Equipment Needed for Live Acoustic Performance

By Jason Stallworth

October 12, 2020


You’re excited and ready to get out there and play some live acoustic gigs!

Maybe it’s just you, a solo act. Or you may have a bandmate or two to share the stage with.

Either way, the last thing you want to do is book a gig, show up, and not have all of the equipment you need for a live performance!
I’m going to help you with that.

Or you may be overwhelmed thinking about all of the gear you think you need.
Don’t worry, I’m going to help you with that, too!

In this post, you’re going to learn about all of the equipment you need to get out there and start playing live gigs with your acoustic. And the cool thing is this live setup is simple but will give you a superior quality sound.

This post will benefit you if you…

  • Want to play live solo acoustic performances at venues like breweries, wineries, or small to mid-sized events
  • Have a bandmate or two (or three) for these gigs
  • Need a quality setup but with minimal equipment
  • Already playing these types of gigs but you’re ready for an equipment overhaul

**The equipment I’m sharing with you below is my own current setup for live acoustic performances.

As you may know, I’m primarily a metal musician. But I also like to get out there and do some acoustic gigs, covering songs from the 80s and throwing in a few originals.

List of Equipment Live Acoustic Gigs

Before we get into the details of all of the equipment, let me first give you a quick list of everything you need to play and sing live for your acoustic gigs, at a minimum.

Again, this equipment is for small to mid-sized venues, such as breweries, wineries, and such (did I feature places with alcohol on purpose…lol?).

Gear List

  • You…lol, duh, right?
  • Your acoustic guitar (or someone else’s)
  • Mixing board
  • Powered monitor
  • Speaker cable
  • Mic
  • Mic stand
  • XLR cable
  • DI (direct box) and/or preamp for your acoustic guitar
  • 1/4″ instrument cables
  • Gigbag
  • Guitar stand (don’t be like me and forget your guitar stand!)

There’s other gear that can come in handy as well. For example, if you’re like me and bad about forgetting lyrics, then you’ll probably want a tablet for musicians and a tablet holder to connect to your mic stand.

Or if you want to go old school you can just get a music stand and have a notebook for your lyrics. Or even better when you forget the lyrics, just make up your own or mumble something that sounds similar.

Now let’s dig into the details of the equipment you need for live acoustic performances…

Gear for Your Acoustic Gigs

Gear for live acoustic gigs
It’s crazy, but all of my equipment for live acoustic gigs fits in the back of my SUV (Nissan Rogue)…I could be a homeless traveling musician!

I’m going to show you everything that I’m currently using below, and why I chose each piece of equipment for my own live gigs.

I’m not necessarily promoting any particular brands here. And I’m not saying one is better than another.

I typically rely on the advice from my rep at Sweetwater, who has always steered me in the right direction. On that ‘note,’ I’m simply sharing with you what I use to give you a guide.

I’ll start below with what I consider the four most important pieces of live music equipment (not including your guitar or yourself!). And for that reason, I’m going to spend a bit more time on these components below:

  • Mixing board
  • Powered speaker
  • Acoustic guitar preamp/effects
  • Dynamic microphone

After that, I’ll share some details of the accessories you need for your live gigs. Here we go…

Mixing Board: Mackie ProFX10v3 Mixing Board

In theory, if you’re just doing a solo act, all you need is two channels:

  1. one for your vocal
  2. and one for your guitar

However, the problem is the fewer channels your board has, it’s more than likely going to come with fewer options.

And fewer options often equates to limitations that you may not be thinking about at the moment.
I’ll explain more below

Mackie ProFX10v3

Now, that doesn’t mean you have to get some huge 24-channel mixing board. I was actually going back and forth between a 6 and 10-channel board.

I ended up with the 10, specifically the Mackie ProFX10v3 mixing board.
I’ll tell you why I chose this specific board below.

Here are some things to think about when buying a mixing board for your live acoustic performances:

  • Do you plan to expand your sound?
  • Do you plan to expand your act (have one or more musicians join you?)
  • Do you want the convenience of onboard effects?
  • Do you need (or maybe down the road want) USB capability?
  • How many outputs (and what types) do you need?

Many of these questions are ‘in the future.’ But it’s important to consider these. Because if you someday want to expand, you’re going to end up spending more in the long run…

A smaller board now + larger board later = much more expensive than just getting the larger board now and being done with it.

In short, plan ahead.

I realize I said this setup would be simple. But a 10-channel board is still pretty simple, in the grand scheme of things. And there are just some cool options that you’re probably going to use sooner than later.

Why I Chose the Mackie ProFX10v3

I really had no clue where to start because I spend most of my time in the studio recording music. I haven’t played out in a while. Naturally, I reached out to my rep at Sweetwater.

After explaining what I’m doing, the ProFX10v3 was their immediate and top choice for me.

Here are some relevant highlights of the ProFX10v3 that pertain to playing live acoustic performances:

  • Plenty of options but not overwhelming
  • Was easy to connect and get started with
  • Built-in compressors and a low cut (both are helpful for my vocals)
  • Built-in effects (I prefer a little reverb and delay on my voice)
  • USB connectivity
  • Phantom power on mic channels
  • Has both XLR balanced and balanced/unbalanced

Of course, there are other features that come with the ProFX10v3 but I’m giving you the ones I feel are most important to playing live acoustic gigs.

Also, I almost went with their 6-channel version. But the 10-channel offered so much more and I also know there’s a chance I may expand my sound. Remember, plan ahead.

On a side note, I encourage you to support your local businesses as much as possible. For me, that’s Replay Guitar Exchange in Tampa, FL (they also take online orders if you don’t live in the area).

For everything else, Sweetwater is definitely my top choice for music gear. I feel like I’m talking to a close friend when I’m chatting with these folks. And they always dig deep to understand my needs so that they can recommend the best equipment.

Powered Speaker: Electro-Voice ZLX 12BT 12″ Powered Speaker

For live acoustic gigs, getting a powered speaker is a must-have.

Of course, you could get an expensive power amp with speakers but that would be overkill (I almost made a heavy metal pun there…’Overkill!!!’).

Not only is getting a powered speaker less expensive, but many modern-day powered speakers come will a bundle of options, which I didn’t know about until I got mine…

Electro-Voice ZLX 12BT

Why I Chose the Electro-Voice ZLX 12BT

I’ve heard too many PA speakers that sound like crap. I needed high-quality sound but I was also on a tight budget. So, again, I trusted my Sweetwater rep to guide me.

The Electro-Voice ZLX 12BT became the obvious choice, and here’s why:

  • This speaker sounds freaking amazing!
  • There’s a digital readout on the back of the speaker
  • Has preset EQs for different applications
  • Fairly lightweight
  • It has Bluetooth connectivity (I’ll explain why this is a cool feature below)
  • It’s easy to connect and quickly get started

The first thing I actually tested on this speaker was the Bluetooth feature to test the sound.

Now, this wasn’t a feature that I absolutely needed. But it’s cool if you want to play your own music from your own device between sets.

This could actually be another selling point for getting gigs. You will cover ALL of the music, from your own performance to the music in between sets (because we do take breaks!).

The venue doesn’t have to touch anything!

Electro-Voice ZLX 12BT back digital display

After testing the Bluetooth, I connected the ProFX10v3 board and started testing the mic and guitar.

A couple of days later I played my first acoustic gig with this setup and was stoked the way it turned out (and got plenty of compliments on the sound!).

I bought the speaker and board at the same time from Sweetwater, and these two seem to be the perfect combination for live acoustic performances.

**I initially only bought one Electro-Voice ZLX 12BT powered speaker. I’m mainly playing small solo acoustic gigs and this speaker puts out more than enough quality sound for that purpose.

And because it’s just me, I don’t really need a monitor (I’m usually set up close enough to the speaker that I can hear myself just fine).

If you’re in a similar situation, one Electro-Voice ZLX 12BT speaker should suffice.

I will more than likely get a second speaker and possibly a subwoofer down the road if I start playing at larger venues or adding more band members for these types of gigs.

And with the Electro-Voice ZLX 12BT and Mackie ProFX10v3 mixing board, I can easily add more of everything if I need to.

Acoustic Guitar Preamp: Fishman TONEDEQ

Fishman TONEDEQ

You can probably get your acoustic guitar to sound okay just going through the Mackie ProFX10v3 or a similar mixing board. Remember, it has built-in effects and that would probably give you a decent guitar sound.

But decent is not what we’re looking for…

The next level for a better live acoustic sound is using a preamp that’s specifically made for acoustic guitar. And if you can get one that has effects, that’s even better.

Why I Chose the Fishman TONEDEQ

I did a bit of research on acoustic preamps and effects before pushing that ‘buy now’ button. And as you may have guessed, I reached out to my Sweetwater rep for advice.

There are two things I look for in acoustic guitar sounds and music equipment in general:

  1. Quality sound
  2. Simplicity

The Fishman TONEDEQ has both. So I snagged it.

The sucky part is I purchased this in early 2020 right before the quarantine apocalypse! But I finally got to test it out later and I’m pretty happy with it.

Here are some things I like about the Fishman TONEDEQ:

  • It’s both a compressor, EQ, and DI (direct box) all-in-one
  • Comes with reverb, delay, and chorus effects
  • Also has a boost (this can come in handy for leads if you’re playing with someone else or playing along with tracks)

In a nutshell, it’s what I wanted. Again, simplicity.

The only thing I would change about the TONEDEQ is the delay and reverb are paired together. So, for example, if I wanted to have just reverb on for some parts and add some delay in other parts of the song, I’m limited.

That’s not a showstopper (literally!). But it would be nice to have that capability.

Fishman TONEDEQ Review (Video)

**You can watch my video review of the Fishman TONEDEQ below…

I will probably do a second review and provide some live footage…once I do that, I’ll update this post!

Mic: Shure Beta 58a

Shure Beta 58a mic for singing live on stage

It’s time to step up to the mic!

There are so many microphones for live performances. Maybe I’m biased from my many years (more like decades!) of playing on worship teams and in churches – it seems we were always using Shure mics. But in my experience, you really can’t go wrong with the Shure SM58 mic.

I decided to go the next level up and get the Shure Beta 58a, and here’s why…

  • The Beta 58a has a wider frequency range
  • It also has a built-in roll-off

In short, it makes my voice sound just a little better. I don’t have a gifted voice or super high range. So I’ll take all the help I can get…lol!

This doesn’t mean that other mics aren’t as good, though. It’s just my personal preference.

And it’s not like I’ve tried every microphone available. I haven’t. But when you find something that works for you, you tend to stick with it.

Tip for choosing a vocal mic: Research what other singers that sound like you or that are in your genre use. Go with that.

Stands, Cables, and Accessories for Playing Live

Okay, now for the boring stuff. But it’s necessary, so let’s go over it.

Because the last thing you want is to get everything set up and realize that you’re missing a cable!

You also don’t want to be like me and forget something like your guitar stand.

Yeah, that’s a true story that’s happened more than once, which is one of the reasons I decided to write this post for you!

Takamine Acoustic guitar on guitar stand

Music Accessory List

Here are the accessories you need for you live acoustic performance
This is assuming it’s just you playing and singing.

GearHow ManyConnection
XLR cable2mic to mixing board
1/4″ instrumental cable3guitar to preamp/DI, to mixing board
Speaker cable2speaker to mixing board
Guitar strap1even if you’re sitting while playing, bring a strap
Set of guitar strings1one is bound to break sooner or later
Guitar stand1uh, for you’re guitar!
Mic stand (preferably a boom stand)1…for your mic, duh!
Pick holder1attach to mic stand
Tablet holder1attach to mic stand

Now, you may be asking…

‘Jason, dude, it’s only me..I’m a solo act! Why do I need 2 mic cables and 3 instrument cables?’

Because you always need a backup!

Cables can just magically go bad for no good reason, and this will often happen at a worse time. Like, in the middle of your set.

If you have another person playing with you, add those necessary cables to the list, always making sure you have at least one backup cable.

It’s also a good idea to bring an extra speaker cable as well. Notice I listed two, not just one. If you’re running two speakers, then you need three speaker cables.

This is why I also included a set of guitar strings in this list.
And as a guitarist, you know how that story ends!

I think you’re okay just having one mic and guitar stand. If one of those ‘go bad’ then have someone in the audience hold the mic while you sing!

And you can just hand your guitar to anyone between sets because everyone wants to play your guitar, right?
How many times have you had people come up to you between sets or after the show asking if they could play your guitar? Is that annoying, or what?

Have Fun Playing Live Acoustic Gigs

Jason Stallworth acoustic at the Vapers Manor live

When you have all of the equipment you need for playing live acoustic gigs and the appropriate backup gear, you can focus 100% on your performance.

This is also a fairly simple live set up so it’s not going to take you a ton of time to set everything up and get started. Not to mention, all of this gear is relatively inexpensive while giving you an awesome sound.

And that was part of my goal of this post. I wanted to give you the minimal gear you need but also gear that’s going to give you an amazing sound on stage.

So go out there and have fun, entertain your audience, and don’t forget your tip jar!

Keep it Metal…well, I guess in this case, acoustic,

Jason

Jason Stallworth

About the author

Hard rock and heavy metal recording artist, songwriter, and musician.

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