The Best MTV Unplugged Artists and Their Guitars

MTV Unplugged: Nirvana

It is hard to believe that it is now well over 20 years since the MTV Unplugged range of concerts was introduced to the world. You would be hard pushed to find a music programme on MTV these days given the channel’s focus on reality TV but over the years it has brought a great range of performances to an expectant audience and helped to cement some reputations. If you thought that the only way to rock out was to do it with electric guitars and amps, the MTV Unplugged series may have shown a whole different side of music to you.

MTV Unplugged

The first MTV Unplugged show took place in 1989 but it was the 1991 performance and subsequent release of a Paul McCartney show that really helped to create the excitement around the MTV Unplugged shows. You have to wonder how many budding musicians have bought their first acoustic guitar thanks to Paul McCartney and this show brought a whole new generation of fans to the songs that he created with The Beatles, Wings and in his own solo career. The show went from strength to strength from here and there is no doubt that the 1990s were the high point of the show.

Paul McCartney MTV Unplugged 1991:

With grunge taking over the airwaves, you would have been forgiven for thinking that acoustic music was on the way out but MTV pulled off a number of coups with some of the biggest acts of this era performing on the show.

Pearl Jam performed in 1993 but it was the 1994 recording of Nirvana that remains one of the biggest MTV Unplugged shows. Seeing one of the noisiest acts in the world tone things down with acoustic guitars was a huge treat but this was sadly to be one of the last ever performances Kurt Cobain performed. It is understandable that the show is held in high regard by fans of the group but stunning versions of tracks like ‘All Apologies’ and the David Bowie cover ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ means this was a recording that deserves to be replayed time and time again.

Nirvana MTV Unplugged 1194:

The fact that even the heaviest of groups could prosper from picking up an acoustic guitar was brought home by the appearance of Kiss on the show. This was the event that led to a full-scale reunion of the original Kiss line-up so if you needed further proof of the importance of acoustic guitars, all you need to know is that they brought Kiss back together.

There was controversy surrounding a 1996 MTV Unplugged event featuring the bad boys of British rock, Oasis. Lead singer Liam Gallagher decided on the day of the event that he was not well enough to perform, leaving brother Noel to take over vocals for the show. Noel had introduced an acoustic slot to the band’s gigs long before this show but barring a couple of charity gigs, this was the first time Noel Gallagher had taken centre stage in such a big way. Liam deemed himself well enough to sit in one of the royal boxes at London’s Royal Festival Hall and heckle his brother throughout the gig!

Oasis MTV Unplugged 1996:

Before the end of 1999, Shakira created a record with the first ever MTV Unplugged recording in a non-English language as she delivered a Spanish set, although this show was helpful in introducing her to the English speaking market. The set also went to show that acoustic guitars could compliment pop music as well as it could indie or rock n roll.

There was a slight downturn in the number of MTV Unplugged shows after 2000 but with shows by artists like Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and Korn, it seemed that any musical genre could benefit from dropping the amps without necessarily dropping the volume or intensity. Away from the TV show, there has been further endorsement for the acoustic guitar from the world of pop in recent times. The acoustic guitar can also be seen as being the perfect introduction for artists of all ages with young fans seeing the likes of Katy Perry and Justin Bieber playing the acoustic guitar in their sets. With Madonna also touring this summer and utilising the instrument, there should be no arguments about whether the acoustic guitar is perfect for almost every musical genre.

Korn MTV Unplugged:

With the MTV Unplugged brand making a comeback in 2012, it seems as though the appeal of the acoustic guitar is as strong as ever and it is easy to see why it is the perfect ‘beginner to intermediary’ guitar to develop your skills with.

Acoustic guitars can be found at a very reasonable price, even when looking for quality, and there is no need to worry about the level of volume being created. Many players and parents will not want to spend too much money on an instrument just in case the budding musician doesn’t take to the guitar so an acoustic guitar provides a perfect introduction to the world of music.

Music has never been about having a lot of money to start playing so the wide range of beginner acoustic guitars is great to see. Affordable brands like Pyle-Pro and Huntington sit alongside more established names like Fender, Squier and Yamaha. Whether you are just looking for a cheap guitar or a whole beginners package to provide you with absolutely everything you could need to get started, there is no barrier to picking up an acoustic guitar and having some fun. Many of the beginner packs also provide DVD tutorials or walk-through books so you can make sure you develop some good habits the first time you start playing.

There is no doubt that the MTV Unplugged series was one of the biggest successes in the channel’s history and it has helped to reposition the acoustic guitar as one of the most important instruments in the world of music. No matter who your favourite artist is or what sort of music you like to listen to and play, starting off your musical adventures with an acoustic guitar can be the best way to begin a life-long love of music.

If you are keen to pick up an affordable beginners guitar and start your process to hitting the heady heights of an MTV Unplugged stage, these are some of the best guitars to choose from:

Fender StarcasterFender Starcaster

If you are interested in guitars, you will know that Fender is one of the biggest names in the industry. The Starcaster is the Fender guitar package aimed at beginners and it provides an affordable yet reliable way to start playing.

Fender Starcaster Review

Squier SA-100

Squier SA-100

With Avril Lavigne being one of the most famous Squier players, this is a guitar brand that plenty of fans are aware of. If you are after a sturdy and reliable guitar that can survive bumps and scrapes, this is a good choice.

Squier SA-100 Review

Pyle Pro PGAKT30Pyle-Pro PGAKT30

Children and small adults can benefit from a smaller guitar and one of the best budget scaled guitars is the Pyle-Pro PGAKT30. This is a perfect starter guitar to provide the best introduction to guitar playing before progressing to bigger and better things.

Pyle-Pro PGAKT30 Review

Yamaha GigmakerYamaha Gigmaker F325.

Yamaha is another massive name in the music instrument industry and the Gigmaker package is their acoustic aimed at beginners. The tone and clarity derived from the Yamaha F325 compares strongly to many more expensive guitars.

Yamaha Gigmaker F325 Review

Huntington 41Huntington 41”

The Huntington may not be the best known name in the guitar industry but their beginner to intermediary guitars are developing a growing fan-base. The price of this guitar is very affordable but the looks and sound of the acoustic guitar is comparable to what you would expect from a much dearer acoustic.

Huntington 41″ Review

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Andrew Reilly

Indie and rock n roll were the main genres that inspired Andrew to first fall for the guitar, but as the years went by he developed a wider appreciation of other genres like blues and country.
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