Can I Use an Acoustic Guitar with an Electric Guitar Amp?

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an Acoustic Guitar with an Electric Guitar Amp

Using an acoustic guitar with an electric guitar amp might sound like a convenient idea if you already own an electric amp.

But can you do it?

And if you do will you damage any of your equipment?

And what will the sound be like?

Table of Contents

Can You Use Electric Amp with Acoustic Guitar?

Short answer is yes you can.

But would you want to?

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That will be answered later. But for now let’s just say that they are perfectly compatible in terms of the cables you use. The input jack for an electric guitar is the same size as it is for an acoustic guitar – so no problem there.

Do People Actually Do it?

Absolutely, there are people who use their acoustic guitar in an electric guitar amp.

Whether they do it for convenience, because they don’t want to or can’t afford to buy an acoustic specific amp, or if they are actually looking for a certain sound, depends on the individual guitarist that is doing it.

Is it Common?

I would say it’s not uncommon, but most people I know would have a specific acoustic guitar amp. So it’s more common to use a specific acoustic guitar amp but it’s not uncommon to use an electric guitar amp either.

I’ll get into the reasons why later in this post.

Will I Damage the Guitar?

Absolutely not.

The signal runs from the guitar to the amp. There is no danger to damaging your acoustic guitar by plugging it into an electric guitar amp.

Will I Damage the the Amp?

No you won’t damage the amp either. Electric guitar amps are fine with the signal from an acoustic guitar.

The Sound that You Want

Now, knowing that you can use an electric guitar amp with your acoustic, and it won’t damage either the amp or the guitar, let’s ask the question – and this post is full of questions after all! – will you like the sound of an acoustic plugged into an electric amp?

The answer to this question really depends on the sound you are after – but generally speaking the answer will usually, but not always, be no.

Sometimes You May be Looking for that Sound

I remember going to see Jay Mascis (from Dinosaur Junior but doing a solo show), opening for Sonic Youth, playing an acoustic guitar  but he had it running through an electric amp.

Not only was he running it through an electric amp – he was distorting the crap out of it – and playing some wicked solos I might add.

But that was the particular sound he was after. You don?t necessarily have to play distorted if you are running through an electric amp. You can play through the clean channel – and you can adjust the EQ to an extent to get a better sound.

And some people do actually prefer the character of an electric amp with an acoustic. But those are the few, not the many. If you are looking for that kind of sound, then this is a great option.

But Most Acoustic Guitarists Aren’t Looking for that Sound

However, if you are looking to get the best sound out of your acoustic – in terms of bringing out all of the tonal qualities of the acoustic – and to get an authentic acoustic sound (particularly if you just want the guitar to sound like the guitar except amplified), then an amp designed specifically for an acoustic guitar will be the way to go.

The sound that you get out of an electric guitar amp through an acoustic will also depend on the electric amp, of course.

Specific Acoustic Guitar Amps

acoustic guitar amplifier

Acoustic guitar amps are specifically designed to amplifier the natural sound of your guitar. They have different tonal qualities and don?t focus on compressing and distorting the sound, as a lot of electric guitar amps do.

Most people want to replicate the sound of their acoustic unplugged – particularly if they have a nice acoustic.

An acoustic guitar amp will do this job much better than an electric amp.

Which Acoustic Amp is Best?

If you decide to get an acoustic guitar amp, the one that you get will depend on a number of factors – like the guitar you have, the purpose you are going to use it for (home, small solo gigs, playing with a band, etc) and the budget you have to spend.

How to choose the best amp is a topic for a whole post – check out the post below to learn more about choosing the best acoustic amp for you.

>>Choosing the Best Acoustic Guitar Amp for you

Other options

A lot of acoustic guitarists plug straight into the PA when doing shows. This might not be an option if you want to practice plugged in at home or for band practice if there isn?t a PA.

But if you only ever need to plug in when playing live then just plugging into the PA is definitely an option.

Final Thoughts

If you want to plug your acoustic guitar into an electric amp, that is definitely an option. Depending on the sound you are looking for and with the right electric amp and some tweaks to the EQ settings, you might even get a sound that’s just right for you.

However, if you are looking to create a sound that brings out the natural sound of your acoustic, then an acoustic guitar specific amp is definitely the way to go.

What do you think?

Would you plug in to an electric amp with your acoustic?

Have you done this or know someone? What did you think of the sound?

Any other comments or questions very welcome, just leave them in the comments section below.

FAQs Acoustic Guitar Through Electric Amp

Can you play an acoustic guitar through any amp?

More or less, yes. Of course, you will have a hard time with it if the acoustic guitar in question is not equipped to be played through an amp at all. This is usually done with an electro-acoustic guitar, an acoustic guitar that has been equipped with a pickup or microphone inside that can then be routed out of the guitar. If your guitar is not thus equipped, you can always use a microphone to send the guitar’s sound through an amp, though you will then need to be even more vigilant about feedback and the like.

Can you make an acoustic guitar sound electric with an amp?

Indeed you can. It is likely that, simply by plugging an acoustic guitar into an amp, an acoustic guitar will already begin to sound electric. In experimenting with the equalizer settings on the amp (Treble, Mid, and Bass), you can achieve an even closer likeness to an electric guitar. The opposite is certainly and has been widely available for some time. Effects pedal manufacturer Boss has been producing an acoustic guitar simulator pedal for years with varying degrees of effectiveness. So, if it is possible to replicate the acoustic guitar on an electric (i.e. to quantify what makes an acoustic sound like an acoustic), then surely the opposite is true, right?

How do you play an acoustic guitar through an amp?

If your acoustic guitar is an electro-acoustic guitar then you should be able to feed it into an amp with a simple jack cable, plugging each end into the guitar and the amp respectively. Some of the electro-acoustic elements attached to acoustic guitars require batteries to work, so you might need to fit yours with one before you are able to hear any sound out of the amp. Of course, if your instrument is without electro-acoustic capabilities, then this will all be a little more difficult, and you might in fact have to mic the guitar up and send the mic signals through the amp, a setup that will be far more prone to feedback.

Is it OK to play acoustic songs on electric guitar?

Acoustic guitars and electric guitars are far less different than people are willing to believe. Sure, some of them might look a little different from each other, but think about it. They are both essentially blocks of wood with 6 strings attached, they are tuned the exact same way, and they tend to have the same number of frets too. Yes, the fact that electric guitar is amplified means that the playing styles encouraged by each can often vary, but most of the barriers put up in this regard are man-made.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

11 comments

  1. I just have a quick question for you. I’m not very familiar with amps, as you’ll probably be able to tell. But I thought an amp was just well, an amp. I thought it simply amplified the sound. Why are there different sounds that will produced with an electric amp, as opposed to an acoustic amp? This may be elementary to you, but I don’t understand that.

    1. Hey Jim

      When it comes to guitar amps there’s a bit more that goes into it than just amplifying the sound. An electric amp will seek to create the best sound possible so things like compression come into play to achieve that. If you’ve ever played an electric guitar unplugged you’ll understand why the sound isn’t just made louder. It wouldn’t sound very good to just have the electric guitar sound amplified without coloring that sound – unless your looking for that jangly tinny sound I guess. Also the quality and sizes of the speaker come into play and the EQ on the amp and on the guitar make a big difference to that sound too.

      With acoustic guitars, usually but not always, the goal is to replicate the sound of the guitar unplugged as much as possible – but you’re just trying to get more volume for if you’re playing to a crowd or in a band situation or whatever. So you’re not looking to “color” the sound too much.

      Hope this answers your question.

  2. How about doing the opposite. What about plugging an electric guitar into an acoustic guitar amp? Will the amp be damaged?

    1. Hey Bigdog

      That’s a very good question! I’m not actually sure. My instinct would be that it would be a no-go – but I couldn’t say for sure. It’s not something I’ve thought of trying. If you find out the answer or if you dare to try it, I’d be very interested to know.

      1. I would suggest to do it with a multieffects pedal in between the acoustic (hifi) amplifier and your electric guitar, most of this multieffects do have some of way of leveling those two signals, or some sort of cab simulator so that it sounds great!

  3. I would like to mic up an acoustic guitar and fees it through a electric amp. Simple question is what do I need besides a condenser mic and the cable to do so? Sorry if this is a bonehead question.

    1. Hi Michael

      You really only need the mic a mic stand to position and suspend the mic and the cable to plug it into the amp. You will likely need an XLR to 1/4″ cable to plug it into the amp – unless your amp has an XLR input.

      If you want you can also run the guitar through effects pedals – but if you simply run the guitar there’s nothing else you need.

      Where you position the mic will affect the sound that you get, so it’s a good idea to experiment with the position of the mic. Check out the link below for more on that – the post is about recording guitar but go to tip#9 for mic positioning.

      >>10 Tips for Recording Acoustic Guitar

      Hope this helps

  4. Hey there Nate, greetings from Chile, Southamerica!

    I have a question. I currently own a (cort cec7) crossover style nylon string Electric acoustic guitar with fishman pick up and electronics. I want to play out in the streets and public spaces and im looking for a battery powered amp. Would you recommend an electric guitar amp??? I thought about the Yamaha thr5. I might want to play a wide variety of styles so i thought it would be nice to have a kind of hybrid sound between acoustic (nylon String) and electric.

    1. Hi Jorge

      Thanks for your message.

      You could try an electric amp. I personally prefer an acoustic amp for an acoustic guitar. I haven’t played a Nylon string through an amp for a long time but I think I would definitely prefer an acoustic amp for a Nylon string. But everyone is different and you might like the sound of it through an electric amp – but I would try it out if I was you, before committing to buying one.

  5. So, you never really addressed the question many of us WANT answered. What electric guitar amp would serve the purpose the best, especially playing small venues ? I play in a small church and want both worlds, nice acoustic sound, but when I want to rock it, I want to stomp a pedal and distort. So, looking at 2-channel Solid State, Valve ? Less wattage and small speaker ( 20w-30w 6″-8″ ), or High watt and bigger speaker ( 50w-100w, 12″) ? What about brand name amps, Marshall, Fender, Vox, Peavey, Boss Katana ? A lot of questions, I know.

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