I’ve done a few articles about recommended pedals to get started with on electric guitar in a contemporary worship band setting and in response a number of people have asked for something similar for acoustic guitar and bass, so here are some thoughts. Similar principles apply to both instruments so I’ll list the acoustic pedal ideas in this post and the bass ones in the next.
When you get this kind of “what pedals for acoustic or bass” question the immediate response from many pro musicians is – don’t! Both these instruments are designed to be used with a natural tone and a lot of the time putting an electric guitar pedal though them is somewhat akin to too much icing on a cake. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a worship service where the acoustic guitarist has used their favourite digital chorus pedal for the whole set, but it just gets fatiguing on the ears after a very short time! So in short everything that changes your natural tone needs to be used in short bursts at choice moments.
So if you want start with a couple of boxes it’s probably worth considering some pedals that enhance your natural tone rather than trying to change it. Firstly buy a great tuner, it’ll be the pedal you use the most and there’s nothing worse than a slightly out of tune guitar. Try getting one that mutes the output when you step on it. Also don’t be tempted to go for a cheapie. I’ve tried loads of cheap tuners over the years and the frustration that comes with it not be able to clearly pick up the right string sound is simply not worth the few quid you save on purchase price. There are loads available so do some research but here are some choices to get you going.
• Boss TU2 – undisputed champion for years but now there are some good alternatives
• Planet waves chromatic tuner – as above but with true bypass
• Peterson Strobostomp – A very accurate strobe based tuner. More expensive but excellent and includes a DI too
• Boss TU20 – an excellent hand held alternative to the TU2
• Korg Pitchblack – These are new and I have tried one but they look good value, easy to read and very heavy duty.
Once you got a tuner I’d invest in a decent preamp/DI if you’re guitar doesn’t already contain one. A good preamp will make the very best of your natural tone in an amplified situation. Some of these can be mounted inside the instrument others on the floor.
• Lr Baggs Para DI. – Lots of pro musicians use and recommend this unit
• Sansamp Para Driver DI – Very useful preamp for all sorts of acustic instruments.
• Fishman Aura acoustic imaging blender. Designed to be used to give a great recording tone as well as for live usage.
• Morgan Hill Natural 1 – This is a really intelligent combination of Preamp, DI and Volume pedal
None of these units are particularly cheap but the moral here is if you are going to invest in a unit don’t buy a cheap pedal just for the sake of it. Chances are it’ll wreck your tone. Spend good money on one or two great items that will last a long time and improve your tone.
If you do want to try some effects on acoustic there are a few pedals that are specifically designed for the job. Again always come back to taste so use in moderation.
• Fishman acoustic aura effects pedals. These come in chorus, delay and reverb and are high quality enough that they won’t wreck the nuances of the acoustic tone of your instrument.
• Yamaha acoustic magicstomp – a couple of years back Yamaha made this pedal with a number of good quality subtle acoustic based effects that included chorus compression and even microphone modelling. It didn’t really take off but if you can find one they make a good ebay bargain
• Volume Pedal – Very useful! try Morley, Boss, Visualsound or Ernie Ball
• Aphex Acoustic Exciter – not strictly an effects pedal or preamp, more of a sonic maximiser that is a bit like a ‘loudness’ button on an old Dolby equipped stereo system. so it gives the top end a bit more zing, tightens the bass, adds a little more punch etc.
So here are a few acoustic effects to get you started. I’ve not covered all the bases by any means so do add your thoughts and ideas. Obviously I’ve veered towards the subtle side of effects and I’m in no way against experimentation – technically you can put almost any effect through an acoustic guitar (I’ve even seen fuzz used effectively) but before going wild with new sounds we should probably ask ourselves the questions. Will it fit with the style of music, will it ‘over flavour’ the instruments natural tone and can you use it with taste and restraint?