If you play guitar, you’ve probably heard friends say things like, “I’ve always wanted to learn guitar, but it looks too hard and probably takes too long.” Or maybe you want to pick up guitar but worry about the same things.
There’s no need; while some guitar skills will undoubtedly take longer (in some cases months or even years) to learn and master, most new guitar students are surprised and delighted to discover the vast number of easy guitar songs one can play using just the chords C, G, and D.
Once you’ve learned to switch between the most common five or six chords, you can confidently approach learning to play hundreds, if not thousands, of popular songs. In the following, we’ll look at 28 easy guitar songs for beginners and include links to relevant tabs and lessons.
Why These Songs?
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of easy guitar songs beginner guitarists can learn that use only the basic chords. So why did we choose these twenty-eight?
For one thing, the songs on our list represent a variety of styles and genres; beginner guitarists should find plenty of songs they’ll want to explore, regardless of their taste.
All the guitar songs for beginners on our list can be played “campfire” style, so to speak; you need not know every guitar fill, for example, to enjoy playing “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” for your friends.
In fact, many of the songs on our list have parts beginners may find challenging; it’s part of the reason we chose them. Most beginners likely won’t yet have the skill to nail the intro to Van Morrison’s Brown-Eyed Girl, for example, but they can easily master the chord progression and strumming patterns as they work to develop those skills.
The Basic Chords
The “main” or “basic” guitar chords are those beginner guitarists should tackle first. While there is some disagreement as to how many chords should be included in this designation (some argue six, some ten, some twelve, just to name a few,) but the vast majority seem to agree on the following: A, D, E, C, G, A minor, D minor, and E minor.
If you learn the abovementioned eight chords, you’ll be more than prepared to learn countless popular songs. Obviously, the more chords and chord variations you learn and master, the more songs you’ll be able to tackle.
I’ve played guitar for years and still, from time to time, come across a chord form I’ve yet to see; still, knowing the basics will help you incorporate new chord variations into your playing.
How To Read Chords
All this sounds good, you may be thinking, but how hard is it to learn a chord, and how long does it take? After all this talk of guitar songs suitable for beginners, are we back to guitar taking too long to learn? Take a deep breath; learning chords is as simple as being able to read a chord chart, which is quite simple indeed.
Guitar chord charts are, essentially, snapshots of a section of a guitar’s neck. The vertical lines of a chord chart represent your guitar’s strings, while the horizontal lines represent a series of frets.
The proper fingerings for a particular chord are marked with a series of 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s, indicating which finger should hold which strings, and at which frets. For reference, 1 is index finger, 2 is middle finger, 3 is ring finger, and 4 represents the pinky of the fretting hand.
There may be one or more X’s along the top of a chord diagram; these let you know the string in question should be muted.
The mark ‘O’ in the chart indicates an open string, meaning that the string should be played without pressing down any frets.
How To Place A Capo
If you don’t know what a capo is, don’t worry–these useful guitar tools are inexpensive and easy to use. A capo is a small device that is placed on your guitar’s neck and fretboard that changes the key of the chords you play.
Capos are also useful when playing with a singer, who may or may not be able to sing in the song’s original key. A capo is a great way to alter the key without having to resort to music theory or alternate, more difficult to play chord-positions.
The most popular style of capo today is the trigger capo; to apply, simply squeeze the mechanism open, place it on the desired fret of your guitar, and let go. Be sure to place the capo as close to the fret wire as possible without actually touching it to avoid buzzing.
To know more details about how to use a capo, click here.
How To Practice Effectively And Make Progress
Guitar is a lot of fun, and beginner guitarists will tend to over-practice rather than not practice enough. While the ambition of such newbies is admirable, there are potential downsides to over-practicing early in your guitar journey.
Learning guitar will require you to use your body in entirely new ways, from how you sit to how you hold your arms and hands. Too much of this, or any new posture all at once can potentially cause aches, pains, or worse. Few things will discourage a new guitarist more quickly or completely.
New guitarists will be better served sticking to a prescribed practice schedule and keeping unscheduled practice sessions within reason. It’s also a good idea to alternate between practicing sitting and standing.
Practice is essential to becoming a good guitarist but remember that your guitar journey is a marathon and not a sprint; slow and steady often wins the race.
Guitar Songs For Beginners
1. Happy Birthday – Traditional
The first song on our list of easy guitar songs suitable for beginners is one just about everyone knows well. The song Happy Birthday has been around long enough for its origins to have become obscured, and its popularity shows no signs of waning.
Impressing your friends with a performance of Happy Birthday will take some practice, but it’s a great exercise in playing melodies.
Check out Happy Birthday Guitar TAB here.
2. Three Little Birds – Bob Marley
Three little chords–A, D and E–are all you’ll need to impress your friends with this perennial Bob Marley classic. If you find the reggae strumming pattern of this song difficult, try using a more standard pattern until you work it out.
3. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan
Few people remember the 1973 film Pat Garret and Billy the Kid, but everyone remembers at least one song included on the movie’s soundtrack, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.
Nobel laureate and cultural icon Bob Dylan’s gospel-flavored folk classic enjoyed renewed life when it was covered by Guns and Roses and enjoys radio play to this day.
Four chords – G, C, D and A minor are all it takes to play this favorite.
4. Horse With No Name – America
“The ocean is a desert with its life underground and the perfect disguise above.” With sophisticated lyrics such as these, one might expect the accompanying music to be complex–it certainly paints an effective picture in somber tones, after all.
Thankfully, this isn’t the case; four extremely simple (if somewhat novel) chords are all there: Em, D6/9, Em9, and Dmaj9.
The strumming patterns for this song may take a little practice, but the song is a lot of fun to play and more than simple enough for beginners.
5. Wild Thing – The Troggs
Another easy guitar song is Wild Thing, by the Troggs. Arguably the second greatest party singalong song of all time (coming in behind Louis, Louis) Wild Thing has become firmly ensconced in our popular culture.
Four major chords are all you’ll need to get your friends singing and clapping along, making Wild Thing one of the best beginner guitar songs to master.
Don’t forget to learn the guitar chords.
6. Brown-Eyed Girl – Van Morrison
This classic Van Morrison favorite offers beginner guitarists the best of both worlds: a simple, easily mastered chord progression along with an intro that represents something to shoot for.
7. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
It’s impossible to deny–there’s just something special about Lynyrd Skynyrd’s rock anthem, Sweet Home Alabama; few rock songs remain as relevant or enjoy as much enduring popularity.
Catchy, upbeat, and boasting some iconic guitar work, Sweet Home Alabama is actually rather simple to play. Start by mastering the four chords used, then try learning the entire riff, fills and all, at your own pace.
8. Stand By Me – Ben E. King
Enduring proof that less can be more, Ben E. King’s Stand By Me is a lesson in elegant simplicity. C, A minor, F, and G are the only chords you need to play this hit. For an interesting, reggae-like twist on the strumming pattern, check out John Lennon’s cover.
9. Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty
Unless you’ve just arrived on Earth, chances are you’ve heard Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’. The wildly successful hit off Full Moon Fever utilizes only four chords. The song is easiest played with a capo on the third fret.
Take a look at the guitar chords of Free Fallin’.
10. Shake It Off – Taylor Swift
If you’re looking to play easy guitar songs but your tastes tend more toward pop than rock, blues, or folk, take a swing at this mega-hit from Taylor Swift.
A simple chord progression and fun, easy strum pattern make this up-tempo offering a whole lot of fun to play.
11. Wonderful Tonight – Eric Clapton
Next on our list of easy guitar songs is Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight. Even if you don’t yet have the chops to attempt Clapton’s soulful, bend-laden intro line, you can still master the song’s chords.
12. Achy-Breaky Heart – Billy Ray Cyrus
Billy Ray Cyrus managed one solo hit song during his ultimately forgettable career; written by country musician Don Von Tress, Achy Breaky Heart is a fun, catchy song utilizing only two chords, A and E.
13. Bad Moon Rising – Credence Clearwater Revival
One of the most recognizable guitar parts ever, CCR’s Bad Moon Rising elevates three simple chords into something you could reasonably call a riff. You don’t need to hear past the initial D chord to be sure you’re listening to this iconic song.
D, A, and G are the only chords you’ll need to have mastered to play this folk/rock staple.
Take a look at the guitar chords.
14. Love Me Do – The Beatles
The Beatles’ first single, Love Me Do, was so simple that producer George Martin insisted the band include a harmonica intro. According to numerous sources, John Lennon had to borrow a harmonica to record the impromptu addition to this now classic song.
Believe it or not, G, C, and D are the only chords you’ll need to play this Beatles favorite.
15. Chasing Cars – Snow Patrol
When looking for easy guitar songs to add to your repertoire, don’t overlook Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars. A catchy, fun song to play, Chasing Cars uses only five chords and employs an almost percussive strumming pattern.
16. The Joker – The Steve Miller Band
Space cowboys and gangsters of love the world over rejoice! The only chords you need to play this rock classic by the Steve Miller Band are G, Cadd9, D, and Dsus4.
17. Wonderwall – Oasis
One of the easiest guitar songs to play is Oasis’ Wonderwall. Five simple chords are all you need to know to play this song off the band’s second album.
Take a look at the guitar chords.
18. Born In The USA – Bruce Springsteen
Another song suitable for beginner guitar players is Springsteen’s mega-hit Born in the USA. A simple two-chord progression, Born in the USA is easiest played using G and C chords with a capo on the fourth fret (as shown in the tutorial below) or using A and D chords with a capo on the second fret (as described in the below tab.)
Either way, this epic stadium-shaker is easy and fun to play.
19. Something In The Way – Nirvana
When it comes to easy acoustic guitar songs, few match the simplicity of Nirvana’s Something in the Way. A guitar part so lethargic Kurt Cobain reportedly reclined on a couch and recorded it without a click, this melancholy dirge is deceptively fun to play along to.
One of the simplest acoustic guitar songs for new players, Something in the Way can either be played using F# and D on a guitar in drop-d tuning tuned down a half-step, as explained in the tab, or in drop D tuned down a whole step, as demonstrated in the tutorial.
20. Used To Love Her – Guns N’ Roses
This tongue-in-cheek offering off GNR’s Lies EP is a super easy guitar song requiring only three major chords to play. Reminiscent of the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers,” Used To Love Her consists exclusively of D, A, and G.
21. Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) – Green Day
If you’re looking to learn some easy acoustic songs, have a go at Green Day’s Good Riddance. An enduring hit for the band, this song’s big sound belies its simplicity; five simple chords are all you need to play this perennial crowd-pleaser: G, Cadd9, D, Em, and C.
Make sure to study the guitar chords.
22. What’s Up? – 4 Non Blondes
When it comes to easy guitar songs for beginners, few fit the bill as well as What’s Up? A one-hit-wonder from the band 4 Non-Blondes, What’s Up is a catchy, laid-back number with soaring melodies and a great hook.
Though it may have faded some with time, it would be hard to overstate the popularity and impact of the song upon its release.
A, B minor, and D are the only chords you’ll need to play this fun, simple throwback.
23. All The Small Things – Blink 182
Punk-pop standard-bearers Blink-182 bring us the next entry on our list of easy guitar songs for beginners. An up-tempo head-bopper, All the Small Things is a fun, energetic song that requires a mere three chords to play: C, G, and F.
24. Blowin’ In The Wind – Bob Dylan
This timeless folk tune is a must-have in every beginner’s repertoire. With its slow tempo and easy chord progression (C, F, G), it’s a great song to practice your guitar playing.
No worries about complicated power chords but need to tackle a barre chord here.
Be sure to practice the guitar chords.
25. Mannish Boy – Muddy Waters
A blues standard, Mannish Boy by Muddy Waters and guitarist Jimmy Rogers may not exactly qualify as an easy guitar song, but it still belongs on our list of guitar songs for beginners.
It offers great practice learning an iconic blues line and serves as an introduction to some more interesting chords.
26. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
Seven Nation Army is a must-know anthem for beginner guitarists looking to rock out on their electric guitar. This iconic song offers a perfect blend of simplicity and excitement.
With its catchy riff and easy chords like E, G, D, C, B and A; it’s a fantastic entry point into the world of playing popular tunes. But to sound like the original recording and to add an extra punch, you can use open A tuning and experiment with the octave effect.
27. Yellow – Coldplay
Yellow was the first major hit of Coldplay, transposed down a semitone to the key of B, offers a great opportunity to practice intermediate-level skills. With its catchy melody and heartfelt lyrics, the song uses both barre chords and easy chords like B, Badd11, F#, E, and G#m.
If the song seems difficult for a beginner guitarist then they can learn this song in standard tuning using guitar chords like C, G, F, Am and Gm.
28. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
Wish You Were Here is an all-time party favorite might seem tricky at first for beginner guitarists, especially with its intro that combines picking out individual notes and strumming.
But fear not! You can easily learn the strumming pattern and chord shapes, making this song a breeze. It’s a great opportunity to explore slightly more complicated rhythms and expand your musical repertoire.
With chords like G, Em, A, C, D and Am; you’ll captivate everyone with the melancholic beauty of this timeless classic.
Familiarize yourself with the guitar chords of the song.
About the Author
Gustavo is a music teacher and classical guitar player from Brazil, currently residing in Dublin, Ireland. He holds a graduate degree in Classical Guitar Performance from the Federal University of Pelotas. In 2020, Gustavo successfully completed a Master's degree in Sound Engineering from the Academy of Sound in Ireland.