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Guitar Answers to Guitar Questions
Answers to Guitar Questions

What does an acoustic-electric guitar sound like?

Updated: November 12, 2019

If you’re wondering why your electric sounds like an acoustic, read this article here.

An acoustic-electric guitar is an acoustic guitar with a pickup inside of it that allows the guitar to be amplified by an acoustic guitar amp, or a PA system.

The important note here is that the purpose of the pickup or “electric” part of the acoustic-electric is designed to as closely replicate the sound and tone of the acoustic guitar as possible. Much care is taken by pickup manufacturers to not “color” the tone with a pickup.

This is not a way for your guitar to sound like an electric guitar.

However, you can plug an acoustic-electric guitar into effects pedals and get some pretty wild results. If you have some effects give it a shot, but let me tell you that distortion and overdrive pedals typically do not sound good with an acoustic pickup.

If you’re trying to get your guitar to sound like an electric, well you just need to get an electric guitar then. If you’re trying to play your acoustic in a live setting, then you want to start looking at acoustic-electrics.

Should you get an acoustic-electric if you’re a beginner? I wouldn’t. Most acoustic-electrics have a tuner built into them. This can be handy, but they tend to not work that great. Get a good clip on tuner and forego the acoustic-electric version. Check out my article on the best beginner acoustic guitar for exactly what guitar you should get.

I’ve used a ton of clip on tuners. Check out this article on my favorites, and guess what!? Most are under $10.

Another common question is: Why are cutaways only sold in acoustic-electric versions? While this isn’t entirely true, it’s become nearly impossible to find an acoustic with a cutaway that doesn’t have built in electronics.

Some brands like Santa Cruz, Larrivee, Martin, Collings, Bourgeois, and others have built cutaway acoustics without electronics. But again, this is very rare.

One of the downsides of the built-in electronics is the inevitable situation when the electronic guts are outdated and the manufacturer either doesn’t support the pickup anymore, or the original company has gone out of business entirely. Having done a significant amount of repair work on old pickup systems, I highly recommend buying a straight acoustic and then fitting an aftermarket pickup into it.

There are some incredible aftermarket acoustic pickups that are far and away better than most pre-installed packages.

Go for the simple acoustic, upgrade with a pickup if you want. That’s the best advice I can give.