How To Create Your Very Own Cool And Unique Acoustic Guitar Version Of Any Song 

By Simon Candy

Over the past 20 or so years it has become increasingly popular to create acoustic guitar versions of electric songs. These acoustic versions can sound anything from average to fantastic. It all comes down to how you go about it.

Taking an electric song and playing it exactly the same way on your acoustic guitar does not cut it in most cases. While both instruments share many obvious similarities, there are differences between the electric and acoustic guitar. There is also a big difference if you are creating a solo acoustic version (ie. just you, a singer, and your acoustic guitar) of a song that is played in the context of a whole band. In this situation, there are more things you need to compensate for that the band is providing.

There are so many cool and unique ways that you can make your acoustic guitar version sound incredible in either a band or solo situation. In this article I am going to present some of these to you so that you can get started creating awesome acoustic versions of any song you like!

I can clearly remember a time when I would attempt to create a really cool version of an electric song on my acoustic guitar and it ended up sounding pretty average. It wasn’t like it was awful, but it certainly was lacking, and just sounded kind of plain over all.

I wasn't really doing anything other than playing the electric version, note for note, on my acoustic, and that was the problem. 

Through watching and observing others however, I found I needed to adapt things to suit the acoustic and make it sound more “acoustic” like. I needed cool ways to compensate for the fact that I was on an acoustic guitar, and the song I was creating the acoustic version from was on electric. I also needed ways to compensate for the lack of other instruments, if I was playing a solo version of the song.

 

How To Make Your Song Sound More "Acoustic" Like 

So what exactly are some ways that you can compensate for the electric song in your acoustic version? Here are a few.

  • Adding bass lines to your chord progressions

A great idea is to learn the existing bass line to the song you are creating the acoustic version from, and include elements of it in your arrangement. This idea is especially good if you are creating a solo version where it’s just you, your guitar, and a vocal. This approach fills out the sound more and creates movement within your chord progressions.

  • Replace power chords with open and bar chords

Due to the fact that you don’t have distortion and the sustain of an electric guitar, it can be a good idea to replace all or some of the power chords in the song with full chords. It gives your version on the acoustic guitar a bigger, fuller sound. You may choose open over bar chords, or the other way around, depending on what you want to do with them (eg. chord picking, embellishments, suspended/extended chords etc).

  • Strumming out more

Sometimes you need to strum out more in your acoustic version. This again is a way to compensate for the lack of distortion and sustain. Another reason for strumming out more in your acoustic song, assuming you are doing a version without a band backing you, is to compensate for other instruments. Strumming can have a very percussive effect on the acoustic guitar and can provide a really cool groove if done well.

  • Adding melody components to chord progression

A very effective thing to do, especially if you are creating a solo acoustic version, is to include hints of the songs melody in your chord progressions. By doing this you will end up with some really nice embellishments and extensions to your chords (Check a little further down in this article for an example of this). This approach will fill out the progressions of your acoustic song more, and can even provide a nice instrumental break within the song.

 

Soloing Techniques

An electric guitar solo transferred directly to your acoustic can be challenging to play. This is due to things including the position the it is being played, and the techniques being used like string bending.

An electric solo, played note for note on your acoustic, can also sound weak and lacking due to having no distortion, sustain, or other effects that may be being used.

Here are some very effective and cool ways to overcome these issues when creating your acoustic version.

  • Droning open strings

Droning the lower open strings of your acoustic guitar is a great way to provide some accompaniment for the riffs and solo’s that you play. Think of the open droning strings as the left hand of a pianist, and the riffs you are playing as the right hand. This approach is best suited when creating a solo acoustic version, when YOU are the band. It will provide you with a bass component to your solo lines, albeit a simple one, and fill out the sound. It’s as simple as it is effective!

  • Chord hits

“Chord hits” are when you play the chord that is happening at the time, in-between the riffs and phrases of your solo. This is similar to the droning string effect, but because you aren’t relying on open strings here it can be done effectively in all keys. The chord hits provide a tonal centre for your solo to relate to. You are basically sketching out the harmony (chord progression) to the solo you are playing, at the same time. 

The chord hit approach will also throw up some really cool syncopated rhythms between the chords and phrases that you play. This kind of naturally happens as you work out where is best to hit the chord and where is best to fit the phrase around that chord. There will be more than one possibility. 

The more chords you know on your guitar the better you'll be with this approach, as you will always have a chord close by to inject into your solo. You can also approach your chords from a fret above or below for added interest.

  • Double stops, bends, and slides

There are plenty of times where solo techniques like bending on your acoustic guitar are very difficult to do due to the gauge of your strings or the position you are playing in. A good substitute for a bend is a slide. Simply slide to the note rather than bend to it. Nuances like this can give your solo that “acoustic” feel. 

You don’t necessarily always need to replace a bend with a slide though. Sometimes you just need to change the position at which you execute the bend on your acoustic. You will find some strings are much easier to bend than others. For example, bend the 7th fret on the third string of your guitar. Now bend the 3rd fret on the second string. See what I mean.

Double stops are also a great way to give your solo’s an acoustic feel. Double stops are when you play two notes together at the same time on your guitar. They provide a really nice contrast with the single notes of your solo and are great for creating intensity in your playing. Double stops are also another great to compensate for the lack of distortion in your solo’s. They “thicken” up the sound and can make your licks sound much bigger.

 

How To Include Elements Of Melody In Your Acoustic Version

Check out the chord progression below complete with melody:

 

Melody-With-Chords-1

Melody-With-Chords-2

 

 

This melody could possibly be a vocal line sung in the electric song, or it could be a riff or melody played by another instrument. 

Whatever it is, we can capture parts of it in the chords of our acoustic version. Here is an example of what we could do here:

 

Acoustic-Melody-Chord-Version

 

 

 

I have only taken elements of the melody here to fill out the sound of the progression. I also moved the melody from the electric version down an octave so that it was in the same range and position of the chords.

This example shows you just how effective this particular approach can be. It would be great to use in parts of your acoustic version where there are no vocals being sung and you need to make the guitar part sound more interesting. You can think of it as a kind of extension of the vocals of the song if you like.

 

For more specific and detailed examples on approaches covered in this article, check out this ebook and audio on creating your own acoustic versions of songs on your guitar.