Does your guitar sound bright and tinny? Do you get a good sound out of a cheap acoustic guitar? Are you trying to imitate the sound of your favorite guitarist? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered! In this guide, we’ll show you SIX ways you can make your acoustic guitar sound warmer!
Every acoustic guitar player at some point has wanted to achieve that sweet and mellow “warm” tone. Even though some guitars have a naturally warmer sound, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make your guitar sound warmer – just by following a few simple steps!
You can make your acoustic guitar sound warmer by changing the pick you use for playing, adjusting the position where you play the strings, changing your guitar strings, replacing the nut and saddle, adjusting preamp settings, and adjusting the attack of your pick!
Let us walk you through how you can use these methods to get that mesmerizing warm sound on YOUR acoustic guitar!
- 1 What Is a “Warm” Sound?
- 2 Method 1: Changing the pick to make an Acoustic Guitar sound warmer
- 3 Method 2: Adjusting playing position to make an Acoustic Guitar sound warmer
- 4 Method 3: How to make an Acoustic Guitar sound warmer by adjusting the “attack” of your pick
- 5 Method 4: Swapping strings to make an Acoustic Guitar sound warmer
- 6 Method 5: Changing the nut and saddle to Make an Acoustic Guitar sound warmer
- 7 Method 6: Adjusting EQ settings to make an acoustic guitar sound warmer
- 8 Conclusion
- 9 FAQs
What Is a “Warm” Sound?
Although it is hard to quantify what exactly a “warm” sound is we can get a good idea of what it feels like by looking at its various characteristics. Generally, a warm sound is “mellow”, “soft” and “smooth” — compared to “bright” sounds which tend to be “sharp”, “hard” and “crisp”.
In terms of frequency, warm sound tends to have an accentuated low and low-middle end of the frequency spectrum, while bright sounds tend to have an accentuated high and high-middle end of the spectrum. Typically, warmer sounds tend to have a lighter attack as compared to bright sounds and have a longer decay.
With this understanding of what warm sounds are, we can now talk about the steps you can take to make your acoustic guitar sound warmer and better!
Method 1: Changing the pick to make an Acoustic Guitar sound warmer
One of the ways you can get your acoustic guitar to sound cozy and warm is by changing the pick you use. Since the pick is the point of contact that generates the sound from your guitar, it has a lot of influence over the characteristic of the sound that your guitar produces.
Although there isn’t a hard and fast rule as to which pick will make your guitar sound warmer, generally thicker picks made from a softer material will give you a warmer sound from your guitar as compared to a thin and hard pick.
The best thickness and material for your guitar will depend on a lot of other factors such as the build of your guitar, your playing style, etc. So, you might have to do some trial and error before you find the best pick suited for you. Generally, picks around 1mm and above in thickness made from celluloid with a rounded tip tend to produce a warmer sound as compared to thin, nylon picks with sharp edges. Alternatively, wooden picks –although pricier– also produce a warm tone.
Alternatively, you can ditch using pick altogether and play with just your fingers to get a much softer sound!
Method 2: Adjusting playing position to make an Acoustic Guitar sound warmer
Another factor that affects the character of your guitar tone is the point at which you pick or strum the strings of your guitar with your picking hand. Generally, playing the strings closer to the fretboard gives a warmer sound as compared to picking the strings closer to the bridge — which tends to produce a brighter sound.
So, if you’re trying to get a warmer sound from your guitar, experiment with the placement of your playing hand. Try playing nearer to the fretboard — towards the edge of the soundhole of your acoustic guitar — until you find that “sweet spot” which gives you that mellow, warm sound!
Method 3: How to make an Acoustic Guitar sound warmer by adjusting the “attack” of your pick
In conjunction with the placement and character of your guitar pick, the attack of your pick makes a noticeable difference in the tone and sound of your guitar.
The attack of your pick is basically how you hit the strings with your pick. Hitting the strings with a lot of force and tension will increase the attack of your pick — giving you a sharp, bright sound. For a warmer sound, a lighter attack will give the best results.
You can reduce the attack of your guitar pick by holding your pick with a lighter grip, applying less force when striking the strings, and holding your pick at an angle — opposed to holding it parallel to the strings.
Combined with a warmer-sounding pick and a playing position closer to the fretboard, lowering the attack of your pick will give a warmer sound at the lowest cost!
Method 4: Swapping strings to make an Acoustic Guitar sound warmer
As an experienced guitarist will tell you, not all guitar strings are the same. Guitar strings are made from a host of different materials, ranging from steel and nylon to various alloys as well as combinations of different materials. On top of that, strings come in varying thicknesses and configurations, such as coated, wound, unwound — such that each combination of these configurations gives a different character to the sound of your guitar.
Generally, thicker strings — of a medium gauge — produce a warmer sound than thin, light gauge strings. As for the material, phosphor bronze strings are generally considered to be warmer sounding, along with silk and steel strings. And finally, flat wound strings tend to be warmer sounding than their round wound counterparts.
Materials aside, newer strings tend to sound sharp and bright. If you’ve bought a fresh set of strings, playing them for a couple of weeks will usually make them sound much warmer than when they were new.
Method 5: Changing the nut and saddle to Make an Acoustic Guitar sound warmer
This is probably the most costly and technical method of getting a warmer tone — only to be done by a luthier. The nut and the saddle are two very important points of contact between your guitar and the strings, and thus influence the tone of your acoustic guitar.
Cheaper guitars tend to come with a plastic saddle and nut, which produce a “tinny” sound. It can be worthwhile to replace this saddle and nut with those made from a softer material — such as bone.
However, we recommend that you get a luthier to look at your guitar before deciding to change your saddle and nut!
Method 6: Adjusting EQ settings to make an acoustic guitar sound warmer
If you’re playing or recording through a mic or pick-up, you can adjust your EQ settings to get a warmer tone from your guitar.
For a warmer sound, you would want to accentuate frequencies in the 200-700Hz and the 6-7khz range. This can be done using an EQ pedal, the EQ settings on your DAW, or the EQ settings on the preamp of your pickup — in the case you have a semi-acoustic guitar.
As we’ve discussed, the sound your guitar produces is not the result of any one factor; it’s the product of many internal and external factors. We recommend trying methods one to five before going for method six for best results. But ultimately, there is no standard method of making your guitar sound warmer.
There’s a great degree of subjectivity in what a warm sound is, and it ultimately boils down to what sound you prefer. However, his guide should give you enough information to know how to achieve the sound you want!
Are heavier gauge guitar strings harder to play?
Yes. Heavier gauge guitars are thicker than light gauge strings and thus require more finger strength to play. Although this doesn’t make them more “difficult” to play, they’ll still be a bit harder on your fingers as compared to strings of a lighter gauge.
Do acoustic guitars sound better the more you play them?
As guitars get older, their sound improves due to the wood resin crystallizing — resulting in a much more resonant tone. However, many people believe that playing the guitar causes some necessary wear and tear which smoothens it out, improving its tone.
Can changing guitar strings to a heavier gauge damage my guitar?
As long as you use a string type that is appropriate for your guitar, e.g., nylon strings on a nylon string guitar, there should not be an issue with damaging the guitar. However, you may need to get a setup done for your guitar if you move to strings of a different gauge. Changing the string gauge can change the tension on the neck, which may cause issues such as buzzing, increased action, front bowing, etc.