Why Is Your Acoustic Guitar So Quiet? Causes and Fixes


acoustic guitar | Sandy Music Lab

An acoustic guitar that’s too quiet can be frustrating for musicians. While an electric guitar’s volume can easily be turned up, an acoustic guitar’s cannot. Fortunately, there are many reasons why your acoustic guitar is too quiet, and there are solutions for almost all of them.

Acoustic guitars can be quiet because of your playing style, the type of strings used, the room you’re playing in, how you’re plucking the guitar strings, or how high the action is. Solutions include investing in a clip-on microphone, switching your strings or pick, and adjusting a room’s acoustics.

In the rest of this article, I’ll go over each of these causes in-depth, why they cause your guitar to sound quieter, and what you can do to improve them. Keep reading to learn more.

1. You’re Playing Too Quietly

Out of all the potential issues on this list, this one is the most simple to fix and probably the most common. If you’re not strumming the strings of your guitar hard enough, then it’s not going to be making a lot of sound. However, this solution is easier said than done. 

Depending on the style you’re playing in, you may need to be strumming more softly to achieve the sound that you want. Or, you may be a new player and aren’t completely confident in what you’re playing, so you’re not hitting the strings as hard as you should. This can result  in limited volume. 

How To Fix

If your strumming volume is the issue, but because of the piece, you can’t strum any harder, then you might consider investing in a microphone for your guitar. There are plenty of awesome clip-on microphones, such as the BOYA M1DM Lapel Omnidirectional Condenser Mic, that can be purchased on Amazon. This microphone is easy to use, affordable, and comes in a small size that won’t get in the way while you’re playing.

If you feel that you’re playing hard enough and you still just aren’t getting the sound that you want from your guitar, then your strings could be another culprit. 

2. Your Strings Are Too Thin

Guitars have a standard tuning and they can be fitted with various strings, from nylon to metal, and in all kinds of gauges. All of these factors are going to influence the type of sound that you get from your guitar. 

For example, nylon guitar strings are typically put on classical or Spanish-style guitars. This results in a duller but more delicate sound. They are also easier to play fingerpicking style, which is why they’re often used for classical music. 

Steel guitar strings come in a variety of gauges or sizes. The thicker the gauge, the louder of a sound you will get because the vibrations will be stronger. 

Old or rusty guitar strings can also affect the sound of your guitar, so it’s important to assess their age and condition when troubleshooting.

How To Fix

If you’ve been playing your guitar with nylon strings or thin steel strings, but you want a more robust sound, then you could switch to steel strings or a thicker gauge of steel strings. 

However, keep in mind that not every guitar is appropriately braced for steel strings. If you’re not sure if your guitar can handle them, the best thing to do is to take your guitar to a guitar shop and ask the professionals to check the bracing. They will be able to tell you whether or not your guitar will be able to handle more tension. 

And if your guitar strings are outdated or appear to be deteriorating, it may also be time to replace them with new ones. 

3. The Room Doesn’t Have Good Acoustics

Depending on where you are playing, the actual room could significantly impact how loud your guitar sounds. A room with a lot of furniture or carpeting will absorb the sound of your guitar. That’s why some professionals recommend buying foam sound absorption pads to place on the walls, if you’re trying to practice the guitar without disturbing others.

How To Fix

To fix this problem, try switching rooms. Preferably, you should pick a room with hard flooring and fewer furnishings to see if this improves your guitar’s sound. 

If you can’t do so because you don’t have another room to practice in, or the referenced room is your performance space, then there are a few things you can do to make your guitar seem louder. 

First, if you can, remove any excess furniture from the room. Doing this will help the sound to be clearer. If it’s a performance space and you don’t have control over the room’s layout, try investing in a good guitar microphone. This will allow your guitar to be loud enough no matter where you’re playing. It will also allow you to balance your guitar’s volume over other instruments or voices, especially in crowded areas. 

Also, when you are playing, do your best to make sure that the audience is directly in front of you. Guitars are designed to project forward, away from your body. The more you can get your audience in that direction, the louder the guitar will seem to them.

4. Your Pick Is Too Thin

Like with strings, the thickness and material of your guitar pick will affect the sound of your guitar significantly. 

Guitar picks can be made from lots of different materials like: 

  • Plastic 
  • Metal  
  • Rubber 
  • Felt 
  • Stone 

Each of these materials will have a different effect on the sound. 

For example, felt picks are typically used with nylon string guitars or when the guitarist is looking for a softer sound. On the other hand, plastic picks give a sharper pluck, providing the music with a more twangy sound. They are also more precise and a bit easier to control. 

Beyond this, picks come in a variety of sizes and thicknesses. If your pick is too small, you may have difficulty gripping it, which will impact the volume and quality of sound that you can get out of your guitar. 

How To Fix

Opt for a thicker guitar pick. Thick guitar picks will give you more pronounced sounds than thinner, flimsy picks, which are also prone to snapping. Thicker picks will be easier to grip and maneuver, and they’ll allow you to strum your chords fully and completely, creating a more robust sound. 

Fingerstyle

If you’re playing fingerstyle guitar, then producing too soft of a sound is a common problem. After all, you’re plucking your guitar strings with your fingers, not a plastic pick that has way less give. The pads of your fingers tend to absorb some of the sound, which will create a more delicate vibration. Sometimes this is desired, but if it’s not, there is a potential solution. 

If you look up famous Spanish and classical guitarists playing, you’ll notice one thing: their fingernails. Traditionally, the Spanish or classical guitarist will grow out their fingernails on their plucking hand and pluck the guitar strings with those instead of the pads of their fingers. This allowed them to mimic the sharper sound of a guitar pick while maintaining the precise control that fingerpicking allows you to have. 

5. Your Action Is Too Low

The “action” of your guitar is how high your strings are set off the fingerboard. Many guitarists will lower the action, make the strings closer to the fingerboard to make their guitar more convenient to play. 

Lowering the action makes it easier to press the strings down, so it can help with finger and hand fatigue, as well as increase your precision. This is because you don’t have to try as hard to exert the required pressure. 

The downside to this is that it can increase the “buzzing” sound in your guitar, which, while it may not actually decrease volume, can make your guitar sound quieter. The buzzing will cut over the actual notes that you are playing, making them harder to discern. 

How To Fix

If you want to decrease the buzzing and make your playing clearer, then you can take it into a guitar shop and have them raise the action. To do this, they will adjust the saddle or replace it so that it holds the strings higher above the fingerboard. 

While this will make your guitar slightly harder on your hands, with enough practice, your hands will get stronger and be able to produce a much clearer sound than you could with the lower action. 

Summary

Your acoustic guitar can be too quiet for many reasons, ranging from how your guitar is set up, to where you are playing it, to the technique you are using (Question: How many frets are on an acoustic guitar?). Fortunately, there are many ways to make your acoustic guitar louder. You can change your guitar setup, adjust your playing style, or invest in a guitar microphone to amplify the sounds while you’re playing.

If nothing on this list seems to match the issue you’re having with your guitar, you can take your guitar to your local music store to troubleshoot the issue.

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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