Why Does Your Electric Guitar Sound Like an Acoustic?


acoustic guitar | Sandy Music Lab

When you play an electric guitar, you probably expect it to sound a certain way. They can be strong, loud, and depending on the type of amp, the sound can be anything from distorted to incredibly clear. But if your electric guitar sounds like an acoustic, should you be worried?

An electric guitar may sound like an acoustic because you failed to plug it into the amp properly, the gain, volume, or tone settings are at or near zero, or you have an acoustic simulator pedal attached. Make sure the cables are correctly connected and move the amp settings to 50% to fix the sound.

Having your electric guitar sound like an acoustic guitar isn’t always a bad thing, and sometimes you might even want your guitar to have that sound. This article will explain why this occurs, how to make your electric guitar sound different, and how to return it to normal whenever you need the sound of an electric guitar again. 

Your Location and Play Style Will Affect the Sound

Your location is a massive part of your guitar’s sound. For example, have you ever sung in the bathroom and wondered why your voice sounds so much better than in the rest of the house?

That’s an example of the acoustics of the room changing your sound, and it doesn’t only apply to your voice, but to your instruments too. 

Depending on where you play, your guitar could sound like your traditional acoustic guitar or could sound more electric. It might not be a massive difference, but try moving to another room if you have tried everything else and still aren’t happy. 

Additionally, your playing style can affect how the guitar sounds. For example, using a pick on an electric guitar can create a brighter sound, making the sound more acoustic (check out this article for more info on how to make a guitar sound brighter). Playing too close to the guitar’s bridge can be another problem, and even how you press on the strings can cause changes. 

Granted, you don’t need to change your entire playing style if your sound is off. However, if you have adopted a few bad habits, changing them might help your sound. 

Plus, they will also make you a better guitar player!

The Materials Used Will Affect the Sound

If you bought an electric guitar hoping to rock out with some Hendrix or Zeppelin, no doubt you’ll be disappointed if it sounds more like John Mayer. 

As mentioned above, it could be something as simple as the guitar not being plugged in properly or the settings being off. 

However, other issues can affect the sound. For example, the materials used to make the guitar and its components are among the most significant determinants in how your guitar sounds.

Electric Guitars Use Thinner Strings

Electric guitar strings are made of different materials and are much thinner than their acoustic counterparts. 

Now, if you have thicker and low gauge guitar strings on your guitar, then you might need to replace them. You can’t place acoustic guitar strings on an electric guitar and expect the sound to be the same. 

This might mean that you have to spend a bit of money to make sure that you are getting the high gauge strings. The cheaper and thicker strings – while still advertised as strings for an electric guitar – will affect the sound quality and cause you to experience a more acoustic-like sound. 

Still, they need to have very heavy gauges, as the gauge of a string is the most crucial aspect. Heavier strings are harder to play and require you to place more pressure on them, but they produce more volume and create the sound you are looking for. 

That’s not to say that lighter gauge electric guitar strings don’t have their uses and aren’t beneficial to electric guitar players, but they do produce a much higher sound. Do some research on the different sounds, ask questions, and figure out what type of songs and music you will want to play. 

That will help you choose strings while also ensuring that you can produce the sounds you want for the songs you want. 

The Brand of Amp and the Settings Affect the Guitar’s Sound

But strings alone don’t cause your electric guitar to make all of its sounds. The amplifier that the sound is going through is also a massive factor

Depending on the model of the amp you buy and the settings you tweak it with, your sound will change. 

The two main parts of the amplifier are the: 

  • Head –  where all of the electronics are located 
  • Cabinet – which contains the actual speakers 

Both of these parts work together to produce sound and send it out to your listeners, and both of the components can affect the sound. For example, if you have a more modest amplifier with a small speaker system and a little head, you’ll get a smaller and lighter sound. 

Spending more money on a larger amp will give you a much beefier sound. 

Additionally, make sure you constantly tweak and fine-tune the settings, as these will change how your strums sound. 

All that said, how do you know what sound you should be looking for?

What Should an Electric Guitar Sound Like?

If you listen to an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar, you will notice some key differences. For example, even if the same person played the same song on both types of guitars, you would hear two different music pieces. 

Although it’s possible to make an electric guitar sound acoustic, most people choose this instrument for its unique tone. 

But what are they supposed to sound like?

An electric guitar should dull when not plugged in due to the metal strings. When plugged into an amp, they can be quite bright and produce a thin sound or produce a darker sound that rumbles in your chest. Depending on the settings you place in your amp, you can get a wide variety of sounds.

Since the main sound of an electric guitar is produced through an amp, the strings don’t need to cover all the sound frequencies on their own. To hear the full range of what an electric guitar can do, try listening to a few songs or guitar solos and identify the guitar’s tone in the music. 

In contrast, an acoustic guitar tends to be bright and cheery, giving you full sound from the get-go. This is because most of them don’t have an amplifier for support. 

Acoustic guitars sound warm and pleasant to the ear and produce longer sounds that vibrate within the instrument for much longer. Strum an acoustic guitar and note how long the sound rings out, then do the same with your electric and see the difference. 

Check out this video for a detailed look at how these guitars differ and listen to how different they sound as the creator plays each:

Why You May Want That Acoustic Sound

Sometimes guitar players want the best of both worlds without buying and carrying two different guitars around. It’s much easier to swap out a few settings on an electric guitar and then play around with having it sound like an acoustic – especially if you only want to play one or two songs this way. 

Changing the tone of your guitar can be beneficial if you want to play a particular song, experience new sounds, and keep hold of one guitar rather than buying two. 

Still, whether or not you do this will depend on the type of songs you want to play.

You Only Need To Play a Couple of Songs

In some shows, you may want to play one or two slower, acoustic songs. In that case, you might prefer it if your electric guitar could produce that sound rather than carrying two guitars. 

Plug an acoustic simulator pedal between your guitar and the amplifier to simulate an acoustic sound whenever you play. 

It won’t be perfect, but it will help you replicate the frequencies that typically are played by an acoustic guitar. This is ideal as you don’t need to fiddle with the various settings. 

You can also change the strings on your electric guitar to have a thicker gauge, which will mimic the strings on an acoustic guitar. While changing guitar strings in the middle of the show can be something no one wants to do, you could bring a second electric guitar with different strings and just plug and play with that. 

Again, your desire to change your guitar strings will depend on whether you want to have your guitar sound like an acoustic at all. If you decide that you only want to play electric guitar sounds and songs, you can most certainly do that for yourself. However, this is the best way to do it for those who want to play an acoustic song or two without switching guitars. 

Conclusion

There are several reasons why your electric guitar sounds like an acoustic, and going through them one by one is the best way to diagnose the problem. You’ll learn more about your guitar and how it makes the sounds, and you will be able to switch from acoustic to electric sounds anytime. 

Or you could just fix the problem and never go back to having an acoustic sound coming from your amp. Especially since it’s a lot more impactful playing a rock song and having the tones of the electric guitar come out for all to hear (here’s how to get a warm guitar tone). 

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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