Are you at a loss for what to learn next and want some divine inspiration to spear you with a shock from above? Are you keen to explore different styles of music to your usual route? Want to hear some of our favorite popular guitar songs in the Western world today?
Then you are in the right place, for today we will be exploring some of the best popular guitar songs around!
Table of Contents
- 1. ‘Silver Morning’ by Brian Eno
- 2. ‘Click Clack (Live)’ by Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band
- 3. ‘Little Johnny Jewel’ by Television
- 4. ‘Smokies’ by Barefoot Jerry
- 5. ‘True Blue’ by Dirty Beaches
- 6. ‘Rocks Off’ by the Rolling Stones
- 7. ‘Instant Hit’ by the Slits
- 8. ‘Happy Survival’ by Eddie Okwedy
- 9. ‘Weissensee’ by NEU!
- 10. ‘Smoke Rings’ by Les Paul & Mary Ford
- 11. ‘Epitaph’ by King Crimson
- 12. ‘Against Gravity by Horse Lords
- 13. ‘Trainspotting’ by Primal Scream
- 14. ‘The Rubber Room’ by Porter Wagoner
- 15. ‘I Woke Up’ by Tim Buckley
- 16. ‘The Glory of Man’ by Minutemen
- 17. ‘Blue Jade’ by Buddy Emmons
- 18. ‘Fleur Tropicale’ by Francis Bebey
- 19. ‘Free Your Mind’ by Amnesty
- 20. ‘Age of Consent’ by New Order
- 21. ‘Downward Spiral’ by Danny Brown
- 22. ‘Oneironaut’ by John Dwyer
- 23. ‘Health and Efficiency’ by This Heat
- 24. ‘Only Loved at Night’ by The Raincoats
- 25. ‘Politicians in My Eyes’ by Death
- 26. ‘Shadows’ by Yo La Tengo
- 27. ‘You Did It Yourself’ by Arthur Russell
- 28. ‘This is My Name’ by Sun City Girls
- 29. ‘C.R.E.E.P.’ by the Fall
- 30. ‘Electric Blend’ by Sandy Bull
- 31. ‘The Herald’ by Comus
- 32. ‘Trees’ by Blurt
- 33. ‘Ebb Tide’ by Houston & Dorsey
- 34. ‘Anchi Bale Game’ by Admas
- 35. ‘The Way I Walk’ by the Cramps
- Final Tones
- FAQs Popular Guitar Songs
1. ‘Silver Morning’ by Brian Eno
Though Eno carries the artistic credit here, the real reason this is one of the most popular guitar songs in ambient music is because of the contributions of Daniel Lanois, an esteemed pedal steel guitarist known for his incredibly emotive performance – this one is no exception.
2. ‘Click Clack (Live)’ by Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band
Though initially released on his LP The Spotlight Kid, this song really came into its own when Beefheart and the Magic Band took it on tour, becoming a steaming blues romp. Just listen to that electric guitar and feel it honk – one of the best blues songs of all time!
3. ‘Little Johnny Jewel’ by Television
Though undoubtedly better remembered for their late 70s magnum opus Marquee Moon, this is a great song that catalogs the liminal period between their landmark debut album and their less successful sophomore release, exhibiting precisely why fans still had hope. Getting your head around electric guitar songs will help you to really develop your own style.
4. ‘Smokies’ by Barefoot Jerry
For those looking for a song where they can really groove and pound their acoustic guitar, then perhaps the answer comes in the form of this jam from the country rock outfit Barefoot Jerry. Indeed, this is one of the lesser-known acoustic guitar songs to write home about.
5. ‘True Blue’ by Dirty Beaches
Definitely one of Alex Zhang Hungtai’s more popular songs under this moniker, this is a great song for those moments when you just fancy hitting a guitar and seeing what happens.
6. ‘Rocks Off’ by the Rolling Stones
Undoubtedly one of the best electric guitar songs, the Rolling Stones have far too many jams to choose from, though this is certainly one of the most triumphant songs they ever released. In fact, this might be one of the best rock songs of all time, at least to our ears.
7. ‘Instant Hit’ by the Slits
If you are looking to broaden your interests in guitar and explore other styles of music within the Western popular cultural pantheon like, say, dub and/or reggae, then why not give this track a go? This is a perfect blend of reggae and punk, from the heyday of the original post-punk era.
8. ‘Happy Survival’ by Eddie Okwedy
If you are looking to broaden your music taste any further, then you would be remiss to neglect the fantastic guitar work prevalent in much of 70s Nigerian highlife music. It’s a wonder it isn’t more popular elsewhere in the world.
9. ‘Weissensee’ by NEU!
The thing people often forget about Michael Rother’s dazzling guitar playing is how indebted it is to American greats like Jimi Hendrix. At heart, this is an acoustic folk-pop song that has messed with form and content to such an extent that it has been taken into the future.
10. ‘Smoke Rings’ by Les Paul & Mary Ford
It can be easy to forget that the famous Gibson Les Paul is actually named after someone.
This person, the venerable Les Paul, was easily the greatest guitar virtuoso of his day and is still a great inspiration to those learning his signature blend of gypsy swing and country-style guitar. By no means the official music video, the video above is merely a demonstration of how innovative the guy truly was.
11. ‘Epitaph’ by King Crimson
No doubt one of the best acoustic guitar songs ever, this is your chance to chant out an epic song into oblivion.
12. ‘Against Gravity by Horse Lords
By no means one of the easy pop songs – nor a popular song at all really – this is still a great song to learn on guitar, especially if you happen to have a guitar that has been set up to play in equal temperament instead of standard.
13. ‘Trainspotting’ by Primal Scream
Utilizing basic chords and vocal melodies to devastating effect, this is perhaps one of the most famous songs from the eponymously titled Trainspotting soundtrack. This highly influential soundtrack also featured hits from Iggy Pop, Pulp, Brian Eno, Lou Reed, Elastica, Leftfield, Underworld, Damon Albarn, and New Order.
14. ‘The Rubber Room’ by Porter Wagoner
You can play this touching and emotionally-intense country ballad on an acoustic or electric guitar and it is still going to have the same awesome power to command whoever is listening. Chronicling Wagoner’s time in a psychiatric hospital in gruesome detail, this is not a song for the faint of heart. Perhaps there is a reason this isn’t a more famous song.
15. ‘I Woke Up’ by Tim Buckley
Certainly more famous for his folkier music earlier in his career, Buckley is less acknowledged for his unique and difficult-to-categorize middle period where he stretched the conception of jazz, folk, and rock to their limits. This is the flagship from that period, merging lyrics of pure poesy with instrumentation that seems to breathe life into these fragile oneiric images with lucidity and depth. This is a chord progression to look out for.
16. ‘The Glory of Man’ by Minutemen
While this might not be a ‘Hey Soul Sister’, this still has every right to be branded a soulful anthem of working-class pride.
17. ‘Blue Jade’ by Buddy Emmons
Emmons is easily one of the best pedal steel players that have ever lived, matching Speedy West‘s inherent virtuosity, though never at the expense of pure emotive suggestion. ‘Blue Jade’ is one of his many masterworks of the pedal steel.
18. ‘Fleur Tropicale’ by Francis Bebey
The Cameroonian polymath Francis Bebey gave the world many, many songs that were never quite like anything else that came before. Somewhere, there is a parallel universe where Bebey’s signature blend of central African instrumentation with burgeoning electronics became the dominant form of music…
19. ‘Free Your Mind’ by Amnesty
Completely neglected by the passage of time, Amnesty was the missing link between funk greats like James Brown & Funkadelic and then progressive rock bands like King Crimson. Taking funk as their medium, they sought to expand its very vocabulary, though this sadly fell on deaf ears during their brief tenure in the 70s.
20. ‘Age of Consent’ by New Order
An incendiary alternative song from the 80s that clearly inspired countless artists to strip back their approach and focus on simple plucked melodies on the guitar and bass alongside synths.
21. ‘Downward Spiral’ by Danny Brown
The samples that Danny Brown’s frequent collaborator and producer Paul White has used in this song are incredibly burned out and fuzzy, making it excellent for jamming along to it if you are in any way into that sort of thing.
22. ‘Oneironaut’ by John Dwyer
Largely composed of extended jam sessions that John Dwyer had with Ryan Sawyer, Greg Coates, Wilder Zoby, and Andres Renteria, these solo records are far more akin to, say, On The Corner-era Miles Davis than anything Dwyer has done before with his famous band O SEES. There is a great and timeless feel to these tracks, this one, in particular, turning the guitar into something else entirely.
23. ‘Health and Efficiency’ by This Heat
This essential melding of punk and industrial music ought to be required listening for anyone interested in either of these two styles of music (and especially those who have an interest in both)!
24. ‘Only Loved at Night’ by The Raincoats
Another innovative band working around the same time comes in the form of the Raincoats who tackled the same dilemma in music from the opposite direction. This Heat’s playing can be quite astute and virtuosic at times, whereas the Raincoats approach music from an incredibly naive and playful angle.
25. ‘Politicians in My Eyes’ by Death
Allegedly one of the first bands to embrace what it meant to be punk before there was even such a thing, this is another group that was crossed and passed by the popular cultural pantheon, even despite how innovative they clearly were.
26. ‘Shadows’ by Yo La Tengo
What more is there to say about the incredibly long-lasting and era-defining indie rock monoliths Yo La Tengo that hasn’t already been said? Equally famed for their world-clattering noise as they are their quiet and peaceful moments, this song falls in the latter camp, offering up a healthy dose of solace in one’s solitude.
27. ‘You Did It Yourself’ by Arthur Russell
The multi-faceted and gifted composer Arthur Russell was scarcely acknowledged in his lifetime, certainly not to the extent that he ought to have been given his clear gifts for artistic expression in all its forms. This is a great song to strum along with while pointing the finger at someone who has done you dirty.
28. ‘This is My Name’ by Sun City Girls
Contrary to the name, all three members of this band are actually men, though I don’t imagine this meant much to the surviving members when one of them died suddenly. In response, they released the album Funeral Mariachi, doing away with much of the comedy and folly that marked their previous albums so as to respectfully send their bandmate off into the void.
29. ‘C.R.E.E.P.’ by the Fall
It is a truth universally acknowledged that when the Fall writes a pop song, they do better than almost all of their contemporaries. This song is one of the finest examples of this phenomenon.
30. ‘Electric Blend’ by Sandy Bull
Virtuosic and prodigal folk guitarist Sandy Bull has been said to be an incredible inspiration on the sensibilities of 60s music toward Eastern influence. Here, he leaves us with an incredibly hypnotic dirge with which to send ourselves into our own void.
31. ‘The Herald’ by Comus
Largely overlooked in favor of the more intense and visceral progressive rock acts of the era like King Crimson, Comus is a key part of this genre’s trajectory. Fans of fingerpicking patterns will no doubt rejoice to hear the frilly flourishes embellishing this song throughout.
32. ‘Trees’ by Blurt
The DIY project of funny and witty no-wave musicians here arrayed is incredibly gifted at carving out a groove and adhering to it for a set period of time, giving plenty of space for frontman Ted Milton to trip over himself explaining such an abstracted worldview.
33. ‘Ebb Tide’ by Houston & Dorsey
This suggestive piece of popular cultural detritus is a cover of a song composed by Robert Maxwell, an incredibly popular standard around the time of its composition in the 50s. This version makes heavy use of tape delay, emphasizing the frothing nature of the waves which are so readily represented by the oozing crescendos of the song’s structure and progression.
34. ‘Anchi Bale Game’ by Admas
If you are looking to learn something a little more difficult in the realm of Ethiopian music, then you have found yourself in the right place. This track from Admas is oozing with character and seeks to be orally taught to a new generation of listeners.
35. ‘The Way I Walk’ by the Cramps
No doubt one of the Cramps’ best covers ever, this is a low-down and dirty rockabilly boogie. You can literally hear the barn crumbling as the living dead rise from their graves to subsume whoever stands too long in their path.
So, there you have it! Hopefully, you are now feeling ready and able to find a new song to learn and hopefully extend your scope of listening and appreciating different styles of music.
FAQs Popular Guitar Songs
The best way to engage in a guitar practice regimen that you will actually benefit from is to choose to learn music that you like.
While there is no one song that is categorically the easiest to play on guitar, there are a few contenders. These are usually the kind of songs that are trotted out by guitar tutors on those seminal first few lessons.
Though it is difficult to say outright what the most famous guitar progression is, there are a number of contenders, as well as a progression that many would suggest, is one of, if not the most, popular or well-utilized chord progressions in the history of Western music. This rears its head in the form of C – G – Am – F (I – V – vi – IV) – here, in the key of C major, capital letters will represent major chords and lowercase letters minor chords. This would be the same if the key was C minor – the capital letters would be representative of a minor chord and the lowercase of a minor chord.
Allegedly, the 3 most common guitar chords in popular Western music are G, C, and D. These are all relatively safe chords that have a pretty direct relationship with one another, so this should hardly be surprising. Indeed, these chords are said to present in thousands and thousands (perhaps even millions) of songs, either separately as a distinct progression in any configuration of the three.