acoustics? Max You’re crazy. Yes, Yes I am.
Obviously the rule of thumb is if you have a pedal that you play with your electric, you can obviously use the same pedal with your acoustic; that’s a no-brainer (unless you’re acoustic doesn’t have a pickup).
But not all pedals will work with acoustics like they will with electrics, but you can certainly get some interesting sounds by mixing the two.
Lets take my personal favorite, distortion. There aren’t many situations where I would use distortion with an acoustic, unless I was playing the blues. We don’t want to turn our effects up to 11, but just adding a little bit of fuzz or muff could be the difference between your crowd sitting and listening, to them getting up and dancing.
Since the acoustic is more of a rhythmic instrument than one for shredding licks, unless you’re Tommy Emmanuel, a little bit of distortion could give a nice crunch to your Dominant 7th chords.
Also, if you play slide guitar, the difference between a clean slide tone and a slightly crunchy one on an acoustic can be monumental.
But remember, a little bit goes a long way.
Which pedals work best for an acoustic?
While I won’t say that there is one pedal to rule them all for an acoustic electric guitar, there are many that will work well. I have experimented with many pedals for my acoustic playing, but I have found a few that I really enjoy using. My personal favorite is a delay pedal.
I remember one time I was singing and playing “Ain’t no sunshine” by Bill Withers. I was playing in a dimly lit dive bar with some friends, and I thought that I should use some delay for the song.
I plugged my acoustic into my buddies pedal board, turned up the delay a bit, and the pedal really gave it that melancholic sound that you would want from a song like that.
I also really enjoy using reverb for an acoustic. Ideally, a decent acoustic guitar should sound full and warm when played out of a monitor or an amp. Sometimes though, the equipment you are playing out of can leave something to be desired. If this is the case, throw a little reverb, or a lot if you want, into whatever you are playing.
If done in the right amount, a little bit of reverb can make your full and warm tone sound fuller and warmer.
I will be a little unorthodox here and say that I really enjoy using a wah pedal. I like using a wah pedal for just about any situation, but it can have it’s place in acoustic scenarios. Let’s say someone you are with pulls out some sort of funk riff or chord progression.
Sure you can play some funk licks or slide into some triads, but if you had that wah pedal on there it would add just the right amount of touch to give it the perfect funky vibe.
What about pedals made for acoustic guitars?
Don’t fret my young pedal picker, there are plenty of pedals made specifically for acoustic guitars. There are these things called preamps that you should learn about. A preamp? What the hell is that?
A preamp in essence is a pedal or device that will give the tone of your acoustic guitar a little boost. Most if not all preamps will come paired with an on-board equalizer that will get rid of any frequencies you don’t want to be interfering with.
Preamps can do loads of other things, such as helping to minimize feedback from your guitar. Check them out, you’ll definitely want to consider using one.
Another good idea is to consider a volume pedal. Since most acoustic electric guitars don’t have their own dedicated volume knobs, this pedal is a must. They do wonders on stage as well. I know I’ve been in a few situations myself where my volume is either too loud or too quiet.
I had to fiddle with the other sound knobs on my guitar in order to get the sound levels down, but I also lost the tone I was wanting to use.
A volume pedal solves these issues because you don’t have to sacrifice tone for volume, making them pertinent for live situations.
The one you didn’t think of – tuning pedals
Ah yes, the holy grail of pedals you never think to have on your pedalboard. Imagine this: you get to your gig and you set everything up, and you go to tune your guitar. What do you do? You pull out your headstock tuner or your phone and start tuning.
But wait! You’re still plugged into the monitor! People think you’re going to start playing!
But you’re not set to start for another 30 minutes. People are gathering as if you are going to play, and you have to awkwardly tell them to come back later. Ever been there? I have.
All of this can be solved with a tuning pedal. Most tuning pedals also come with a bypass which allows you to tune your guitar without the audience being able to hear it, even if the sound system is turned all the way up. This is perfect for live situations.
Also, no one likes the sound of an out of tune guitar.
Less is more
In essence, whether or not you want to use an effects pedal for your acoustic electric guitar is solely left up to your preference and your playing style. I am not going to tell you how to play, but in my experience I have found that for acoustic guitars, you can get a great sound with a little bit of effects; you don’t want to over do it.
If you want to over do it, just bring your electric guitar. But if you want to play some nice acoustic tunes with a little hint of effects and stand out from other players, find out which acoustic guitar effects pedal works for you.
If you have used pedals with your acoustic in the past, leave a comment below and tell me about it. I’d love to hear from you!