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To answer the question “What are acoustic bands”, lets first break down the words acoustic and band separately. Lets start with defining a band.

A band is considered a group, which can be people, animals, etc… In the merriam-webster.com dictionary, a music group is defined as: “two or more figures forming a complete unit in a composition”. Also, when referencing only two people in a band, you can also identify that group as a duet.

Acoustic relates to sound. It is defined as: “of or relating to the sense or organs of hearing, to sound, or to the science of sounds”.

When referencing an acoustic band, or acoustic duet, they mean 2 musicians playing acoustic music. The main instrument is generally acoustic guitar but you can have several variations in the group:

  • Acoustic Guitar
  • Classical Guitar
  • Ukelele
  • Mandolin
  • banjo
  • etc..

 

The above list is what most people think are acoustic instruments but the list is actually much larger. An acoustic instrument is played with the energy of a human with no electricity, no electronics. So now the list expands to:

  • Saxophones
  • clarinets
  • flutes
  • violas
  • drums
  • Piano
  • and more …

According to wikipedia, the oldest surviving flute is 43,000 years old. Now that’s acoustic music!

So when you hear the terms “acoustic band”, “acoustic group” or acoustic act” you now know that they can have a variety of instruments played and still be considered acoustic. Where it gets confusing is that we now have electric and electronics being added to acoustic instruments. Why is that being done? I think the biggest reason is most musicians want to improve or innovate their sounds. Sure those companies, that make that equipment, do so to make money but a lot of those companies were started by musicians looking to improve their instrument.

Take Fender for example. I Have a Fender acoustic guitar and other fender accessories. One of my guitars is an Acoustic/Electric. It allows me to plug my guitar into an amp so that people can hear me from more than a few feet away. Well Fender instruments are available because of Leo Fender who started in the 1940’s building guitar amps, in Fullerton California, known as “woodie amps”. Fender has built acoustic guitars, electric guitars, acoustic/electric guitars, bass guitars, acoustic amps, electric amps and many accessories. Leo Fender was so influential that he was inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame in 1992, one year after he died. I wish they would have presented him with that award while he was alive!

Fender Acoustic Bands Amp

Fender Amp

So now that we can expand our sound using electric and electronic accessories. Most acoustic bands use acoustic guitars with electronics built in so they can run that sound through an amplifier, or amp for short. Not only can the sound travel more distance, it can also keep a better quality sound of the guitar. On top of that we have effects boxes we can use to change the sound of the guitar. Sweetening the sound to the musicians reference is usually important to that musician for his or her sound. It might not be noticeable that a person has their own sound but that is what many musicians strive for, their own sound.

Some of the disadvantages of adding amps to a live performance is the sound. The purpose of bringing amplification is to improve our sound quality and increase the distance of sound heard. But you can ruin the sound if not executed properly. Did you ever hear the phrase from a musician “the acoustic in here is terrible”? And then wondered what they meant by that? That means the location, the building or room you are in, has reflective surfaces that do not absorb sound. They reflect or pass sound around a room causing you to hear a distorted sound compared to the original sound. The sound waves are bouncing all over that room, until they dissipate. Some people think its loud and annoying but most musicians know the room needs to be treated better with acoustic materials. When a room has bad acoustics it is tough to hear the bands true sound. On top of that you may get feedback, sounds cancelling each other, musicians giving the sound guy bad looks and your great sounding band no longer sounds great. Your sound guy may be working hard, or pulling their hair out, trying to remove the affected frequencies but sometimes the room is very challenging to have a good mix.

Lets face it, as a musician you just want to play. And the need to reach more people and to have a better performance is probably the most accurate reasons why you amp up. Just try to remember that the accessories are to help you and not be the focus. Dont depend on tricks to sound good, be good.

So next time you hear that acoustic bands are playing at your local establishment, do not be surprised if they they play something more than just acoustic guitars.

“Rock On”
Mike Parr

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