How to take a song and turn it into an acoustic guitar cover.
I don’t want to waste a lot of your time so I’ll get right to the point. This is what I try to do when I create an acoustic cover of a popular song.
Really love the song you are going to rework on acoustic
First things first, pick a song that you can get into. It makes a ton of sense to choose a great song that means something to you because you are going to spend a lot of time working on it. Pick a song that has a moving melody and chord structure that you feel will carry itself playing just by yourself.
Golden rule – If you can hum it, play it!
This is probably the only rule you need to take seriously. This is undoubtedly where you will make or break your version of the acoustic tune. Ask yourself if I needed to explain a song to someone, what part would I sing them? The intro or those little riffs between verses absolutely make the song and should be considered. So sing them first, then pick out the notes one at a time. Once you get the melody, add the chords. This is where you will spend most of your time because it really isn’t that easy to do but know that the more you do it the easier it will get. Also, the more open chords that you know the more option you will have.
So what do I do?
Learn the melody line in all position first. This means you want to play the melody within a six fret span in multiple places starting on different strings or fingers. If you sing as well, just compliment the vocals.
Secondly, lay the chords on top of the melody pattern and see where they line up. Being able to move the melody gives you more options for chords. Depending on your skill level it can get really complicated. My suggestion is to keep it simple and revisit it to make modification as your skill level increases.
Try to use open chords
Open chords on an acoustic guitar played right just sound great! So get yourself a capo as well as a chord library app and get to work. Now don’t misunderstand me barre chords are great and work just fine but you won’t get the full sound that you are expecting from an acoustic cover. However not everything can be played with open chords, so trust your ears and let that be your deciding factor.
Try adding a bass line
When your listening to your song pay attention to the bass line. Remember the golden rule that “If you can hum it, play it.” This is a great way to add movement to your song. This can get tricky if you are also playing the melody and you will most likely need a thumb pick to accomplish all of this. There is some great video on YouTube. My favorite acoustic guitar player is Tommy Emmanuel.
Think genre or style of music
What I like to do is take a song and change the genre or style. Any metal songs unplugged to me sounds great. Listen to different music. There are a million great songs that have a great melody or lyrics and changing the style makes it come back to life. A perfect example is The song “House Of The Rising Sun” by the animals. That song was passed down from generation to generation, no one knows who even wrote that tune. However, the song was a monster hit by just giving it the 60’s sound.
Keep the rhythm tight and percussive
Now that you got the melody, the chords and maybe even a bass line you should consider adding some percussive hits. One way would be hitting the acoustic guitar body on the bottom side. Another trick I like to do is mute the strings with my pick hand and hit the strings to give it that snare snap sound. I’ve also seen but never used ring shakers or tambourines. Anything to help the music flow and come alive will be a bonus addition. However too much may destroy you mojo, less is sometimes more so decide where you are going to add the hits.
Now get to work!
Well I hope I gave you some good ideas and direction so you can rework your next acoustic classic. Please share with me in the comments below some of your posted creations. Also, check out my youtube page for some of my acoustic covers.
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If you can hum it, play it!!