Playing Rocksmith with an acoustic guitar

Rocksmith makes the bold statement that the game can be played with any real guitar. I have three acoustic guitars (steel string) and my kids have two classical guitars (nylon string). It is time to test their claim.

I own a Yamaha FG720S, a Yamaha F310P and a Cort Earth-Mini guitar. My kids’ guitars are half-size and three-quarter-size Jose Ferrer El Primo classical guitars.

Despite having a Roland Cube 15XL electric guitar amplifier, I do not currently own an electric guitar.

None of my guitars have electronic pick-ups on them, so I was well positioned to test Rocksmith’s statement that the game could be played with any guitar!

Rocksmith guitar game

Rocksmith guitar game

Fitting an electronic pick-up

Firstly, while Rocksmith says any real guitar, they do qualify that with the statement, “If your guitar has a standard ¼ inch jack for you to plug in a cable … your guitar will work.” You will need to fit an electronic pick-up with a ¼ inch jack if your guitar does not already have one. These can be purchased off eBay for a couple of dollars, but you can also spend several hundred dollars on an electronic pick-up if you want to.

I was purely using the electronic pick-up for Rocksmith, not performing or recording, so I went the cheap route. I ordered a couple of clip-on pick-ups off eBay for $2 each, as well as purchasing an Adeline AD-20 transducer piezo pick-up from Music Express for $28 (you can buy similar pick-ups on eBay for around $8, but I did not want to wait). I also have a sound hole magnetic pick-up on order from an eBay seller for $12.

Setting sound level

My tips on how to pass the Rocksmith soundcheck are here.

The first thing you need to do when you start playing Rocksmith is perform a soundcheck. The game checks the volume of your guitar and adjusts amplification to suit. You also need to tune your guitar. If you can not pass the soundcheck, Rocksmith will not let you continue into the game.

The first time I tried to do the soundcheck using my piezo pick-up fitted behind the saddle/bridge of my Yamaha F310P, I did not generate a high enough sound level for Rocksmith to let me pass. I then gave the Yamaha F310P a good thrash and passed the soundcheck.

Using my Cort Earth-Mini guitar with a clip-on pick-up fitted to the headstock, I again gave the guitar a good thrash to pass the soundcheck. Surprisingly, my kid’s three-quarter size Jose Ferrer El Primo classical guitar fitted with a $2 clip-on pick-up from eBay also managed to pass the soundcheck.

Playing Rocksmith on an acoustic guitar

The biggest issue with playing Rocksmith on an acoustic or classical guitar is that you hear the natural guitar sound over the output from the Rocksmith game. You really need to crank up the game sound output to hear it over the guitar. Depending on the pick-up fitted to your guitar and the sound system being used, you may need to be careful of feedback through the game. Using the Adeline AD-20 transducer piezo pick-up through my electric guitar amplifier, the game is prone to feedback (guide to playing Rocksmith through a guitar amp here). I have ordered the sound hole magnetic pick-up to see if it fixes the problem.

An alternative is to plug in a set of headphones so that the guitar’s natural sound is muted and the game’s output is the primary sound source.

It is also a little bit odd having Rocksmith generate an overdrive electric guitar sound from a classical guitar!

Otherwise, Rocksmith is playable with an acoustic guitar or classical guitar fitted with an electronic pick-up. The game mostly has no trouble recognising the notes being played, although the arcade game ducks struggled to detect which notes I was playing accurately, while the slide technique activity did not pick up some of my slides. Perhaps I am doing them wrong?


Despite Rocksmith advertising that the game will work with any real guitar, if you have a poor quality guitar, whether it be electric or acoustic, then the game is going to be unforgiving.

Rocksmith forces you to tune the guitar at the start of every game. After all, if your guitar is not perfectly in tune, Rocksmith can not recognise the notes that you are playing.

If your guitar has poor quality tuners, then you are going to find it difficult to get past the tuning page. And if your guitar goes out of tune rapidly, then you will be constantly retuning your guitar, making Rocksmith a far from enjoyable experience.

Rocksmith probably need to qualify their game even further by saying any six-string guitar or four-string bass guitar. The game simply can not accommodate all possible guitar configurations, and these two are the most common. If you want to play 12-string guitar or a five string bass, you will need to learn it outside the game environment.

Finally, you do not get very far into the game before Rocksmith asks you to reach the top frets on your fretboard. If your acoustic or classical guitar does not have a cutaway, you are going to find it difficult to reach the top notes.


In short, I think that Rocksmith’s claim that you can use any real guitar with the game is true, up to a point. The game will only accommodate standard six-string guitars or four-string bass guitars. If your guitar is so lousy that it does not stay in tune, you are not going to learn very much with or without Rocksmith. If your acoustic or classical guitar does not have an electronic pick-up, you will need to make sure that you fit a pick-up that will generate an appropriate sound level for the game to recognise.

Now to play hard core rock on a half-size classical guitar … odd.


Browse the Rocksmith category for more articles about the game.


13 thoughts on “Playing Rocksmith with an acoustic guitar

  1. Rodrigo

    Hi, thanks for this great review.
    I would like to know if the “sound hole magnetic pick-up” fixed your feedback problem. I’m too using AD-20 pickup but I can only play with the headphones on, just like you.

    1. Cow

      You can use a MIC and do just fine now since the RS remastered update which all RS 2014 users get for free if you already have it

  2. flag23

    Just wanted to say that this was a super useful post, and thanks for going into such detail.

    I’m looking at buying Rocksmith, and would prefer to learn on an acoustic; going by your review, I reckon I’ll have to start with an electric instead!

  3. kamulee

    Hi, by using search engine and got through to here. i have a acoustic guitar Yamaha C70 come with 3 nylon string and 3 metal string. i bought a stick pickup AD-25 and i though i can play it. but the rocksmith 2014 steam version unable to pickup anything. i need some advise from you as you been using acoustic guitar.

    is that i need to change all nylon to metal string? looking like the stick pickup is not working to this and i should buy another magnetic pickup. can you recommend any spec ?

    should i spend some money for semi acoustic guitar or electric guitar? i know electric guitar must work for this game but i looking for an option for semi acoustic guitar so i save some cents. please advise me on this also. thanks.

    1. Cow

      Rocksmith works with acoustic guitars now you just need a microphone… but yes your method works also if you have imput for the standered 1/4 jack and a real tone cable… but you dont need it now

  4. ardentgailla

    I have an uber cheap Crescent acoustic-electric cutaway. The Real-Tone cable works great with it. Unfortunately the guitar is so poorly made, that my notes are sharp when I’m holding down strings. I was recently given a Fender acoustic, so I’m now looking for ways to connect to Rocksmith with it.

    You’ve made some great points here. Paired with checking reviews on specific pick-ups and adapters, I hope to find something that will not be too expensive, yet work decently with Rocksmith. The biggest issue that people are talking about seems to be the volume of the pick up. So, a magnetic pick-up for steel strings is most recommended.

  5. OMK

    While the article raises and answers some good questions, passing the soundcheck isn’t all there is to it.
    I’m also interested in how well the game recognizes while actually playing. Does it work ALL time? i.e. will it recognize every single note very single time or does it ‘sometimes’ fail, and if so what’s the ratio? How does it perform on long sustains?

    Some critique:
    “you do not get very far into the game before Rocksmith asks you to reach the top frets on your fretboard.”
    This is true, only if you take the “very far” part literal and not sarcastically as usual.
    You will be able to play a big chunk without having to be very high up the scale a lot of the time. My electric guitar has 22 frets, so I won’t be able to play all of the notes on some of the Megadeth songs (they occasionally require 24) I can still play and enjoy 99% of the song. Even fake the 24th fret by using my pickup as a fret.

    Also, technically Rocksmith does WORK with a 5 string bass, 7 string guitar (and probably 12 string as well with some altered picking) it simply doesn’t utilize the additional strings. So while it DOESN’T teach you 5 or 7 string playing, it also doesn’t prevent you from playing the songs on your instrument.

    As already stated, if the tuners on your guitar suck, you will have problems playing, but this obviously also applies outside of Rocksmith. Until you might consider upgrading to a more expensive model, the guitar will do its job well enough to succeed. You’ll probably won’t need to tune after EVERY single song, nor will it be such a nuisance that you’ll give up.

  6. Joshua Beaman

    Great review with a lot of info. I am more interested in acoustic instruments over electric, and I currently have a new $100 junk electric guitar. I’m a beginner using rock smith to learn, but if I can go ahead and trade my junk in while its still new enough to be worth a few dollars to put towards a decent acoustic guitar then I’m going for it.

  7. Cow

    You need to add a correction or not to your paper because rocksmith now offers support wth acoustic guitar…. anyone who has rocksmith 2014 got a free update which gave the capability!


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