Best Acoustic Cover Songs to Play in a Bar (2023)

When it comes to performing an acoustic gig at a local bar, choosing the right songs is crucial. The best acoustic cover songs for a bar setting should be instantly recognizable, popular, and easy for the audience to sing along to. However, it's also important to include some unexpected tracks to keep the audience engaged and entertained. In this article, we have compiled a list of the best acoustic cover songs to play in a bar, along with some interesting facts about each song.

Africa by Toto

Africa by Toto is an iconic song that is sure to get the crowd singing along. Written by David Paich and Jeff Porcaro in 1982, the song is based on Paich's love for the continent of Africa. Despite never having been there before writing the track, Paich was inspired by a late-night documentary about the suffering of people in Africa. The song's catchy chorus and memorable lyrics make it a perfect choice for a bar performance .

Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond

Sweet Caroline is a classic song by Neil Diamond that never fails to get the crowd on their feet. The song's intro riff, big build, and sing-along chorus make it a favorite among bar-goers. Interestingly, the inspiration behind the song's title came from a childhood picture of Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of late President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy. Neil Diamond's then-wife, Marcia, served as the inspiration for the song, but he needed a three-syllable word for the melody, leading to the choice of "Caroline".

Save Tonight by Eagle Eye Cherry

Save Tonight by Eagle Eye Cherry is a sentimental yet fun song that is perfect for creating a lively atmosphere in a bar. The song's catchy chorus and generational appeal make it a crowd favorite. Interestingly, Eagle Eye Cherry himself couldn't believe that he had written such a good song. He thought he had ripped off the melody from somewhere else, but it turned out to be an original creation. The song's simple four-chord combination (A minor, F, C, and G) makes it easy to play on a classical or acoustic guitar .

Free Fallin' by Tom Petty

Free Fallin' by Tom Petty is an intimate and raw song that is often covered by musicians in various settings, including bars. The song's emotional lyrics and beautiful melody make it a popular choice among performers and audiences alike. The inspiration for the song came from Tom Petty's observations of the "never-ending scene" of characters he saw on his way to the studio. The song's main riff and chorus were created in just one night, with the help of Electric Light Orchestra's Jeff Lynne.

Ain't No Sunshine by Bill Withers

Ain't No Sunshine by Bill Withers is a soulful and powerful song that appeals to the emotions of the audience. The song's melancholic lyrics and Withers' soulful vocals make it a perfect choice for creating a captivating atmosphere in a bar. Withers wrote the song after being inspired by the movie "Days of Wine and Roses," which portrays a couple losing themselves to alcoholism. The iconic "I knows" in the bridge of the song were actually placeholders that Withers never replaced, but they ended up becoming an integral part of the song.

Hey Ya by Outkast

Hey Ya by Outkast is a fun and upbeat song that is sure to get the crowd dancing and singing along. The track's catchy melody and energetic vibe make it a favorite among audiences of all generations. The song was inspired by small moments in André 3000's life and was written in a 50s style, Woody Allen-esque humorously honest manner. The line "all the Beyoncés, and Lucy Lius" in the song came about because André 3000 was watching a Beyoncé video on TV while writing the track .

No Diggity by Blackstreet ft. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen

No Diggity by Blackstreet is a surprisingly fun song to cover acoustically. Its unexpectedness makes it a fresh addition to any bar performance. The song samples Bill Withers' track "Grandma's Hands," showcasing the influence of Withers on soul, R&B, and hip-hop. The suggestion to sample Withers' track came from William "Style" Stewart, and without that suggestion, "No Diggity" might not have existed. The song's catchy bridge, with the "ay yo ay yo ay yo ay yo" chant, is a great opportunity to get the audience involved .

Despacito by Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber

Despacito is a modern hit that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, especially among younger audience members. The song's catchy melody, upbeat rhythm, and flamenco-inspired intro make it a perfect addition to a bar setlist. Luis Fonsi came up with the melody one morning and added it to a list of songs he was considering for his album. Justin Bieber got involved after hearing the song in a club and seeing the audience's reaction to it. His collaboration with Luis Fonsi helped propel the song to its massive success .


In conclusion, choosing the right acoustic cover songs for a bar performance is essential for creating a memorable and enjoyable experience for both the performer and the audience. The songs mentioned in this article, including Africa by Toto, Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond, Save Tonight by Eagle Eye Cherry, Free Fallin' by Tom Petty, Ain't No Sunshine by Bill Withers, Hey Ya by Outkast, No Diggity by Blackstreet ft. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen, and Despacito by Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber, are all excellent choices that are sure to captivate the crowd and make for a successful bar performance.

Remember, this list is not exhaustive, and there are many other great acoustic cover songs to explore. Feel free to experiment and add your own personal touch to create a unique and engaging setlist.

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