When learning to play the guitar, you’ll have to start with the basics, including picking up how to read music on a sheet or guitar tabs. Guitar tabs can help beginners understand where their fingers need to go on the guitar’s strings for different notes so they can easily pick up how to play the instrument.
If you’re new to the guitar, the following list offers nine easy guitar tabs you can start learning. All these tabs come from hit songs, so once you memorize them, you’ll be on your way to playing full performances in no time!
1. “Beat It” – Michael Jackson
One tab worth learning: the opening riff from Michael Jackson’s iconic hit “Beat It.” The song as a whole is easy to learn once you understand how to read the first tab.
For this riff, there are only a few tricky areas that might get you stumped. In one part, you have to move from the A string to the G string, which means you must skip over the D string.
This can be difficult to learn at first, but practicing just doing the skip can make playing this tab that much easier.
Also, noticing which direction you are plucking the chords is vital. If you have back-to-back notes one string away from another, figuring out whether to pluck up or down with your strumming hand can be beneficial to making playing a riff easier on yourself.
2. “Come as You Are” – Nirvana
A classic riff from a classic hit, this tab is super easy to learn because you are only playing four different notes. It’s simple enough to learn, and because it repeats in the opening, you can sound like a professional right away.
A lot of this riff is open strumming on the E and B string, with minimal finger placement. The trickiest part is just getting the timing down of when to play the notes to ensure it sounds like the original song.
3. “Day Tripper” – The Beatles
For this next tab, we go to one of the most iconic bands of all time, The Beatles. The riff from “Day Tripper” is very similar to “Beat It,” except for one slight change at the riff's end.
The only challenging part of this riff transitioning from the second fret on the A string to the fourth fret on the D string back to the second fret on the A string. It is a long climb back and forth, so take your time and slowly practice the switch to play it properly.
Tip: When you are playing and have to move your hand this much, be sure to include your wrist as much as possible to ensure quick movements; this also means you should have your forearm free of any resistance, so make sure you are not resting your arm on your leg or tucking it into your torso.
4. “Smoke on the Water” – Deep Purple
This might take the cake for the easiest riff to learn. The entire tab, from beginning to end, is all played on the same string.
It starts simple: just play on the E string with an open chord. Then, move along the string, finding the correct fret at the right time to get the iconic song going.
5. “Enter Sandman” – Metallica
If you want to be a hardcore rock n’ roll guitarist, why not start with this heavy metal classic from Metallica? Used by numerous college and professional teams to excite their crowds before and during games, learning this riff will undoubtedly get people jumping.
For this tab, you will be playing a little further down the guitar than before (on frets 5, 6, and 7), so be sure your forearm and wrist are free to move. Be careful when you move from the D string to the E string as you skip over the A string. Practice that jump in strings, so you do not accidentally hit it while playing.
6. “Mission: Impossible Theme”
Just because a piece of music was not written for the guitar originally does not mean it can’t be played and enjoyed on the strings—as long as you can figure out the right notes.
Only two strings are used for this easy tab. On top of that, each note is played the same way, so getting the timing down is easy.
Start with an open chord on the E string and progress down the same string as you hit different frets. The switch to the A string happens after a couple of open chords on the E string again.
7. “Chasing Cars” – Snow Patrol
This is a more mellow song and tab to learn, but it is still easy for beginners to learn how to play. With only four separate notes to learn, you can have this riff in your back pocket and whip it out to show off your skills without having to know that much about playing.
The hardest part to expect with this tab is the stretch your playing hand has to do to get the right notes. The riff starts with fingers on the seventh and ninth frets, alternating between those two chords on the D string and the G string, respectively.
Because all you are doing is moving the first finger from the seventh fret to the sixth fret and then to open, this is super simple. The best part is that you are continually using the same two strings, so the rhythm between the two is up to personal preference.
8. “Sunshine of Your Love” – Cream
Still heard to this day, this riff is easy to put to the strings; just about every guitar player since Clapton has learned this tab.
You’ll start on the A string, which is where you will stay for much of your journey. From there, switch between the fifth and third frets, hitting the notes at the appropriate times.
One tricky section goes from the fifth fret on the A string to the third fret on the D string and back to the fifth fret on the A string. While you only move one string up and down, the hardest part is sliding your hand from fret to fret.
9. “Eye of the Tiger” – Survivor
Finally, we have the rock classic, “Eye of the Tiger.” You’ll definitely need the eye of the tiger to decipher this riff, too; timing is critical to reproduce this iconic song.
Like many of the other tabs we have looked at, this song is played on the same E string throughout, with your fingers just gliding along to different frets to produce various notes. You’ll have to alternate between the eighth fret and the sixth fret until the long-held note on the fourth fret at the end.
Tip: Because there are pauses in some parts of this tab, a simple way to ensure the timing is down is to simply tap the guitar with your strumming hand. This way, you have the appropriate amount of time in between each of the notes.
Easy Guitar Tabs For Beginners, Final Thoughts
If you want to learn to play the guitar successfully, you have to start by learning how to read and play guitar tabs.
The tabs we looked at here are just a few of so many you can learn to play in just a short amount of time. Just be sure when you practice them, you take your time and give your hands and wrists time to develop muscle memory for each note. Play the riffs repeatedly until you can fly through them without having to look down at the guitar as you move your hands. You’ll be playing like a rock star in no time!
Side note, do you want to learn to play guitar songs the easy way? Learn how here – results are guaranteed!