How To Make an Electric Guitar Sound Like Acoustic


acoustic guitar | Sandy Music Lab

We’ve all made the tough choice between electric and acoustic guitars and always wished we could have both in one instrument. If you chose electric, then there are still ways for you to get an acoustic sound from your electric guitar. Let’s discuss some ways that you can do this. 

Here’s how to make an electric guitar sound like acoustic: 

  1. Consider changing your strings.
  2. Change your amp settings.
  3. Use an acoustic simulator.
  4. Consider a hybrid guitar.
  5. Add effects after recording.

Let’s discuss these solutions in more depth and go over some examples of what not to do as well. 

1. Consider Changing Your Strings

Guitar strings play a pivotal role in a guitar’s sound and performance. The material and thickness of your string should not be overlooked in creating an acoustic sound with your electric guitar. First, it’s important to know that not all strings work with electric guitars. Consider this when choosing the gauge and material of the strings you want to use. 

Different guitar strings provide different sounds. When it comes to an electric guitar, you can choose between steel and nickel strings. If you want a more acoustic sound, consider nickel strings rather than steel. Nickel strings create a warmer sound you would expect from an acoustic guitar. It is a quick way to give your electric guitar a little bit of acoustic flair. 

Steel strings are made for a brighter, smoother sound that you find with modern rock music. So, steel strings will be too smooth and not rough enough to really capture the true acoustic sound you are looking for. 

String gauge is another factor to consider. Acoustic guitar strings are thicker than electric guitar strings, but not every gauge will work on an electric guitar. You can increase the thickness of your strings on an electric guitar, but it may make it more difficult to play.

So, thicker strings on an electric guitar would give it a more acoustic sound, but it may take some getting used to when you play the first few times. Increase your gauge gradually to ensure there’s no major learning curve to achieve the sound you want. 

2. Change Your Amp Settings

The cheapest way to make your electric guitar sound like an acoustic is to use a resource that you already have available. Your amplifier has plenty of settings that can help you get there. So, let’s go over some adjustments you can make to get that acoustic sound from your guitar. 

Bass on an amp gives you that punch which is very common for electric guitar players, but that doesn’t work well for an acoustic sound (Related: Can you use a guitar amp for a bass guitar?). If you want the warm sound you get from playing acoustic, your bass should be turned down on the amp. Less bass means that your guitar sounds smoother with less of a punch. That is vital for acoustic playing. 

Reverb is another amp sound that can make your electric guitar sound acoustic. It’s an echo that occurs when the guitar’s sound bounces off a surface. Though reverb isn’t featured on every amp, most high-end amps have this option. 

A high reverb can create an acoustic sound with your electric guitar by allowing the sound of your guitar to echo around the room similar to an acoustic guitar. Likewise, presence can help achieve the same thing by making the tone sound more acoustic. So, if your amp has these two settings, use them to your advantage. 

Finally, you want to consider your treble setting on the amp. For treble, the right choice is in the middle. Because it has to do with high frequencies of sound emitted by your guitar, having it higher adds a crisp acoustic sound, but it’s possible to go too far. So, only increase the treble enough to achieve an acoustic sound without allowing it to be too high. 

3. Use an Acoustic Simulator

The easiest way to get an acoustic sound from your electric guitar is using an acoustic simulator. Usually found in the form of a pedal, a simulator connects to your guitar and amplifier to create the sound you’re looking for. 

Like what we discussed above, an acoustic simulator will adjust your amp settings to just the right levels to produce an acoustic sound. Essentially, it will adjust your bass, treble, mids, and other controls to get that perfect acoustic sound from your guitar. 

It may sound like something you can do by yourself, and that’s true to an extent. Some of the controls we discussed in the previous section aren’t available on every amp out there. So, the simulator may give you more options than just using controls on an amp. 

A simulator will also save you time when figuring out the right control settings to get the right acoustic sound. Sure, you can do it yourself, especially if your amp has the right controls, but it will take a good amount of time to find the right settings for each control to produce the sound you want. The simulator will expedite that process for you. 

What To Consider in an Acoustic Simulator

If you’re thinking about investing in a simulator, there are a few factors to consider. Prices can vary heavily based on brands and specifications. So, it’s best to know what you’re looking for before you start shopping. 

First, you want to consider how many different options you want to have in your simulator. Some of the more expensive simulators come with different modes available to ensure you’re getting the exact sound you want.

These modes are great for tweaking your music to get it perfect, but they aren’t necessary. 

Another important factor to consider is the size of the simulator. Simulators can come in different sizes depending on the number of settings and controls you want. 

However, it’s important to consider how you will use the pedal. If it’s going to be stationary, there’s no need to consider a small one.

That’s not always the case, though. If you plan on moving your equipment around a lot playing different venues, a smaller pedal would be a lot more convenient for you to move around. 

Finding the Right Simulator Pedal

You can take the more expensive route if you want to ensure you have all the bells and whistles you can think of for your pedal, but that’s not realistic for everyone. There are also very cheap simulators available. They give you the proper amp settings needed to produce an acoustic sound and nothing else. 

If neither of those options works, the best way to find the right one is to look somewhere in the middle. Our pick for the best mid-range acoustic simulator is the BOSS Acoustic Simulator Guitar Pedal, available on Amazon.com. This pedal is reasonably priced and comes with four different settings to help you create the exact acoustic sound you want. 

The BOSS pedal has some cool features without overwhelming options. It’s compact and easy to take with you on the go for gigs. It also has built-in reverb, allowing you to decide the level of reverb that best suits the sound you’re looking for. But this pedal is just one of the many great options out there. 

4. Consider A Hybrid Guitar

If you happen to be in the market for a new guitar, consider a hybrid guitar to get the best of both worlds. Hybrid guitars allow you to switch between an acoustic and electric sound when playing. They are the most versatile option to get the electric sound we want without sacrificing the acoustic sounds we love. 

There are a few things to consider when thinking about a hybrid guitar versus an acoustic simulator pedal. Simulator pedals rely on digital processing to get you that acoustic sound. It can be an effective way to get the acoustic sound you want, but it’s quite different from a hybrid guitar. 

A hybrid guitar creates acoustic sounds based on the strings’ vibrations on the guitar the way traditional acoustic guitars do. So, it’s a more honest acoustic sound than you can achieve digitally from a simulator, but it’s much more of an investment. 

Hybrid guitars also come with many different blending tools that can help you create unique sounds with whichever guitar type. So, experimenting with different sounds is encouraged with a hybrid guitar. 

While hybrid guitars are rarer than traditional acoustic or electric guitars, most companies have made a model at some point over the years. They’re more expensive than your traditional guitar because they’re basically two guitars in one with added features for both. So, if you choose a hybrid, expect to pay a good amount of money. 

It’s important to know that not all hybrids are created equally. In fact, you often get what you pay for with hybrids. The proper construction of a hybrid guitar is difficult as many different factors go into creating the two-for-one instrument.  A cheap hybrid guitar can mean performance issues when it’s time to switch types of sound. 

Always stick with brands that you know, like Fender, Taylor, Ibanez, or other reputable guitar companies, and make sure you check out the specifications of each option before buying. If you want to switch between sounds mid-song, make sure the hybrid has that option, as some can only be switched when not in use. 

5. Add Effects After Recording

Another way to get an acoustic sound from your electric guitar is to add effects after recording. Whatever software you use to record and edit your music can help you get the sound you want. You can modify many different settings once you have the sound recorded. 

Depending on the software you use, there tend to be lots of options for editing post-recording. In fact, it’s common for artists to play with their recordings and get unique ideas afterward. So, you have options after you record your guitar. 

Much like a simulator pedal, editing the music you play will be digital. So, it may not be perfect. It’s similar to adjusting your app while playing, but it’s done after you have finished recording. That’s not the best option for those who want an honest, crisp acoustic sound, but it’s a great option to help your amp or simulator even more. 

What you can do with your music depends on the type of software you have. Studio-grade software will get you a lot further in producing a more clean acoustic sound than cheaper software, but it’s also a lot more expensive. So, consider the available software, and if it doesn’t get the job done, you may need better software. 

Some Common Misconceptions About Electric to Acoustic Sound

We have covered some helpful options above to make your electric guitar sound more like an acoustic guitar. Still, there’s some debate regarding other ways to make your electric guitar sound more acoustic. So, let’s set the record straight. 

Playing Electric Guitar Unplugged Doesn’t Get the Job Done

Acoustic guitar relies on the sound of vibrations and contact with the strings to get a true sound. So, it may seem like a great idea to play your electric guitar unplugged to get that acoustic feel. But it doesn’t work as effectively as you’d think. 

What gives an acoustic guitar that familiar sound is the guitar’s body and the strings used. These features combine to create a unique sound that’s difficult to replicate. Electric guitars are built quite differently. 

Rather than being hollow, electric guitars are often solid and without a hole that helps amplify vibrations. You will never get an accurate acoustic sound from an unplugged electric guitar because it’s built differently and plays on thinner strings. While it seems like a great workaround to get that true strum sound, you’ll never be able to achieve the right sound. 

The electric guitar is made to be projected through an amp. It’s how you get the true, powerful sound that we have come to know. Without the amp, there will be nothing inside or outside of the guitar that allows your strums to be projected. 

So, played without an amp, electric guitars will not project sound like an acoustic. While you may be able to get a similar-sounding strum using the right strings, the acoustic sound will be heavily diluted to the point that it’s not crisp and won’t reach your audience. 

Using Acoustic Strings on an Electric Guitar Won’t Help the Sound

Can you use acoustic strings on your electric guitar? In short, yes, you can. However, that doesn’t mean it’s going to produce the sound that you want. Above, we talked about changing your strings to a thicker gauge, but many people wonder about using acoustic strings altogether to get the right sound. 

In fact, if you play your electric guitar with acoustic strings and unplug it, you’ll get a decent acoustic sound. Sure, it won’t reverberate the way an acoustic does, and it won’t be as loud, but you can mimic the sound by leaving it unplugged. The issues arise when plugging in your electric guitar. 

Because electric guitars are not made to be used with acoustic strings, problems can arise with sound quality as electric guitar strings work on magnetic energy. Acoustic strings tend to have less magnetic energy than electric. So, there won’t be a clear sound when using the wrong strings. It may sound more acoustic, but it will be unbalanced. 

So, while acoustic strings won’t sabotage your electric guitar by any means, you’ll notice a difference in the sound quality that’s produced (Note: here’s how to make electric guitar sound warmer). Unplugged, this will work better than playing with traditional electric strings, but it will still play an electric sound when plugged into an amp unless you change the levels as discussed above. 

Miking Your Electric Guitar Without an Amp Sounds Washed Out

Because you can play an electric guitar unplugged and have it sound more like an acoustic guitar, you may be wondering if you can just mic that sound to have it projected. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work as well as it seems like it might. 

Projecting that sound through a mic without plugging the guitar into an amp may seem like a simple fix to getting that loud sound to your audience, but it’s not a great solution. Because it’s a low sound being captured by an external mic, the quality will suffer. 

In a pinch, it may work, but keep in mind that low register sounds are hard to pick up from a mic. Even high-quality mics will have trouble picking up the sound. There will be no crisp, clean notes in the recording. There’s no way to make it work for musicians who want to get good quality sound with such intense quality suffering. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, there are a few ways to make your electric guitar sound acoustic. A hybrid guitar is the best answer. Although it is the most expensive, there are certain things you can do with the materials you have available already. So, try these tips and get your electric guitar sounding acoustic in no time (here’s how to play guitar cleaner).

David Sandy

Hey there! My name is David Sandy and I'm the founder of Sandy Music Lab. I've been playing guitar for several years now and created this site to be able to share and explore music with others. Check out my recommended guitar gear!

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