Acoustic Guitar in Rock Recordings

I’ve written a bit about recording Isadora in a previous post. I wrote about how it took me a minute to find the core of this song because I thought I had it, but I didn’t, and I wasn’t looking for it cuz I though I had it . . .

You see, most songs have a part that runs through the entire track. It’s usually a guitar or keyboard that lays down the chords that form the foundation of the song. It’s the part that the songwriter would play if they were performing the song on their own (think of a singer/songwriter playing an acoustic guitar and singing). Once I have the core of the song and the vocal, it’s pretty easy to arrange the other instruments around those central elements.

On Isadora, the first thing we recorded was the “ringing” guitar part that Chris composed when he wrote the song. It’s also the part that he plays when we perform the song live. Obviously I thought that that guitar was the core of the song and proceeded to mix under that assumption. But I struggled to make the recording work. The “ringing” was relentless and I finally decided that it shouldn’t be there throughout the track.

When I muted that first guitar track, I was left with an acoustic guitar part that Chris had added as an afterthought and the electric guitar part that Des, our second guitarist, had laid down. Those two parts complemented each other nicely and didn’t distract from the verse vocals the way the “ringing” part did. After that, the mix fell into place quickly.

My take-away from this is that every rock song should have an acoustic guitar at it’s heart (well, maybe not every one). Most rock is guitar-based and a lot of rock writers write their songs on acoustic guitar, so it makes sense that it’s the right place to start. The acoustic doesn’t have to be prominent in the mix, but having it in there fills out the sound nicely and the strumming adds a percussive element as well.

So, if you’re struggling to find the core element of your mix, add a strummed acoustic guitar. The chords give the vocal a comfy bed to lay on and the strumming adds a rhythmic element that complements the drums. In other words, one acoustic guitar can help glue together and raise the energy level of an entire song.