What does the word "acoustic" mean nowadays?

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by pklima, Sep 29, 2017.

  1. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Played a gig last night with a lineup of singer, keys, drums, and me on computer with backing tracks and guitar. Our drummer also plays in a rock band. Before the gig, he posted about it on FB, saying he was going to play something "more acoustic" for a change.

    Now, we have keys, electric guitar, and tracks, with a lot of those tracks doing weird stuff, like virtual singers singing sequences of nothing but consonants. His rock band has keys, electric guitar, and bass guitar - arguably theoretically more acoustic, definitely much less electronic than we are. Our singer has also used the word "acoustic" to mean play a song with electric guitar (which is going through the computer for processing as well), keys and drums but no backing tracks.

    It seems the word "acoustic" has evolved to mean pretty much "drums are mostly real but not very loud" or "bassist is sitting down". It's like "deejay" in Jamaica has evolved to mean "vocalist". Not that this is terribly important, just a curious thing.

    We are Polish, but here's an example from Turkey...

    What does "acoustic" mean in your area and scene?
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    The fact that lots of people misuse a word does not change the meaning of the word. At least, not until so many people misuse it that they convince the dictionary folks to add a new definition. ;)
    Akami, Atshen, Conkal and 9 others like this.
  3. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    What @bholder said.

    I'll add that I think your drummer is nuts :). HE considers that acoustic. I don't know anyone else who would.

    It's getting creepy how everyone is starting to make up their own definition of words. It's getting even creepier that others are accepting those definitions.
  4. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Depends upon who is saying it. Usually, when venue owners use it, they are talking about volume. For example, I play in a jazz combo - trumpet, sax, drums, keyboards, and bass. The keyboardist uses a synth, since not many venues have pianos anymore, and I play electric bass. That usually works for acoustic, although technically, 40% of the musicians use amps.
    packhowitzer likes this.
  5. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    For a slightly different take on this, there are zoning laws in a lot of cities (mine included) that say you can only have "acoustic" music on restaurant patios or in parks without a special event permit. Here at least that gets interpreted by the city as hollowbody instruments. Plugged into any size amp. So people can get (and have been) shut down for playing solid body guitars through 9v battery powered amps, but don't get in any trouble for blasting an acoustic guitar through a 1000W PA. It's really weird.
  6. fermata


    Nov 10, 2015
    MTV Unplugged is at least partly to blame for the fuzzy meaning of 'acoustic'. As I see it, there are two (sensible) definitions: truly acoustic (no amplification) and amplified acoustic, wherein most of the band is playing acoustic instruments, but the band is amplified.
    Nashrakh, Atshen, Jhengsman and 4 others like this.
  7. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Yeah, I think MTV Unplugged allowing bassists to play solidbody electric basses might have been the camel's nose under the tent, and the term's just become more and more vague and fuzzy since. Or was it already getting vague before that?
    whbjr and Frankie Fender like this.
  8. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Around here it means instruments that are normally played acoustically (no amplification) but use sound reinforcement for performance. Unless you're in a venue specifically designed for music (old music halls, some older church buildings, etc) or small with a quiet audience (and no freekin' cappuccino machine!) some amplification is necessary. As soon as FX pedals, loopers, backing tracks, and whatever else some of these "acoustic" acts use are added, I know longer consider it "acoustic".

    I love the reference to "the bassist is sitting down" ... :D
  9. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    true accoustic instrument or amplified accoustic instrument.
    So classical/accoustic guitar, DB, a drum, real piano
  10. Low8

    Low8 Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2014
    If the 6-string guitar present is acoustic, it's acoustic.

    Otherwise, acoustic bass, piano, horns, etc. don't seem mean squat when it comes to "acoustic."
  11. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    I suspect that the drift in the usage of "acoustic" has more to do with style differentiation than amplification.
    Oci-One Kanubi, zoonose and RSBBass like this.
  12. BassUrges


    Mar 14, 2016
    Considering the word means "of or relating to sound" and there's a whole company devoted to bass amps using it as a name...

    I deny that "acoustic" means anything at all as the drummer used it.
  13. bassfran


    Mar 1, 2012
    Endorsing artist: Lakland basses
    For our band The Mudflapps it means "human-powered/sans electricity".
    T_Bone_TL, Oddly and 40Hz like this.
  14. ReiPsaeg


    Dec 1, 2012
    Rochester, NY
    The meaning of the word "acoustic" has been completely warped to a point where some people think it's a genre of music. If I have to amplify my contrabass it's no longer acoustic.
  15. filmtex

    filmtex Commercial User

    May 29, 2011
    At Luckenbach, Tx, when they say "acoustic", they mean "acoustic". No amps, no electricity, "acoustic"! I have had many opportunities to play there, and it's on my bucket list, but, alas, I'm a Precision player. Cultural differences I guess.
  16. I heard North Korea was tough, but that's just plain nuts.
    40Hz likes this.
  17. Michael Schreiber

    Michael Schreiber Commercial User

    Oct 14, 2014
    Kassel / Germany
    That's really weird...
    As for commercial "street music" in public places and aside from festivals, here in Germany, it differs from city to city; many forbid the use of amps. There may also be restrictions on using percussions, trumpets/trombones, and similar instruments; like 15 minutes playing a trombone is fine; acoustic (and unplugged) guitar may be played for 45 minutes; starting every full hour, provided no one played the hour, before; you need a license, make a plan when and where and with whom you play, and this and that and... many rules, but it's not impossible ^^

    Yet, if it's just for fun, and outside commercial areas (outside city centers), you can play in public where you want, what you want, using anything unless it's unreasonably loud and disturbs others too much - including, of course, animals in a park or forest or this or that or... no rules, but almost impossible :D
    Pbassmanca likes this.
  18. packhowitzer

    packhowitzer 155mm of pure destruction

    Apr 20, 2011
    Nev375 likes this.
  19. Pbassmanca

    Pbassmanca In the pocket n' thumpy. So woody, so greasy...


  20. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    It is kind of funny to me how often the terms "acoustic" and "natural" get conflated in some people's minds.

    I had somebody once compliment me on using my ABG unplugged because it was so much more "natural" than what they called "electric" music.

    I had to ask them what was so "natural" about my instrument? It was made from an unlikely combination of carefully prepared woods from several places around the world and strung with strings composed of a carefully researched and somewhat exotic metal alloy that occurs nowhere in nature. And the design itself was the product of hundred of years of trial and error research on the part of thousands of individuals in several different countries starting with the first plucked string instrument.

    My ABG isn't natural at all. It's a human creation. A product if you will. Humans design and build them. They're not found anywhere in nature. Nor is the exact sound it produces.

    And today, post the advent of recorded music, how often do people actually listen to physically produced without use of electricity (i.e. "acoustic") music. Is a recording of an acoustic guitar still considered acoustic music?

    I think MTV was right when they said "unplugged" was more a term for a certain style of performance (as in lower volume and more intimate in feel) than a term denoting there would be absolutely no use of modern technology or amplification. And most of the viewers of those "unplugged" shows understood and had no problem with that interpretation.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Sep 19, 2021

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.