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First Songs to Learn on Guitar – Top Ten Easy Songs

What are the first songs you should learn to play on guitar? Well, since Guitar Noise pretty much pioneered the whole “easy guitar song lesson” we have plenty of songs to suggest!

Here are ten relatively simple songs for beginners to learn on guitar, complete with chords, tabs, step-by-step instruction, and audio examples as well. Our lessons also explain useful things about the music, so when you learn the featured song, you’ll also pick up some tricks to use when playing other songs.

Playing songs will help you with your chords, your rhythm and strumming and picking and pretty much all the basic guitar techniques. Plus, it makes playing a lot more fun! And these songs, while providing a bit of variety, can all be played on either an acoustic or electric guitar.

These songs feature a nice cross-section of the lessons on Guitar Noise. Some are newer songs, some older classics and even a couple of Public Domain songs that shouldn’t be ignored. Some lessons involve simple strumming patterns while others introduce you to the art of fingerpicking guitar.

1. Horse With No Name – America

Bearing a slight resemblance to the folky, acoustic rock of Neil Young, Horse With No Name is actually a classic rock song by America from 1972. It’s the perfect choice for your first song because it’s so easy. In fact, you can learn to play this song in less time than it takes to talk about it. There are just two chords to play, a simple 4/4 rhythm, and a moderate tempo. Don’t worry if you don’t know what that all means! Our lesson explains all that while teaching you to play it. Start with the the basic strumming and lyrics, and, if you want to you can try the solo and other strumming tricks. There’s even a bass part in case you know someone who plays bass.

2. For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield

For What It’s Worth is a golden oldie by Buffalo Springfield, a 60’s band that included both Stephen Stills and Neil Young.

Like Horse With No Name, our arrangement of this song uses just two chords, E and A, which you’ll find in countless other songs. We’ll also teach you a cool sounding percussive strumming technique that be used to spice up other songs you know.

3. House of the Rising Sun – The Animals, Bob Dylan and others

Now we’ve introduced you to basic strumming techniques, how about trying some fingerpicking? It’s easier than you think with our step-by-step instruction. This lesson will give you the basics as well as some cool variations to play with. House of the Rising Sun was made popular by The Animals in 1964, even though Bob Dylan recorded a distinctive acoustic version of it in for his 1962 debut album. The song itself dates back to 1700’s England and you can read its history here.

4. Scarborough Fair – Simon and Garfunkel and others

Simon and Garfunkel - Greatest HitsLike House of the Rising Sun, this is another familiar finger picking tune from way, way back. Scarborough Fair is so important in a solo guitarist’s repertoire that we have two different lessons on it. First is a simple, sparse beginners’ version taken from David’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Guitar using single notes and basic open chords. Our lesson also includes a PDF of the complete arrangement, or you can just download and enjoy the MP3.

And if this wets your whistle, you’re in for a real treat with our slightly more advanced version of the song. Just like the famous Simon and Garfunkel version, our beautiful arrangement of this song gets its haunting sound by placing a capo on the seventh fret. Follow the step-by-step instructions and anyone can play this, even a beginner.

5. Where Did You Sleep last Night? – Nirvana, Leadbelly and others

On Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York, Kurt Cobain attributes Where Did You Sleep Last Night to Huddie Leadbelly. In fact, this folk standard is even older than that. But the fact that Nirvana would be interested in covering it tells you something of the song’s relevance and appeal that has lasted up until today. Our arrangement, close to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Guitar version of “In the Pines” is a great introduction to power chords and the tab and audio examples are top notch.

6. Three Marlenas – The Wallflowers

Strumming and changing chords in tempo is one of the biggest challenges beginners face. Our lesson on Three Marlenas, a simple three chord song from The Wallflower’s 1996 album Bringing Down The Horse, pays special attention to making clean and smooth chord changes. Plus, you’ll learn about anticipations (changing before the beat) and also pick up some helpful strumming tips to make your playing more interesting.

7. Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffett

 

Margaritaville is another easy three-chord most people recognize from the opening notes. In this lesson you’ll add bass notes to your strumming and create a fuller sounding arrangement. People will think you’ve been playing guitar a lot longer than you really have.

8. Friend of the Devil – the Grateful Dead

Jerry GarciaHere you’ll use all the things you’ve learned up to this point to create a very cool single-guitar arrangement of the Grateful Dead classic Friend of the Devil. From Jerry Garcia’s signature walking bass-line to cool (and easy) fills, you’ll be making great music right away.

9. You Are My Sunshine

Remember the Soggy Bottom Boys from the movie O Brother Where Art Thou? When they sing You Are My Sunshine you realize this isn’t just a song for Barney and friends – in fact, it’s pretty depressing!

David uses this song to help you make faster and smoother chord changes, especially between the G and C chords. Check it out. If the words don’t make you happy at least the chord changes will.

10. Silent Night

Silent Night has always been one of my favorite easy songs to play. With just three chords the single guitar version we teach on Guitar Noise is simple and yet sounds beautiful enough to play in a church. It’s easy and short but also sweet and elegant sounding. And it should get you in the mood to try any of our many beautiful Christmas song lessons.

These ten songs are just the tip of the iceberg. The great thing about Guitar Noise lessons is all the theory and techniques we sneak in there. By the time you’ve mastered one of these easy guitar songs you’ll have also added new moves to your bag of tricks and most of these can be used in any other songs you play.

We’re adding more easy guitar songs for beginners all the time. Check out our latest lessons are here. And please make suggestions for other beginners’ songs in the comments area.

Signals Music Studio

48 Comments

  1. Raphael
    December 2nd, 2016 @ 10:19 am

    Great list mate!!
    I love acoustic guitars and those are definitely a good starting point.
    All the best
    Raphael

  2. Saith Paul
    November 2nd, 2016 @ 5:01 pm

    Thank you for the the clear well-written article. Your recommendations supported with your personal experience was eye opening. Thanks so much

  3. Andy
    October 29th, 2016 @ 1:07 pm

    Ended up here looking for ideas for my son and totally forgot that “Margaritaville” was my first one! Thanks for the memories bro!

  4. Dominic Fraser
    August 21st, 2016 @ 1:30 am

    I’ve been pulling out some old folk songs and spirituals for my students to work on. While it does not have the connection the incredible songs on your list do with this generation, it does let me keep our roots alive in the world of pop-synthesized music.

  5. Shane L. Edwards
    July 8th, 2016 @ 10:43 pm

    Thank for sharing. I’m a beginner and it really helpful for me :)

  6. eric crayon
    May 28th, 2016 @ 5:45 pm

    Thanks for this great and helpful post . All songs are great . Before song , I should decide about guitar . I got great reviews about Yamaha 700s , I think I will buy it . Then I will try your song . I hope I can play well :)

  7. Hong Sang
    May 2nd, 2016 @ 8:45 am

    Thank you for your sharing, that is easy beginner song and several song. The most important for beginners sing a song and play guitar together is remember all Chords of the Song. So beginners have to more more practice before soloing

  8. David
    February 24th, 2016 @ 3:26 am

    Best songs I have ever heard. I would love to learn Horse with no name. :D

  9. Johny
    January 7th, 2016 @ 3:50 am

    great list to learn. I love Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffett.

  10. Tim
    December 28th, 2015 @ 6:51 pm

    A pretty easy song to start off with is Marilyn Manson’s variation of Sweet Dreams by The Eurythmics. I really like what he did with the song, and it’s pretty easy for even beginners to play, even the solo. A beginner could definitely play the whole song all the way through.

    The Man Who Sold The World by David Bowie (the original version) is pretty easy, but there are a three groups of bursts of fast notes, a little practice will get the speed up enough though. That was the first song I learned all the way through. Nirvana’s version isn’t much harder, but David Bowie’s variation is better for complete beginners.. It’s definitely one to consider, though.

  11. Lincoln
    December 27th, 2015 @ 5:57 pm

    AC/DC made a fortune off of three chords. You can play the rhythm on almost every song from high voltage the album, up to back and black the album. Lots of three chord songs you can play the rhythm all the way through even if you tune your a to their a and play along with them.

  12. Alastair
    December 27th, 2015 @ 12:22 pm

    First song for me was the classic campfire track- Greenday -Good Riddance (Time of my life). Mixed finger picking, and strumming sections, 4 easy base chords, consistent rhythm, and sounds great. Next would be Amercian Pie by Don McLean, varied strumming and uses several important base chords. I still use this as a warm up track.

    Good list, I’ve only been playing for a year or so, and I’m always on the look out for new ideas to progress or just learn!

  13. Herm
    December 16th, 2015 @ 1:35 pm

    Great list about acoustic guitar song! I love For What It’s Worth

  14. pangky
    December 2nd, 2015 @ 8:10 am

    thanks for the info. This information is very useful for a beginner like me. Like this
    Knocking on heavens door

  15. Linh
    October 6th, 2015 @ 10:13 pm

    Why don’t have “my old guitar” of John Denver. This is the easy song good for beginning. Moreover, the melody’s sweet and and make me think of something in my past. So there are a lot of cool song for playing guitar at beginning out there, just find and feet it yourself, you will find out a good song.

  16. John
    September 24th, 2015 @ 3:22 pm

    Great list! Last Kiss is a good easy beginner song and several songs, much like some you have listed here, can be played with the exact chord progression used in that one. Another easy one I play fingerstyle is Everybody Hurts by REM. There are so many choices out there that I am sure we could make a list of thousands if we put our minds to it. There is more than enough for someone to get started and venture out and locate and learn other songs on thier own using the skills they learn from these. I am really liking this site. Thank you for some new inspirations and some very good suggestions for beginner guitarist.

  17. Hoa Nguyen
    April 8th, 2015 @ 9:44 am

    Great list about acoustic guitar song! I love House of the Rising Sun

  18. Guitar MC
    February 6th, 2015 @ 10:30 am

    Thanks for the list – I’ve been teaching full time for over ten years and have found a few songs that are very easy to teach especially when simplified:
    Jaws = open low E string and first fret played over and over/pitches actually match the original recording.
    Brain Stew = on low E string – notes are played 2x each starting on the 5th fret –> 3rd –> 2nd –> 1st –> open string.
    Electric Funeral = on low E string –0-0-7-8-8–0-2-3-2– then –0-7-6-5-3–
    Hot Cross Buns = on the high e string –4-2-0–4-2-0–0-0-0-0–2-2-2-2–4-2-0–
    When it comes to songs that use open chords “Collide” by Howie Day is a good beginner song to play/”What’s Up” by the Four Non-Blondes is also easier than most.

  19. Jim Painter
    January 6th, 2015 @ 1:03 pm

    The first song I learned to play was Happy Birthday. It is played using only the high E string but it gets you to play more of the fretboard. From second fret all the way to the 10th fret. The next song I learned was Silent Lucidity by Queensryche in fingerstyle. While I don’t recommend this as a beginners song it is a wonderful song to learn fingerstyle playing. Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line” is a great beginners song to learn. You can simplify the song down to just 3 chords (A, E and D). You can spice it up by changing your strumming patterns and by adding alternating bass notes for each chord. Lots of fun!

  20. gabz
    December 31st, 2014 @ 10:14 pm

    Dude…… any CCR … for acoustic rhythm……. bad moon rising easiest ever!!!!

    Foggerty also had lots of easy stuff. (Lead singer)

    • Paul Hackett
      January 1st, 2015 @ 12:32 am

      Dude, I love Fogerty and CCR. I listen to his music constantly. “Who’ll Stop The Rain” and “Proud Mary” are great songs for beginners.

      I’m afraid we don’t have any transcriptions of their music here. Hal Leonard licenses CCR and we don’t have a publishing deal with them yet. It may happen some day, and don’t go singing “Someday Never Comes” …

  21. Aidan
    October 19th, 2014 @ 3:53 am

    try yellow by coldplay and if you like anime try pokemon jhoto journeys theme song as well. If you want something a bit pinoy (philippine) and you want to level-up your skills you might want to learn Noipi by bamboo. My advice, just try and try until you go pro. Play your favorite songs even how hard they are and dont recognize what others say, be it good or bad. There is always room for improvement

  22. Sean Caron
    September 22nd, 2014 @ 8:14 am

    One of the songs that I teach beginners is Hendrix’s version of All Along The Watchtower. Simple 3 chord progression using moveable bar chords. I always start beginners with 6th string root bar chords first because those shapes move. It aids in getting the student comfortable with all of the notes and in memorizing the fretted notes.

    • Kirstie
      February 6th, 2015 @ 5:12 pm

      I’m also interested in songs for a female vocalist. I’m trying to learn guitar so I can accompany myself, ass-about probably but the fact remains. For me satisfaction would be something i can learn to play right through AND sing with. Can’t wait to see your ideas.

  23. Krystle
    September 11th, 2014 @ 12:36 pm

    What some more easy songs with a female vocal?

  24. Richie
    August 3rd, 2014 @ 11:13 am

    The first song I ever learned on guitar was “One” by Metallica. I was determined and I did it. Thats all you need, determination. It will help you play any song you want

  25. Victor
    May 30th, 2014 @ 7:12 am

    Awesome list. I already know 4 of these tracks. I think I should start on horse with no name. I love that song

  26. Dennis Fraser
    January 6th, 2014 @ 7:15 am

    Gary Jules’ version of Mad World is pretty easy to learn on acoustic guitar as well as Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah. Two of my favourite songs. It always helps to learn a song you love. It’s great encouragement for the beginner and makes giving up a bit less likely.

  27. Chris
    January 2nd, 2014 @ 7:41 am

    Great list though quite surpised some Beatles songs like “all you need is love” isn’t in the list.

  28. tom
    December 4th, 2013 @ 5:23 am

    Margarittaville by Jimmy Buffet was the first song I ever played on the guitar.

  29. Sam E
    December 1st, 2013 @ 12:52 am

    what about ‘Come As You Are’ ??????

    • Paul Hackett
      December 1st, 2013 @ 2:12 am

      Same as above. How about leaving a useful comment instead yelling out “Play Free Bird!”
      We love to see discussion on our blog, but disingenuous attempts to get links to your site won’t last long, nor endear us to your brand. Want to try again, Sam E?

      • Matt
        July 29th, 2014 @ 4:44 am

        Wow dude don’t be a dick. It was an honest question

      • Paul Hackett
        July 29th, 2014 @ 6:41 am

        Perhaps. But the original comment also linked to a music sales website. Every day hundreds of people try to add links to other sites here. With short comments it’s hard to know if the person is asking an honest question or just trying to get their link posted. Maybe I was having a bad day.

  30. Sam E
    November 30th, 2013 @ 10:41 pm

    What about ‘Smoke On The Water’ ??????

    • Paul Hackett
      December 1st, 2013 @ 12:17 am

      “Smoke on the Water” is a popular riff. But it’s not a song beginners can learn to play all the way through. Five minutes of a riff does not a song make. I think beginners should stick with learning complete songs. It’s especially important since beginners are almost certainly learning to play without a backing band.

      That’s not to say “Smoke on the Water” shouldn’t remain at the top of popular riff lists.

  31. jay
    September 28th, 2013 @ 7:35 am

    Thanks for the songs to try and learn i’ve only been playing a few weeks these should keep me busy for the next few days.

  32. Colin
    August 26th, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

    Hey guys, I’m getting it! Just managed to change between an E Major and an A chord smoothly and it sounded pretty good. I can now also play the opening riff to “Satisfaction” – yes I know it’s easy but I’m playing music!

    A question: I’m currently practicing about 30 minutes a day and a friend says I need to practice at least an hour every day. I’m reluctant to change since I feel that I am making progress. The key for me is to actually make something that actually sounds like a song. For me, it’s this that gives me pleasure.

  33. Colin
    August 25th, 2013 @ 4:00 am

    A great blog and some interesting examples of songs for beginners like myself. I have tried “Horse with No Name” and even this seems difficult to me. I have been playing for about 3 weeks, and the most difficult aspect for me is changing chords. The initial chord learning seems to be going ok but changing from one chord to the next is proving a real challenge!

  34. ZOT Zin Music
    May 3rd, 2013 @ 5:05 am

    Hello Paul,

    Great informative blog! I am always on the look out as a guitar teacher, for songs that my beginning students can learn in no time. This is really a great blog and it is showing you’re a great instructor.

    Wonderful Job! Waiting for your new blog!

  35. john ferrelli
    April 22nd, 2013 @ 4:42 pm

    need lots of help hope use can help and im hurting for money and just hade major surgery music helps me so much!

  36. Bobby Kittleberger
    March 22nd, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

    I would add Smells Like Teen Spirit (even though I hate that song) oddly enough, Korn’s cover of Word Up.

  37. Jack
    January 22nd, 2013 @ 2:08 am

    I simply can’t understand this guitar teacher’s obsession with Horse with no name. It’s ng, realls love it, but it’s also played with a touch of swing time, and that’s the very last thing on earth you want a complete beginner to get into. In the beginning, it might be better to concentrate on slow songs with a standard 4/4 rhythm, so the learners can the idea of rhythm down before branching out into stuff like that.

    A

    • Stephen
      September 16th, 2013 @ 10:16 am

      What other classic piece of guitar material can be played entirely at the second fret ( with 4 chords if you want to, is a lilting and musical tune with great lyrics? Makes my list any day.

  38. corey
    January 13th, 2013 @ 12:50 pm

    Lead belly has a bunch of songs good for a beginner who is literally a beginner up to more intermediate stuff. Good for those interested in rock blues or possibly even country/bluegrass. Where did you sleep last night and house of the rising sun come from him.

  39. Paul Hackett
    December 17th, 2012 @ 8:58 am

    “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” could have easily made this list. We’ve looked at that song briefly in Leading Questions and again in Tricks of the Trade. Those lessons are mainly about creating guitar solos; but it’s a great song for strumming. It’s a lot easier, and far more rewarding, to learn something you can play all the way through. Learning a riff and not being able to play the whole song is a bit of a let down, for both the player and listener.

    I saw another website listing “All Right Now” by Free as one of the all time easiest rock songs to learn. It only has two chords, A and D, but they’re not regular shaped A and D chords. There’s a lot more to playing “All Right Now” than cranking up the amp and hammering the chords. I’d say it’s a fairly tricky song for beginners. The songs on our list you should be able to play all the way through.

  40. Mark
    December 9th, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

    Knocking on Heaven’s Door and Wild Thing are good beginner chord songs. Electric Funeral, Mission Impossible are good tab songs.

    • Aidan
      October 19th, 2014 @ 3:54 am

      also yellow by coldplay