Every guitar hero has to start out somewhere. And, while the best approach is gaining proficiency with your instrument by learning how to read music and mastering your scales, sometimes you just want to sit down and rock out on your favorite tunes.
One of the nice things about guitar is that if you can learn just a few basic chords, a whole world of songs is opened up to you. Here are 12 easy guitar songs for beginners. Let your rock ‘n’ roll odyssey commence!
Easy Songs to Play on Guitar
Whether you’re an acoustic player or an eclectic player, these easy songs to learn on guitar have you covered.
1. I Wanna Be Sedated by The Ramones
The Ramones created their punk rock sound by simplifying their guitar parts down to just a few chords. Their biggest hit “I Wanna Be Sedated” can be played entirely with power chords—a two-note chord that uses just the root note and the fifth note of any particular chord. This is a perfect song if you just want to turn up the volume on the amp and wake up the neighbors.
2. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan
An iconic tune from America’s iconic folk music artist, this is an easy acoustic guitar song for beginners. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” uses four simple chords that every guitarist should know, and its slow tempo allows for easy changes between each chord. And you have the bonus option to play this song on the electric guitar, just like Guns ‘n’ Roses’ famous cover on the album Use Your Illusion II.
3. Nutshell by Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains was at the forefront of the grunge movement of the early-to-mid ’90s. Yet in the midst of all their hard rocking, they released Jar of Flies, a beautiful, haunting, mostly acoustic album. “Nutshell” is one of the album’s standout tracks—another down-tempo four-chord song—that’s perfect for those sad, rainy days.
Beginner Guitar Songs
When you’re looking for guitar songs for beginners, these are some excellent options.
4. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap by AC/DC
A lot like The Ramones, AC/DC perfected stripped-down, straight-ahead hard rock. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” is another power chord masterpiece, basically using four simple chords that repeat in both the verses and the chorus. This is a great song to play with dynamics—alternating between loud and soft playing in the different sections.
5. You Really Got Me by The Kinks
This song is all about that riff. The familiar five-note pattern is repeated throughout the entire song. So as long as you can strum out that riff, you can play this song for hours. While you can play the whole song with power chords, this is also a great opportunity to practice barre chords—a technique where you use one finger to press down multiple strings. The barre chord is slightly more difficult than the power chord, but it is an essential part of your guitar playing toolbox.
6. Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) by Green Day
If you are of a certain age, this Green Day song was probably your high school graduation song, which makes it a great song to play on the acoustic when you are hanging out with friends. The song consists of five chords that are played two different ways—full chord strumming and flatpicking, or playing individual notes with your pick. It’s a great opportunity to try out different playing styles. And, if you are feeling really brave, you can throw out the pick altogether and try fingerpicking. Skillshare even offers an entire class on the subject!
3 Chord Guitar Songs
Sometimes you don’t need much to create an iconic rock song. Here are some great guitar songs with three chords.
7. Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty
This one is always a crowd favorite and uses three very simple chords over and over again throughout the entire song. There’s also a section late in the song that lets you practice palm-muting—a picking technique that uses the side of the hand to create a muted sound from the strings. This is another essential guitar technique that pops up in all styles of music, and it can be used on both acoustic guitar—as seen here—and electric.
8. Get It On (Bang a Gong) by T. Rex
Marc Bolan, the songwriter and guitarist for the band T. Rex, was a genius whose influence was felt through several rock genres, from glam to punk to psychedelic rock. The band’s biggest hit is layered with all sorts of guitar playing styles over its three simple chords. There’s straight-ahead acoustic strumming, a bluesy, syncopated electric rhythm part, and a sparse lead part that punctuates the song throughout. Any way you approach it, this one is going to be a lot of fun.
9. Mother by Danzig
Technically there are four chords in this one, but the main riff to “Mother” is instantly recognizable and really only consists of three chords repeated ad infinitum. If you ever feel like pulling out all the stops and cranking up the volume on your amp, this is a great selection.
2 Chord Guitar Songs
Are three chords too many for you? Then just cut one out! Here are some options for guitar songs with two chords.
10. Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin
Actual guitar hero Jimmy Page does a lot with a little in this absolute classic. And while the riff is iconic, it’s actually quite simple and lets you practice a lot of important guitar playing skills—palm muting, flatpicking, and string bending.
11. What I Got by Sublime
All it takes to play this song is alternating between your D major and G major chords and it would sound totally fine. However, if you want to sound as close to the recording as possible, you better practice your flatpicking—Bradley Newell plays the chord notes individually throughout. There’s also a nice, simple solo in this song that you should give a go. This is another easy acoustic guitar song.
12. Jane Says by Jane’s Addiction
Songs don’t get much simpler than this—acoustic guitar, two chords, wash, rinse, repeat. Even the strumming rhythm is easy to grasp, making this a perfect starting point. And, if you happen to get your hands on a 12-string acoustic guitar, this is a great song on which to try it out.
If you’ve played through all these songs, congratulations! You now have a full set list that you can use to impress your friends at parties. Not only that, getting these simple songs in your toolbelt will drastically improve your guitar playing and help you move to the next level. So start practicing!
Start Your Guitar Playing Journey!
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