How to create and make a disconnected acoustic song that sounds better than the original

Creating your own unplugged acoustic version of a song goes far beyond simply playing the original, as is, on your acoustic guitar. Sure, you could do this, but you’ll only end up with an average-at-best acoustic performance of the song you’re creating the unplugged version of.

A much better approach would be to watch, listen and learn from the thousands upon thousands of existing offline songs that have been made over the years. There are so many great and unique things available to you when creating your acoustic arrangements that you need to know about. Many of these things you wouldn’t know about if you tried to do it with just a trial and error approach.

In this article, I am going to introduce you to 5 amazing acoustic versions of songs that have been arranged by various artists. Together, we will separate these disconnected versions to see what has been done with the song compared to the original. By the end of the article, you’ll have several great approaches that you can start using right away to create your own unplugged acoustic version of a song.

Unplugged Acoustic Song Analysis

So let’s take a closer look at some of the great and unique acoustic versions of songs out there. Before doing so, be sure to search for both versions of the songs. You need to hear what I mean as we go through each one.

Song title: conceived

Artist: Jack Johnson (original John Lennon)

Songs played by other instruments are excellent candidates for creating a disconnected acoustic version. That is exactly what Jack Johnson has done here with his version of the classic Imagine, originally by John Lennon.

Things to keep in mind

Other instruments:

Throughout the entire song, Johnson is arpeggiating the chords he plays with a plucking approach. The guitar has been brushed at the 6th fret. This effectively puts you in the key of C, which will naturally give you plenty of open chords to use.

Instead of trying to copy what the piano does in the original, Johnson has created his own unique version with this version. The reason songs that use other instruments make good disconnected acoustic arrangements is because you immediately have something that sounds different than the original. Consider this when choosing a song to create an arrangement.

Song title: Message in a Bottle

Artist: John Mayor (originally from The Police)

Here we have an unplugged version of Message In A Bottle, originally by The Police, with just one acoustic guitar and vocals. In this acoustic take, John Mayor has stripped the song back to its foundations. The sign of a great song is when it still works with just a guitar and vocals, which is certainly the case here.

The tempo has been slowed down for a more relaxed and smooth performance.

Things to keep in mind

Pick with your finger:

John Mayor is taking a fingerstyle approach throughout his version of Message In A Bottle. Using your fingers produces a different pitch than a pick. It will also allow you to do things that simply aren’t possible with a pick and can be a good option when creating a disconnected version of a song on your acoustic guitar.


No, there is no drums in this version of Message In A Bottle, however a great element to add to your acoustic arrangements is percussion. Throughout this unplugged version, you can hear the acoustic guitar strings being plucked on beats 2 and 4. This emulates what the snare or hi-hat of a drum kit might be and gives the song a really cool groove on all times.

Song title: Always

Artist: Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters)

This acoustic version of Everlong that Dave Grohl presents here is much more stripped down and exposed compared to the original. The band disappeared, replaced by a single acoustic guitar and vocals, resulting in a much smoother, more relaxed version of the song.

Things to keep in mind

Rythm change:

Slowing down a song helps change the feel of it, often leaving more room for things to breathe. You can hear how this works on the acoustic version of Everlong. It is slower compared to the original, resulting in a different feel and rhythm.

Varying the arrangement:

When listening from 3.10 to the acoustic version of Everlong, you will notice that the arrangement of the song compared to the original changes. Rearranging parts of a song can add to the uniqueness of the acoustic version. It can help give it its own identity, and is sometimes necessary for the unplugged version of a song to work better.

Skipping parts:

Sometimes it is also necessary to omit certain parts of the original version. In this acoustic arrangement of Everlong, you’ll notice that the intro riff, which also appears throughout the song, has been omitted. Considering there’s only one acoustic guitar, this isn’t surprising, however at no point does the acoustic version seem to be missing as a result. When creating an acoustic arrangement of a song, it is neither necessary nor recommended to simply copy the original note for note on your acoustic guitar. Often, things need to be changed a bit.

Song title: girls just want to have fun

Artist: Greg Laswell (original Cindy Lauper)

This version of Girls Just Want To Have Fun is almost a whole new song in itself. It’s played on piano, so it’s not strictly what we’d call a disconnected acoustic version. However, listening to other instruments take a song will give you plenty of ideas to translate into your own acoustic guitar arrangements.

Things to keep in mind

Chord substitution and embellishment:

The main thing to focus on with this version of Girls Just Want To Have Fun is the chords. There is a lot you can learn here.

The key has changed from F# in the original, to B. The fact that this song is played at a much slower tempo leaves room for the chords to be arpeggiated and embellished, giving the song a whole new feel.

If you listen carefully, you’ll also notice that there are some chords that have been substituted that don’t appear in the original. For example, listen to the slash chord in the intro and verses.

To really absorb, learn and apply what’s going on with this version of Girls Just Want To Have Fun, transcribe the chords from the original as well as this arrangement. Put them in the same key, say B, and compare them to each other to see what has changed. So take what you learn and apply it to your own songs and unplugged acoustic arrangements.

Song title: hello

Artist: Obadiah Parker (Original Outkast)

If you want to create a really unique acoustic version, create one from a song that people least expect. Case in point is this cool and unique take on Hey Ya by Obadiah Parker.

Things to keep in mind

Move and feel:

This acoustic arrangement of Hey Ya is almost a completely new song in itself. It has a completely different feel, rhythm and tempo. Altering these elements of a song, if done right, will result in a cool and unique version compared to the original.

Key changes:

We are also introduced to a key change from G to E with this acoustic version of Hey Ya, and the guitar has been brushed at the fourth fret. This gives you a new set of open chords to use. Although the original also uses open chords, having different shapes to create from provides some nice nuance and subtlety to play with in the acoustic version.

Also notice that the last chord in the progression has changed from major to minor, further adding to the relaxed and smooth playing of this song.

Start by imitating

Mimicking how others have created disconnected acoustic songs is his starting point. By doing so, you learn a lot. However, don’t forget the critical step of applying what you’ve learned to your own acoustic versions of the songs.

It was the great Miles Davis who once said “First you imitate, then you innovate”.

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