If you play the acoustic guitar, you might occasionally find yourself playing through a PA system rather than a guitar amp. There are many reasons that you’d do this; you might not own an acoustic guitar amp, or you might not feel like lugging it to every gig. Whatever the case, playing through a PA system is an acceptable way to amplify your acoustic guitar, but only if you know what you’re doing–even if you only know a bit of what you’re doing.
Here’s some tips for improving the sound of your acoustic guitar when you’re playing through a PA system.
Know your equipment. First of all, if your acoustic guitar has a simple pickup, know how it works and how it sounds. Some pickups are heavy on bass, while others get a tinny sound. If you don’t have an onboard EQ, you’ll need to learn to tell the sound guy which areas of your guitar to accentuate or to cut. If you’re running the PA system yourself, this is even more important.
Some acoustic guitarists prefer to use a DI box (direct input box) before plugging in to a PA system. This can help the sound of the acoustic guitar, and can aid in providing an amplified signal for the PA. However, it’s not absolutely necessary.
Whatever you have to work with, know how it works, and try to work in some time for experimentation, particularly if you’re plugging your acoustic guitar through a PA system that you’ve never worked with before.
Use your controls. It’s important to use your controls when you’re on stage. Don’t ignore EQ. Every acoustic guitar should use some EQ to improve its sound, and for this, you’ll need someone standing in the audience to give you feedback.
If you have a guitar with EQ on its pickup, your job is a bit easier. Otherwise, have the person in the audience tell the sound guy what to do.
I recommend investing in a feedback buster for your acoustic guitar. This is a little piece of plastic or rubber that covers the sound hole. It will improve the guitar’s tone and drastically reduce the feedback in the PA system.
Consider miking the guitar. Some PA systems and rooms don’t work well with acoustic guitar pickups, so be ready to improvise. A single directional microphone like an SM57 can be used to get a great sound through a PA, especially in a quiet room, and may sound far superior to a lukewarm pickup. Again, experiment, and you’ll quickly learn what works and what doesn’t work with your acoustic guitar and PA system.
Do you have any other tips for sending an acoustic guitar through a PA system? Post in our comments section below.