Photo of author

Can You Use Distortion on an Acoustic Guitar

Yes, you can use distortion on an acoustic guitar to alter its sound.

Table of Contents

Understanding The Basics Of Distortion On Acoustic Guitars

Distortion is a popular effect often associated with electric guitars, but can it be achieved on acoustic guitars too? In this article, we will dive into the world of distortion and explore whether it can be used effectively on acoustic guitars. Let’s start by understanding what distortion is and how it works.

What Is Distortion And How Does It Work?

Distortion is an audio effect that alters the original sound waveform to create a gritty, edgy, or distorted tone. It adds harmonics and overtones to the guitar signal, resulting in a more aggressive and powerful sound. Distortion works by overdriving the audio signal, causing it to exceed the maximum limits of the amplifier or effect pedals.

In simple terms, distortion occurs when the audio signal is pushed beyond its natural capacity, leading to waveform clipping and saturation. This clipping effect creates a unique and aggressive tone that has become synonymous with rock and heavy metal genres.

Exploring The Different Types Of Distortion Effects

There are various types of distortion effects available, each with its own sonic characteristics. Let’s take a closer look at some of the common types:

  1. Overdrive: Often used interchangeably with distortion, overdrive provides a smooth and warm sound by lightly clipping the guitar signal. It is commonly found in blues and classic rock music.
  2. Fuzz: Fuzz distortion is known for its extreme saturation and sustain. It produces a thick and fuzzy tone, popularized by artists like Jimi Hendrix.
  3. Crunch: Crunch distortion provides a gritty and aggressive sound, falling somewhere between overdrive and full-blown distortion. It is commonly used in hard rock and alternative genres.
  4. High Gain: High gain distortion delivers intense and heavy tones by amplifying the guitar signal significantly. It is a staple in metal and hard rock music.

Can Distortion Be Achieved On Acoustic Guitars?

While distortion is often associated with electric guitars, it is possible to achieve a distorted sound on acoustic guitars as well. However, it’s important to note that the nature of acoustic guitars differs from electric guitars, and the results may vary.

Acoustic guitars typically have a more delicate and organic sound, and applying heavy distortion can alter their tonal characteristics. That being said, using a lighter touch of overdrive or mild distortion can add a unique flavor to the acoustic guitar sound without overpowering its natural resonance.

It’s worth mentioning that using distortion on acoustic guitars can be achieved through various methods, such as using a dedicated acoustic preamp with built-in distortion effects, using distortion pedals designed specifically for acoustic instruments, or by post-processing the recorded acoustic guitar sound in a digital audio workstation.

Experimenting with different types of distortion effects and finding the right balance between distortion and the natural acoustic sound can result in interesting and creative tones for acoustic guitarists.

Challenges And Considerations For Using Distortion On Acoustic Guitars

The Impact Of Different Body Styles And Tonewoods On Distortion

When exploring the realm of using distortion on acoustic guitars, it is crucial to understand how different factors can affect the outcome. One of the primary considerations is the impact of the guitar’s body style and tonewoods on the distortion. Each body style, whether it’s a dreadnought, concert, or jumbo, has its unique sound characteristics, and these can interact differently with distortion effects.

Additionally, the tonewood used for the guitar’s top, back, and sides can significantly influence the way distortion is perceived. For instance, a spruce top guitar may produce a brighter and more articulate sound with distortion, while a mahogany top guitar may result in a warmer and smoother tone. These variations allow guitarists to choose the body style and tonewood combination that best suits their desire for distorted acoustic tones.

Handling Feedback Issues While Using Distortion On An Acoustic Guitar

One of the challenges of using distortion on acoustic guitars is the potential for feedback. The resonant nature of acoustic guitars, combined with the distorted signal, can create a feedback loop that produces an unwanted high-pitched squeal. To minimize this issue, several techniques can be employed.

  1. Maintain proper distance from the amplifier: Positioning yourself away from the amplifier can help reduce the chances of feedback occurring.
  2. Use a soundhole cover: Placing a soundhole cover over the guitar’s soundhole can help minimize the resonant feedback caused by the distorted signal.
  3. Utilize EQ adjustments: Experimenting with EQ settings on both the amplifier and the guitar itself can help mitigate feedback issues.

Balancing The Tonal Qualities Of An Acoustic Guitar With Distortion Effects

When using distortion on an acoustic guitar, achieving an optimal balance between the instrument’s tonal qualities and the effect is crucial. Distortion has the potential to alter the natural characteristics of the acoustic guitar, but when used tastefully, it can enhance the expressiveness and dynamism of the instrument.

To strike the right balance, keep these points in mind:

  • Start with mild distortion: Begin by using moderate levels of distortion to preserve the essential tonal qualities of the acoustic guitar while still adding some grit and edge to the sound.
  • Experiment with different distortion pedals and settings: Different distortion pedals and settings can produce various tonal colors. Take the time to explore these options and find the combination that complements your acoustic guitar’s unique sound.
  • Listen and adjust: Continuously listen to how the distortion affects the overall tone and make adjustments accordingly. Fine-tuning the levels of distortion, EQ settings, and playing dynamics will help you achieve the desired tonal balance.

By acknowledging the challenges and considerations involved in using distortion on acoustic guitars, you can make informed choices to achieve a balanced and captivating sonic experience. Remember, it’s all about finding the sweet spot where the natural voice of the acoustic guitar converges harmoniously with the exciting world of distortion.

Techniques For Achieving Distortion On Acoustic Guitars

Amplification Options For Adding Distortion To An Acoustic Guitar

When it comes to adding distortion to an acoustic guitar, one of the first things to consider is the amplification options available. Unlike electric guitars, acoustic guitars do not naturally produce a distorted sound. However, there are a few ways you can achieve this effect.

One option is to use a specialized acoustic guitar amplifier that has built-in distortion capabilities. These amplifiers are designed to reproduce the natural tone of an acoustic guitar while adding a touch of distortion for a more edgy and gritty sound. Simply connect your acoustic guitar to the amplifier and adjust the distortion settings to your desired level.

Another amplification option is to use a regular electric guitar amplifier. While this may not be ideal for preserving the natural sound of the acoustic guitar, it can provide a wider range of distortion effects. To achieve distortion using an electric guitar amplifier, you will need to use a pickup or microphone to amplify the acoustic guitar’s sound.

Using External Pedals And Effects To Achieve Distortion

If you’re looking for more control over the distortion on your acoustic guitar, using external pedals and effects is a popular option. These devices allow you to shape the distortion to your liking and experiment with different tones and textures.

One common pedal used for adding distortion to acoustic guitars is the overdrive pedal. This pedal adds a subtle crunch to the sound, enhancing the harmonics and giving the acoustic guitar a touch of dirt. Additionally, there are dedicated distortion pedals specifically designed for acoustic guitars that preserve the natural characteristics of the instrument while adding distortion.

Furthermore, you can explore other effects such as fuzz, distortion, or even combined delay and distortion pedals to achieve unique and innovative sounds on your acoustic guitar. Experimenting with different pedals and effects can help you find the perfect distortion tone that suits your style and musical preferences.

Adjusting The Settings On Your Amplifier For Optimal Distortion On An Acoustic Guitar

Once you have selected the amplification method and external pedals/effects, it is important to adjust the settings on your amplifier to achieve optimal distortion on your acoustic guitar.

Start by setting the gain or distortion level on your amplifier. This determines how much distortion is applied to the sound. Begin with a lower setting and slowly increase it until you reach the desired level of distortion. Be sure to listen carefully and make adjustments accordingly to avoid overpowering the natural sound of the acoustic guitar.

Next, adjust the tone controls on your amplifier to shape the overall sound. Experiment with the bass, mid, and treble knobs to find the balance that complements the distorted tone of your acoustic guitar. Keep in mind that the specific settings will vary depending on the amplifier and the sound you are aiming for.

Lastly, consider experimenting with the presence or dynamics knob if your amplifier has one. This control can further shape the overall tone and may help in achieving a more refined and balanced distortion on your acoustic guitar.

Can You Use Distortion on an Acoustic Guitar


Pros And Cons Of Using Distortion On Acoustic Guitars

Using distortion on an acoustic guitar can be a creative way to explore new sounds and add an edge to your playing. However, it is important to understand both the benefits and potential drawbacks of using distortion on this type of instrument. In this section, we will discuss the pros and cons of using distortion on acoustic guitars.

The Benefits Of Using Distortion To Enhance Your Acoustic Guitar Sound

Using distortion on an acoustic guitar can offer several benefits, including:

  • 1. Enhanced tonal versatility: Distortion can expand the tonal range of your acoustic guitar, allowing you to create a unique and powerful sound that complements different musical styles. This can be particularly useful when playing rock, blues, or heavy metal genres.
  • 2. Increased sustain: Distortion can prolong the sustain of your notes, adding depth and richness to your playing. This can help your acoustic guitar stand out in a mix or during solo performances, creating a captivating and memorable sound.
  • 3. Improved dynamics: Distortion can add a level of dynamic control to your acoustic guitar playing. With distortion, you can easily achieve soft, subtle passages, as well as aggressive and powerful bursts of sound. This allows for greater expressive capabilities and can enhance your overall musical performance.
  • 4. Creative experimentation: Using distortion on an acoustic guitar opens up a world of creative possibilities. It allows you to experiment with different playing techniques, such as palm muting, string bending, and tapping, which may not be as pronounced on a clean acoustic tone. This can inspire new musical ideas and compositions.
  • 5. Unique sound textures: Distortion can transform the timbre of your acoustic guitar, adding grit, warmth, or even a vintage character to your sound. This can help your guitar cut through the mix and create a distinct sonic identity that sets you apart as a guitarist.

Potential Drawbacks And Limitations Of Using Distortion On An Acoustic Guitar

While using distortion on an acoustic guitar can be exciting, it’s important to consider the potential drawbacks and limitations, which include:

  • 1. Decreased natural resonance: Distortion can mask the natural resonance and acoustic qualities of your guitar, reducing the clarity of individual notes and the overall tonal balance. This can be a disadvantage if you want to preserve the traditional acoustic sound and timbre of your instrument.
  • 2. Feedback issues: Acoustic guitars are more prone to feedback when using distortion due to their hollow body design. The high gain and amplified volume produced by distortion can result in unwanted feedback, making it challenging to control the sound effectively, especially at high volumes.
  • 3. Limited range of suitable playing styles: While distortion can be versatile, it may not be suitable for all playing styles. If you primarily play fingerstyle or intricate acoustic arrangements, distortion might overpower the nuances and delicate nuances of your playing, leading to a less articulate sound.
  • 4. Expense and gear requirements: To achieve a desirable distorted sound on an acoustic guitar, you may need additional equipment, such as pedals or preamps designed specifically for acoustic guitars. This can increase the overall cost and complexity of your setup.
  • 5. Irreversible damage to the guitar: Intense distortion can potentially cause permanent damage to your acoustic guitar, such as warping or cracking the soundboard. It is important to exercise caution and not push the distortion levels to extremes that might risk harming your instrument.

How Distortion Can Affect The Overall Tone And Resonance Of An Acoustic Guitar

When using distortion on an acoustic guitar, it is crucial to consider its impact on the overall tone and resonance of the instrument. Distortion can:

  • 1. Alter the frequency response: Distortion can emphasize certain frequency ranges and mask others, leading to a change in the perceived tonal balance of your guitar. This can result in a more aggressive, mid-focused sound with reduced highs and lows.
  • 2. Add harmonic content: Distortion generates additional harmonics, which can thicken the sound of your guitar and create a more complex and saturated timbre. This can be beneficial for creating a more powerful and intense acoustic performance.
  • 3. Impact sustain and decay: Distortion can affect the sustain and decay characteristics of your acoustic guitar. While it can extend the sustain of individual notes, it may also cause them to decay more quickly. Finding the right balance is essential to maintain a pleasing and balanced sound.
  • 4. Introduce compression: Distortion often comes with inherent compression, which can affect the dynamic range of your acoustic guitar. This means that the difference between the softest and loudest notes may be reduced, potentially limiting expressive possibilities.

By understanding these effects, you can make informed decisions about how to use distortion to achieve your desired sound while preserving the unique characteristics of your acoustic guitar.

Tips And Tricks For Using Distortion On An Acoustic Guitar

Experimenting With Different Distortion Pedals And Settings

When it comes to using distortion on an acoustic guitar, one of the most crucial aspects is choosing the right distortion pedal and dialing in the perfect settings. Not all distortion pedals are created equal, so it’s important to experiment with different options to find the one that complements your acoustic guitar’s unique tone. Take the time to research and try out various distortion pedals, considering their features and compatibility with acoustic guitars.

Once you’ve chosen your distortion pedal, it’s time to dive into the settings. Start by setting your gain or distortion level to a moderate level, allowing you to retain some clarity in your acoustic guitar’s tone while still adding some grit and edge. From there, you can adjust the tone knobs to find the right balance of highs, mids, and lows for the desired sound. Remember, every guitar and player is different, so it’s all about finding the settings that work best for you.

Techniques For Controlling Feedback And Noise While Using Distortion

Using distortion on an acoustic guitar can sometimes lead to unwanted feedback and noise. Fortunately, there are techniques you can employ to effectively control these issues and maintain a clean sound. One of the most effective methods is using a noise gate pedal, which helps eliminate background noise and unwanted feedback between your chords or notes. This can be especially useful during quieter passages or when using higher gain settings.

Another technique is to control your guitar’s position in relation to the amplifier or speakers. Experiment with finding the sweet spot where you can achieve the desired distortion tone without causing excessive feedback. You can also try using devices such as soundhole covers or feedback buster plugs to reduce the chance of feedback occurring.

Blending Distortion With Other Effects To Create Unique Acoustic Guitar Sounds

To truly elevate your acoustic guitar’s tone with distortion, consider blending it with other effects to create unique and captivating sounds. One way to do this is by using a reverb pedal in conjunction with distortion. The reverb adds depth and spaciousness to your sound, making it more dynamic and atmospheric. Experiment with different reverb settings to find the combination that suits your playing style.

Additionally, you can explore the use of delay pedals to create interesting textures and layered sounds. By adding a touch of delay to your distorted acoustic guitar, you can achieve a haunting or ethereal quality that can make your playing stand out.

Lastly, consider using modulation effects like chorus or phaser to further enhance your distorted acoustic guitar sound. These effects can add movement and dimension, giving your playing a unique character.

Frequently Asked Questions On Can You Use Distortion On An Acoustic Guitar

Can Guitar Pedals Be Used For Acoustic Guitar?

Yes, guitar pedals can be used for acoustic guitar. They allow you to enhance and modify the sound of your acoustic guitar, adding effects like reverb, delay, or chorus. Pedals are versatile tools that can expand your sonic options and creativity.

Can You Put Distortion On An Acoustic Amp?

Distortion can be used on an acoustic amp.

Can You Make Acoustic Guitar Sound Electric?

Yes, it is possible to make an acoustic guitar sound electric by using an acoustic-electric pickup. This device can be installed on the guitar, allowing it to be plugged into an amplifier or other audio equipment.

Can You Play Distortion On Guitar?

Yes, you can play distortion on the guitar. Distortion is a popular guitar effect that adds a gritty, distorted tone to the sound. It’s commonly used in rock and metal genres.


Using distortion on an acoustic guitar can be a game-changer, adding a new dimension of sound and versatility to the instrument. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, incorporating distortion can bring an edgy tone and unleash creative possibilities.

Embrace experimentation and find the right balance between the natural resonance of the acoustic guitar and the gritty distortion effects. With careful exploration, you can unlock a whole new world of sonic exploration. So, go ahead, push the boundaries and let your music soar to new heights with the fascinating combination of an acoustic guitar and distortion.

Leave a Comment