Trying to jam with friends or practice on your own while barely being able to hear your guitar can be extremely frustrating. It might even seem like your guitar is unplayable, and you need to get another one if you want to hear anything. However, such a step might be too drastic, as there are certain things you can do to make your guitar a bit louder, so there’s no need to despair.
Your acoustic guitar might be quiet because you strum too softly. Your string gauge is also important. Thin strings sound quiet while thick strings are louder. It’s also important to check your saddle, bridge, and bridge pins. You should also adjust the action and get a thicker pick.
Keep reading if you want to learn more about why your acoustic guitar is so quiet. We’ll go over the common causes, and I’ll suggest some fixes you can apply to finally get your guitar’s true potential.
1. You Don’t Strum Hard Enough
Unless you play an acoustic-electric guitar, its volume will depend mostly on how hard you strum. If you’re a beginner, strumming hard enough might be difficult. And you might not be confident enough, so you always try to strum softly to avoid touching the strings you’re not supposed to touch.
Over time, this might become a habit, that is, the normal way you play. You’ll probably play with more accuracy this way, but it simply won’t be loud enough, and since it’s now your normal way of playing, you might not notice that there is something wrong with your strumming.
Of course, some songs require you to play softly, so the lack of volume is probably a plus. However, when it comes to other songs, strumming like you’re trying to caress the guitar won’t achieve the desired effect.
Luckily, you can fix this problem very easily by tweaking your playing technique a little. Let’s check out what you can do.
How To Fix It
The easiest way to fix this problem is simply relaxing your strumming hand and strum harder. Even if your guitar is broken, strumming harder will give it an instant volume boost. It might be difficult to get used to this if you’ve been strumming softly for a while, but a few hours of dedicated practice should do the trick.
If you start strumming harder and notice a drop in your accuracy, meaning you accidentally strum the strings you’re not supposed to, then you can learn how to mute strings. This might be difficult at first because it will change how you hold chords, but you’ll get used to it over time, so you’ll play without buzzing and noise. Here are some ways you can mute your strings.
- Use your thumb: This is the easiest way to mute the thick E string. You only have to touch it with your thumb lightly, and it will be effectively muted. Now, even if you strum it accidentally, it will make no noise.
- Use a finger that’s holding the chord: This is another convenient way to mute a string and it won’t change the way you hold a chord much. You only have to slightly extend the tip of a finger to touch another string, and voila, it’s muted.
- Hold the pick close to the tip: This is not exactly a way to mute strings but rather to get more control over the pick. It’s not advisable to use this trick if you’re a beginner, but it’s a good way to play if you’re already somewhat experienced. Plus, holding it this way will automatically make your guitar slightly louder.
Strumming close to the bridge is another time-tested way to make the guitar louder. This will give you a lively, vibrant tone, which some people compare to the sound of an electric guitar. You might not be a big fan of this sound, but at least you’ll be louder, which is the main goal here.
Another way to make your guitar louder if you’re a soft strummer is miking it. It’s a particularly good way to make it louder if you’re playing a song that specifically calls for soft playing. You can choose between a microphone on a stand and a clip-on microphone.
A clip-on microphone is a great way to amplify your guitar’s sound if you’re lively while playing and like to jump around. It’s even better if you get a wireless microphone. If you’re not that type of person, you can opt for a regular instrument microphone.
2. Your Strings Are Too Thin
Thin strings will produce a thin, quiet sound. This is not always bad, as in some cases, that might be the effect you’re looking for. However, if you’re trying to increase your guitar’s volume, increasing the gauge of the strings is a good idea.
It’s also a good idea to restring your guitar regularly, not only when you encounter problems. Over time, the oil from your fingers, sweat, dust, and tiny pieces of skin will accumulate on your string and slightly dampen their sound.
This gunk accumulation will make your strings duller and quieter. Plus, your strings will physically wear out over time, which adds to the lowered volume of your guitar.
The material they’re made of also greatly influences your guitar’s overall tone and volume. For example, some guitarists find that 80/20 bronze tends to be brighter than phosphorus bronze. As you get more experienced, you’ll figure out which material suits your guitar best.
Let’s see how you can fix this issue.
How To Fix It
If you have thin strings and your guitar is too quiet because of that, the easiest course of action is to change the strings. See what gauge your current strings are, and go up from there. You can experiment with different gauges to see what works best.
However, before you get thicker strings, check if the guitar’s truss rod can support them. Some guitars weren’t meant to be used with particularly thick strings. These instruments can be damaged if you equip them with strings that are too thick.
Thicker strings also require more physical strength, which might take some time until you get used to them. Don’t be discouraged if your fingers feel a little sore at first. This is just like any other exercise; when your muscles and bones get used to the exertion, you’ll feel fine.
After you change the strings, you should practice good string hygiene. You don’t want all that nasty debris from your fingers to accumulate on the strings. Wipe them thoroughly with a soft cloth after each practice session. You should also make sure your hands are clean before you play, and if they sweat a lot, wipe them occasionally during your sessions.
3. Broken or Low-Quality Bridge, Saddle, and Bridge Pins
Your bridge, saddle, and pins have a tremendous influence over your sound. The bridge is particularly important as the vibrations from the strings have to pass through it to get to the guitar’s body. The quality and material of the bridge will influence how well those vibrations pass through and what the guitar sounds like.
Bridges can also break, making your guitar unplayable or too quiet. Sometimes, a cheap bridge can get a crack down its middle, which should prompt you to change it immediately. This doesn’t happen often, but it’s not unusual to end up with smaller cracks that negatively influence your sound.
The saddle and bridge pins are almost as influential. If they don’t sit well or are made of cheap material, they might mess up the sound of your guitar. Budget guitars often have saddles and bridge pins made from cheap plastic instead of bone, which affects the tone and may make your guitar quieter.
There are a couple of things to do if you think you have problems with these guitar parts.
How To Fix It
You should closely examine these parts for damage. If your bridge is damaged, you have no choice but to replace it. This process is not expensive, and you can easily find a spare bridge. Make sure you get a high-quality one. It’s an important part, and you should not save money on it. It’s also wise to get a technician to replace the bridge if you’re not sure you can do it on your own.
When it comes to the saddle and pins, check what material they’re made from. If it’s plastic, replace them with spare parts made from bone, even if they’re not damaged. Bone is the best material for this, and it has been used for ages with great results.
Another thing you should also check is the nut. If the pins and saddle are plastic, the nut is probably plastic, too. You should hurry to replace it with a bone nut in that case. You can quickly and easily find a replacement set on Amazon, so you only have to check if the parts fit your guitar.
Replacing cheap parts with higher-quality parts made from better materials is a proven way to improve your guitar’s sound. This will also make it more resonant and thus louder, so it’s a great investment.
4. Low Action
Some guitarists use the term “action” to describe the guitar’s overall playability, that is, how comfortable the neck feels. More strictly, the word refers to the distance between the strings and the frets. This is why it’s also referred to as “string height”, which is a more accurate term.
When we say “low action”, it means that the strings are close to the frets. On the other hand, “high action” means that the strings are far away from the frets. High and low action have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Low action is often desirable because it makes it much easier to play. If the action is low, the string has to travel less to get to the fret, so it is easier to press it, which means less soreness and more speed. This is great, but if you go too low, you run into problems.
If your strings are too close to the frets, you’ll get a lot of buzzing. This is not the kind of beginner buzzing that everyone experiences when they start playing, but a constant buzzing sound that you can’t get rid of even as an experienced player.
The buzzing might not make your guitar significantly quieter, but it will negatively affect its sound. It might obscure the guitar’s sound or muddy it, which is never good if you want to play loudly.
An even worse problem is strings fretting out. This means that when you press a string, it lies flat on more than one fret, which deadens the sound and results in silence from your guitar. You can see how this influences its loudness.
How To Fix It
If the action on your acoustic guitar is too low, the only course of action is to make it higher. The easiest way to do this is to get a guitar technician to do the job for you. It’s a tricky thing to pull off by yourself, and making a mistake can destroy your guitar.
Usually, a technician can increase the action in three ways:
- Adjusting the truss rod: The truss rod can be accessed via the sound hole or the headstock. The headstock is turned with an Allen wrench to increase or decrease the action. A technician turns it counter-clockwise to increase the action.
- Shimming the nut: Shimming refers to increasing the height of the nut by sticking something underneath it. Guitarists often use a playing card for this. Shimming the nut will mostly influence the first half of the neck. If you want to increase the action on the rest of the neck, you need to shimmy the saddle.
- Shimming the saddle: It’s best to shimmy both the saddle and the nut. This will increase the action evenly across the neck and give you the best results. If you only have problems with the part of the neck closer to the soundhole, you can shimmy only the saddle and deal with the problem that way.
Increasing the action will change how your guitar feels while you’re playing. You’ll find that it’s harder to press strings with a higher action, and your hand might feel sore at first. However, this feeling will go away over time, and you’ll be able to play as before.
5. Your Pick Is Too Thin
We’ve mentioned that thin strings produce a thin sound. Likewise, a thin pick also produces a thin sound. In other words, it won’t allow you to produce enough force to make the strings vibrate enough.
An extreme example of this is trying to play bass with a typical guitar pick. You’ll find it very hard to pluck the strings as the pick will simply bend and will barely be able to move them. It is much easier to use fingers or get a different pick.
How To Fix It
The fix for this problem is very easy. Simply get a thicker and sturdier pick. Get one that is at least one millimeter thick. You should also go for a pick that’s not elastic and easily bendable. A sturdy pick will allow you to pluck much harder, so you’ll notice an instant increase in volume.
If you like to play with your fingers, you should consider growing out the nails on your strumming hand. You’ll notice that most classical guitarists have long fingernails. They grow their nails out precisely to play more loudly. While this might not look great, it’s an easy way to be louder if you’re learning classical or flamenco guitar.
6. Your Guitar Is Too Small
The size and shape of your guitar also influences its loudness. If a guitar has a bigger body, it will be more resonant and thus louder. Similarly, a small guitar won’t be able to amplify the strings’ vibrations as much, so it will be quieter.
Your guitar’s shape also influences its loudness. Cutaway guitars tend to be quieter compared to other body types because their bodies are smaller. They’re not drastically quieter, but you’ll notice a difference.
How To Fix It
Sadly, you can’t fix a guitar’s size. It is the size it is, and there’s nothing you could possibly do. If you really want a louder guitar, you’ll have to buy a new one, which might be costly. The best way to deal with this is to plan in advance and buy a bigger, louder guitar if you know that you need a loud one.
On the other hand, if you really like the sound of your small guitar, you can always mic it and make it louder that way. If done well, miking can preserve its natural sound while allowing more people to hear you.
You likely don’t strum hard enough if your guitar is too quiet. Working on this will give you an instant volume boost. It’s also possible that your bridge, nut, saddle, and pins are low-quality or damaged, so you need to replace them.
You should also examine and adjust your guitar’s action. It might be too low, so increasing it might do the trick.
Additionally, change your strings regularly and get a pick that’s thick and sturdy enough for loud playing. This will help you avoid other problems with your tone in the future.