As anyone just starting out learning to play the guitar knows, trying to get your fingers in the right place to form chords and strum at the same time can be a major challenge, especially since most beginners are eager to start hearing their hard work pay off by playing actual songs. You may be surprised by how easy it is to get started playing popular, easy guitar songs after you’ve learned the basic major chords and a few minor chords! (Not sure how to reach chord charts? Check out this article.)
Whether the genre you’re looking for is rock, country, alternative, folk, or even pop, many popular songs simply use a progression of G, C, and D or A, or some combination thereof. You may want to invest in a capo, because it allows you to change the key of songs to accommodate these simple chord progressions, so the songs will be easier for you to learn. Below is a list of ten easy songs, with links to the chords and lyrics of each, that can help get you on your way to sounding like a pro.
“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” – Green Day
This great song by Green Day is a great choice for beginners, because it only contains four chords: G, Cadd9, D, and Em. Don’t let the Cadd9 business scare you; it’s basically just a modified G chord with the middle finger on the A string and the index finger on the D string on the second fret. The basic melody and picking pattern of the song can also be played on just a few notes until you feel confident enough to add in the rest while you strum.
“Bad Moon Rising” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
This 1960s classic by CCR uses only the chords D, A, and G, and is great for players just starting out. You may want to listen to the song while strumming to get the timing just right, but it’s a fairly simple song to learn overall.
“Mama Tried” – Merle Haggard
Another popular tune from the 1960s, “Mama Tried” is a three-chord song: D and G are the primary chords, while A7 (a slight variation of the A chord) is also used. When you feel like you’ve got the rhythm down, consider learning the intro and guitar solo, as well!
“Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
With an intro that is instantly recognizable to Southern rock fans everywhere, “Sweet Home Alabama” is a popular song to learn. The picking pattern may sound intimidating at first, but it is really just a few notes played on the D, Cadd9, and G chord progression. Try working on the strumming pattern before moving on to the individual notes so you can get a feel for the rhythm of the song.
“Come As You Are” – Nirvana
Considered by many grunge fans to be one of the signature songs of the early 90s, “Come As You Are” is a must-learn song for any player. The chords used are barre chords, so a true beginner might find them difficult, but the intro riff is surprisingly easy to learn and is sure to be a hit when played for friends and fans of Nirvana and grunge music in general. Check out the intro tab here.
“Check Yes or No” – George Strait
One of George Strait’s most popular songs, “Check Yes or No” is played using only three major chords and one minor chord. The catchy intro is a D, A, G progression, and each chord is played twice before starting the pattern over again.
“Ring of Fire” – Johnny Cash
If Elvis was the King of rock & roll, Johnny Cash was undoubtedly the King of three-chord songs. After you get the basic strumming pattern down, try to master the intro: it’s guaranteed to stay in your head for days.
“Strong Enough” – Sheryl Crow
“Strong Enough” is one of Sheryl Crow’s most popular songs, and it’s a great beginner song to learn on the acoustic guitar. Although the picking pattern might be a little tricky at first for a true beginner, the chords can be strummed while filler notes are added in to give the song a fuller sound.
“Long Time Gone” – Dixie Chicks
If you’re a fan of contemporary country music, “Long Time Gone” is an excellent, catchy song to add to your ever-expanding repertoire. It is another example of a song that uses only three chords for the majority of the piece, with an E added to the end of the bridge for variation.
“Paparazzi” – Lady Gaga
Sure to be a crowd-pleaser, the huge hit “Paparazzi” uses only a couple of minor chords along with G, C, and D.
These 10 tunes are just a taste of the easy guitar songs you can learn as a beginner! Want to learn even more? Check out this resource: Learn to Play 20 Songs Using 5 Easy Guitar Chords.
Photo by John Pastorello