15 Easy To Learn Guitar Songs For Beginners

Best easy to play guitar songs for beginners

You have finally decided to follow up on your promise of learning how to play the guitar. But how can you learn to play it as quick as possible? 

Some songs are easier to play and learn than others. There are strong benefits of knowing which songs to learn first: the feeling of mastering a new skill quickly gives you more motivation to learn even more. It creates momentum going forward. In addition, a lot of the songs that are considered to be easy are also the most fun to play.

It is actually the best possible way to learn something new, regardless of what it is.

So, what are the best and easiest beginner songs on the guitar? Well, you should give these legendary songs a try: 

  1. Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple
  2. Hurt – Johnny Cash Version
  3. Don’t Forget Me – Red Hot Chili Peppers 
  4. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – U2 
  5. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan 
  6. Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty
  7. Otherside – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  8. With Or Without You – U2
  9. I’m Yours – Jason Mraz
  10. Seven Nation Army – White Stripes
  11. Have You Ever Seen the Rain – Creedence Clearwater
  12. Redemption Song – Bob Marley 
  13. I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You – Elvis Presley
  14. One – Metallica
  15. Heart of Gold – Neil Young

Whether you have an acoustic, electric or a steel guitar, you are sure to find something of value in this post. ‘Easy’ is a word that of course is very subjective, so don’t despair if you still think some of the songs presented are hard to learn.  

Let’s get to it.

Smoke On The Water (Deep Purple)

The legendary intro riff from the 1973 album Machine Head, has definitely kept its popularity over the years.

The song has been ranked highly in several “greatest guitar riffs”- polls and with good reason. It has become an iconic song, in part thanks to its memorable guitar riff.

Ritchie Blackmore was the guy who created the riff. He stated that none of the band’s friends really liked the riff because it was too simplistic. 

Well, Beethoven’s 5th symphony has a similar 4-note arrangement, so there is nothing wrong with being simple from time to time.  

What will this improve in your guitar playing?
Smoke On The Water is the perfect song to learn for any beginner. Its steady rhythm and sort of inverted power-chords makes it a fun challenge and a great, easy riff to learn quickly.

Hurt (Johnny Cash Version)

Hurt is a pretty straightforward song about self-harm and drug addiction. It was originally written by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and later covered and made iconic by Johnny Cash. 

Reznor was so impressed with the performance of Cash (who had serious health issues at the time of recording) that he stated:

…Tears welling, silence, goosebumps…Wow, I felt like I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore.

Trent Reznor

And yup, the Johnny Cash version has become universally acclaimed by almost anyone, including the original writer.

What will this improve in your guitar playing?
Due to Hurt being played in a fingerpick-y-then strummed way, you will start to master these new techniques if all you have been playing up until this point is strummed chords.

Don’t Forget Me (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

It is maybe not the most famous song by RHCP, but if you play the electric guitar and have an effect pedal, you can make this as immersive as the original.

It is built around 4 chords (Am-F-C-G) that are played repeatedly throughout the song. In fact, Anthony Kiedis, the lead singer, describes it as ‘painfully simple’. 

What will this improve in your guitar playing?
Each chord in Don’t Forget Me is played by strumming once, followed by holding your fingers on your left hand loosely over all the strings while strumming down and back up.

This results in a muted sound between the chord transitions. A technique you definitely will be using in a lot of ways later on as well.

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (U2)

Considered one of the greatest tracks in music history by several critics, this 1987 hit was U2’s second consecutive number-one single on the US Billboard Hot 100.  

It is one of the most famous songs they ever created and one of my favorite U2 songs as well. 

It is fairly easy to learn and easy to play, proving that not everything needs to be complex and highly technical in order to be considered a great music piece. 

What will this improve in your guitar playing?

In general, songs by U2 are ideal for you who have an electric guitar and some guitar pedals available. The guitarist of U2, Edge, frequently uses heavy reverb, echo and delay to get the unique sound. 

So, more than anything, it will improve your ability to experiment with effects.

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan)

When you first learn the guitar, hours can just fly by!

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door was the first song I ever learned to play on the guitar. I can still remember sitting on the bed trying to change the chords in the correct tempo while trying to sing at the same time. 

It took a couple of days getting it just right, I think. But more importantly, this song really sparked my interest in learning more.

It has a relatively easy chord progression: G-D-Am, and then G-D-C.

Originally written for the movie Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, this song is one of Bob Dylan’s most famous ones and it has been covered by several artists including Guns n’ Roses, Eric Clapton and more.

What will this improve in your guitar playing?
If you are a complete beginner, this song will make you better at understanding chord transitions very quickly. In addition, the chords are relatively simple to learn, making it an ideal beginner guitar song.

Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty)

Easily one of the most recognizable guitar intros and riffs in the world. Everyone can sing along with this because of its simplicity. 

Actually, there are two guitars simultaneously playing the well-known melody in two different ways. 

And the way the two guitars complete each other is what makes this song so cool to play. 

It is seemingly simple, but the addition of an extra guitarist makes this harmonically complex as well.

Tom Petty played it like this: 
6-string guitar

  1. Capo on the first fret. 
  2. Chords: E-Asus4-Asus4-E-B4

The other guitarist, Mike Campbell, played it like this: 
12-string guitar

  1. Capo on the third fret. 
  2. Chords: D-G-G-D-Asus4

What’s also really interesting about this song is that it was written and recorded in just two days. 

Petty write it along with Jeff Lynne, and it turned out to be the opening track on Petty’s 1989 debut solo album Full Moon Fever. 

Free Fallin’ is Petty’s longest-charting tracks. It has been featured in movies like Jerry Maguire and TV series like The Sopranos. 

Also, hundreds of artists have covered the song, most famously John Mayer, which has further enhanced the song’s popularity. 

What will this improve in your guitar playing?
Some of the chords being played are what we call SUS chords. They are often looked at as really emotive. Free Fallin’ is a nice introduction to learning and understanding them. 

In addition, if you have a friend who also is a beginner, you can jam on this song together. 

Otherside (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Again RHCP steals a spot. This time with Otherside, which was released in 2000.

It has a pretty simple chord progression: Am-F-C-G.

Otherside refers to Hillel Slovak, the band’s former guitarist who died of an overdose in 1988.

The song is one of their top 10 most-performed songs. It has been featured on almost every tour since its release.

The song has since been sampled by Macklemore and remixed by Third Party (2010) and Paul Oakenfold (2015).

What will this improve in your guitar playing?
Due to it being relatively slow-paced and easy to remember, it is a perfect song to practice in order to improve your finger action. 

With or Without You (U2)

Wait, another U2 song you say? Yup. But for a different reason than the first time.

Sometimes, the hardest thing is to make things simple. I dare to say that U2 has mastered this since the very beginning in 1976.  

It has been featured in a lot of “top 100 pop songs” charts, “best songs of all time” and so on. It is definitely one of U2’s most famous songs.

But… Have you ever heard of the “4-chord song”?

Nowadays, it is basically a formula – or the main 4 chords that ‘every’ pop song follows. 

Axis of Awesome knew this, and performed several famous songs, including With or Without You using the chord progression D-A-Bm-G.

(or, you can also play C-G-Am-F if you prefer these chords in the beginning stages)

Worth noting is that, in With or Without You, no one is actually playing those chords, but the bass roots and the guitar parts combined are implying that those are the chords that are being played.

Truth be told, the composition of With or Without You is actually far more complex and sophisticated than being just a 4-chord song. However, just by playing the 4 chords, you can play A LOT of other songs as well.

Other songs you can play using the same chord progression:

  • “I’m Yours” (Jason Mraz)
  • “You’re Beautiful” (James Blunt)
  • “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” (Elton John)
  • “Take on Me” (a-ha)
  • “Don’t Stop Believing” (Journey)
  • “Forever Young” (Alphaville)
  • “Take Me Home, Country Roads” (John Denver)
  • “No Woman, No Cry” (Bob Marley)
  • “Africa” (Toto)

…and 100’s of more songs!

What will this improve in your guitar playing?
As you can see, by learning this song, you also learn 100+ additional songs at the same time.

(Be aware though, that the chord progression might differ on some songs, but the chords being played are still the same. Just in a different order).

I’m Yours (Jason Mraz)

Wait, didn’t I just mention this along with the 4-chord songs in the last subheading?

Yes, I did. But the reason I feel the need to recommend this has nothing to do with what chords are being played.

It has something to do with how the chords are being played.

The lovely, crisp, muted sound is easily recognizable and easier to accomplish than you might think.

How to make a muted sound on the guitar
Rest the side of your picking hand lightly over the strings very close to the bridge while you’re strumming. 

What will this improve in your guitar playing?
This song is perfect to practice the muted technique. 

Seven Nation Army (White Stripes)

When you are beginning to learn how to play the guitar, you’ll find some songs to be more fun to play than others.

Seven Nation Army is such a song. 

The riff is quite bassy – it could easily have been written for bass guitar instead of the guitar. Its dynamic, tight and rhythmical melody makes it easy to remember. It is quite easy to learn as well, and you will definitely have some fun playing this.  

This song has become somewhat of a sports anthem in recent years, with the audience chanting the well-known melody.

Released in 2003, it has been touted as one of the best songs of the 2000s decade.

Did You know?
The title of the song is actually based on writer Jack White’s mispronunciation of the Salvation Army when he was a kid. 

What will this improve in your guitar playing?
Learning this song will improve your sense of rhythm. It is a great introduction to playing more intricate solos later on. Your fingers need to get used to moving, and this song is great for this.

Have You Ever Seen The Rain (Creedence)

Written by John Fogerty, this timeless classic from Creedence Clearwater Revival topped charts all around the world when it was released in 1971.

It has a pretty straightforward chord progression and is played with a little bit of slapping the strings with the palm mute technique (same technique as with I’m Yours mentioned earlier). 

Have You Ever Seen the Rain has been covered by a lot of other artists, such as Bonnie Tyler, Rod Stewart, Johnny Cash, R.E.M and many, many other.

Verse: C-G-C-G-C
Chorus: F-G-C-C/G-Am-F-G-C

What will this improve in your guitar playing?
The palm mute technique is a must-know skill. The added dynamics made by the transitional melodies make this song a great guitar song for beginners.

Redemption Song (Bob Marley)

So simple. So sincere. Just his voice and his guitar. This song is considered by many as one of his greatest songs.

Bob Marley wrote this in 1979, after being diagnosed with the cancer that ultimately ended his life two years later.

Redemption Song is a living proof that you don’t need a huge band or an orchestra to make an emotional impact.

Like many of the songs featured in this list, this song has been covered multiple times by artists like Dave Matthews, Eddie Vedder, Beyoncé and more.

Verse: G-Em-C-C/G-Am (D)
Chorus: G-C-D-G-C-D-Em-C-D-G-D-G-C-D

What will this improve in your guitar playing?
Despite being a seemingly simple song, there are a lot of chord transitions in this. This will definitely help you improve your musical memory as well as help you practice the chords themselves. 

Can’t Help Falling In Love (Elvis Presley)

It’s almost impossible doing a list like this without including the king of rock, don’t you agree?  

Can’t Help Falling In Love was released in 1961 along with the movie Blue Hawaii. The melody is based on a popular french love song from the 1700s.

Elvis often used to play this song at the very end during live performances.  

The song has since been recorded by lots of other artists such as Bob Dylan, UB40 and many more.

Chords – Elvis Version
Capo on the second fret
Verse: C-Em-Am-F-C-G
Chorus: F-G-Am-F-C-G-C

What will this improve in your guitar playing?
If you are a complete beginner, this is a song that is great to learn in order to get a grip on the basic chords used.

One (Metallica)

This 1989 song by the famous heavy metal band Metallica is a rather sinister one. 

The song is about an unfortunate soldier during World War 1 who steps on a landmine. With his body being destroyed he is unable to communicate with the hospital staff. He now needs to find a way to get his wish of being put to final rest across. 

One was actually Metallica’s first top 40 hit single in the United States.

By all means, this is not the easiest song to play on this list. The intro itself is the part you should focus on if you are on a beginner-level.

What will this improve in your guitar playing?
If you are a beginner, this is a song that is great to learn in order to get better at fingerpicking.

The solo parts also make it a different challenge than some of the other songs on this list.

Heart of Gold (Neil Young)

Let’s end this list with another timeless classic acoustic guitar piece – Heart of Gold.

This song is simple and comforting to listen to. And the background of this song is quite interesting:

Neil Young had back problems for a while and was unable to stand for long periods of time. Playing the electric guitar was suddenly a hassle.

Therefore, he turned to his acoustic guitar which he managed to play sitting down. The result of this period was Heart of Gold.

The chord progression is quite easy, so if you have an old harmonica somewhere, you can try playing it at the same time. 

It has been covered by many artists. Most famously by Johnny Cash, who I now realize covered a lot of songs during his time.

What will this improve in your guitar playing?
If you are a beginner, this is a fairly easy song that is great to learn in order to get better at strumming and working on the transitions between chords.

Last Words

As with any song, world-class guitarists can turn any of these tracks into highly complex and technical masterpieces. 

Being able to do such things is a result of years of practicing the guitar.

That is why I want you to remember that playing the guitar should be a fun, relaxing hobby more than anything.

You are not in competition with anyone but yourself. 

So take your time learning these tracks correctly, and enjoy the journey just as much as the results!

Looking for even more songs to learn? Then you should check out this article that shares 10 more easy guitar songs to learn.

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Suggested Further Reading

Thomas Leypoldt

Hey there! My name is Thomas and I have been a film composer for over 10 years, delivering music to feature films, documentaries, video games, and commercials. I share everything I have learned on this website, to hopefully be of help to your own development as a musician.

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