The Mystery of Keith Richards' "You Can’t Always Get What You Want" Acoustic Sound - Solved?

Hint: He's not just strumming first position C and F chords.
Publish date:

Though Keith Richards has offered the stories of how he concocted many of his most famous guitar parts over the decades, one he hasn't offered any hints about is the acoustic rhythm part he plays on The Rolling Stones' "You Can’t Always Get What You Want." 

Though there a number of theories as to how exactly Richards achieved the sound on the studio version of the song, none have been definitively proven, until now, perhaps.

LA-based guitarist Jon MacLennan, who says he spent “hours and hours and hours” listening to the song, says he's cracked it. You can check out his theory for yourself in the video above.

“I’ve seen every YouTube video, all the sheet music books, I’ve scanned the forums, interviews - I can’t find any interview about Keith Richards talking about what he did to make this sound,” MacLennan said.

"Many people say it is in open E with a capo on the 8th fret. This tuning sounds slightly like the recording, but it transfers the chords that Keith plays down to a thicker string. Unfortunately, this really changes the timbre of the fills. 

"With other methods, you don’t get that doubled high string, which is only heard when Keith strums through to the high E strings," he continued. "That’s what gives the guitar a chorusing 12-string sound at moments. Another theory is that the guitar is tuned to open G, a staple of Keith’s playing, but this method is actually using a G6 - a slight variation from open G."

According to MacLennan, you, too, can get the sound (which he says is “not out there anywhere”) by taking a 12 string guitar, and removing all of its doubled strings except for the doubled high E string. This gives you a six-string guitar with doubled high E strings, for a total of seven strings.

Then, remove the low E string completely - giving you six strings - and tune the A string down one whole step to G, and add a capo on the 5th fret. This should give you a final tuning (with the capo) of CGCEAA.

If you happen to have a 12-string lying around, give it a try for yourself and see how it goes!

For more on MacLennan and his music, stop by