When you learn to play guitar there are a few fundamentals you need to get to grips with in the early days. Most of us are more interested in being able to play our favorite songs but they may not necessarily be tunes that you can play right out of the bag.
Unfortunately, you have to start small and work your way up to that impressive solo, but at the same time, you need songs that are going to keep you motivated whilst learning.
If you learn to play guitar via a standardized grading route you will probably find the songs are unimaginative and perhaps feel a little condescending.
Many are aimed at much younger novices. But with a few basic guitar chords in your skillset and a decent knowledge of your instrument’s strings and how to finger them you can get through a fair few classical and contemporary pieces.
We have gathered a few easy guitar songs for beginners that are a little more impressive than ‘Micheal Row the Boat Ashore’. And with a little practice and determination maybe you will manage to show them off to your friends.
Given that acoustic, classical, and electric guitar playing are so different, we have tried to put together a real mixed bag of options and have dedicated a section to songs to learn that are simple to play on guitar and sing at the same time, in case you feel like performing solo.
20 Easy Songs to Play on Guitar
So, with any luck, you now know what to look out for in easy guitar songs to learn before you get discouraged by attempting something unattainable for a beginner.
With most of the prerequisites we have mentioned, the list we have put together for you should be well within the realms of reach.
Easy Chord Songs for Guitar
1. Knocking On Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan
A simple concoction of four easy guitar chords is the secret ingredient to what is arguably one of Bob Dylan’s most popular songs. All you need is G-D-Am and C to master the basic premise of this well-known ballad.
There is a sneaky Am7 in there but you could give it a miss for now. Am7 is actually easily created, if you want to give it a go look it up!
The strumming pattern is also really simple down up, down up in a 16th note beat. Granted, it will feel fast, to begin with, so learn it slowly and build up.
2. Wild Thing – The Troggs
“Wild Thing” is a three-chord song; the strumming pattern is a memorable one, so you should be able to feel it out.
It uses A, E, and D, which happen to be some of the first chords that most beginner guitarists learn. The hardest part is learning when to change to each as the chord progressions change.
Easy Chord Songs to Play and Sing
3. Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Another three-chord song of Creedence Clearwater Revival, which is a great sing-along. The strumming patterns are easy once you know the guitar tabs and where the emphasis is.
4. Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison
Another easy all-time favorite acoustic guitar song uses easy chords (G major, C major, D major, and E Minor). The strumming is a little less basic but easy to get the hang of quickly.
5. What’s Up – Four Non Blondes
This song has a few more chords than three, using the chords E, Am, G, D, and B, but these are all chords that are easily learned on the guitar. This is also one of those songs that everybody knows, so it will go over well at parties and get-togethers.
Other honorable mentions before we move on to other playing styles that have a similar simplicity and can be easily sung whilst you play are;
- Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond
- Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum
- Bye Bye Love – The Everly Brothers
- Peggy Sue – Buddy Holly
Easy Power Chord Songs
Power chords are considered easier than a full chord; they typically use the root and fifth of a chord rather than 3 notes as a triad. Missing the third note of the chord means you can hold your hand in a more relaxed manner.
Sometimes a power chord might be the rot and octave, but again they are easy to hold and have a meaty sound despite their fewer notes and shades. So here are a few power chord songs to impress your mates with;
6. Polly – Nirvana
It is a good introductory song because it mixes power chords and open chords.
7. Song 2 – Blur
A song intended to mock the grunge movement that ripped the power chords associated with the genre became an iconic piece of jamming out.
8. You Really Got Me – The Kinks
The rhythm that the Kinks use has a great groove and may take a little while to get right when you start, but the power chords behind the structure are repetitive, and it’s good fun to crack out at an open mic.
9. Teenage Dirtbag – Wheatus
This one has some picking in the verse sections, but that larger-than-life chorus with its build-up makes it a great song for beginners who want to feel accomplished.
Easy Songs with Guitar Riffs
10. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
With a riff that is instantly recognizable but much easier than you might think. Seven Nation Army poetically needs just seven notes to master its iconic marching earworm up and back down.
There are a few embellishments to the riff throughout the song, but these accouterments can be developed as you progress and learn a few techniques.
Other than the main motif, it would help if you managed a G5 and A5 power chord – easy peasy.
11. Come As You Are – Nirvana
Another Nirvana song? “Come As You Are” has one of the easiest guitar riffs to learn. It is slow-paced and laid back, so the pressure is well and truly off.
The notes are on your top two strings, and don’t stray too far from one another either you are playing open strings as well as your first and second fret. So you won’t get lost as to where you are on your neck or anything either.
In fact, the solo isn’t too tricky, so you are in a great starting place to progress as well.
12. Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix
Now, aside from the solo, which you are going to want to put to one side, for now, “Purple Haze” has a few distinct sections with riffs that are surprisingly simple.
You have a dissonant D5 power chord, 2 fairly easy core riffs, and a walk-up to master. But with a little effort, it will give you something to brag about and an excuse to go mad with your distortion too.
Beginners Fingerpicking Songs
13. Good Riddance – Green Day
This one is a good place to start the pattern and has a little extra rhythm that makes it less mundane than some, which is never bad.
14. Hotel California – The Eagles
The picking pattern has a nice easy rolling motion that sweeps through all of your strings, from low E to high E, and back again.
15. Everybody Hurts – REM
Similar to the above, you have any easy down and up picking with this one, an arpeggio that everyone has to play from time to time no matter the chords being held.
16. Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers
This one has a similar arpeggio-like theme but has a little extra groove; it is picked in a slightly more interesting rhythm and has a couple of walking bass notes. The chords to hold are simple, and it feels great to play with a little more soul.
17. House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
For anyone interested in finger-picking patterns, this one is surely a staple of a classic. We suggest learning the chord changes first and then picking the strings dictated by the tab later on.
18. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
As above, this Lynyrd Skynyrd song is included in the list of easy guitar songs that a beginner guitarist player can practice. It has a great balance between picking and driving rhythms that are easy to learn on guitar with those same three easy chords for many songs throughout this list, C, D, and G.
Easy Classical Guitar Songs for Beginners to Try
19. Ode to Joy – Beethoven
This Beethoven classic can be simplified and played a pretty painlessly easy guitar song. It doesn’t have any demanding fret stretches and is a widely recognizable piece.
20. In The Hall of Mountain King
It has a slow-plodding tempo and uses pretty basic guitar techniques. You can start with a simplified version using the main introductory motifs and learn at your own pace.
The melody is not too demanding, and you can leave out the bass notes until you are at an intermediate point in your learning.
How Do You Define an ‘Easy to Play Song’ for Guitar?
First things first, nothing is easy when you are a beginner guitar player. Everything takes work and there are a few prerequisites which we will discuss later that you should learn before you try to get ahead of yourself with an entire song.
So the long answer is complex and very much down to the individual’s perspective and how quickly you take to your new hobby. But in short; an ‘easy to play’ song is one that is pretty basic, with a driving rhythm made up of as few chords as possible that is non-demanding.
It is, of course, dependant on the style of playing that you are going for but for the most part, we are looking for easy guitar songs that don’t traverse the length of the neck too much.
If it is a chord-progression-based song with rhythmic strumming you want the chord sequence to consist of chords that are in close proximity to one another so your hand can find them easily and transition smoothly between them on time.
Not only that, the chords should be easy guitar chords to play in the first place as some inversions are far trickier to master than others. You can take a look at our article for a good idea of some simple guitar chords for beginners. Once you have mastered the 12 we highlight there you have a wealth of songs available to you.
If it is a picked song, you want simple finger-picking patterns, repetitive and again you want the left-hand work to be taking place within a few frets. Let’s say around about a five or six fret distance max.
For electric guitar, you might be tempted to emulate your rock-god heroes, in which case look for easy repetitive riffs and learn some power chords or open fifths to jam your way through some simple rock favorites.
In general, the song should have a simple structure that has repeated parts to learn and the rhythm should not be complex.
If you are looking to sing over it, the melody should fall on the chords in the same beats or be off-beat to make doing both easy enough.
To learn how to play a guitar song you need a little beginner’s knowledge. You should have an understanding of standard tuning and how to tune your instrument.
You should know your open string notes and it is a good idea to learn a few notes on your fret-markers if you are going the classical route. You will probably also need to start looking at scales early on if you want to play in this style as well.
For chord-based songs, you should have at least 3-5 open chords memorized that you can perform comfortably at a medium tempo. You should be able to switch between them (regardless of the order) without any huge delays in between.
Fun fact; with just three chords you can able to play a myriad of modern pop and rock songs so don’t feel bogged down with learning too many when you start to learn guitar.
If you are a fan of rock or metal then you will also likely need to look at a few scales to play some popular riffs. The Major and Minor Pentatonic scales can be very beneficial to learn, many songs use the scale as a basis for their heavier licks.
● Tuned instrument
● Knowledge of strings and frets
● 3-5 open chords memorized
● Be able to switch between 3-5 chords
● Be able to strum simple rhythms/pick a simple scale.
These are pretty basic building blocks to learn how to play easy guitar songs for a beginner but here are a couple of extra ideas that really wouldn’t go amiss;
● Be able to understand chord diagrams
● Be able to read simple tablature
Even if you hate the idea or feel overwhelmed just looking, being able to read diagrams and tablature is undoubtedly the quickest route to being able to learn easy guitar songs for beginners.
Diagrams give you the guitar chord you need, although when it comes to the strumming pattern you may have to work it out by ear. If you can understand the diagram then you have the ability to play any chord progression in a song in the future.
Tablature is essential for learning riffs or complex picking of chords like used by the bands the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Guns ‘n’ Roses. It is a simplified musical notation, not as difficult to master as sight-reading traditional sheet music. And, it is specific to your instrument.
It may look tricky, to begin with, but if you start with simple guitar tabs you will very quickly learn how to play as it translates to each of your strings and fingers. In reality, it is not complex and will unlock pretty much any song making it available to you to learn as you progress and become proficient at guitar.
If you want to learn some easy songs to play on guitar, you might want to consider some of the online guitar lesson options available.
Most are available on Windows or iOS, and many of them either utilize song-based lessons in their course content or have a standalone song library as part of their platform. With just a few of their basic lessons ticked off, you can learn plenty of tunes in their beginner section.
Guitar Tricks has one of the biggest song libraries around, their early lessons teach you how to read diagrams and tabs, and then the song library is yours to explore.
If you prefer riffs and bitesize learning, then you might prefer the FenderPlay app, which teaches some of the most iconic licks in history in a step-by-step fashion.
You can visit this link to look at our verdict on the top online guitar lessons side by side. Most importantly, because their content is categorized by playing ability/skill level, the songs you encounter as beginners will be exactly that.
This is our final piece of parting wisdom, really… any song can be simplified.
The sites simplify the song so that a beginner can play it. Some of the advanced pieces are special versions or arrangements for the sites and not the official sheet music. This is partly to get around licensing issues, but I digress…
So you can look at learning more complex songs if there is something you are dying to be able to jam along with but simplify it, find the chords for it and give yourself small attainable goals.
Forget the trills, the hammering on and off, and the licks that scale the neck of your ax, and start with being able to strum each chord on the beat in time with the track blasting.
At the very least, you can jam along with your idols until you can give them a run for their money.