Rockin' The Country: How I Adapted a Hit Song’s Recorded Guitar Parts for the Concert Stage

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This month, I’d like to point out some relevant differences between the studio environment, where specific guitar parts are often meticulously crafted and arranged, and live performance, where they sometimes evolve, either out of necessity or as a result of ongoing inspiration, into something quite different that just feels or works better onstage, in front of an audience.

As an example, I’ll demonstrate how I’ve adapted some of the guitar parts I recorded with Rascal Flatts for our 2006 hit cover of the ballad “What Hurts the Most” (Me and My Gang) to render a stirring live arrangement of this song.

The rhythm guitar tracks on the recording—an acoustic doubled by a clean electric, panned right and left—were performed as if the song were in the key of E minor and with a capo at the second fret, which raises everything a whole step. The guitars, however, were tuned down a half step, so the song sounds in F minor, only a half step above concert pitch, and not a whole step higher (in F# minor), which would be the case in standard tuning.

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