12 easy songs to learn on the guitar
There’s nothing quite like learning to play the guitar.
From the moment you start to strum, you’ll feel an instant wave of excitement at the prospect of playing all of your favorite songs, and perhaps even writing a few of your own.
However, picking up a new instrument takes practice and dedication. While you might have dreams of riffing like Jimmy Page, it’s important to start slow and build up good playing technique — otherwise, you might end up getting frustrated and giving up, or acquiring some bad habits that are tricky to break.
With this in mind, here are 12 easy songs to learn on the guitar. These songs will give you a much-needed confidence boost, while honing your skills along the way.
1. John Denver – Leaving on a Jet Plane
John Denver is renowned for being a great guitar player and Leaving on a Jet Plane is without a doubt one of his most iconic songs. Released back in 1989, this country tune is perfect if you have a friend that’s heading off on a journey—or if you just want to quickly learn a classic.
With only four chords, a slow tempo, and simple melody, Leaving on a Jet Plane is one of the most beginner-friendly guitar songs out there.
2. Bruno Mars – Marry You
Upbeat and catchy, Bruno Mars’ 2011 hit Marry You is another incredibly easy song to learn if you’re just starting out with guitar. You’ll only need to learn three beginner chords (G, Em, and D) and the popular D-D-U-U-DU strumming pattern to start playing this acoustic track—making it perfect to learn over a handful of practice sessions.
3. Bob Dylan – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
The feeling of pulling out your guitar and strumming to one of the classics is incredible. And when it comes to iconic songs that are easy to learn on guitar, it’s hard to beat Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.
Recorded and released by the rock legend in 1973, this song is perfect for beginners because it only features four chords (G, D, Am7, and C), has a simple tune, and uses a common strumming pattern. Plus, once you’ve picked this one up, you can start slowly working your way towards learning the Guns N’ Roses version.
4. Coldplay – Yellow
Coldplay’s Yellow was released as part of their 2000 debut album Parachutes. Unlike some of the other songs on this list, Yellow features six chords: G, D, C, Em, Cmaj7, and Dm7. However, the song’s slow tempo gives you plenty of time to move between chords, and get some new chords under your belt while you’re at it.
5. Blind Melon – No Rain
Blind Melon’s 1993 hit No Rain reached multi-platinum status back in the day, and it still remains one of the best songs for newbie guitar players. Don’t be daunted by the chord progression—despite having five chords, No Rain’s relaxed rhythm makes it fairly straightforward to learn and play.
6. Maroon 5 – She Will Be Loved
A classic soft rock song from the noughties, Maroon 5’s She Will Be Loved is a great pick for novice guitar players. By putting the capo on the third fret, you can play this beautiful song with open, easy chords and hone your technique with the strumming pattern. You’ll be channeling your inner Adam Levine before you know it.
7. Vance Joy – Riptide
Want to learn a song that will lift everyone’s spirits? Vance Joy’s 2013 folk hit, Riptide, will definitely do the trick.
Although Riptide has a faster tempo than many other beginner songs at 102bpm, it’s fairly easy to learn, because you only need to know four chords: Am, G, C and Fmaj7. However, the strumming pattern is a bit more complex as it switches between the introduction and verses, chorus, and bridge—so it’s best to break it down and learn this one in sections.
8. 3 Doors Down – Here Without You
Here Without You was first released back in 2002, and has since gone on to become an anthem for deployed troops and their families back home.
While there are multiple chord progressions you can learn for this song, the most simple is made up of four chords—Bm, A, G, and D. Keep in mind that the band plays the chords a half-step down in the studio recording; however, standard tuning is fine when you’re just starting out.
9. Lorde – Royals (Bruce Springsteen cover)
At 85bpm and with only three chords to play, Lorde’s Royals is a perfect starting song for budding guitarists. The acoustic version of this award-winning 2013 track can be played using three basic chords (D, C, and G), accompanied with a D-U-D-U-D strumming pattern. Alternatively, you can play the chords with a D-U-D-U-D-U pattern—it’s up to you as an artist to decide which you prefer.
10. Green Day – Good Riddance (Time Of Your life)
If you’ve already picked up a few songs and are ready for something a little bit more challenging, it’s worth learning to play Green Day’s Good Riddance. This mellow 1997 ballad is pure acoustic rock, which means the focus is all on you, your voice, and your guitar.
To lock down the chord progression, you’ll need to learn the G, Cadd9, D, Em, and C chords—all of which should be fairly simple and straightforward if you have some experience. However, the strumming pattern is a little bit trickier as it switches between verses. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right away—just work on each section individually, then slowly piece it together.
11. The Animals – House of the Rising Sun
House of the Rising Sun was first released in 1964 and went on to enter the GRAMMY Hall of Fame more than three decades later. And while it’s definitely one of the greatest pop songs of the ‘60s, it’s quite easy for a beginner to learn this song on the guitar.
The trickiest part of learning House of the Rising Sun is getting all the chords down and transitioning between them. However, the strumming pattern is quite straightforward to wrap your head around, so you can focus on moving between the chords smoothly and to the beat.
12. Johnny Cash – Ring of Fire
The ‘60s were a golden era for country music, and there’s nobody quite as country as Johnny Cash. Ring of Fire was popularized by Cash in 1963 and is now regarded by many as one of the genre’s greatest songs of all time.
Despite its legendary status, Ring of Fire is relatively easy to learn as a new guitar player, as the chord progression is only made up of three chords: G, C, and D. The main challenge most beginners face with this song is the strum speed—at 207bpm, it requires a little bit more practice and rhythm to get the timing just right.
Have you come across any other guitar songs that are good for beginners? Leave it in the comments!