Premier Guitar features affiliate links to help support our content. We may earn a commission on any affiliated purchases.

What Song Do You Love to Play Unplugged?

What Song Do You Love to Play Unplugged?

Jonathan Pearce of the Beths joins us in discussing our most beloved acoustic strummers. Plus, musical obsessions!


Q: What’s your favorite song to play on an acoustic and why?

Jonathan Pearce (The Beths) — Guest Picker

Photo by Erza Simmons

A: I love the Kenyan guitarist Henry Makobi, and I’ve tried hard to learn his song “Likuta Bibi.” I’ll never be able to play it just like him; it’s just too idiosyncratic. But I can kind of get the gist of it and it’s a wickedly clever line.

Likuta Bibi

The trick I learned from this song is to harmonize a melody in sixths, with a top line melody that’s nicely “in the chords,” but a bottom line that can sneak out, and back in, harmonically. It’s a finger twister, too—you have to fully commit to have any hope of landing it. I learned about Makobi from an interview with another musical hero of mine, the Newcastle songwriter Richard Dawson.

Jonathan Pearce's ​Current Obsession:

Uilleann pipe music from Ireland. This segment is making my listening seem way more diverse than it really is, but truthfully this is my current obsession. Uilleann pipes are so rock ’n’ roll to me. Like a heavily distorted electric guitar, they scream, sustain, and squawk, like they’re on the edge of feedback. The drone element is so relevant to guitar music, too, and I’m trying to get my head around the way pipers adorn melodies with grace notes and turns. The repertoire is just so great, full of dexterous and rousing melodies. I’m trying to learn to play the tin whistle, with the hope of graduating to a set of pipes one day.

Mike Blue — Reader of the Month

Mike Blue

A: “Spain” by Chick Corea.

Spain

I worked on learning that song harder than I worked on any song in 50 years. So, I only play it for me.

Mike Blue's Current Obsession:

My obsession is easy: being able to make music. Not just play notes, but make some sort of musical contribution, whatever that may be.

Ted Drozdowski — Senior Editor

A: Big Mama Thornton’s “Ball and Chain” in open Dm. I came to the song through Big Brother and Cheap Thrills but backtracked to Big Mama—an astounding person.

Big Mama Thornton 1970

She was a great musician, an out gay woman writing hits and leading a band of men around the world in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Powerful! It’s also a gateway. Down a half-step and I’m in Bentonia tuning.

Ted Drozdowski Current Obsession:

My new stereo Carr amp rig blows my mind. See my most recent Love and Sockets column.

Jason Shadrick — Associate Editor

A: I’ve been getting deeper and deeper into learning fiddle tunes and love to use the classic “Blackberry Blossom” as a good warm-up to center my mind with both hands.

Tony Rice ~ Blackberry Blossom

The fact that these tunes are eighth-note based and use pretty strict alternate picking allows me to go into an almost meditative state while working on them.

Jason Shadrick's Current Obsession:

Hands down, it’s The Rehearsal on HBO. It’s one of the most mind-bending shows I’ve ever seen, and Nathan Fielder is an absolute genius. I hesitate to say much more about it, but I guarantee there are at least a half-dozen times in the first episode where I had to pause and go, “WTF?”


With two channels of 100% valve versatility, selectable output wattage, and footswitchable attenuator.

Read MoreShow less

The GibsonES Supreme Collection (L-R) in Seafoam Green, Bourbon Burst, and Blueberry Burst.

The new Gibson ES Supreme offers AAA-grade figured maple tops, Super Split Block inlays, push/pull volume controls, and Burstbucker pickups.

Read MoreShow less

Mdou Moctar has led his Tuareg crew around the world, but their hometown performances in Agadez, Niger, last year were their most treasured.

Photo by Ebru Yildiz

On the Tuareg band’s Funeral for Justice, they light a fiery, mournful pyre of razor-sharp desert-blues riffs and political calls to arms.

Mdou Moctar, the performing moniker of Tuareg guitar icon Mahamadou “Mdou” Souleymane, has played some pretty big gigs. Alongside guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane, drummer Souleymane Ibrahim, and bassist Mikey Coltun, Moctar has led his band’s kinetic blend of rock, psych, and Tuareg cultural traditions like assouf and takamba to Newport Folk Festival, Pitchfork Music Festival, and, just this past April, to the luxe fields of Indio, California, for Coachella. Off-kilter indie-rock darlings Parquet Courts brought them across the United States in 2022, after which they hit Europe for a run of headline dates.

Read MoreShow less

How do you capture what is so special about Bill Frisell’s guitar playing in one episode? Is it his melodies, his unique chord voicings, his rhythmic concept, his revolutionary approach to pedals and sounds…? It’s all of that and much more.

Read MoreShow less