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Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal: “Every time I do an acoustic version of something, I realize how beautiful the song is at its core”

Bumblefoot
(Image credit: Cort)

Although he played guitar in one of the biggest rock groups of all time for the best part of a decade, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal is probably best known for being a virtuoso musician in his own right. 

More recently, as well as working in progressive metal supergroup Sons Of Apollo, he’s been adding to his Barefoot series of acoustic solo EPs. The two latest installments – 2020’s Barefoot 2 and Barefoot 3 – see him tackling tunes by Paul McCartney, The Police, Asia, Soundgarden, Iron Maiden and more.  

How different is your approach with acoustic playing compared to electric? 

“Much of the same things matter for acoustic and electric – dynamics, pocket, groove, playing for the song, the mood and whatever the guitars and gear allow for. On acoustic, I usually go farther with song dynamics, rhythmic/percussive strumming, fingerpicking and adding layers, chord complexity... but there are no rigid rules. 

“Just play how you play, be happy and make others happy. I’ve switched to using thinner 0.60 mm picks; they have a brighter and more-defined sound, which I use for both electric and acoustic.“  

A great song can always work in a stripped-down way. When stripped down, I look for ways to include the identifiable elements from the groove, bass lines, harmonies and melodies into the guitar arrangement

The Police’s Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic is an incredibly well-written song. What are your favorite things about its structure and movement? 

“It’s one I’d play at my solo shows with a looper, starting with muted 16th-note low notes, then the arpeggiated Dsus4/sus2, again an octave higher, then ringing out the thirds of the low notes and then the fifths. It’s a fantastic song to sing live, and then there’s the extendable jam for the outro.“

You’ve been playing Cort acoustics for a long time. What is it about the Gold-A6 that works so well for you? 

“They’re made well, feel comfortable to play and sound great in the studio or on stage. When I pick one up, I don’t want to put it down – a good guitar makes you want to keep playing it. I’ve been using the A6 and the A8; both have Fishman Flex Blend systems, which give the guitars a bright, articulate top end and full, warm mids and lows without any woofy or muddy spots.“ 

Barefoot 2 was recorded DI and kept very minimal to capture the personal feel of a one-man acoustic show. Barefoot 3 involved more multi-tracking and percussion, with an AT3060 microphone just a few inches from the soundhole. There was a little multiband compression, but the guitar really sounded great just with one mic.“

Perhaps not all, but certainly a lot of the greatest songs in the world can be stripped down to one acoustic idea… 

“A great song can always work in a stripped-down way. When stripped down, I look for ways to include the identifiable elements from the groove, bass lines, harmonies and melodies into the guitar arrangement. But most songs translate well without all of that, in their simplest form. Every time I do an acoustic version of something, I realize how beautiful the song is at its core.“

  • Bumblefoot's Barefoot 2 and Barefoot 3 EPs are out now.