How Do Acoustic-Electric Guitars Work?

How is an acoustic-electric guitar different from a regular acoustic guitar or an electric guitar? An acoustic-electric guitar is simply an acoustic guitar fitted with electronics including a pickup and a preamp. The pickup converts the sound into an electronic signal which is amplified by the preamp. You get the sound of an acoustic guitar and the volume of an electric.

Overview of the Acoustic-Electric Guitar Design

Acoustic guitars feature a hollow body and a deep sound hole. This allows for greater sound resonance. However, it is difficult to produce a lot of volume with a standard acoustic guitar. The acoustic electric guitar is a modification of the standard acoustic design that allows for more volume for live performances.

The design of the guitar is the same as a standard acoustic guitar. The construction of the guitar and the acoustic sound properties are identical. The difference is the inclusion of a pickup or microphone.

An acoustic electric guitar is typically fitted with a pickup. This pickup converts the vibrations produced when you play the guitar into electronic signals. The electronic signals are then sent to an amplifier, the same as using an electric guitar.

Pickups Convert Vibrations into Electronic Signals

While an acoustic electric guitar may be fitted with a built-in microphone, the use of a pickup is more common. Pickups are transducers that capture the mechanical vibrations that are produced when you play a string instrument, such as an acoustic electric guitar. The vibrations are then converted into electronic signals.

There are two types of pickups, the magnetic and piezoelectric pickups. Magnetic pickups are used to convert acoustic guitars with metal strings into acoustic electric instruments. However, the magnetic pickup does not work with nylon strings as it cannot pick up the vibrations of the nylon material.

The piezoelectric pickup, or piezo pickup, can convert the vibrations produced when you use nylon strings into electronic signals. This has the added benefit of not picking up sounds created by magnetic fields.

The pickup is typically attached to the bridge or placed between the bridge feet and the top of the guitar. Whether the guitar has a magnetic pickup or piezo pickup, the guitar will need a power source. Pickups are either battery-powered or need to be plugged into a power outlet.

Preamplifiers Amplify the Electronic Signal

The pickup converts the vibrations, which need to be sent to an amplifier or soundboard. Before sending the signal to an amp, it is amplified with a preamplifier. The preamp is attached to the body of the guitar and often includes various settings.

The preamp settings may include an equalizer, a tuner, and controls for adjusting the tone. Besides helping to produce more volume, the electronics fitted to an acoustic electric guitar provide more control over the sound that you produce compared to a standard acoustic instrument. The preamp then connects to an amplifier or soundboard. At this point, the rest of the operation is the same as an electric guitar.

The preamp is an essential component for producing quality sound. If the vibrations picked up by the transducer are sent directly to an amplifier or loudspeaker, the sound may include additional noises or distortion. The preamp helps boost the electronic signal from the pickup before sending it to the amplifier.

Conclusion: Understanding How Acoustic Electric Guitars Work

Acoustic electric guitars are a combination of acoustic and electric guitars. The design and sound are identical to a standard acoustic guitar. However, the guitar is fitted with electronic components to convert the vibrations into electronic signals which are sent to an amplifier.

Why do people choose to use acoustic electric guitars? Many people prefer the resonance produced by acoustic guitars compared to electric guitars. You get a fuller sound that is difficult to replicate with an electric instrument. However, in a live setting or a studio, microphones and speakers may produce noise and distortion when amplifying the acoustic instrument.

The inclusion of electronic components allows the guitar to retain the acoustic sound while transmitting an electronic signal to amplifiers. The bottom line is that when you want to enjoy the sound produced by an acoustic guitar and require more volume, an acoustic electric guitar provides the best solution.


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Gray Duke is the staff writer on 3 successful websites and is now taking his skill as a writer and using it to help non-profit organizations and leaders around the world.