Want better live acoustic guitar tones? Sick of that acoustic pickup 'quack'? You've come to the right place! In this video, we're walking through the fundamentals of building a fantastic pedalboard for acoustic guitar. We're talking all things preamps, impulse responses, eq, compression, reverb, and delay. So sit down, grab a coffee, and let's get started!
D'Addario Tuner Pedal: https://amzn.to/37AnLbr
NUX Optima Air: https://amzn.to/3qNxyCU LR
Baggs Session Pedal: https://amzn.to/3uidlXL
One Control Sea Turquoise Delay: https://amzn.to/3btDyu0
BBE Sonic Stomp: https://amzn.to/2ZFFkT2
One Control Lemon Yellow Compressor: https://amzn.to/2ZFFnyc
Digitech JamMan Express: https://bit.ly/2MfOHGe
T-Rex ToneTrunk Minor (Pedalboard): https://bit.ly/3bvT5cA
One Control Micro Distro (Power Supply): https://amzn.to/3aG01Vx
EBS Premium Gold (Patch Cables): https://amzn.to/37BKyUj
Fishman LoudBox Mini: https://amzn.to/3byIXje
Hey, you’re in the studio with Luke from GuitarIQ.com. If you've seen any of my other videos recently, you'll know that I've just finished building a couple of little pedalboards—one for electric guitar and one for acoustic guitar. In today's video, I wanted to give you a really in-depth walkthrough of my acoustic guitar pedalboard. I wanted to show you the different pedals that I'm using and give you an idea of what they sound like. But more importantly than that, I wanted to walk you through my entire thought process of the board—why I've chosen certain things and ordered them in a certain way.
Often when we think of guitar pedals we don't primarily think of acoustic guitar. We tend to think of effects like overdrive and distortion, and modulation sounds, and big ambient delays and reverbs. But in today's video, I really wanted to show you that a pedalboard for acoustic guitar doesn't just have to be a tuner and a looper and a few other little tools and tricks we have at our disposal on the floor. It can really be an essential part of the overall tone that we're going for. So that's what today's video is about. If you find it helpful then please click on the like button to let me know (and to help appease the all-powerful youtube algorithm). And with that let's jump into the video and take a look!
Okay, so here we have this little acoustic rig that i've recently finished putting together. For those of you who are interested in such things, the signal chain goes something like this (or exactly like this), I have my main guitar here which is plugged into the pedalboard, the pedalboard is going out to a little acoustic amplifier which is a Fishman Loud Box Mini. And then I figured the best way to capture the audio would just be to take a direct feed from the back of the amp to the front of my interface. So it's just going from the DI to the interface. What you're hearing is going to be slightly different to what I'm hearing in the room. I’m obviously going to be adjusting and tweaking all these so it sounds good here through the amplifier but at least the DI out will give you a fairly good representation of what's going on and what things sound like and some of the concepts that we're going to talk about.
So let's just jump straight in. The thing that I find really interesting about this pedalboard is that all the choices of pedals and the signal chain as a whole is really intended to mirror my approach to recording acoustic guitar in the studio. This is essentially my studio signal chain condensed down into a pedalboard format. The first thing I'm going to do when I pick up my guitar to record is make sure I'm in tune. Okay, that is the first step to a great guitar tone—being in tune. And that's a little tip from uncle Luke straight to you that you can take to the bank. You’re welcome.
Okay, moving on. This pedal is where things get a little more interesting. The next thing I'm going to do in the studio, once I've got my guitar and I'm in tune, is I'm going to pick a mic that complements that guitar and I'm going to experiment with the mic position to find a relatively balanced place on the guitar that gives me a good representation of what the guitar sounds like in the room. The problem we have in a live situation is 99.9% of the time we're going to be using the pickup on our guitar—which is usually going to be some kind of piezo, or piazza, or pistachio. However you want to say it, the pickup that sits under the saddle of your guitar, that’s what we're going to be using. Now this does a great job of amplifying the sound. Unfortunately, the piezo-style pickups have a really super-hyped quality about them. They've got this hyper-realistic character which adds lots of bottom end to the tone and lots of top end which can sound sort of glassy and piercing at times. They're often described as having a really ‘quacky’ or ‘plasticky’ quality about them. Now this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it’s a sound we're very used to hearing. What it's not, is a really good representation of what your guitar sounds like in its natural environment when it's unplugged in your jamming in the lounge room, for example.
So to try and nudge us in the direction of a more natural sound, the first thing I'm going to use here is what's called an impulse response. If you're not familiar with impulse responses (or IR’s) they're essentially a way of capturing one sound source in order to apply it to another. This pedal which is the Optima Air by NUX comes pre-loaded with a number of different impulse responses of high-end acoustic guitars which have been recorded using microphones. And I'm able to use this to impart some of the character and quality and EQ curve of that sound onto the sound coming from my pickup. Okay so rather than trying to explain that anymore, let's just a/b this a little bit and you can hear it for yourself:
Okay, so you can hear that's not going to be identical to the sound of a microphone on a guitar (or particularly on this guitar). But it does nudge us in that direction. What we get is a little more of the natural kind of EQ curve and body resonance that we would expect to hear from an unplugged guitar. So I'm happy with that. Let's use that as our base tone (our ‘pseudo-microphone’ tone) and let's move on.
The next thing I'll think about doing in the studio is adding a little bit of EQ, just to shape the sound and get things sitting a little better in the mix. Now, with that particular impulse response, I like how it sounds… but to me it sounds a little bit boomy on the bottom end. And I also just want to roll a little bit of that top end off just to warm it up a touch. So another great feature of this NUX pedal is that it has this switchable 3-band EQ. Incidentally, if you are interested in this pedal, I will be doing a separate video on the Optima Air and using impulse responses—so keep an eye out for that one. Okay, you can see here how I have the EQ set so let's take a listen:
Okay, so we have our core microphone-style tone, we've applied a bit of EQ to just tame that a little bit and shape it. The next thing I’d be wanting to do in the studio is add a little bit of compression. Now, this might be a hardware unit that I use as I'm tracking or it could be a software plug-in that I'm using after the fact. On this pedalboard, to replicate that style of effect I'm using this Session pedal by LR Baggs. They're a fantastic company that make a lot of great little tools for acoustic guitar players. Particularly, they've recently in the last few years released this Allign series of pedals. They're all voiced and designed for acoustic guitar. They all have this great wood grain aesthetic about them. And they're definitely worth checking out.
This particular pedal has a few things going on under the hood. It's got a compressor and an EQ circuit and also a saturation knob. So the compressor is just a really transparent multi-band compressor that is designed to target some of the typically problematic frequencies that we encounter with acoustic guitar. And as we bump that up we don't only get more compression but actually adjust the EQ curve of the sound as well. The saturation knob: Now, that’s different to what you might think of when you think of electric guitar saturation. It's not overdrive or distortion, it’s more of a subtle analog roundness or thickening to the sound. Okay, so i've just got that set halfway and this is what the pedal sounds like:
So its just adding a little bit of thickness and a little bit of compression. Again, it's very subtle this is really one of those always-on style pedals that you dial in, and once you've played for a few minutes, you don't actually realize it's on until you turn it off. And then that lovely tone you had just starts to fall away.
Okay, so we've got our base ‘microphone’ tone, we have some EQ and compression. To me that's a really good start for a great tone. The next thing I would think about adding is just a little bit of ambience around the sound. Now I've actually had a little bit of reverb switched on this whole time from the amplifier. And there's a little bit of reverb here which is dialed in as well. So what you've been hearing is just a blend of a couple of different reverbs laid on top of each other. With that, I'm just going to add a really simple one-repeat delay. This is a delay pedal by One Control. It's their Sea Turquoise Delay and the repeat is set to a kind of long slap-back or short delay (however, you want to look at it). And it sounds a little like this… That’s the delay time and it's just meant to emulate the sound of a large space—where the sound's bouncing off the back wall and coming back at you. Alright, so with that delay and those two reverbs, it sounds a little bit like this:
So I'm really liking where that tone's sitting. For me that is a fantastic start for anyone looking to put together a little acoustic pedalboard—some kind of nice tone shaping preamp option, a nice juju enhancing, always-on compressor style pedal, and then some kind of option for some added ambience. Those options for me get you a long way towards getting a really pleasing acoustic guitar tone. Because I had a bit of space left on the board and because I like to go a little bit over the top with things, I've got a few more layers of processing here.
Now when you're in the studio and you're recording an instrument like acoustic guitar, you might have a number of different faders. Perhaps you have a couple of mics on the acoustic guitar, maybe there's a DI that you're recording as well. Maybe you have a send for reverb and a send for delay. Usually we'd be looking to send all of those faders to one single fader—a sub mix or a stem for the acoustic guitar. And then we could use that fader to further shape everything at once to fit in better with the mix as a whole. To try and simulate that a little bit, I have all of this processing running into these pedals here.
This first pedal is the Sonic Stomp. It’s a Sonic Maximizer pedal by a company called BBE. Sonic Maximizers have been around for years and they do a few little clever things under the hood. They adjust the phase relationship between certain frequencies, but in layman's terms, it’s essentially an EQ type pedal. This Low Contour changes the bottom end or body of the tone and this Process knob tweaks the top end or presence of the tone. Now this can sound a little harsh and boomy if you really dial it up. But on more moderate settings I really like how this applies to the sound of an acoustic guitar. So let's just switch this in and out and see what it sounds like:
So you can hear it's adding a little bit more body and also a little bit more presence and clarity to the sound as well. It’s kind of compensating for the EQ curve over here by adding a little bit more of that back in. So I really like what that's doing. Now, the last pedal we have on the board with exception to the looper here (which you heard at the start of the video) is a secondary compressor-style pedal. This is another pedal by the good folks over at One Control. It's the Lemon Yellow Compressor. It’s from the same series as the Sea Turquoise Delay. Now this pedal is sitting at the end of the chain and it's essentially operating as a boost-style pedal. It's adding a little bit of compression and a little bit of a volume bump. And this is really handy for when I'm playing a more intricate fingerpicking part or for when I'm playing a single note lead line, or a melody line, or something like that. So let's just switch this final gain stage in and out so you can hear what it sounds like:
So it's a really subtle effect. It’s just adding a little bit more sustain and volume to the sound when i need it. So that's basically my walkthrough of this pedalboard. As one final a/b comparison, I want to switch everything off and then switch everything back on and show you what it all sounds like. So here is everything engaged:
And thus, we conclude this little walkthrough of my new acoustic pedalboard. Well that's it for this video, thanks for watching. I hope that you found it helpful and or interesting. If so then please leave any thoughts, feedback, questions or comments you might have in the comments section below. Of course, if you want more videos like this one, then just subscribe to that channel and click the bell icon to be notified of future uploads. Speaking of future uploads, I am intending to film a number of videos featuring some of these pedals in more detail, so make sure you keep an eye out for those. I’ll leave links to all of the relevant stuff in the description below. And finally, if you're interested to take your guitar playing a bit deeper then please mosey on over to GuitarIQ.com at your leisure and check out some of the books and other resources I have over there waiting for you. Well that's it for me, thanks for watching and I’ll see you in the next video!