Acoustic guitar is probably one of the most versatile instruments out there. You can play almost any genre on it – you simply have to have strong desire and needed skills. It’s flexible enough to cover a wide sonic spectrum, and that’s why it is utilized so frequently. Unlike classical guitar, it hasn’t lost its relevance. In fact, you can probably find an acoustic cover for any song, be it metal, rock or pop. I don’t think I need to praise this instrument, since its virtues speak for themselves. And since it’s a steel-string guitar, everybody already knows how “cool” it is. But what makes acoustic guitars so prominent is the music that’s performed on them or the craftsmanship utilized by the professionals. Today I’m going to list down 10 amazing performances on acoustic guitar and remind you of the versatile spirit of the instrument. Let’s get rolling!
Tommy Emmanuel – The Beatles Medley
This list wouldn’t have been complete without Tommy Emmanuel and one of his performances. When we’re talking about such wonderful guitarists, it’s always really hard to single out their best performance. Luckily, I have the freedom to be subjective and I included my personal favorite. Here, he plays The Beatles Medley (Day Tripper/ Taste of Honey / Lady Madonna). It shows perfectly the distinctiveness of his technique and the professional level of his craftsmanship. He can easily make one acoustic guitar sound like multiple and add unimaginable dimension to the sound. I’m truly amazed with this performance, as it convinces me that such skills are really rare. Tommy is capable of utilizing the full potential of acoustic guitar even with a single performance – imagine what he’s achieved throughout his whole career!
Jimmy Page – White Summer Black/Mountain Side
Speaking of virtuosos and high level of craftsmanship, I couldn’t help including Jimmy Page’s acoustic performance on BBC’s Julie Felix Show in 1970. He plays White Summer Black/Mountain Side and even though the video has a very poor quality, it’s still possible to hear beautiful sounds emitted by his guitar. This performance is unique not only because of Jimmy’s skills, but also its Celtic and Eastern sounds. Their mixture with rock is what makes his music so dynamic and distinctive. Let’s face it – his improvisations are one of the reasons why Led Zeppelin’s work is appreciated till this day. This particular piece is simply a representation of Jimmy’s creative mind and professional skills.
Jimi Hendrix – Hear My Train Comin’
Okay, I promise, this is the last one. I can’t help listing rare acoustic performances of guitarists, who mainly play electric guitars. But how could I avoid including Jimi Hendrix playing Hear My Train Comin’ on his 12-string acoustic guitar. This rare footage gives us the possibilities that we’re rarely granted – we have the chance to listen to his acoustic work and enjoy dimensional tones of a 12-string guitar. You can hear his bluesy tones and wonderful vocals. Only this performance is enough to understand why Hendrix became legendary and why’s his music eternal – he was the god himself. This performance is a perfection – there’s nothing else I can say.
Slash and Myles Kennedy – Sweet Child O’ Mine
I know I promised, but once again I couldn’t help myself (this is really the last one). Once you hear Slash and Kennedy emitting the sounds from their acoustic guitars that resemble electric one, you’ll understand why it was so hard to control myself. Not to mention the string bends done by Myles. The sustain they achieve here is out of this world – it’s truly magnificent how such guitarists unleash the beast hidden in the acoustic guitar and explore the full potential of the instrument. This mesmerizing performance of Sweet Child O’ Mine should be motivational to every guitarist out there – you can master various techniques, yet if you stay in the box, the chances are you won’t create anything different. In order to be legendary you have to be innovative and experiment a lot.
Andy McKee – Drifting
Acoustic guitar and the music associated with it has evolved a great deal throughout history. If mainstream styles were appreciated before, now we value guitarists who step out of their comfort zone and utilize unique techniques with their instrument. An acoustic guitar has turned into something that can emit sounds not only with its strings. To understand what I mean you should listen to Drifting by Andy McKee. He employs percussion, fingerpicking and tapping techniques and transitions between them seamlessly. The listeners can hear clearly everything he does with his hands and enjoy those wonderful tones as a result.
Joscho Stephan – Django’s Tiger
Have you ever heard anything about Gypsy Jazz? I certainly didn’t until my friend introduced me to this genre. He showed me a video he was completely amazed by and we both sat there with our mouths hanging open. We didn’t realize we were drooling from pleasure and shock until the music stopped and we looked at each other. Even though he isn’t as famous as he deserves to be, Joscho Stephan is a truly legendary guitarist. He plays gypsy jazz and it’s unlikely you’ll come across his performances unless you listen to this genre. One of the most awe-inspiring performances from him is undoubtedly Django’s Tiger. He plays along with Olli Soikkeli & Stefan Berger. His interpretation of the music and genre itself is mesmerizing, not to mention the rhythmic parts that shake you for a while.
Mike Dawes – One by Metallica
Metallica’s music is a piece of art on its own. Whether you listen to the genre or not, it’s impossible not to see just how great this band is. Their songs have touching lyrics, while their sound takes you to another universe. It’s really hard to think of covers that would capture the full character of their music. Yet geniuses such as Mike Dawes manage to do that with ease. He performs One as if he were born with an acoustic guitar in his hands. He’s really comfortable with his instrument. Everything he does comes naturally to him, which is one of the reasons why this cover is so badass. Every part of the song is performed merely with one guitar, which is really surprising, considering how many sounds you can hear. Though live looping is used in the end, the rest is the result of Mike’s craftsmanship.
Marcin Patrzalek – 5th Symphony by Beethoven
More often than not we encounter true talent in the places where we’re rarely looking. As with the first performance on this list, here we do also have a wonderful guitarist who isn’t renowned, at least for now. Yet the way he plays guitar will evoke envy even in the hearts of the legends, trust me. Listen to him playing Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and you’ll quickly see what I’m implying. He enjoys music so much that he puts his whole heart and soul in his performance. You’ll start thinking that there are some extra hands helping him, since what he does is impossible to achieve with two hands and ten fingers. But he is so good that there’s nothing he can’t do.
Eric Clapton – Rambling on My Mind
Since I wanted to end this list with something well-known, yet mesmerizing, I decided to go for Rambling on My Mind performed by Eric Clapton in 2008. I don’t think he needs any appraisal – we all know how legendary his music and craftsmanship is. I’m sure many would prefer his Layla, but there’s something about this particular song and performance that I can’t get out of my mind. He makes his 6-string acoustic guitar sound like it’s something else- something with even more dimension and character. The warm bass he accentuates so well makes it even more prominent. Though we didn’t expect anything less from Eric, it’s still nice to see him perform perfectly, as usual.
Sam Westphalen – Lateralus by Tool
I’m sure you’re expecting many big names on this list, but I decided to start with someone who has jaw-dropping skills, yet he’s not that famous. Sam Westphalen is a guitarist who mainly does covers of famous songs and artists. But his covers are usually steeped with character and uniqueness – this guy is a single-man band! No, he doesn’t utilize any effects – all he does is play his acoustic guitar. Have you ever listened to the music from Tool (if you haven’t, do that right away!)? If so, you probably know how ethereal their stuff is. They include many different sounds – the sounds that are not mainstream in the music as we know it. They utilize multiple effects to achieve those distinctive tones. Sam Westphalen performs the cover of their Lateralus on his acoustic guitar without any effects. He uses various parts of his instrument to emit the needed sounds. You’ll get mesmerized even by watching his fingers, not to mention listening to the sound. Enjoy!
I did my best to include many different performances and show you how much potential an acoustic guitar can have. This notion can be applied to all the instruments out there, and I want you to remember well – it’s all about creativity. Your skills will grant you the status of a professional, but once you take a step towards innovation and uniqueness, you’ll get the chance to become legendary. Work hard and let these inspiring guitarists guide your way!