5 Ways to Amplify an Acoustic Guitar

Author: David Tomas

Most people learning acoustic guitar probably have at least some interest or aspiration of performing in live settings.

One issue that arises is volume. Acoustic instruments are only so loud.

In larger venues, this simply is not practical. Venues with excellent acoustics, multiple instrumentalists playing the same parts, and quiet, attentive audiences work for orchestras, but it is quite impractical for acoustic guitarists. Instead, electrical amplification is the predominant solution. This does not mean playing an electric guitar, per se, but instead focusing on equipment that more faithfully projects the actual tone of an acoustic guitar.

1. Microphone

A very common option is simply to place a microphone near the guitar and play through the PA. This is one of the easier solutions, since most venues do have a PA already installed. It is also probably the most faithful reproduction of the sound, while increasing the volume. However it is the most problematic:

    * The microphone can feedback
    * It does not selectively pick up the guitar
    * Slight changes in the guitar's distance from the microphone will create an audible change in volume.
    * The guitarist must be absolutely still while performing.
    * It requires more time for set up to ensure there are no feedback issues.

2. Magnetic Pick Ups

Magnetic pick ups usually affix to the sound hole of the guitar and work similar to the pick ups on electric guitars. The string movements are detected by magnets, which relay the signal to the amp. This is one of the more hassle free solutions. As an add-on, a lot of magnetic pick ups can be put on and taken off a guitar with ease. A very nice benefit for people with vintage or expensive guitars. These pick ups do not work for classical guitars because the nylon strings do not effect the pick ups.

3. Piezo Pick Ups

Similar to the magnetic pick ups. However piezo pick ups are put into the bridge of the guitar and detect the vibration of the string. Since it is detecting the string vibration directly, piezo pick ups work on classical guitars. Attaching piezo pick ups could require permanent alterations to the guitar. A large amount of modern Acoustic-Electric Guitars come with these installed.

4. Specially Made Guitars

There are quite a number of hybrid guitars out there made specifically with acoustic amplification in mind. Some are more electric guitars with a piezo bridge to give an approximation of an acoustic guitar sound without having to change guitars. Others are acoustic guitars with piezo bridges. There are also designs that attempt to more thoroughly hybridize the design. Whether it is worth getting a new guitar is going to vary depending on a person's needs. Quite often the main reason for hybrid guitars is simply to eliminate the need to carry separate acoustic and electrical guitars to performances, even if some sound quality is lost.

5. Acoustic Amps

Modern electric guitar amps are usually voiced specifically for electrical guitars, sometimes to the extent of having specific genres and styles in mind. While a standard electrical guitar amp can be connected to an acoustic guitar, it is not as good of an option as using an amp intended specifically to amplify an acoustic guitar. The qualities an electrical guitarist look for in an amp are not the same as what an acoustic guitarist looks for, something to bear in mind when looking for an amp.

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Dave Long is the owner of http://www.LearnGuitarBlog.com where he writes articles, creates videos and posts a newsletter about learning guitar

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