If you’ve been playing the guitar for a little while, it’s essential to learn how to play some songs. Learning songs will give you something which allows you to actively use skills you’ve learned in lessons.
The following is a great list of songs you should consider learning. These will not only allow you to use what you know but teach you other skills you’re likely to use when playing other songs.
“Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison
Van Morrison’s hit song Brown Eyed Girl is often one of the first songs many guitarists learn how to play. The majority of the song is based around common chords that are usually some of the first that people learn.
Learning this song will give you a solid foundation to apply these basic chords. You’ll also learn that iconic intro, which utilizes a concept known as “playing the 6th”, often heard in country music.
“Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd’s song, Wish You Were Here, is one of the most popular tracks in the band’s catalog. As such, you’re likely to be familiar with it due to the song receiving large radio play.
Wish You Were Here utilizes simple open chords such as C, D, A minor, and G. It’s also an excellent starting point for learning how to play a solo. The song employs the technique of playing a sung vocalization, which is useful for playing any guitar solo.
“Used To Love Her” by Guns ’N’ Roses
Guns ’N’ Roses have a few songs that tend to be standard fare for learning guitarists. Used To Love Her is one of the best to learn, as it’s an easy strummer utilizing 3 basic chords.
Not only is this song extremely simple, but it’s fun to play, too. You’ll learn how effective a simple chord pattern (with a bit of rearrangement) can be in a song’s composition. Be sure to tune a half step down if you want to play with the recording.
“Angel From Montgomery” by John Prine
John Prine was one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century. His song Angel From Montgomery is a fine example of this, as it’s been covered by many artists. Be sure to check out the recent cover of this song by young guitar phenom, Daniel Donato.
Angel From Montgomery is another fairly basic song, utilizing only 4 different chords. The timing of this song can be a little tricky, so have some patience when getting it right.
“Dead Flowers” by The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones have a number of different songs that are ideal for beginners. The song Dead Flowers is a great place to start. Many people far and wide know the lyrics of this track, making it a great song to bust out in a performance.
Dead Flowers is pretty simple in terms of its composition. The biggest thing with this song is that it utilizes Dsus2 and Dsus4 chords. Once you learn how these are played, you’ll hear them used in quite a bit of other famous songs.
“I Shall Be Released” by The Band
Speaking of singalong songs, The Band’s iconic track I Shall Be Released is a great song to learn. When played and sung correctly, this song has the power to shoot straight into the heart of a listener.
I Shall Be Released is great because it utilizes minor barre chords in addition to standard open chords. You’ll also be juggling a few more chords in a progression than your standard 3 or 4 chord songs.
“Wonderwall” by Oasis
There’s a good reason why you see memes based around this song. Many beginners learn how to play it, opting to play it at college parties and campfires.
This song is pretty easy to learn, utilizing simple chords with a capo on the 2nd fret. You might not want to play it around people though. A guitar smashing similar to the scene from the movie Animal House might very well ensue.
“Day Tripper” by The Beatles
This classic song by The Beatles is an excellent song to learn because it primarily uses riffs throughout the song. This riff is played in two different positions, one of which is rooted in E, and the other from A.
The riff can be a little tricky to learn and play correctly. It’s doubly more difficult if you attempt to sing the song while playing the riffs. However, this song is a great starting point for playing more riff-based rock music.
“Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne
Speaking of riff-based songs, one of the most popular songs beginners tackle is Crazy Train. This track has an iconic riff at the beginning of the song that is downright infectious to play.
You’ll be exposed to more advanced concepts in this song as well. If you attempt to learn the solo, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a guitar whiz. However, you might want to save that project for a time when you have built the skills to play it.
“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” by Eric Clapton
The blues are important for any guitarist to learn. While these song forms tend to follow a traditional pattern, the opportunity for expression is endless. Clapton’s take on this Jimmie Cox and Bessie Smith standard is a great choice for beginners.
By learning this song, you’ll understand how the blues form works within a song’s composition. You’ll also be utilizing quite a few different chord changes, more than you would find in a standard blues. Also, you might be able to relate to the lyrics, which can make your performance of this song very heartfelt.
“Over The Hills And Far Away” by Led Zeppelin
Another very popular song that is learned by beginner guitarists is Zeppelin’s Over The Hills And Far Away. This song is a perfect blend of acoustic guitar and electrified riff-rock.
If you don’t know how to play hammer-ons and pull-offs, you will after learning this song. The classic intro is chock full of them, and you’ll need to play them correctly for it to sound right.
“The Weight” by The Band
The Band had quite a few staple hits in their catalog, but one of the most famous is The Weight. Even those unfamiliar with The Band are likely to be familiar with this song.
This song uses a mix of simple open chords with barre chords. Take some time to really work in the song’s iconic descending melodic line into the chords. You’re sure to have people singing along with this if you play it for the right crowd.
“Pigs On The Wing, Pt. 1 and 2” by Pink Floyd
Anyone who has ever listened to the classic Pink Floyd album Animals is likely familiar with these tracks. They serve as bookends for the album, with Part 1 at the beginning, and Part 2 at the end. Musically, they are pretty consistent across both parts.
To play both parts of Pigs On The Wing, you’ll need to know some simple open chords. Compositionally, the most difficult area of each song is towards the end. This features quick changes between a good amount of chords. It’ll come easy with patient practice, though.
“Blowin’ In The Wind” by Bob Dylan
There are few folk artists that have been as influential as Bob Dylan. He continually pushed the boundaries for what is acceptable for a folk artist, much to his fans’ chagrin.
Blowin’ In The Wind is a classic song from the Dylan catalog. It is as effective today as when it was released. Some simple open chords will allow you to play this timeless hit and make it your own.
“Heart Of Gold” by Neil Young
Neil Young is an artist that has continually proved he cannot be boxed into a specific musical corner. He has reinvented himself time and again, while also staying true to his musical roots.
Heart Of Gold is one of his most famous tracks, and it’s also one of his easiest to play. This song is a definite no-brainer if you’ve ever wanted to play the harmonica while playing the guitar.
“Nutshell” by Alice In Chains
Nutshell is not a very well-known song amongst people unfamiliar with the music of Alice In Chains. However, those that are familiar know just how powerful this song really is. It is a very emotionally-driven song, and the guitar gives an excellent platform for some serious lyrics.
You can play this song quite easily with a few basic open chords. Be sure to get the rhythm of your strumming pattern down correctly so that your part matches the recording. You’ll also need to tune to Eb standard to match the recorded pitch.
Alice In Chains’ MTV Unplugged album should be mandatory listening, even if you’re not a fan of the band. The band’s performance ranks as one of the best ever recorded for the Unplugged series. Not only that, but the sound mix is so great that people use it to test their home stereo setups.
“A Horse With No Name” by America
If you know your basic chords and are looking for an easy strummer, this song is low-hanging fruit. It features some variations of chords based around an E minor and a D.
For the most part, there is very little you need to know once you get the song’s chords down. These chords might be a bit unusual to you, but they are open chords with minimal fingerings. This is what gives the song its very open-chord sound.
The real key with this song is the strumming pattern. It isn’t too difficult to pull off, but it is significant to the song’s overall sound.
“Tangerine” by Led Zeppelin
If you’ve ever wanted to play a Led Zeppelin song, but have been daunted by the necessary skill, try Tangerine. This song is a very basic song that is perfect for beginners.
Tangerine uses some open chords that you likely already know if you’ve learned your basics. The most difficult part of the song is the individually picked arpeggios during the verses.
This song is also a great launchpad for learning how to play guitar solos. Tangerine has a very simple (but effective) guitar solo that can be primarily played on 1 string. Dial in some overdriven tones and let this one fly!
“Ventura Highway” by America
Ventura Highway is another classic by the band America that is often learned by beginners. The song has 2 different guitar parts that work co-dependently to create the song’s iconic tapestry.
With the most basic guitar part, you’ll only need to know a few chords. These include both open chords as well as a few basic barre chords. You’ll also dip your toes into playing the jazzy Major 7th chord with this song.
If you’re wishing to play the more difficult guitar part, you’ll become skilled at playing hammer-ons and pull-offs. Take your time to make sure every note rings out correctly and in the correct rhythm.
Ventura Highway is also a great song to learn if you frequently play with other guitarist friends. This song allows people to work together using simple parts to create something much larger. Because of that, this song is a beautiful choice to learn.
Best First Songs To Learn On Guitar, Final Thoughts
Once you get these songs learned and mastered, you’ll be well on your way to learning more difficult pieces. However, songs built from simplicity should not be overlooked, as they are often the most effective.
Throughout your career, you’ll find countless examples of how effective a simple song can be. You’ll also discover that there is always something to be learned by taking the time to learn new songs.
Last Updated on March 21, 2022.
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