Playing Covers on Acoustic Guitar

For this article a short brief about how to approach playing covers on your own on acoustic (or electric) guitar.

When students bring in coversongs for me to work out, they often get exhited about the sound of the song, the sound around the chords, the basslines, the drums, the production ect.
How well can you copy that sound on your own on one guitar? Well that is the trick: Being aware what creates the sound of the song is a must. Some songs can be translated to just one single guitar and they hold their strength, the song is still there and sounds as good as when performed with a band. Other songs may need to be adapted to sound good on their own.
Here a short breakdown what you can do:

   ~ Before You Play:

Listen carefully to the song, play it several times. Can you hum the melody, the intro, the riffs? Do they sound good on their own? If the answer is yes, you have a strong song in your hands which probably will sound good when played on one guitar. If the answer is no, think again about this song. Is this something you should play on your own? Ask yourself what it is you like about this song. Is it the melody, or is it the interplay between the different instruments? Find out what it is you like about the song, and find out if this can be played on one guitar.

Songs which have their bases on a bandsound can still be played on one guitar, but they may need a bit of work to get them to sound good. Maybe these songs should be left for later when you get more experienced.

   ~ Playing the Song:

Okay, now that you have found your song which can be played on one guitar we are in business: You can play the chords of the song and sing the melody of the song and it should sound like……………the song you liked. Well does it? What about the rhythm? How should I strum the song? Should I strum at all or rather pick the chords? To answer these questions go back again to the original song, listen carefully to how the song is being played. Then play the song on your own and see how close your version is compared to the recorded version you have chosen.
If you are not sure about the stumpattern, try to break the strums down to a bacic version like four strums to a bar or two strums to a bar ect. Try to avoid strumming the off-beats, as this will confuse the rhythm if you are not sure about the strumpattern. Just use downstrums for now. Work on the strums until you start to feel comfortable, experiment a little and let it grown.

  ~ Can Play the Song, What Now?

Right, so you can hold the rhythm of the song, sing melody and the whole thing actually sounds like the song, but it still sounds…………..basic?
Try to experiment with chordshapes, try different shapes compared to the ones you have been using so far: If you used open chords, try some barre-chords. If you used 6 string chords, try 3 string chords ect. Find chords which will work. Changes are, when you start using different chordshapes it will open you up to playing the song differently, using little riffs here and there ect. Keep at it unitil you find yourself playing a version of the song which works for you, and is at the same time a version you actually like.
Takes time? Yes, if you are new to this it will take time, but it is worth it, your playing will develop and you will also grow as a musician. Your next cover will never sound the same again.

Hope to see you soon again,