Electric guitars certainly have the upper hand when you’re playing unplugged. Nylon strings, no amplifier, it’s a low-key and quiet gig. They’re not silent, but they’re much quieter than acoustic guitars. Even other nylon string acoustic guitars are still soft in volume and nature.
But, an acoustic guitar presents “noise” issues for those within earshot. It’s too loud when they want quiet, and it’s not loud enough when you need to please the crowd. How do you get it right?
Nylon string instruments are quiet enough, pianos have a sustaining/damper pedal, and even brass instruments have mutes, but where does that leave the acoustic? We think it’s time to spill our secrets!
- Quiet Guitar Techniques
- 1. Pick
- 2. Plug In
- 3. Palm Mute
- Quiet Guitar Products
- 1. Extra-Light Gauge Strings
- 2. Quiet Picks
- 3. Feedback Buster
- Simple Tips on How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Quieter
- 1. Fill the Soundhole
- 2. Use a Feedback Dampener
- 3. Use an Acoustic Guitar Silencer
- 4. Tie something Soft Around the Neck of the Guitar
- 5. Use Palm-Muting
- 6. Pick With Your Finger Tips Not Your Nails
- 7. Use Lighter Gauge Strings
- 8. Try a Travel Guitar
- Alternative variants
- Top ‘Silent’ Acoustic Guitars of 2022
- 1. Yamaha SLG130NW
- 2. Traveler Guitar Pro Series
- 3. Sojing 020A-U
- 4. Aria Sinsonido AS-101C
- 5. Miranda S-250
- 6. SoloEttte SongBird Jazz
- 7. Koopal EG100
- FAQ for Soundhole Damper
- What is a soundhole damper for acoustic guitars?
- When do you use a soundhole damper?
- How do soundhole dampers for acoustic guitar work?
- What are the different types of soundhole dampers?
- Can you use a soundhole damper with any instrument?
- How do a soundhole damper affect tone and pitch?
- Affect soundhole damper on tone and pitch the guitar?
Quiet Guitar Techniques
Sometimes you don’t want to fiddle-fart around with household items or purchase expensive equipment just to have to play a little quieter. Sometimes all you need is a softer touch.
You might learn how to pick a few tunes first before you can practice this technique, but picking with your fingers and not your fingernails will produce a softer sound. Put the actual picks away and get your fingers doing all the work.
2. Plug In
Sounds like a contradiction? We don’t mean to plug in for amplification. Buy a set of headphones and plug it into the input jack. That way only you and you alone can hear your awesome talent! Of course, this option is only available on electric guitars or acoustic guitars with pickups like an acoustic electric.
3. Palm Mute
Kind of a misnomer, this technique actually uses the side of your hand to mute sound. As you play, you rake your hand along the side of your pinky finger across the bridge to dampen sound. It makes a big difference in volume without inhibiting being able to hear chord changes.
Quiet Guitar Products
It might just be easier to buy something where you don’t have to mess too much with your guitar. Just put it on, take it off, leave it on, it won’t matter because it’s a guitar accessory! Check out our suggestions here:
1. Extra-Light Gauge Strings
Lighter strings don’t move air as much as heavier strings do, and because they have less mass, they don’t produce a ton of energy to resonate on the soundboard. This might be a great option if you want to be easier on your fingers if you’re a beginner, but you may become accustomed to using light gauge strings or you might find the sound too “thin” if you’re used to using heavier ones.
2. Quiet Picks
There is such a thing, believe it or not. Very thin nylon picks, like .38 mm, generate a lot less volume versus heavier picks made from other materials. With a thin pick like this one, you won’t want to perform with it, but for practice, they give you a green light.
3. Feedback Buster
This is a rubber soundhole cover that gets inserted into the soundhole. Its purpose is to reduce feedback, but one of its side effects is a slight volume reducer.
However, it’s not the silver bullet as produced sound is not solely dependent on the soundhole, it’s also created via the soundboard (top) of the guitar. But, since sound does come out of the soundhole on an acoustic, it may provide just enough dampening to get the job done.
Simple Tips on How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Quieter
To become a competent guitar player you need to practice lots. If you’re the parent of small children or you live in a small apartment then noisy, energetic practice sessions aren’t really an option. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can make your acoustic guitar quieter so that you can get your practice in without disturbing everyone.
Here are 8 methods you can use:
1. Fill the Soundhole
When you pluck an acoustic guitar vibrations travel through the strings into the neck and bridge and then into the body of the guitar.
The soundwaves then resonate around inside the soundhole, increasing in volume and thus amplifying the sound.
By filling the soundhole you reduce the space that the soundwaves have to resonate in and the soft fabrics you put inside will also dampen a lot of the soundwaves as they hit it.
Filling the soundhole is easy, just take a couple of t-shirts, tea towels or any soft fabrics you can find and carefully stuff them in there.
The more fabric you use the greater the dampening effect will be, just remember to take them out before you go and perform your next gig!
2. Use a Feedback Dampener
Feedback dampeners are small rubber circles that fit into the soundhole covering it completely.
Feedback dampeners are a very effective way of quietening acoustic guitars because they do a great job of deadening the deeper bass soundwaves.
Sound vibrations which travel through your guitar into its body will not be able to travel out through the air in the soundhole, meaning your guitar will be much quieter.
Bass frequencies travel through walls and floors far more easily than higher frequencies so dampening these will make a big difference.
While you can buy purpose-made feedback dampeners you can use anything that covers the hole.
Tape an old CD or a piece of cardboard over the hole, it doesn’t matter what it is providing it fully covers the soundhole it will be effective.
3. Use an Acoustic Guitar Silencer
An acoustic guitar silencer is something softs which sits on the strings at the lower end of the guitar.
In all acoustic guitars the noise starts with the string vibrating and moving the air, these vibrations resonate and grow as they travel through the guitar.
With an acoustic guitar silencer, you are dampening the noise right at its source – the strings.
They dampen the vibrations in the strings before they travel through the rest of the guitar and are an even more effective guitar quietening method than feedback dampeners.
Again you could buy a purpose made acoustic guitar silencer but you can use anything soft that can be compressed under the strings.
A folded sock, a piece of foam, a sponge…any of these will work fine.
Just ensure that they are not super tight against the string or this will change the length of the string, they should sit softly against the string.
4. Tie something Soft Around the Neck of the Guitar
An alternative and cheaper method which achieves the same effects as using a guitar silencer is loosely tying something around the neck of the guitar.
A sock, a scarf, a small towel, a hair tie, a handkerchief any of these will work fine.
Make sure when you tie them that they are sat loosely against the strings though as if it is too tight it will function like a capo (these are used for shortening string length to raise their pitch).
Doing this mutes the vibrations creating a far quieter sound.
5. Use Palm-Muting
Palm-muting is a method of quietening your acoustic guitar by placing the side of the hand on the strings as you play thus dampening the sound.
Palm-muting is a commonly used technique in various different styles of music from classical (to create a sound a bit like a bowed string instrument) to heavy metal (usually on an electric guitar).
To palm-mute, follow these steps:
- Place the little finger side of your strumming hand across the strings, just above the guitar bridge.
- Experiment with hand weight as you go, the more weight you apply to the strings the more the vibrations will be deadened and muted.
- Experiment with your hand positioning too. Keeping your hand close to the bridge will allow the strings to resonate more, moving your hand higher up the strings will deaden the noise more resulting in a more muted sound.
- As you play make sure your hand stays in contact with the strings at all times to keep it muted.
Obviously mastering this will take some practice but once you’ve got it mastered it can be a quick and easy way to get in some quiet acoustic guitar practice.
For more help with this check out this video on how to master the palm-mute.
6. Pick With Your Finger Tips Not Your Nails
The fingernails vs flesh debate has raged on for years in the guitar world with many claiming that using your nails to pick creates a far stronger more aggresive sound and allows you to play a note faster whereas using your finger tips creates a more solid tone.
Regardless of which side of the debate you fall on it is well worth mastering both techniques so that you have more tools in your musical locker to use when needed.
In theory, picking your guitar with the soft flesh of your fingertips allows you to create a softer and (slightly) quieter sound.
Admittedly you can still make significant noise using your fingertips if you want to but it is easier to control the volume with your fingertips once you get used to how to do it.
7. Use Lighter Gauge Strings
Heavier strings have more mass so move more air and therefore creating deeper stronger vibrations that are louder and more disruptive.
If you are a finger picking guitarist then lighter strings are a must have if you want to save your finger tips to do things other than play the guitar.
Heavy strings are not only far noisier but far more painful to play too. Guitarists who use plectrums generally favour heavier strings as they are less prone to snapping
Switching your strings out from some extra light gauge strings will instantly quieten your guitar.
Be aware that this will create a far thinner sounding noise than thick strings do, but if it allows you to get some practice in during the evening while your kids are sleeping then perhaps the compromise is worth it!
8. Try a Travel Guitar
This isn’t a cheap option as it involves buying a whole new guitar, however, it is effective.
Travel guitars do not have the soundhole making them much more portable and almost silent.
They make as much noise as an unplugged electric guitar (not much at all).
Most travel guitars use what are known as stethophone headsets which allow you to hear the music you are playing more clearly, often without the need for batteries or any power source.
This means you can strum away in your hotel room at 2am as vigourously as you want and it won’t result in angry neighbors knocking on your door!
We hope these tips help you work out how best to get some guitar practice in without disturbing anyone.
If all else fails then you could try and soundproof a room specifically for guitar practice.
- After we exhausted all our options, the only thing we didn’t discuss was the design of a space in your house that is “suitable for a guitar.” Acoustic tiles, insulation, necessary space – it just doesn’t quite fit the budget or realistic options for a beginner or an amateur.
- Become an air guitar master! You can practice some wild, stage-worthy performance moves, smash and tear your guitar to pieces in the heat of the moment, and you won’t bother a single person!
- Unconventional? Definitely, but it seems to get the job done in a jiffy if you don’t have any fancy gadgets on hand. Grab a paper towel and fold it several times to wedge in between the strings and the soundboard as close to the bridge as possible. It’s definitely not attractive, so don’t forget to take these “tools” out when you’re done keeping quiet. Alternative tools: Soft felt, thick sock
- If you have kids, you might have some sticky tack or plasticine laying around. You can use some of this to put across the bridge to dampen sound. Just be sure to get it all out when you’re done and not to leave any residue behind. Tools: Sticky Tack, Plasticine.
Top ‘Silent’ Acoustic Guitars of 2022
You could always opt for a guitar that’s just, well, quiet. In design, these guitars were made with practicing artists in mind. Silent Guitars are acoustic or electric guitars that are stripped down to bare essentials, even the body becomes optional.
As the name implies, Silent Guitars are designed to be played acoustically quiet, while keeping the amplified sound and playability as close to regular guitars possible. This is achieved by reducing the resonating body to minimum, while keeping the neck, pickup and strings in proper positions. Silent Guitars are different from travel guitars because they prioritize playability over portability, as exemplified by the skeletal body frames that allow for standard posture while playing.
Interestingly, Silent Guitars are also being used on stage by many artists, thanks to its low maintenance design, feather like weight and feedback free performance. Yamaha silent guitars are the popular choice because of their relatively affordable price and wide scale marketing, however there are other builders that offer smaller and more travel friendly silent guitars at varying prices.
1. Yamaha SLG130NW
Yamaha is the Silent Guitar manufacturer to beat, thanks to their impressive price to quality ratio. And big name artists like Brian May, Mike Stern and Lee Ritenour seem to agree. The SLG130NW is the top-of-the-line model designed to give you the true feel and vibe of nylon stringed classical guitars in Silent Guitar format. The neck construction follows the conventional classical method and employs an ebony fingerboard. So you won’t miss your tonewoods too much, even the smoothly curved body frame is made of rosewood and maple.
The SLG130NW matches the balance and ergonomics of real classical guitars so that it won’t slant awkwardly when you play standing or sitting. On top of its great nylon string sound, Yamaha equipped this guitar with reverb, chorus and echo effects that will be handy when practicing. It requires a 9 volt battery for operation.
- Steel Strings, Translucent Black Finish
- The SLG is the perfect instrument for practice, travel or stage use – any time an acoustic guitar just won’t do.
This guitar might prove to be expensive, but it’s going to be a heck of a lot cheaper than overhauling a sound-proof room in your house. Besides, if you’re playing acoustic guitar in an apartment, you either don’t have the space or you’re itching to get kicked out with your intended demo.
Without putting your residency in jeopardy, the Silent Guitar is your answer to quiet playing without being evicted. Its lack of a guitar body is what makes it 80 percent quieter than a traditional acoustic guitar!
2. Traveler Guitar Pro Series
- One-piece maple neck and body with natural finish
- Includes listening Stethophone for battery-free private listening and traditional 1/4-inch output with tone and volume
Yeah, it’s different. So different that it would be an out-of-the-box alternative to a silent acoustic guitar. Its main advantages are obviously for portability while traveling, but there’s a few bonus benefits in the mix too.
You might be wondering if the Traveler Guitar is an electric guitar, but it’s an acoustic-electric with steel strings. You can tell from the body design that it’s going to be much quieter to play when unplugged. Plus, it comes with a battery-free stethophone headset that you can plug straight into the guitar for private playing and listening. This should have you curious enough to check it out!
3. Sojing 020A-U
Good quality affordable instruments are starting to invade the silent guitar market, case in point is the Sojing 020A-U, a welcome new addition to this list. This cheap silent guitar surprisingly comes with a full-sized body, allowing for classical guitar like playability. The nut width is 2 1/16″, scale length is 25 3/4″ and it is 39″ long.
Like the more expensive silent guitars, the Sojing 020A-U comes with detachable body frames for convenient storage. Although a bit more bulky than the other models, the frames look better and the shape better resembles the body of an actual nylon string guitar. The guitar features a rosewood fingerboard and comes with tone and volume control knobs. This is certainly a tempting silent guitar for beginners or for those that are looking for budget friendly alternatives.
4. Aria Sinsonido AS-101C
The Aria Sinsonido AS-101C is a nylon stringed guitar designed with travel and convenience as its top priority, resulting in a smaller scale headless design, which is quite unique for a classical guitar. It doesn’t give you the same shape and ergonomics as a classical so it may feel awkward in the beginning, but these are necessary trade-offs to make the guitar smaller, making it more convenient to carry around.
The Sinsonido AS-101C uses a SoloEtte pickup which is usually found on more expensive guitars. It has two condenser mics that produce authentic sounding acoustic tones that will surely impress, especially for its diminutive size. Other features include mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, 850mm total length, 52mm nut width, 19 frets and 650 mm scale length. The AS-101C has a detachable padded frame which will make you miss the wood on your guitar, but is comfortable and easier to maintain.
5. Miranda S-250
Miranda Guitars’ design philosophy is to build full-sized guitars that are as portable as violins, and the S-250 is proof of their design concept. This high end steel-string silent guitar plays and feels like a full bodied acoustic, while being extremely portable and lightweight. To shorten the length of the instrument, Miranda designed the neck in such a way that the tuners are found at the back of the body.
The side support arms used on the Miranda is made of aluminum, chosen for its convenient weight and rigidity. It is designed for quick setups and can just as easily be disassembled when travelling. This frame is about the same size as a small bodied acoustic guitar, and will let you play the S-250 conveniently as you would a real acoustic. Main features include a mahogany unitary body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, under saddle piezo pickup, gotoh tuners, and an overall setup optimized for sustain. You can get the complete specs and also buy the guitar from MSRP is $1395.
6. SoloEttte SongBird Jazz
The SoloEtte line of silent guitars was designed by a luthier that wanted a guitar which will not require much maintenance or repairs. To achieve this, he eliminated the use of thin woods, which minimizes cracking or warping due to extreme travel conditions. Although his goal was different, the resulting instrument ended up being a sturdy and reliable line of silent guitars.
The Songbird Jazz is a specially designed silent guitar for Jazz musicians. It is equipped with an EMG humbucking pickup that gives it sweet jazzy tones. This guitar did not compromise playability with its standard sized jumbo frets and full 1 3/4″ nut width. It comes with an adjustable Schaller bridge for easy string and action set ups. Body and neck is made of Canadian Maple. There are other SoloEtte silent guitars including an electric guitar version with two EMG-HZ pickups. Current MSRP for this guitar is $1,450.
7. Koopal EG100
The Koopal EG100 is an affordable steel string silent guitar that is designed for practicing comfort. It is lightweight and disassembles easily for quick practice sessions wherever and whenever the inspiration strikes. Just take off the detachable frames and put everything inside its compact bag. No one would suspect you were carrying a guitar.
For its price, the guitar’s body and neck is surprisingly made of great looking mahogany, although I find the slotted headstock placed at the bottom end of the guitar to be a bit odd for my taste. Other features include a rosewood fretboard, aluminum frames, and it even includes a cable and a headphone for immediate playing out of the box. I found this guitar for sale at an affordable price of around $260.
FAQ for Soundhole Damper
What is a soundhole damper for acoustic guitars?
A soundhole damper is a device that is screwed into the soundboard of a guitar to reduce the air pressure inside the guitar and make it easier for the strings to vibrate.
Soundhole dampers are typically found on acoustic guitars that have an open-back design. They are also used in some electric guitars with an acoustic-style body.
When do you use a soundhole damper?
Soundhole dampers screwed into the soundhole of a guitar and are used in various playing styles. They are mainly used by acoustic guitarists, but they can also be found on electric guitars and other stringed instruments.
It is important to use soundhole dampers when you want to make sure that your instrument doesn’t produce any unwanted noise or feedback from the strings.
How do soundhole dampers for acoustic guitar work?
Soundhole dampers are used to reduce the volume of the sound that comes out of the guitar. They work by trapping the sound in an acoustic guitar and then it is released through a hole in front of the bridge.
What are the different types of soundhole dampers?
There are three types of soundhole dampers: metal, plastic, and rubber. Each type has its own benefits and drawbacks. Metal soundhole dampers are more durable than plastic ones but they can be difficult to install. Rubber soundhole dampers have a more natural feel but they can also cause issues with tuning because they absorb some of the vibrations from the strings.
Can you use a soundhole damper with any instrument?
The answer to this question is no. The soundhole damper is designed to fit on the instrument and can only be used on one specific type of instrument.
There are a few instruments that might be able to use a soundhole damper, but they are not the norm. For example, a violin can use a soundhole damper if it has a very large opening at the top of its body.
This opening is called the f-hole and it’s found in violins from 1730-1830. Another example would be an oboe with its curved body, which allows for a wider opening in the top of its body than most other instruments.
How do a soundhole damper affect tone and pitch?
Soundhole dampers are usually made from rubber or felt, which can be shaped into different shapes to affect tone and pitch. The shape of the dampers will affect how much air can flow through them, which in turn affects how loud or soft a note will sound.
Affect soundhole damper on tone and pitch the guitar?
Soundhole dampers are used to protect the soundboard of a guitar from moisture, which can cause it to crack.
If you were to leave your guitar in a humid environment or if you were to use it while sweating, there is a chance that your instrument’s soundboard will crack and lose its ability to produce sounds. One way that guitar players protect their instruments from this damage is by using dampers on their guitars’ soundholes.