I’m often asked what effects I like to use on acoustic guitar. The answer is pretty simple: not many :).
I’m a bit of a purist for acoustic, and in the style of music we play, I don’t think the acoustic really needs many effects to get the sound you want. Most of the time it’s a very clean pure sounding instrument in the mix.
First – My acoustic guitar
I use a Martin D-35. I’ve had it for years, and I love it. I an LR Baggs Anthem pickup system installed in it, which I think is one of the best you can get. Click here for more info on my guitar.
Recommended Pedals and Effects
DI or Preamp
The main thing you’ll need for playing acoustic in a live situation is some kind of DI or preamp pedal. You can go as simply as just a direct box, or you can use something a little more involved like a preamp with dedicated EQ and other controls.
LR Baggs PARA DI (Buy one here)
I like the LR Baggs PARA DI a lot. It sounds great and they’ve been around forever. You get some basic EQ controls, which is nice, and you get a notch filter, which can come in very handy. They’re cheap on the used market as well.
There are many other great preamp pedals for acoustic guitar out there. I’m not saying the Para DI is better than all of them, but it’s just the one I use the most and I’ve come to rely on it.
If you want a simple DI box, the stuff from Radial is hard to beat. What a DI box does is take your line level signal (coming out of the guitar) and change it to a mic/XLR signal to run to your sound board.
EQ & Compression
When you go to mix a band, there are 4 basic tools you’ll use to create a mix: Volume/level, Pan, EQ, and Compression. Those four things are essential on just about every track (unless you’re mixing in mono, in which case pan doesn’t come into play). Almost every sound board has basic EQ controls for each channel, and many of them will have compression.
For acoustic guitar, you’ll need to EQ (and compress, if you know what you’re doing) the signal. Personally I leave this up to the sound engineer and the board, but if you want to do it yourself, you may want to invest in a compressor and EQ pedal. The options here are too numerous to list, but there are some great EQ and compression pedals out there.
Reverb and Delay
If you want to add some modulation to your sound, I suggest reverb and delay (I don’t suggest things like chorus, phaser, etc – at least not for the style of music we play).
Reverb: Boss RV-5 (or RV-6). Buy one here.
The RV-5 and RV-6 from Boss are tried and true reverb pedals that sound great. The RV-6 is simply the updated version of the RV-5 with a few more features. I personally like the modulated setting (it’s the same basic sound on both pedals). It creates a warm ambient reverb that compliments acoustic guitar well. I like to run it lower in the mix.
Delay: Boss DD-20
I think the DD-20 is a great delay for acoustic. It sounds great and it’s easy to use. Boss doesn’t make it anymore, but you can find them easily on the used market. You want to be able to tap the tempo in on a delay pedal with acoustic – remember acoustic is a rhythm instrument. Again – there are tons of options for delay pedals, so feel free to try and few and see what you like best.
Always remember with modulation pedals (reverb and delay), too much can get you in trouble. Too much reverb and delay will cause your instrument to sound muddy and get buried in a mix in a hurry, so use them more sparingly than you might think.