Top 10 Best Acoustic Songs in Rock

Turns out there's more to this rock thing than fuzzy electric guitars.

Ultimate Guitar

For this week's Wednesday Question we decided to delve into the world of acoustically-driven rock tunes and name the greatest acoustic song in rock history. Your votes summed up into quite a rundown, check it out below.

10. Neil Young - Heart of Gold

Here's what Bob Dylan said about "Heart of Gold:" "The only time it bothered me that someone sounded like me was when I was living in Phoenix, Arizona, in about '72 and the big song at the time was 'Heart of Gold.' I used to hate it when it came on the radio.

"I always liked Neil Young, but it bothered me every time I listened to 'Heart of Gold.' I think it was up at number one for a long time, and I'd say, 'S--t, that's me. If it sounds like me, it should as well be me.'" Sounds like Mr. Dylan got a bit jelly here.

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9. Led Zeppelin - Going to California

Coming off the band's classic fourth studio effort, "Going to California" is reportedly dedicated to Joni Mitchell, with whom both Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were in love with at the time.

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8. Bob Marley - Redemption Song

Written during the time when Bob Marley was secretly dealing with a lot of pain from the cancer he was yet to be diagnosed with, "Redemption Song" is a heavy, emotional tune and one of reggae icon's best works.

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7. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Road Trippin'

The final track off RHCP's "Californication" effort also happens to be fully-acoustic and even features zero drums. It tells the story of a surfing road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway.

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6. John Butler - Ocean

Coming off John Butler's self-titled debut album, "Ocean" is a lengthy acoustic tune bound to take you to all sorts of sonic places. Quite a piece if we might add.

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5. The Beatles - Yesterday

The song that was covered over 2,200 times really needs no introduction. Initially composed by Sir Paul McCartney in his sleep, it also proves that the very best ideas will strike you around sleepy time.

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4. Alice In Chains - Nutshell

Haunting and ominous, "Nutshell" does a good job of encapsulating the dark vibe of Layne Staley and Alice in Chains. It was never a single, it never charted, yet it's a true classic.

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3. The Beatles - Blackbird

The Fab Four strikes again, this time around with "Blackbird," classic track inspired by Bach's "Bourree" piece.

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2. Eric Clapton - Tears in Heaven

Written about the pain Eric Clapton felt after the loss of his four-year-old son Conor who fell out of the window of a 53rd-floor New York apartment building, "Tears in Heaven" is without a doubt one of the most emotional songs on the list.

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1. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

Finally, the best of the best. Commonly mistaken for a love song, "Wish You Were Here" deals with Roger Waters' feelings of alienation at the time, also referring to Syd Barrett's mental illness.

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153 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Ah man, they put the wrong version of Nutshell up there. The unplugged version is much more chill inducing.
    This list is also missing Extreme - More Than Words, America - A Horse With No Name, Kansas- Dust In The Wind, Incubus - Drive, CCR - Bad Moon Rising, Rise Against - Swing Life Away, Green Day - Time Of Your Life...
    Well, there are a lot of great acoustic tunes. And seeing as this is a top ten, it's to be expected that a lot of songs will be missing.
    Also, this. So good that even Neil Young nicked it.
    Not only did he cover it this year, but check out Ambulance Blues if you haven't. Very familiar melody.
    Exactly what I meant. You know you're doing something right when Neil Young steals one of your songs.
    Floyd Phoenix
    Awesome list, could have used a more updated version of Ocean though, it constantly evolves as a pieced and recently it's better than ever... Just one thing though, you guys have really got to sort out people jumping on to the top comment, normally it's just bearable but this week was just ridiculous with the amount of people doing it...
    Actually quite surprised to see a Chili's song up there and Wish You Were Here is just so beautiful, definitely deserves top spot
    Opeth in an honorable mention would have been nice. Also Queens of the Stone Age-Songs for the Deaf.
    Any particular Opeth song?
    Benighted or Harvest, they're both incredible.
    Benighted is a solid choice. Not much of a surprise it didn't get nominated, though. With a progressive death metal band, it's easy for people, even fans, to forget about what might be their only fully-acoustic song (I did). As for Harvest, it's all piano. The piano is an acoustic instrument, but if I remember correctly, the question specified acoustic guitar .
    I'm not sure Opeth have 100% acoustic songs though. All the songs I can think of have a clean electric guitar solo at the very least.
    Im just appalled that when I voted in Yellowcard the other day, I got downvotes. What is it with you guys? Just because theyre pop-punk? Fuck me, right?
    Is it that hard to believe that a decent number of people don't like Yellowcard?
    On UG, there is. Not to mention the fact that the majority of voters on these polls wont give bands like these a chance because omg it's pop-punk. It's elitism, and quite frankly, I have never seen this many people with their heads up their asses than on UG.
    And I suppose that you know, for a fact, that everybody who downvoted the yellowcard suggestion has never given them a chance because "omg it's pop-punk"? Again, is it that hard to believe that people have actually listened to them... and don't like it?
    Yup...Im sure not everyone on here gives two shits about them, sir.
    That's not what I asked. Obviously, not everyone here gives two shits about them. I'm asking what makes you so certain of "the fact that the majority of voters on these polls wont give bands like these a chance because omg it's pop-punk"? Everybody I know who dislikes Yellowcard (the vast majority of people I know) have most definitely heard several songs, and not just the radio hits from back in the day, and decided that they weren't into it.
    Fair enough. I still think they have great talent and write great songs, (especially acoustic ones imo) and to say that they don't is a lie.
    Well there's your opinion. But I don't think anybody was saying they don't write great songs (although to say so would certainly not be a lie, considering that "great songs" is 100% subjective). It just seems that nobody else thought so highly of their work as to think they deserved a spot on a list that was meant to be "The 10 Best Acoustic Songs in Rock". That's a tall claim, and there's a literal ton of stiff competition for that status.
    This really could have been all Beatles: Cry Baby Cry, I'm So Tired, Norwegian Wood Here Comes the Sun Youve Got to Hide Your Love Away And I Love Her Mother Nature's Son I'm Looking Through You The Ballad of John & Yoko Two of Us
    The absence of Neutral Milk Hotel, while expected, nonetheless invalidates this list.
    To this day I'm still pretty damn impressed by how full of a song Two-Headed Boy sounds like despite being solely vocal/acoustic.
    Really good list, would have like to see Hurt by Johnny Cash on there but a good list nonetheless.
    I believe the wednesday question mentioned that the original had to be written for acoustic guitar. So I think the hurt nomination didn´t count.
    I might have misunderstood something here, but the original was played on an acoustic guitar? NIN's original was written, and recorded with an acoustic guitar as the main instrument, so I don't see why it wouldn't count.
    It was written on a heavily electronically manipulated electric guitar?
    Nope, the song was written on an acoustic guitar, which only featured smaller manipulations with echo and reverb for the chorus after it was recorded. The other instruments (keyboard, drums, bas, and the electric guitar which only entered the song on the coda with a wall of feedback) were added later on - The main chord progression and melody is carried by the acoustic guitar on which Trent wrote and recorded the song.
    Ocean is a work of genius. Wondering how Bron-Yr-Aur didn't make it, though.
    Glad to see Ocean among some top notch classics! I got a 12 string guitar just for that song. Of course I used it for other songs after I spent 5 months learning the one.
    It's a shame the UG community has never really delved into the world of contemporary acoustic guitar, guys like Andy Mckee, Michael Hedges, Antoine Dufour, Jon Gomm, Preston Reed etc. could have easily taken up this whole list.
    Indeed they could have. Andy McKee or Antoine Dufour could have taken up this whole list, plus another, by themselves, without even each other. Either of them. Also Tommy Emmanuel is an absolute boss.
    Pink Floyd surprises me. I think we saw the Beatles split the top spot votes. Reduce it to one Beatles song and they crush everyone.
    If Wish wasn't such an obvious choice, Mother, Is There Anybody Out There, Fearless, San Tropez, Pillow of Winds, Dogs, etc, Floyd nominations would have overwhelmed the Beatles.