So you have just bought the instrument of your dreams and you can’t wait to get back home from school or work and rock as hard as you can. A few minutes into your blistering jam, neighbors start expressing their utmost displeasure over the noise that your ax is producing. However, the protests didn’t affect your determination to enjoy music the way you want it, inspiring you instead to search for different ways to quiet your acoustic guitar.
While the sound emitted by an electric guitar, going through a distortion pedal and a 350-watt amplifier can turn life into a living nightmare for people residing in your vicinity, an acoustic guitar can provoke people into calling the cops for disturbance as well. If you want to get better at your instrument, you need to practice songs, chords and scales, as well as execute drills repeatedly and that can get annoying for non-musicians within hearing distance.
The good news is that you won’t have to retreat to an uninhabited patch of land in the woods just so you could practice playing your instrument. There are a variety of effective ways to reduce the loudness of your acoustic guitar without having to spend a lot of money.
Learning how to play your guitar more quietly, will grant you the liberty to express yourself or learn new concepts and tricks in the privacy of your room. This can even establish a better relationship with people within your proximity and probably impress them with your much improved guitar skills when the right time has come.
How to dampen or quiet the sound of an acoustic guitar
Develop your guitar playing dynamics
Dynamics in music refers to the contrasting differences between notes, phrases or sections within a song. Judging the loudness of a part of a musical piece may be a subjective one but musicians can also rely on the relative nature of dynamics. That means you can use other portions of the song as a basis on whether the next parts will be either louder or softer.
Developing the skill to control your dynamics on whatever instrument is a valuable ability that even some popular artists can’t perfect easily. Even punk rock and metal, two hard-hitting genres that are usually dismissed as lacking in dynamism for their loud-only approach, utilizes varying volume levels excellently. A sustained, uniform volume from start to finish, can get as monotonous as a relationship that isn’t breaking any ground at all.
The capability to control the levels of your guitar will start with your hands and own hearing, not volume pedals and amplifier knobs. The harder you strum a guitar, the more thunderous your riffs will be. Softer strumming will create the opposite and when you have perfected this, you can tone down your noise significantly, just by regulating the way your wrist hits the strings.
If you can turn down the volume to 1, as well as turn it up to 11 (Spinal Tap fans anyone?) on an unplugged acoustic instrument, you are not just an expert in making an acoustic guitar quieter, you have also acquired a skill that most professional musicians possess.
Use a feedback buster
Just as the name suggests, feedback busters are sound box covers used to eliminate feedback that are quite common in acoustic guitars. Usually made out of flexible but very durable silicone material, they can efficiently lessen the low frequencies being amplified by your instrument’s sound box, notably lessening the guitar’s loudness.
While these feedback killers are common in music stores, a few guitar players have complained about the limited sizes available in the market. You might want to check out custom-made ones if you encounter compatibility problems.
Fingerstyle is the way
In the advent of modern music, guitar playing has become more popular as a picked instrument. But its classical origins pushed fingerstyle technique to perfection by using all five fingers to pluck strings. Setting aside the pick for nighttime rehearsals will give you more control of your instrument’s loudness. Moreover, the fleshy pad of your fingertips also contributes a lot in making your acoustic guitar sound more quiet.
You may also use your thumb to softly strum the chords, a remedy that jazz great Wes Montgomery invented to shut up neighborhood complaints. Eventually, the use of the thumb became his iconic trademark due to the unique dampened sound that is much beloved in bebop, swing and other jazz variants.
Mute the strings
Don’t laugh at this method as it might require one to place an old sock (a clean one please!) beside the bridge and under the strings, to act as a buffer. The sound will be muted and will not satisfy your craving for bright, ringing tonalities, but it sure is effective in muffling your acoustic guitar’s sound intensity and sustain.
You may use other materials, such as a face towel or a rubber-based contraption that you can create yourself. Just make sure that they will fit well beneath your instrument’s strings without totally killing the notes.
Choose the right guitar pick
The size, material, and thickness of a guitar pick can affect the sound characteristics that will come out of your playing. The volume will be affected as well, but only because a thin pick will limit the force of your strumming, compared to a hard, thick plectrum.
It won’t hurt to have various kinds of picks for your guitar as it could provide you a wider option to satisfy various playing styles and genres of music. Along with other ways to quiet an acoustic guitar, choosing the right pick can help a little in minimizing the loudness of your jam sessions.