Get a good tone from a acoustic electric guitar on stage, it’s not as simple as plugging in and letting go; there’s a lot more to think about, but figuring out exactly what you’re looking for can be tricky.
A lot depends on your mic and amplification, of course, but a few simple EQ and effects tweaks can go a long way, no matter what gear you’re using.
With that in mind, here are 10 tips for getting that electro-acoustic vocal…
1. Rename your buttons
Spend time with your EQ on your guitar, preamp or amp. Rotate them up and down (while the others are in the middle) and decide what the change in sound means to you. Is it ‘boom’, ‘chest’, ‘spark’, ‘honk’? I hope the new word has more sonic meaning for you than “bass”, “mid” and “treble”.
2. Tame the quack
When using an under-saddle pickup, use a parametric mid control to cut out quack frequencies. You’ll usually find them between 1 and 3 kHz, so start by boosting the mids, then sweep the frequency control to 1-3 kHz, ish, and stop where it feels the most gross. Now that you’ve found it, give it a wild cut – up to 10dB isn’t unusual.
3. Get out of your box
In addition to the squawk, piezo pickups can sound quite squarely in the low mids. You can improve this by boosting both bass and treble (assuming you have no parametric mid controls after your quack setting).
4. Phase out comments
Before jumping on the EQ knobs to control junk feedback, check to see if the guitar preamp or amplifier has phase control. He usually does the sorting. But if not…
5. Know your notch
A notch filter is a parametric equalization control that operates over a very narrow band of frequencies. If it’s manual, let the guitar roar, identify the frequencies, then cut them. And then there’s the other kind…
6. (Don’t be) anti-feedback
Some preamps, amps, and guitars have automatic notch filters. The process is exactly the same as doing it manually – let it screech to identify where the problem is – but the tuning is done by a smart machine. Magic!
7. Think about compression
Often a welcome bedfellow to acoustic guitars, a well-chosen compressor can really tame some of the clacky-plinkiness [technical term – Ed] electro-acoustic when tuned with very fast attack and release times. Don’t go crazy with the ratio unless you want an obviously compressed sound – anything 2:1 and above will get you that.
8. ‘The verb is vital
Proper reverb can add a lot to your music and inspire you. The wrong verb, on the other hand, can be totally unnerving and unnatural.
9. Lighten up
Have you ever found yourself trying to fight the notes of the guitar to be heard? Stop, it’s counterproductive. The harder you push, the more it smashes and loses impact. You need to relax, show off and play more naturally and comfortably.
10. Listen to yourself
Voice or guitar, make sure you can always hear yourself loud and clear and accept nothing less. You’ll make fewer mistakes and play with more confidence and drive. If you can’t hear yourself regularly, it’s time for an acoustic amp! Start with our guide to the 7 best acoustic amps for buskers and gigging musicians.