When we think of guitar playing, we think of that guitar icon shredding that crazy solo on their electric. Or do we? Over the last few years, acoustic guitar sales have surpassed those of the electric guitar.
There are many reasons why the acoustic is a beloved instrument, especially since they have an amazing sound. Plus, you can play one anywhere and there’s less gear needed.
But what if you still want to shred those crazy solos? Fear not, you can easily write and perform a remarkable acoustic guitar solo. And these songs will prove it! Here are my favorite acoustic guitar solos — from The Beatles to some extreme metal.
Led Zeppelin – “Stairway to Heaven”
What kind of “best acoustic guitar solos” list would this be if I didn’t include the mighty “Stairway to Heaven”? But let’s take away some of the legendary aspects of this song for a second. Jimmy Page truly proves his skill bleeds into acoustic as it does electric.
While they seem subtle, the detail in his guitar writing truly makes this song special. Every aspect of this song screams genius: the gradual build-up, the slight accents, and the acoustic guitar solo is enough to put this song at the top. Even beyond the solo, there are some classic riffs here that inspired a generation of guitar players.
Every part is played perfectly, proving that Page is truly one of the most iconic guitar players in rock music.
The Beatles – “I’ve Just Seen a Face”
The Beatles don’t need an introduction. To this day, they’re the biggest band in the world. They have released countless records that to this day are adored.
The Liverpool troupe were not great songwriters but released some seriously catchy tunes in their day. There are also some tracks that didn’t get the love they deserved, such as “I’ve Just Seen a Face.”
Written by Paul McCartney about his then-girlfriend Jane Asher, it’s a beautiful love song about two lovers when they first meet.
As with most Beatles songs, it’s simple yet catchy. I tend to think of this song when I’m with my boyfriend, it’s just such a beautiful song! But it does have subtle twists, such as the acoustic solo about halfway through (I assumed performed by George Harrison).
It is an acoustic solo that tends to get overlooked, but it adds a little spice of uniqueness that we don’t hear much in other Beatles songs.
Bon Jovi – “Wanted Dead or Alive”
Bon Jovi is one of the most recognizable names in rock music. However, he toned things down with his single “Wanted Dead or Alive.” To this day, this is one of Bon Jovi’s most famous songs. This power ballad features both acoustic and electric guitar, but the acoustic solo is one of the best parts of this song.
Eric Clapton – “Change the World”
I couldn’t make a “best acoustic guitar solos” list without including an Eric Clapton song. He needs no introduction; Clapton is not only one of the best guitar players in all of rock but is also one of the most versatile.
In his solo material as well as in all of his bands, he uses different influences to write some of the most powerful songs in history.
When thinking of a great Clapton acoustic solo, this song came to mind. The song itself is beautiful, but the acoustic solo and harmonies toward the end really make this song special.
Pink Floyd – “Wish You Were Here”
Pink Floyd is another iconic rock band. Their single, “Wish You Were Here,” is one of my personal favorite songs from this band and is one of the most important songs in their entire discography. Written for former Pink Floyd member Sid Barrett, it’s a sad song but David Gilmour‘s use of the acoustic song gives it a peaceful vibe.
Eric Clapton – “Layla (Acoustic)”
We all should know Eric Clapton’s single “Layla.” However, this acoustic version is my personal favorite.
Clapton performed the acoustic version of his hit on MTV’s Unplugged and changed the way we looked at this song. What I love is this acoustic version takes a new look at this iconic jam.
In addition to memorable acoustic solos, he adds different accents and even rewrote some parts of the song so it would fit better unplugged. The acoustic version of “Layla” is absolutely breathtaking and I recommend everyone check it out if you haven’t.
Grateful Dead – “Ripple”
Grateful Dead is a rock band that is the embodiment of the hippie movement back in the 60s and 70s. Debuted 50 years ago, “Ripple” represents the cosmic influence that this band had on the counterculture. While not a solo in the traditional sense, the acoustic guitar melody at the beginning of the song is full of life.
The Beatles – “Blackbird”
This is one of the first Beatles songs I’ve ever heard, so this one is very special to me. Something about the beautiful lyrics and peaceful acoustic melodies always stuck with me. As far as the guitar playing here, The Beatles prove that you can take an acoustic guitar and be very creative with it.
While this song doesn’t show the extent of their musicianship, the melodies here are very unique. Because of this, I definitely consider this song a masterpiece in The Beatles’ discography. And with the effects of the birds chirping, it shows how much imagination this band really had.
Led Zeppelin – “Over the Hills and Far Away”
While “Stairway to Heaven” is a classic, we can’t forget this other acoustic jam by Led Zeppelin.
While this song is more upbeat and features electric guitars, we can’t forget about the beginning acoustic melody. It’s not only brilliantly played, but is overall very beautiful.
I also love how there are acoustic accents and other guitar layering parts throughout this entire song. It really proves that Led Zeppelin was one of the most creative bands during their time.
This is a popular song among guitar players, and I can see why. It sounds like it’s fun to play and is a great song to learn if you want to get your acoustic chops up.
Bob Dylan – “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”
I have to admit, I’ve never been a Bob Dylan fan. But I’ve always loved this song. This is one of his most classic songs, originally written for the film Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. It’s a simple song and is often one of the first songs that players learn on the acoustic guitar.
However, it stays with you and can easily get stuck in your head. This song has been covered by many artists, though the original is the best (though I do like Clapton’s cover).
Scorpions – “Born to Touch Your Feelings”
The Scorpions are one of the most versatile rock bands out there. While they’re most famous for 80s-era jams such as “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and for the ballad “Wind of Change” that became the unofficial German anthem, the material they released in the 70s is completely underappreciated.
“Born to Touch Your Feelings” is one of the most beautiful songs they released. Uli Jon Roth and Rudolf Schenker use acoustic guitars. But it’s more than just a ballad; every riff is distinctive and creates a unique atmosphere.
Kansas – “Dust in the Wind”
Before I go into the acoustic parts, can we just focus on the music video? It embodies the cheesiest qualities of 70s music videos, but Kansas just does it so well to where the video is awesome.
And who knew a song about us being worthless would become such a hit? I credit the incredible acoustic riffing as the reason why this song seems more sentimental than what it really is. While they’re simple, the riffs are still very memorable. With the brilliant singing, this song will perpetually be stuck in your head.
Green Day – “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”
I wonder if Green Day knew there were writing the anthem to the entire 90s with this famous single?
While you’ve heard this song at every graduation ceremony and in countless movies (even though the song is about a failed relationship), we tend to forget about the guitar playing here.
Green Day dropped their angry punk band act and switched to a somber acoustic melody. While the riffing here is simple, it truly does pull at the heartstrings — even after all of these years.
Dream Theater – “Hollow Years”
This is one of Dream Theater’s softer songs. The progressive metal band is known for unleashing some of the most intricate songs that ever existed and guitarist John Petrucci is one of the most influential guitar players. But with “Hollow Years,” he proves he can write equally strong solos on the acoustic.
No Doubt – “Don’t Speak”
I’m a 90s kid so I have a soft spot for No Doubt. They combined the best of pop and rock. With Gwen Stefani’s unique vocals, there truly was and will never be another band like No Doubt.
Their single “Don’t Speak” is the perfect example. It’s an awesome song and holds a lot of energy, but the acoustic guitar gives this song plenty of feeling. Because of this fact, this song never gets old.
The Beatles – “Michelle”
I had to include another Beatles song — and specifically one of my favorite songs from this band.
While not one of their most popular songs, it will become memorable once you give it a chance. “Michelle” is a lovely song that features the acoustic guitar throughout the song’s entirety.
Paul McCartney’s voice rings clear in this ballad but Harrison’s historic acoustic solo. This song appears on the Rubber Soul album, which just so happens to be one of my favorite Beatles albums.
Obscura – “Seputagint”
Okay, now time to get a little heavier. I absolutely love German extreme metal band Obscura and this has to be one of my favorite songs from this troupe.
But what really makes this song special is the dueling acoustic guitars in the intro. It’s memorable because the playing is very melodic yet intricate, opening up to the electric guitars and blast beating drums.
These acoustic guitar harmonies are truly transcending and are the perfect way to start their album, Omnivium.
Dissection – “Where Dead Angels Lie”
Ah, Dissection. Without this band, so many black and death metal bands wouldn’t be the same. Well, at least extreme metal would be totally different. Dissection has a unique way of making extremely dark music also sound very catchy. The secret is their use of melody, specifically the use of acoustic guitar in this case.
Beautiful acoustic riffs enter the song in pieces, adding that little bit of light in such a shadowy song. Toward the end is where the acoustic solo comes in, but it sounds more sinister than beautiful.
I personally credit Dissection for inspiring more extreme metal guitar players to pick up the acoustic guitar. Who knew you could make such a peaceful instrument so dark?
Question: Is It Hard to Play Solos on the Acoustic Guitar?
Answer: Harder than you think! That’s because some of the most common soloing techniques, such as string bending, are difficult to achieve on an acoustic due to the thicker strings. However, if you write a solo that fits with the song and you can play on acoustic, it will more than likely sound great.
Question: What Song Has the Best Guitar Solo?
Answer: This is completely subjective. I would say nearly any song by Van Halen and Led Zeppelin. Uli Jon Roth-era Scorpions and Whitesnake also have some of the best solos I’ve ever heard. I could go on and discuss so many metal band solos, too, but that would be a separate article in itself.
Question: Who Is the Best Guitar Soloist?
Answer: Again, completely subjective. Jimmy Page, Uli Jon Roth, and Eddie Van Halen inspired an entire generation of rock guitar players. Yngwie Malmsteen also took the neoclassical playing style and transformed it to fit rock and metal music.
Marty Friedman is seen as a legendary metal guitar player, specifically because his solos are not only amazing but unique (some of his albums, such as Scenes, heavily feature Eastern influences).
But there are so many to name, this would be a separate article.
These songs prove you don’t need an electric guitar to play some memorable solos and riffs. Bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd made acoustic riffs commonplace in rock music.
From classics such as “Stairway to Heaven” to extreme metal hidden gems like “Where Dead Angels Lie,” the acoustic guitar has inspired rock and metal more than you think.
- Best Canadian Rock Bands of All Time - December 9, 2023
- Best Rock Bands of the 2000s: The Artists Who Defined Millennial Rock - December 5, 2023
- The 15 Best Southern Rock Bands of All Time: The Classics to the Moderns - December 2, 2023