Do you want to know the secret to improving your guitar playing?
It's this: learn more songs.
Think about it for a second. We all learn a few songs when we start playing the guitar. We learn the chords to Wish You Were Here, or Knockin' On Heaven's Door. But often, we don't push on beyond a few tried and tested songs.
There's a major flaw to doing that. Our hands get used to playing those same chords in that same pattern, and we stop stretching ourselves. As a musician that can really stunt your growth.
The solution is simple: learn more songs.
But I don't have the time to learn new songs
You don't need loads of time to learn new songs.
You only need to spend an hour or two a week learning a new song - but the pay off is huge. You'll increase your repertoire massively and have new songs, yes, new songs to play next time your mates are around.
Oh but hang on a minute there Champ Kind, I'd rather spend my time learning scales and stuff because that's what all the great guitar players do.
Well. Building learning new scales, modes and all that is great, as is building a great guitar practice, but not at the detriment of learning new songs. Finding the right balance is important - you want a nice blend of practice (technique, scales, etc) and learning songs.
Not sure which songs to learn?
Ok, we've taken some of the guess work out of it for you. Here's a list of easy guitar songs to learn. A mix of old and new, each song on the list is worth learning.
Before you know it, you'll have built up a body of songs that you can play from memory. And in the process you'll have vastly improved your knowledge of songwriting and song structure. Not a bad thing, eh!
Ok, enough talk. To the songs. Enjoy 🙂
Ok, let's get started...
Love Me Do - The Beatles
This simple three chord song is easy to play for players of any level. Obviously sounds better with some vocal harmonies thrown in, in true Lennon / McCartney style.
Horse With No Name - America
The song that sounds like a Neil Young song, but bizarrely isn't! It's a great song all the same, and super easy to play.
Proud Mary - Creedence Clearwater Revival
This stomper form Creedence is another easy guitar song that has that catchy 'rolling like a river' line. Joyful to play and sing along to, especially around a campfire.
Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond
Pretty cheesy song, but it's easy enough to play and it's a crowd pleaser if your audience is mostly over the age of 60!
Wonderful World - Sam Cooke
Gorgeous song. So nice I had to include the original song below so you can listen to the true magnificence of the song! Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, they all did versions, but Sam Cooke's is arguably the best.
Stuck In The Middle With You - Stealers Wheel
Made famous by Tarantino's classic 90's movie Reservoir Dogs, this bubblegumm Dylanesque number is an absolute belter. Just learn it, ok.
I'm On Fire - Bruce Springsteen
A touch of Springsteen should adorn any song list, and this one's no different. Springsteen's I'm on Fire is easy to play, and provided you get the intonation right is an awesome song, just practice the opening 'Hey little girl, is your daddy home' and you should be fine.
Hand In My Pocket – Alanis Morissette
A surprising addition to the song list, this one from Alanis is a delight to belt out. 'I've got one hand in my pocket and the other skinning a high five'!
Teach Your Children - CSN&Y
70's supergroup CSN&Y's classic album Deja Vu is worth checking out if you haven't already. This number, Teach Your Children, is witty and poignant at the same time. I especially like the line 'Children, teach your parents well'.
Runaway Train – Soul Asylum
Great song. Credit to the Soul Asylum guys who showed pictures of missing children in the video.
I'm Yours - Jason Mraz
I don't know where or how this song ended up on the list, but it's pretty good! It's a nice easy number reminiscent of a surf inspired Jack Johnson song.
More Than Words - Extreme
Another guaranteed crowd pleaser that everyone will sort of know the lyrics too. It's pretty high on cheese-o-meter, but worthy of learning nonetheless.
Let Her Go - Passenger
Nice poignant little number.
Just The Way You Are - Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars has a knack of writing accessible little songs that are guaranteed to attract a young audience. With the 'girl you're amazing just the way are you' lyric it's a good one to sing to someone you want to impress.
The Only Exception - Paramore
Another recent acoustic song that's goodie. It's a well composed song with some fine lyrics (if a little trite at times).
Knockin’ On Heaven's Door – Bob Dylan
The master songwriter Bob Dylan doesn't disappoint with this number. Many think it's a Guns n Roses track, when in fact it was written many moons before.
She Will Be Loved - Maroon 5
Reminiscent of the Red Hot Chilli Pepper sounds, it's got a great chorus and a high bit that you'll need to take care with (the 'she wiiiiiiill be loved' bit). It's a good one.
Your Body Is A Wonderland - John Mayer
Another number from the Jack Johnson school of songwriting. The 'your body is a wonderland' line is an interesting metaphor - I wonder if that comes with cheap burger vans?
You Are So Beautiful Chords - Joe Cocker
Used it countless TV adverts and the like, it's hard to listen to this song objectively. But truth is, it's a superb song and one worth learning. Especially if you can imitate that husky Joe Cocker growl.
The One I Love - REM
You can't knock Michael Stipe and the gang. For decades they made some of the best songs of a generation. From their Document album this track is one of them.
Wonderful Tonight - Eric Clapton
One of Clapton's finest ballads, Wonderful Tonight is a great easy guitar song to play. The lyrics are slightly predicable (in my honest opinion) but the song's melody and soft, lovely changes are worthy of its inclusion on this list.
Stay With Me - Sam Smith
Sam Smith's Stay with Me is another ballad with a memorable chorus. It's simple enough to play with pretty much three chords through-out. One worth learning, especially if you have a younger audience.
Mull Of Kintyre - Paul McCartney & Wings
For anyone who grew up in the 1980's, this song from Sir McCartney was inescapable. The song is a bit of a 'plodder' but isn't bad, and is very easy to play. Perfect for a sing-along especially if you're huddled around a campfire!
What’s Up – For Non Blondes
You'll have heard this song, even if you didn't know who sang it. Reminiscent of Alanis Morrissette in her prime, this number is another easy song to play and sing.
With Or Without You - U2
Another anthem from the 1980's, U2's With or Without You is straight-forward enough to play and even your Gran will know the chorus.
Eleanor Rigby - The Beatles
Ok, Eleanor Rigby isn't a song you'd expect to find on a list of easy guitar songs - but the chords are simple enough. Check out Josh Turner's amazing interpretation of it below (this isn't easy :-).
7 Years - Lukas Graham
Another modern classic.
Take It Easy - The Eagles
Another great song
Photograph - Ed Sheeran
This poignant little song has a lot of soul. If you can manage the high singing notes, it will be a definite winner anytime you play it.
Cant Help Falling in Love - Elvis Presley
One of Elvis's most famous numbers, covered by Dylan among many others, Can't Help Falling In Love With You is a gentle, poignant ballad. Definitely one to play your sweetheart 🙂
Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley
Originally penned by Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah was popularised by Jeff Buckley and its now played all over the place. With good reason, it's one of the best songs ever written. Only a writer with Cohen's prowess could have written a song with such beauty. It's not the easiest song on this to play, but it's worth learning as the same.
Wonderwall - Oasis
A firm favourite, Oasis's Manc anthem has some interesting chord progressions and is super to play. Whats more, every man and his dog will recognise the opening 'Today was gonna be the day...' so if you're looking to play something that people are gonna know, this is the one.
The Scientist - Coldplay
Another modern classic is Coldplay's The Scientist. Check out the amazing backwards video:
Blame It On Me - George Ezra
The man will the much older sounding voice, but who's barely out his teens, George Ezra has already written some great tracks like Barcelona and this one, Blame It On Me.
Man Of Constant Sorrow - Soggy Bottom Boys
Popularised in the Coen Brothers movie 'Brother Where Art Thou', Man Of Constant Sorrow is a much older song with blues and gospel overtones. It's a great song to learn to play.
Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol
Another wonderful modern classic, Snow Patrol's hit Chasing Cars is great. It starts slow and builds and builds to the epic line 'if I lay here, if I just lay here, would you lie with me and just forget the world'.
Hurt - Johnny Cash
What list is complete without a Johnny Cash song! This one appeared late in his career, but is probably his most known track these day (appearing in movies such as Logan).
Take Me To Church - Hozier
This takes some singing, but the chords are simple enough to play. Worth giving it a shot!
Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.