What happens when an acoustic guitar is added to a typical electric rock band’s setup? With drums, bass, vocals and electric guitar, things are pretty much blended together for a sound that everyone is already familiar with. Often, audience members who can see an acoustic guitar onstage can’t hear it, usually because it’s too tinny and the sound tech just turned it down; or it’s feeding back and the player turned it down; or – it’s just a prop.
If an acoustic guitar is next to an electric one, rather than trying to compete for volume (the acoustic will usually lose), I prefer to layer them. Where an electric guitar’s presence is found around 3 to 5 kHz, an acoustic’s clarity and sparkle can be enhanced – or even pushed – to 6 or 7 kHz. The fundamental body of both guitar sounds begins at around 300 Hz, so I usually grant this area to the electric guitar, as too much 300-350 Hz causes feedback in an acoustic guitar anyway. Bob Mould uses this production technique with great success on his Sugar recordings.
Steve Parton, is a Montreal-based sound tech recently returned from a Western Canada tour as live sound engineer with the Mahones.