Acoustic Guitar Effects Pedals – Shapes of Your Sonic Goodness

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As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 10 – Winter 2020 – Acoustic Artists

The acoustic guitar is the beginning, middle, and end of so much of what is music; it continues to thrive and flourish to this day. With our golden age of gear that we’re basking in, there are beautiful sounding and super useful acoustic guitar effects pedals that will glorify your guitar’s natural organic tone and have you sparkle and shine beyond new possibilities. Here we’ll be taking a look at acoustic guitar effects pedals and making recommendations on some winners. Some are geared towards utility purposes while others are for helping you dial in flavors of your guitar’s golden voice.

“An elixir of the gods.”

First and foremost, a high-quality tuner pedal is an absolute must! Admittedly, the clip-on models are super easy to use and so convenient. They’re fine for home and studio use. Still, a dedicated pedal is recommended as you don’t want your tuner to be overloaded with an avalanche of band, crowd or venue noises in a live performance setting while it tries to isolate your guitar strings’ vibrations for tuning. Your tuner pedal should come first in your pedal chain, so it has your guitar’s most pure signal. So your guitar should be plugged directly into your tuner (with a quality guitar cable like a Mogami, DiMarzio, Planet Waves, et. al.) and then on to your next pedal and/or to your amp.

An important aspect to keep in mind with tuning is to do so in the area of the neck where you play the most. As much as we love our guitars, they are imperfect beings, and while it may be perfectly in tune in the first position, it won’t be as perfect high up on the neck and vice versa.

GGM Tuner Recommendations:

  • BOSS TU-3 Chromatic Pedal Tuner
  • Peterson StroboStomp HD Tuner Pedal
  • TC Electronics PolyTune 3 Pedal Tuner

“Righteous tone like art”

Next in line should be your preamp pedal, which is where the magic happens as it will have the most significant impact on your guitar’s tone (this is where you want to spend the money).

They commonly have utility features like ¼” and XLR output jacks to send your guitar’s signal to your amp and/or directly to the PA mixing board or recording console, phase inversion, a tuner and a mute function (all good stuff for your guitar’s toolkit). More importantly, they allow you to tailor your guitar’s sound and texture by adding volume and shaping its tone. From boosting specific frequencies and cutting background noise and adding some other uber useful effects like compression, EQ, and modulation, they are the secret sauce of your guitar’s voice. Recognize that many acoustic guitars have a preamp built into them, but they may not get you that priceless tone — righteous tone, like art, you know it when you see it. The best suggestion here is to take your guitar (and tuner) to the guitar store and try out different ones. Once you plug in and start playing through preamps, you will know in seconds if you can’t live without one.

GGM Preamp Recommendations:

  • BBE Acoustimax
  • BOSS AD-2 Acoustic Preamp
  • Fishman ToneDEQ AFX Preamp EQ with DI Box and Dual FX
  • LR Baggs Venue DI

At this point, you are on solid guitar ground. Guitar, tuner, preamp, and amp … all checked off the list. If you are happy with your guitar rig and its sound, it is time to start performing and climbing the ladder to your future mega-stardom. If you want more, now we begin to walk on the wild side. With guitar effects, we’re talking tremolo (the grandmother of all effects), overdrive, modulation (chorus, delay, reverb), and all the other kinds of sonic goodness just waiting to be released! As musicians, we are rule learners and breakers. YOU are the key to what is possible. Now before you fly to the music store to max out your credit cards on everything you can lay your hands on, here are some effects that have proven quite impressive with an acoustic guitar.

GGM Effects Recommendations:

  • Voodoo Lab Tremolo
  • Fender Smother Acoustic Overdrive
  • Walrus Audio Julia Chorus
  • Strymon Timeline Delay

“Where the magic happens.”

With guitar effects, as cliché as it sounds, it is true how the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. You have got musical soul searching to do to find your guitar’s voice(s) and how much and in what ways you want to expand its capabilities. Imagine yourself on stage in front of an adoring ocean of fans with your beloved acoustic guitar perfectly in tune, when strummed sounds like a choir of angels, and with an impressive array of effects dangling dangerously at your toes. It’s an elixir of the gods … controlled by you.

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Steve McKinley is the bass player for Joel Kosche (of Collective Soul) in his solo band and for the Led Zeppelin tribute Led Zeppelified. He’s been part of the Atlanta music scene for years playing in bands (i.e. Julius Pleaser, Sid Vicious Experience, Pretty Vacant et al) and has recorded and toured throughout the Southeast. His songs have been played on the radio, he has appeared on television and is an ASCAP member. With his electronics skills and experience, he runs Atlanta Tube Amp and Steve McKinley Electronics and is an Instructor on He roots for Atlanta United, works on cars and drinks his coffee strong, hot and black. He can be found on his sites, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin. www.atlantatubeamp


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