I heard an acoustic version of Thunderstruck by AC/DC (see #4 below) and it made me think that this website needed a list of the best acoustic covers.
So I have created my top 40 in the list below. The focus of the list is based around:
- The skill of the players;
- How they brought out the emotion and feel of the original; and
- The touch of uniqueness they added to the song.
In no particular order:
Table of Contents
- Acoustic Guitar Cover #6: Beat it
- Acoustic Guitar Cover #5: Teardrop
- Acoustic Guitar Cover #4: Thunderstruck
- Acoustic Guitar Cover #3: Little Wing
- Acoustic Guitar Cover #2: Crazy
- Acoustic Guitar Cover #1: Last of the Mohicans
- The Rest…
- #7 ‘Because’ by Elliott Smith
- #8 ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by Taken By Trees
- #9. ‘All Apologies’ by Nirvana
- #10 ‘Black Hole Sun’ by Soundgarden
- #11 ‘Just Like Heaven’ by The Cure
- #12 ‘Layla’ by Eric Clapton
- #13 ‘Street Fighting Man’ by the Rolling Stones
- #14 ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ by Pete Townsend
- #15 ‘Wrecking Ball’ by Miley Cyrus
- #16 ‘Twist and Shout’ by the Mamas & the Papas
- #17 ‘Surfer Girl’ by Happyness
- #18 ‘Prototype’ by Tame Impala
- #19 ‘Friday I’m In Love’ by Yo La Tengo
- #20 ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ by Yo La Tengo
- #21 ‘Ballad of Red Buckets’ by Yo La Tengo
- #22 ‘Jesus’ by Smog
- #23 ‘Only You Know’ by Arctic Monkeys
- #24 ‘For The Good Times’ by Kris Kristofferson
- #25 ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ by Johnny Cash
- 15 Songs to Cover Acoustically
- #1 ‘Cherry Cherry’ by Neil Diamond
- #2 ‘California’ by Joni Mitchell
- #3 ‘Guinnevere’ by Crosby, Stills & Nash
- #4 ‘Parallelograms’ by Linda Perhacs
- #5 ‘Rye Whiskey’ by Tex Ritter
- #6 ‘Tecumseh Valley’ by Townes Van Zandt
- #7 ‘Courtyard’ by Bobbie Gentry
- #8 ‘This Is My Name’ by Sun City Girls
- #9 ‘Venus in Furs’ by the Velvet Underground
- #10 ‘Leading a Double Life’ by Blue Gene Tyranny
- #11 ‘Slip Inside This House’ by the 13th Floor Elevators
- #12 ‘Under My Thumb’ by the Rolling Stones
- #13 ‘I Talk to the Wind’ by King Crimson
- #14 ‘The Rubber Room’ by Porter Wagoner
- #15 ‘Song to the Siren’ by Tim Buckley
- Final Tones
Acoustic Guitar Cover #6: Beat it
Artist: Karlijn Langendijk
Song: Beat It
Original Composition: Michael Jackson
This was a great arrangement of the piece where she attempted the guitar solo!
Acoustic Guitar Cover #5: Teardrop
Artist: Newton Faulkner
Original Composition: Massive Attack
My focus for this list was on the guitar work – and this is the only acoustic cover on the list with vocals. But I felt it earned a place. One guy playing this trip-hop classic with just him and his acoustic is pretty impressive!
Not sure how he gets that reverberation out of his guitar for the percussive parts – maybe it’s something to do with the room that he’s playing in?
Acoustic Guitar Cover #4: Thunderstruck
Artist: Luca Stricagnoli
Original Composition: AC/DC
This isn’t the last time this talented Italian musician appears on this list. In fact, I was tempted to put him at #1 and #2 but I felt the balance of the list was better splitting them up – but I just couldn’t leave either of them off the list.
And as if this wasn’t skillful enough watch out for around 1 minute 10 secs into the video – the dude starts walking as he’s playing!
What’s perhaps even more unbelievable is that Luca is only about 30 years old!
Acoustic Guitar Cover #3: Little Wing
Artist: Dan C Holloway
Song: Little Wing (fingerstyle arrangement)
Original Composition: Jimi Hendrix
I once learned the intro to this song and loved playing it (must re-learn it the way this guy plays it!) but I always got stuck after the intro – when playing without a band and without any singing it gets a bit fiddly after the intro.
But the way this guy has arranged it has really bought out the original song in a fingerstyle arrangement that sounds really awesome with just the one guitar.
Acoustic Guitar Cover #2: Crazy
Artist: Don Ross
Original Composition: Gnarls Barkley
What can I say! I have a whole new appreciation for this song now.
Brings through the funkiness of the song and adds his own flavor. Great arrangement, with some immense skill, and brilliantly brings out the emotion and the rhythm of the original – all on one instrument. Takes acoustic songs to a new level!
Acoustic Guitar Cover #1: Last of the Mohicans
Artist: Luca Straglioni
Song: Last of the Mohicans
Original Composition: Randy Edelman / Trevor Jones (last of the Mohicans score)
The second appearance of Luca Straglioni on this list is a cover of the theme from the movie Last of the Mohicans.
I’m a little embarrassed to say that this actually brought tears to my eyes the first time I heard it – in amidst huge admiration for the shared skill of this guy.
If you are still hungry for more acoustic covers, then never fear! We have you covered!
#7 ‘Because’ by Elliott Smith
Originally a Beatles song featuring some very distinctive early use of a synthesizer, Elliott Smith took this tune and made it his own with his signature spider-web-quiet vocals. Already a big fan of the Beatles, this act surely cemented it in the mind of his fans.
#8 ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by Taken By Trees
This version of the tune is among the best acoustic cover songs to ever take a rock song and turn it into something far more tender. The original version is full of toxic masculinity and misguided bombast – here we are treated to emotions that are genuinely touching.
#9. ‘All Apologies’ by Nirvana
Who would have thought that one of Nirvana’s defining moments would be them playing songs of their own in an acoustic style? Yes, this album is likely the best acoustic setlist and acoustic performance for those unwilling to meet folk music in the middle. Still, this is one of the best acoustic rock songs!
#10 ‘Black Hole Sun’ by Soundgarden
Fellow grunge-era compatriots Soundgarden were also not shy about bringing out an acoustic rendition of one of their own songs. This came in the form of one of their most popular songs, providing the world with an unforgettably captivating cover version that removes any inkling of death metal from the original.
#11 ‘Just Like Heaven’ by The Cure
The Cure also had their own time to shine on MTV’s famous unplugged series and here exhibited one of their most beloved songs for the listening public to hear rendered in an acoustic style.
#12 ‘Layla’ by Eric Clapton
Normally, I am utterly averse to giving Eric Clapton any sort of shine on any of these lists purely because he is such a racist pig. However, I thought today we could change that by giving him a place on the list purely to make it known that he is indeed a racist pig. This prejudice has made itself known several times, especially when Clapton had a drunken outburst during one of his shows.
#13 ‘Street Fighting Man’ by the Rolling Stones
Here, through the facade of awful album art, the Stones exhibit their uncanny ability to rock and roll even acoustically and even at the ripe old age that they were back when they recorded this!
#14 ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ by Pete Townsend
One of rock music’s great rhythm guitarists nabs a spot on this list just so I can mention the oft-forgotten fact that he is actually a pedophile. Seems everyone has a skeleton or two in their closet…
#15 ‘Wrecking Ball’ by Miley Cyrus
Heaven knows it’s far more difficult for a pop artist to cover their own material acoustically due to the fact that so much goes into a big pop production that really lifts the song and the vocalist upon which it lays. Here, Miley Cyrus does an acoustic version of this ballad apparently to prove wrong those who naysay her vocal ability and who detract by alleging that the vocals on the studio version of this track are rife with autotune – you be the judge!
#16 ‘Twist and Shout’ by the Mamas & the Papas
Hallmarks of 1960s pop music the Mamas & the Papas take on an iconic tune by the Beatles for a real 1960s festival of masturbatory proportions.
#17 ‘Surfer Girl’ by Happyness
Indie-pop outsiders Happiness bring forth an excellent acoustic rendition of the Beach Boys’ classic ‘Surfer Girl’, reimagining it with just his voice and some scant instrumentation.
#18 ‘Prototype’ by Tame Impala
Australian psych-pop legends Tame Impala once stepped down to street level to take Outkast’s ‘Prototype’ for a ride and it was a great time!
#19 ‘Friday I’m In Love’ by Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo has never been shy to share their covers with the world – this Cure offering from their later discography is a real gem!
#20 ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ by Yo La Tengo
Pilfered from the same album as the Cure cover from above, this is a cover of the late and great Hank Williams’ signature tune. There’s no shortage of great covers from this band, and this is no doubt one of the greatest acoustic songs of all time too!
#21 ‘Ballad of Red Buckets’ by Yo La Tengo
They’ve only gone and done it again! This time, though, they have chosen to cover themselves! What fun!
#22 ‘Jesus’ by Smog
Before Bill Callahan was Bill Callahan, he was Smog, offering more experimental offerings than his decidedly tender work nowadays. Back then, he even covered the Velvet Underground!
#23 ‘Only You Know’ by Arctic Monkeys
For all their missteps, the Arctic Monkeys remain a bunch of artists with impeccable musical taste. Covering a song by legendary pop singer Dion is a step in the right direction!
#24 ‘For The Good Times’ by Kris Kristofferson
One of America’s most underrated country singer-songwriters, Kris Kristofferson has always been more comfortable operating in the background. Still, this version of Perry Como’s classic track has been an enduring hit for him.
#25 ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ by Johnny Cash
This song was originally written by none other than Kris Kristofferson, though perhaps it was taken for more of a ride by Johnny Cash in this astounding live version.
15 Songs to Cover Acoustically
If none of these other tunes take your fancy, why not try these classic tunes and cover them yourself?
#1 ‘Cherry Cherry’ by Neil Diamond
In the days when the single reigned supreme and before his debut album, Neil Diamond released a whole bunch of great singles on the Bang label of which this is one of the best!
#2 ‘California’ by Joni Mitchell
A real classic before the era of MTV Unplugged rid acoustic music of any dignity, this is her ode to her home state.
#3 ‘Guinnevere’ by Crosby, Stills & Nash
This strange song seems to contain multitudes, wearing within its diaphanous garbs a mystery yet to be cracked.
#4 ‘Parallelograms’ by Linda Perhacs
Arguably the best dentist to ever make folk music, Perhacs released this album and then it was long forgotten before rediscovery in this era. Try wrapping your head around those dense harmonies next time you pick up your axe of choice!
#5 ‘Rye Whiskey’ by Tex Ritter
This ode to whiskey is sung by none other than Hollywood’s own Tex Ritter, an acting musician in cowboy get-up who sings pastiche and paradoxical versions of lives in the old West.
#6 ‘Tecumseh Valley’ by Townes Van Zandt
Known for his scathing poetical lyrics, Van Zandt here takes us on a trip through the yarn of Caroline, the daughter of a miner who heads over to Tecumseh Valley to look for work, falling upon hard times and inevitably crumbling before the lord.
#7 ‘Courtyard’ by Bobbie Gentry
Bobbie Gentry is easily one of the underrated voices in country music of the last 50 years and this song is clear evidence why that is the case.
#8 ‘This Is My Name’ by Sun City Girls
This forlorn letter by the Sun City Girls to their late drummer is just one of the many beautiful and gut-wrenching songs featured throughout this album. On what would be their last release, the band paid fitting tribute to their deceased member and friend, in turns playful and austere.
#9 ‘Venus in Furs’ by the Velvet Underground
Looking to acoustically soundtrack some sort of transgressive happening? Then it looks like the Velvet Underground has got you covered once again! The original demo for this song by John Cale sounds more like a baroque air on the lute than an experimental rock song, so follow his example and get creative!
#10 ‘Leading a Double Life’ by Blue Gene Tyranny
Though a sight more experimental than some of the other offerings on this list, the songwriting chops here ensure that this song can be transposed to just about any context and still work efficiently at conveying its message. Blue Gene Tyranny really is one of the forgotten greats!
#11 ‘Slip Inside This House’ by the 13th Floor Elevators
Probably more famously covered by the legendary Primal Scream, the original is no less potent. In fact, the droning nature of the song combined with the knowledge that they were all inebriated by psychedelic substances at the time of recording makes this a very interesting listen. Definitely one of the great one-chord jams!
#12 ‘Under My Thumb’ by the Rolling Stones
Perhaps one of the greatest 60s songs about marital infidelity and patriarchal ownership, one might also remember it being featured in a scene from Scott Pilgrim vs the World (the film). Indeed, just as Ramona has returned to her ex Gideon’s evil clutches, he rolls up to the eponymous Scott Pilgrim in a car that is playing this song through the stereo, thereby enforcing what the story is telling.
#13 ‘I Talk to the Wind’ by King Crimson
The epic, everlasting progressive rock elixir that is King Crimson began as they meant to proceed, releasing the seminal In the Court of the Crimson King, a 5-song epic that contained moments both blistering and blissful. This sumptuous flute-ridden number occupies the second camp and translates surprisingly well to acoustic covers territory.
#14 ‘The Rubber Room’ by Porter Wagoner
This is truly one of the great forgotten country songs. Where other country tunes are content to sing about the trials and tribulations of the West, however caricatured, this offering by Porter Wagoner instead focuses on the trials and tribulations of the rubber room. Drawing on his own experiences in a sanatorium, Wagoner crafts an intense and real artistic rendering of a time most would rather forget.
#15 ‘Song to the Siren’ by Tim Buckley
The late and great Jeff Buckley had a father who also made music and died under tragic circumstances. They were rather estranged from one another, though it is hard to deny the latter’s influence on the former. This is undoubtedly one of Buckley Sr’s greatest moments, emotively taking his longtime writing partner Larry Beckett’s wistful and poetic lyrics into the stratosphere.
What are the best acoustic guitar covers you’ve heard? Anything you think could top any of the ones on this list? Let your opinion be known in the comments below.