Part of the fun of playing guitar is being able to play your favorite songs. And for beginner guitarists, being able to play songs is incredibly motivating, too. Nobody wants to spend months on end doing drills and learning more chords without being able to play a song or two.
Luckily, plenty of famous songs are actually easy to play. We’ve assembled a list of several easy guitar songs perfect for newer players.
What Makes an Easy Guitar Song?
When you hear someone refer to “easy guitar chords,” they’re typically referring to open chords. https://sixstringacoustic.com/how-many-guitar-chords-are-there Open chords are essentially any chords that aren’t barre chords.
Barre chords aren’t necessarily very hard to play, but they involve using your index finger to create a “bar” across the strings. https://lessons.com/guitar-lessons/guitar-chords/guitar-barre-chords If you’re a beginner guitarist, that can cause hand fatigue, and it also can be tough to switch back and forth between these chords and open chords.
Simple Strumming Patterns
A simple strumming pattern is key when it comes to choosing great songs for beginner guitar players. In most cases, you can get a feel for the strumming pattern simply by listening to the song. And if you can’t quite figure out the pattern, there’s a wealth of free video lessons online that will take you through it.
Sometimes, easy guitar songs also have simple solos that are relatively straightforward to learn. Learning an easy solo or two https://sixstringacoustic.com/best-acoustic-guitar-solos-to-learn is a great way to start building lead guitar skills.
Manageable Chord Changes
As a beginner guitar player, one of the biggest hurdles to master is changing chords quickly and smoothly. https://sixstringacoustic.com/tips-guitar-beginners Most easy guitar songs don’t involve very fast chord changes or changes between very complex chords.
Of course, if you’re very new to guitar, even changes like these can be a bit of a challenge. Be sure to be patient with yourself, and be sure to put in plenty of practice https://www.wikihow.com/Change-Guitar-Chords
What Guitar Chords Should You Know?
Whether you’re looking up guitar tabs or taking online lessons to learn how to play guitar, you’re bound to run into an unfamiliar chord or two. Chords are fairly easy to look up online, but make sure you can read chord diagrams first. https://lessons.com/guitar-lessons/guitar-chords/how-to-read-guitar-chords
But to simplify the learning process a bit, you’ll probably want to have a knowledge base of some common chords. And luckily, many songs for beginners use some of the same chords.
As a beginner, you’ll probably learn G major, D major, Em, Am, and C major first. Once you get the hang of these, you’ll probably learn F major — this is one that you can play as a barre chord, but there’s also a version where you just barre the B and high E strings. It’s a step up from open chords, but not as challenging as fully barring a chord.
Barring is one of the techniques that can make guitar playing more challenging than learning other instruments like the bass https://sixstringacoustic.com/acoustic-vs-bass-guitar-which-is-better-for-beginners But once you get the hang of barring, it does make learning and changing chords a little easier.
Great Easy Guitar Songs for Beginners
Bob Dylan — “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”
This classic Bob Dylan song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnKbImRPhTE was included on his soundtrack for the movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. https://genius.com/Bob-dylan-knockin-on-heavens-door-lyrics#about “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” proved to be one of Dylan’s most enduring guitar songs, and it’s been covered by range of famous artists, including Guns ‘n Roses and Eric Clapton https://www.thesound.co.nz/home/music/2018/07/the-story-behind-bob-dylan-s–knockin–on-heaven-s-door-.html
This is also one of the easiest songs on the list. It’s in the key of G, and you’ll only need to use G, D, Em, and C to play it. And as you can see here https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/bob-dylan/knockin-on-heavens-door-chords-66559 , the strumming pattern is relatively simple as well.
If you’re looking for easy acoustic guitar songs, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” sounds great on an acoustic guitar. It’s a simple and somewhat sad song, and it’s a beautiful one to strum as you sing.
Johnny Cash — “Hurt”
No list of easy songs would be complete without this wistful song from the legendary Johnny Cash. While “Hurt” may be simple to play, the emotion behind it is incredibly complex and beautiful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AHCfZTRGiI
As far as chords go, you’ll need Am, C, D, G, and F. This is a little tougher than some of the chord progressions on the list, as playing the F chord presents a challenge.
“Hurt” is also a great song to introduce you to incorporating flatpicking into your playing. Though the rhythm pattern isn’t too difficult (you can see it here https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/johnny-cash/hurt-chords-89849 ), Johnny picks for the downstrums and then strums for the up strums for most of the song. Alternatively, to make this a very easy guitar song, you can simply strum throughout.
If you want to sing along with the song, keep in mind that Johnny Cash has a lower voice than many people — he had a bass-baritone voice. https://zinginstruments.com/voice-types/ You might find that using a capo lets you sing along more easily.
Rolling Stones — “Satisfaction”
If you primarily play electric guitar, you might find this Rolling Stones hit to be incredibly satisfying to play. It’s right at home with a little distortion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrIPxlFzDi0 , but it also sounds nice as a stripped-down acoustic version.
As you can see from this song’s chords, https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/the-rolling-stones/i-cant-get-no-satisfaction-chords-1046719 it requires the use of seventh chords. These are bluesy-sounding variants of major chords, but they also feature prominently in pop songs. The A7 chord is easy to play, as it isn’t far off from an A major. Playing B7 can be a little tough to coordinate, but it isn’t too far off from playing an open G.
This strumming pattern can be hard to figure out based on listening to the song alone. Here’s a video tutorial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1KHuZHgvsM that takes you through it. It also shows you the song’s catchy riff, which is also pretty easy to learn. After all, developing your lead-playing skills with some easy guitar songs is an especially fun way to build your skills.
John Denver — “Annie’s Song”
This beautifully-written love song is one that John Denver wrote while on a ski lift. https://genius.com/John-denver-annies-song-lyrics#about He wrote it for his wife at the time. If you haven’t heard “Annie’s Song,” you can check out the audio here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNOTF-znQyw
The original version of the song is fingerpicked, and if you’re a little more experienced, you might want to jump into that version right away.
But when strummed, this is one of the easier guitar songs for beginners. You will only need C, F/C, G, Am7, G, Em, and Dm, and this video lesson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vJQ_E1U0wk gives you an idea of how to create a simple yet effective rhythm.
As this chord chart https://simplifiedguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Annies-Song-Chord-Chart.pdf shows you, a “swing pattern” works well with this song — that means three downstrums and an upstrum.
Taylor Swift — “You Belong With Me”
Most of Taylor Swift’s early pop songs were written for the acoustic guitar. And for some up-and-coming guitarists, playing along with some of her catchy songs is a highlight of learning to play guitar.
One of her earliest guitar songs, “You Belong With Me,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuNIsY6JdUw has one of the easiest chord progressions on our list. With a capo at the 4th fret, you only need D, A, Em, and G. You can see the chords lined up with the lyrics here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBHn1dm_7f0 And if you’d like some guidance on creating an easy strumming pattern, this video lesson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPNfsgShPlk should be similarly helpful. The video suggests using a strumming pattern very common in easy songs — down/down/up/up/down/up.
Lynyrd Skynyrd — “Sweet Home Alabama”
This is one of those easy songs that sounds great on either an acoustic or electric guitar. “Sweet Home Alabama”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrmWFjnAP2E is a timeless classic, so if you’re looking for easy guitar songs that just about anyone will recognize, this is a great one to learn. Its reach was significant enough that it inspired the state of Alabama to start printing “Sweet Home Alabama” on its license plates. https://www.songfacts.com/facts/lynyrd-skynyrd/sweet-home-alabama
If you want to strum along with the song, the only chords you’ll need https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/lynyrd-skynyrd/sweet-home-alabama-chords-849467 are D, G, F, C, and Cadd9. The Cadd9 might sound unfamiliar, but it’s similar in difficulty to playing a G. Learning new guitar songs is a very effective way to learn new chords — since you’re applying the chord right away, you won’t be likely to forget how to play it.
Tom Petty — “Free Fallin'”
This Tom Petty classic is another song that’s great for the beginner guitarist. “Free Fallin'” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lWJXDG2i0A offers a critique of Los Angeles culture, but the song almost came about by accident. Tom Petty has said that the first verse came from words he made up on the fly while playing around with a keyboardist. https://www.songfacts.com/facts/tom-petty/free-fallin Despite its humble origins, “Free Fallin'” became one of the most famous guitar songs of all time.
If you’ve already tried to look up the guitar tabs for “Free Fallin’,” you might have seen that most are a little more advanced than most easy guitar songs.
But there is a simplified strumming version that you can play with easy guitar chords. When you place a capo at the third fret, you can play the entire song using only three chords — D, G, and A. This helpful tutorial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLb_7sgNcZ8 can take you through this version. And for when you want to move up to intermediate guitar songs, it also will show you a slightly more advanced version.
Elvis Presley — “Heartbreak Hotel”
This is one of the best acoustic guitar songs on the list — after all, the King himself played an acoustic guitar on stage. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYwMq1VPV7I “Heartbreak Hotel” is a heavier song than many Elvis hits — the song was written about a man who committed suicide by jumping out of a hotel window.
Even though this song might not be the most memorable Elvis record, it was the first of his songs https://www.songfacts.com/lyrics/elvis-presley/heartbreak-hotel to reach a spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Upon its release, the song was #68.
As the chord charts for this song https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/elvis-presley/heartbreak-hotel-chords-1045577 will show you, “Heartbreak Hotel” is a great introduction to seventh chords if you haven’t played them before. But all chords that make up the song are relatively easy chords to learn and play. You need E, A7, E7, and B7.
Bob Marley — “Lively Up Yourself”
Many Bob Marley songs make great guitar songs for beginners. Their distinctive reggae beat offers a pleasant break from most pop songs. And while most Bob Marley songs are uplifting, “Lively Up Yourself” is especially so. https://genius.com/Bob-marley-and-the-wailers-lively-up-yourself-lyrics If you haven’t heard the song, check out this live performance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDnNqsy7rYE As you may have guessed, this is a song that works equally well for acoustic or electric guitar.
When looking at the guitar tabs https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/bob-marley/lively-up-yourself-chords-2654133 for this song, you’ll see that you need to be able to play C, D, F, G, and D7. But unlike the other easy songs on the list, “Lively Up Yourself” sounds especially good with some palm muting. Palm muting on an acoustic guitar is a great way to add a percussive feel to some of your strums, and it’s also a way to make even a very easy song seem multi-dimensional. To perform this technique, you use part of your strumming hand to mute the strings https://www.wikihow.com/Palm-Mute as you strum. It can take some practice to get your timing and technique exactly right, but palm muting can add percussive flavor to pop songs, folk songs, and more.
Creedence Clearwater Revival — “Bad Moon Rising”
“Bad Moon Rising” is an especially interesting song. While the beat is up-tempo and ostensibly cheery, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BmEGm-mraE the lyrics are much darker — they speak of trouble and destruction coming. But despite its ominous lyrics, “Bad Moon Rising” has become a musical mainstay. The song has been covered by an incredible range of bands and performers — Nirvana, Bruce Springsteen, Emmylou Harris, Gretchen Wilson, and Reels are a few notable ones. https://www.songfacts.com/facts/creedence-clearwater-revival/bad-moon-rising
“Bad Moon Rising” is one of the most enjoyable guitar songs to play for guitarists of any ability. You only need D, A, and G in order to play it. But if you’re still getting used to mastering rhythm patterns, the pattern you need for this song can take some time to get used to. This helpful tutorial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liBI2yT_fpw will help you get started.
Eric Clapton — “Tulsa Time”
Though Eric Clapton can certainly write and play complex guitar parts, he’s also written several easy pop songs. And although he didn’t write “Tulsa Time,” his version helped popularize the song. “Tulsa Time” was originally performed by Don Williams https://www.songfacts.com/facts/eric-clapton/tulsa-time Clapton’s version of this rousing tune https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXOZecj_oyI reached #30 on the U.S. charts, but it wasn’t the studio version that did so — it was a live version recorded at a temple in Japan.
“Tulsa Time” has a special sort of magic when played on a sparkling acoustic. This tutorial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiayG9QVNYs shows you a very simplified, two-chord version of the song — you only need D and G to play this easy song. For a somewhat simplified rhythm pattern, you can use down/down/up/up/down.
Ready to Start?
Learning guitar is an adventure, and being able to play songs is one of the best parts of that adventure. And luckily, you don’t need to know all the chords in the world to have a great time learning some easy guitar songs. Take your time, be patient, and remember to have fun, too.