50 Easy Guitar Songs For Beginners That Sound Amazing
Every time that a guitar is picked up for the first time, chances are that there’s a story behind it.
In most cases, there’s a song that inspires someone to think, “That would be fun to play on guitar!” Then, after said guitar is purchased, some sort of learning program begins: private lessons, YouTube videos, subscription sites, you name it.
The frustration sets in when friends and family ask you to play a song and you’re still struggling with finger exercises and short riffs. If this sounds familiar then this article is for you.
Yes, learning how to play guitar is challenging, but it can also be quite rewarding—and, as in my case, life changing.
The problem that most beginners have is strumming chords in time and then successfully switching from one chord to the next. And, sometimes the best way around the problem is attacking head on. There are also those that have been playing for a while but are struggling to find song ideas that are:
- Fun to play
- Easy to learn
- And, that people recognize and enjoy
These are the points that I wanted to address when I put together this list. And, this list represents years of teaching simple songs that are fun and easy to play while also being recognizable to the average listener. The other challenge was trying to avoid a list of random blues and folk tunes while adding a little something for everyone.
That leads us to the songs that follow and are in no particular order. These songs were all requested by former students at one time or another and were scribbled in my manuscript book.
They share a few things in common:
Most of the songs are made up of three or four chords
They can all be played using open-string chords a/k/a first-position chords
Some songs may need a capo to fit into the original key
That being said, have fun and happy strumming.
1. Get Lucky (Daft Punk)
This four-chord song is a crowd favorite that inspires others to do the singing for you. It also works great for practicing your funky strumming.
2. Englishman in New York (Sting)
Upon first listen, it sounds like there’s so much more going on. But, the verse and chorus are only three chords (Em–A–Bm). Sting is an absolute master of using simple songwriting techniques to achieve a sophisticated sound.
3. Closing Time (Semisonic)
Another four-chord progression (G–D–Am–C) that repeats. Here’s a tip: Don’t try to imitate the recording exactly. Find a comfortable strumming pattern and sing along using the lyrics and melody. The audience loves this.
4. I Ran (Flock of Seagulls)
This 80s new wave hit is incredibly simple. The production was what made it: layers of synths with a very cool delay effect on the guitar. A perfect example of the AB song structure and each section uses only two chords. Be careful when surfing the web for a chord chart as many of the charts state that the verse is A–G when it’s actually Am–G.
5. Shout (Tears for Fears)
Another classic 80s tune that uses the AB song form. Don’t be afraid of the chords.
Verse: Gm–Ebmaj7–Cm (You can play an Eb chord for the Eb maj7). Also, if you use a capo at the 3rd fret the chords become: Em–Cmaj7–Am and the Cmaj7 is actually easier to play than an open-C chord.
6. Breezin’ (George Benson)
We all have a friend that skates all over the fretboard. They also tend to choose off-the-beaten-path tunes to endlessly solo over. This instrumental tune is actually very easy—for the rhythm guitar player, that is. Four chords, here are the basic versions of these chords: D–Bm–Em–A. Two beats each and your guitar-soloing buddy will love you.
7. All About That Bass (Meghan Trainor)
I was surprised when a student asked me to teach her this song for a school talent show. She was actually a pretty good guitar player and we created a bossa nova-version. She performed it with only voice and guitar.
8. Ain’t No Sunshine (Bill Withers)
A great song for dinner parties and family gatherings. All of the chords are basic, first-position chords that sound great on an acoustic guitar.
9. Stir It Up (Bob Marley)
Get your reggae on. This three-chord classic is another crowd favorite that’s fun to play, sing, and solo (for you fretheads that love to solo).
10. Groove Is In The Heart (Deee-Lite)
This was another surprise lesson. However, it was for a student jazz ensemble. Don’t be put off by the word, jazz. This song is two chords: G#m–C#m; and, with a capo at the 4th fret uses the Em–Am chords. I couldn’t believe how much fun this was to play in the jazz ensemble and with an acoustic guitar at a backyard party.
11. Guns of Brixton (The Clash)
Yet another surprise-teaching moment. We used this song for a group of beginning 8-year olds. Bm–F#m–G; with a capo at the 2nd fret, Am–Em–F.
12. I Shot the Sheriff (Bob Marley)
I used this song for a guitar ensemble for beginners. One guitar played a simple bass line, the other the reggae-style chords, and the other the melody (which falls nicely into the minor pentatonic box). If you have more guitars, then double the bass and chords.
13. Born to Be Wild (Steppenwolf)
Although this is considered to be a hard rock classic, I played this on a 12-string acoustic at a motorcycle rally and the leather-clad, tattooed, bearded crowd sang along. Here’s a tip: Use the open-E chord with your pinky on the 2nd string for the C# and D notes to create the chord riff.
14. Moves Like Jagger (Maroon 5)
This is another crowd favorite that uses only two chords: Bm–Em or, with a capo at the 2nd fret, Am–Dm.
15. Miss You (The Rolling Stones)
Please see the Maroon 5 tune, “Moves Like Jagger”. This Stones homage to disco uses the Am–Dm chords.
16. Stay With Me (Sam Smith)
Sam Smith paid tribute to Tom Petty in this contemporary song. Literally, he paid. Petty sued him for infringing on the melody to “I Won’t Back Down”. Smith uses the Am–F–C chords while Petty’s tune uses Em–D–G.
17. Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)
This was a “must-know” tune when I was learning to play. All of the older (neighborhood) guys love playing and singing this classic tune and, if I wanted to play along, I had to learn it.
18. Sweet Child O’ Mine (Guns N’ Roses)
First, forget about the solo section at the end of the tune. Second, the iconic arpeggio that opens the song was actually a picking exercise that Slash used as a warm up. That aside, this song is four chords: D–C–G for the verse and A–C–D for the chorus. Enjoy!
19. Riders on the Storm (The Doors)
Set aside the moody intro. The verse is actually a variation of the 12-bar blues in E minor. This is a fun jam that lends itself to different styles. Em–Am–D–C (that’s it).
20. Creep (Radiohead)
Another fan favorite that’s perfect for someone with an expressive voice. It’s a four-chord song: G–B–C–Cm.
21. Dear Mr. Fantasy (Traffic)
This one falls into the category of “Brown Eyed Girl”. The older guys from the neighborhood (my first guitar heroes) said learn this song. The memories of that seedy-garage smell while having my first jam experience still brings a tear to my eye.
22. Get Back (The Beatles)
The infamous rooftop jam (watch the video if you don’t know what I’m talking about) only uses three chords: A–G–D. The rhythm is a little tricky which might make people argue that it’s not truly a beginner tune. However, it’s the perfect vehicle to practice the pulsing technique.
23. Sympathy for the Devil (The Rolling Stones)
Three-chord verse (E–D–A), two-chord chorus (B–E), The Rolling Stones… Enough said.
24. Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
No backyard barbeque is complete without someone picking the opening chord riff, saying “Turn it Up…” and, strumming the three-chord harmony (D–C–G) to “Sweet Home Alabama”.
25. Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
A little sophisticated to be a beginner tune; but, this song has appealed to fans both young and old. The 6/8 feel is perfect for arpeggiated chord playing and simple strumming. Try both and notice the different textures that each creates.
26. Hey Joe (Jimi Hendrix)
I always teach beginners the CAGED system and I always use “Hey Joe” to do it. Many students find the TAB and try to play the opening riff, but, just as in “Sweet Chile O’ Mine”, try understanding the song form first and simply strumming the chords in time.
27. House of the Rising Sun (Traditional)
The most-rockingist folk song ever. The Animals made this song popular and audiences love it. Another 6/8 tune, like “Hallelujah”, work on the arpeggios and chord strums.
28. Knocking on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan)
No list would be complete without this Dylan classic. This tune has been called at every jam and played at almost every bar and music venue that I’ve been to. Just like the old guys from the neighborhood used to tell me, “Learn this!”
29. London Calling (The Clash)
This was another student favorite that we used in an acoustic guitar ensemble and a student rock band. The kids loved it and the crowd loved it. Again, fun and easy to play.
30. Pyro (Kings of Leon)
The main riff to this tune is three chords. Try it on acoustic guitar. C#m–A–E or, with a capo at the 4th fret, Am–F–C (see Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”).
31. Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)
One of the most popular Stones’ songs. The key of E (great guitar key by the way) and all open chords (except for the B that is).
32. Stand By Me (Ben E. King)
This four-chord classic is also a well-loved tune by a wide audience. Many singer/guitarists use this as a filler but it’s also a crowd pleaser.
33. Mockingbird (James Taylor)
An adult beginner brought this tune to my attention. It’s a fun song to sing, works well for a singing duo and can be strummed as a campfire song or as a full-blown rock tune complete with guitar solos. This is one of the sleepers on the list. The chord progression is a variation of the 16-bar blues progression. Check it out.
34. For Your Love (The Yardbirds)
I played this tune for a British Invasion show and really enjoyed it. Since, I’ve brought it to the attention of many beginning students when we discuss the history of rock and roll. Four chords and a lot of fun.
35. Spooky (Dusty Springfield)
This three-chord tune has a hippy/jazzy feel. Female singers love this song and beginning soloists love strutting their pentatonic prowess on this song. It’s a fun song for jam-type situations.
36. Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
Lindsay Buckingham is no slouch on guitar. His unique approach to playing the guitar is based in the fingerstyle tradition. The reason that this song is on the list is the C–G/B–Am movement (capo at the 3rd fret) that is very guitaristic. It appears in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”. It’s also a great tune to begin developing your fingerpicking technique.
37. Good Riddance (Green Day)
Billie Joe Armstrong surprised many with his homage to the Americana tradition with this song. It’s a fun song to strum in the key of G.
38. I Can’t Explain (The Who)
The percussive strum for this song is the perfect introduction to The Who and Pete Townsend’s guitar playing. This is a great tune for beginning rock bands.
39. Squeeze Box (The Who)
Another Who classic. This song includes many blues elements and the G–C chord movement in the main chord riff is a must for acoustic guitar players. Here’s a tip: Play the G chord with your 2-3-4 fingers.
40. Die Young (Kesha)
The flanged-guitar chords that open this song can be played on an acoustic guitar… and, sound great. A great choice for Millienials and girls love it. And, when girls love it, guys follow.
41. Get It On Bang A Gong (T-Rex)
Although a fun song to play on acoustic guitar, this song really shines on electric. Another easy song for your first rock band.
42. Can’t You See (The Marshall Tucker Band)
This is just one of many D–C–G chord-based tunes: “Sweet Home Alabama”, “Sweet Child O’ Mine”... Here’s a suggestion. Write a song with “Sweet” in the title and use the D–C–G chord progression.
43. Sunday Bloody Sunday (U2)
Not only is this a great tune. And, not only is it fun to play. But, I use this tune to introduce beginners to a couple of chord-switching techniques: The common-finger technique and the pivot-finger technique. These are perfect for learning how to play the opening arpeggios.
44. With or Without You (U2)
Another four-chord classic. Fun for playing, singing and soloing. I use this to teach target-note soloing with pentatonics. And, many of the four-chord progression tunes on this list work well for target-note soloing with pentatonics.
45. I Remember You (Skid Row)
G is a great guitar key and this Skid Row classic is a fun rock tune that works well in both acoustic (what I like to call “campfire” settings) and with a rock band.
46. Hey Soul Sister (Train)
This tune was part of the ukulele renaissance of the millennium. Another four-chord tune that everybody loves and can’t help tap their feet or nod their head to. They also can’t seem to help themselves and sing along. “Hey, ay. Hey, ay, ay, ay, ay!”
47. I’m Yours (Jason Mraz)
Another four-chord millennium fave. Many of these songs are in perfect keys for a high-singing male, as in the original, or for a female voice. This song is in B but can be played in the key of G with a capo at the 4th fret. If it’s too high for your voice then move the capo down a fret or two and continue to strum your open-chords in the key of G.
48. Our Time Is Here (Demi Lovato)
Girls love this song. So, for you guys out there, learn songs like this and become a chick magnet. Girls love to sing along and if you can strum these four chords in the key of C (yes, key of C, even though it begins on an F chord) you’ll be meeting more girls than your guitar-shredding colleagues.
49. Dynamite (Taio Cruz)
See, “Our Time Is Here”. Girls love this tune. They love to sing along and dance. Strum your way into their hearts using the same four chords for “Our Time Is Here”; however, you’ll need to use a capo at the 4th fret (Am–G–C–F).
50. Valerie (Amy Winehouse)
Amy Winehouse created quite an impact in her all-but-too-brief career. Her songs are very creative and her chord progressions are somewhat unique to her style. The secret to playing “Valerie” is in her use of major 7 chords. Here’s my suggestion: Use a capo and transpose the chord patterns to C major:
A great song can be played on any instrument. All you need is the melody, someone singing (this should be you) and the chords supporting that melody.
I’ve always felt that the best written songs can be played on one instrument with someone singing along. Learn how to use a capo and increase your chord vocabulary.
Finally, build your song repertoire. The more songs you know how to play, the more fun you’ll have and the more people will enjoy you and your music. This list is only the beginning and I hope that it inspires you to dig further.
Happy strumming and thanks for checking out this article. Good luck!