Acoustic Techniques: How to Rock Unplugged
Ah the acoustic guitar: a campfires best friend. Servant to the troubadour, and sufferer of the Wonderwall covers. Its safe to say that acoustic guitar certainly has a lot of negative press going for it. Well not necessarily negative, just not cool. The electric guitar has chunky riffs, picks slides, and wailing solos, you name it, and it’s got it.
That doesn’t mean I’m saying that the electric guitar is the better of the two; I’m just saying that if you were organizing a house party and you needed someone to supply all the booze, I know which one I’d be asking.
But maybe that’s just because the techniques and traits of the electric guitar are much more brash and bold than its unplugged counterpart, and you need a more refined taste to appreciate what the acoustic offers you. Tequila will definitely get you drunk more quickly than red wine, but that doesn’t mean its better right?
Yeah that is right so don’t question it. Anyway enough with the waffling, here’s some acoustic techniques to help you make your Arcala swoon at your next scout meet.
Ok so before you all start making hilarious jokes about how you “never thought to strum a guitar before Dan thanks” I’m going to be talking specifically about the slight sonic differences between a few strumming styles. Because you can manipulate the sound of an acoustic less than an electric you have to think more precisely about how you approach playing it. For example, playing with the nail of your finger versus playing with your thumb.
At first glance you wouldn’t assume there would be a difference, but the percussive nature of your nail brings out a brighter tone than the skin of your thumb. Try switching between the two during a song to help with dynamics. Maybe the brighter timbre of your nail will help lift a chorus up a bit? (It will).
So it wouldn’t be acoustic guitar without finger picking would it? Everyone from Bob Dylan all the way to the big Bieber have had a good ole’ crack at it. Biggest faux pas people make with this is not thinking enough about the patterns they play. The reason finger picking is amazing is because you can shift the dynamics of a song simply by switching the finger picking pattern you’re playing. Don’t just sit there and play The Boxer’s pattern over every song, be better than that. You want inspiration? James Taylor, Nick Drake. If you need more inspiration than that then you’ve not listened well enough.
The Power of Open Strings
So this one sounds more complicated than it is. In short, acoustic guitars can either sound beautiful, or really boring and flat. Most of that is down to technique, and specifically the use of open strings surrounding the chords you’re playing. No one wants to hear just the three notes in a G chord, they want all the over tones and open strings that give the acoustic guitar so much life. Try making sure your when you’re playing your chords that you’re note accidentally muting any open strings that help give the acoustic guitar life when being played solo. Equally however, do make sure you mute notes that don’t belong in the chord. There’s something about a duff note being played in and amongst other notes on a solo acoustic guitar that’s just a little bit more pathetic than usual. So don’t do it.