Sad And Simple: Six Easy Sad Songs To Play On Guitar

Sad music is popular, and it's not because we're a bunch of whining miseries. Research has shown that listening to sad music can actually make us feel less sad, as the songs are sadder than we are, so they make us feel better.

It's also shown that listening to sad music can induce romantic feelings, and be pleasant as it poses no actual threat to our emotional or physical safety.

So, if you love sad music, you're far from alone. And if you love it, of course you'd like to play it on your guitar!

Here are six sad songs which use several chords to create simple, haunting beauty that YOU can play.

1) Killing Me Softly – Roberta Flack

Strum Roberta Flack's pain with your fingers, using Em, Am, C, D and G. There's a sneaky B or 2 and an F in there, and some of the chords have the option of being played as 7ths, but it won't be too much of a struggle for those who have a basic grasp of open chords :).

Here's the guitar tab if you fancy giving it a go..

2) Everybody Hurts – REM

This is a great one to practise picking with, as the arpeggios at the beginning and throughout the choruses pick individual strings while your fingers stay in chord shapes.

The shapes are Ds, Gs, As and E minors. Simple. The bridge is also an opportunity to try out power chords on the second fret, or even barre chords if you're ready.

And here's the tab.

3) Mad World – Tears For Fears

This haunting classic also uses just several chords and you can pluck or strum them according to your own style.

Em, G, D and A are all you need up your sleeve for this one.

Give the tab a try here...

4) Someone Like You – Adele

This works very nicely when you fingerpick the chord shapes, but is also pleasant when strummed.

There are very few chords: G, Bm, Em, C and D, so you'll be playing the full song in no time. The Bm might take a little bit of getting used to, though.

Here's the tab.

5) Nothing Compares 2 U – Prince / Sinead O Connor

It will take you nowhere near 7 hours and 15 days to learn this one.

C, G and Am your way through the verses, then let an E take you to the chorus which uses Bb and F, until a G takes you back to the verse.

You'll be playing and singing in no time with this one. And trying not to cry.

The tab is here

6) Hurt – Nine Inch Nails / Johnny Cash

This dark masterpiece achieves its listenability by its simplicity. Pluck, pluck, strum on each chord in the verses if you want to get that classic Johnny Cash sound. The choruses, you can just keep on strumming.

The chords are Am, C, D, and some Fs and Gs. You'll be entertaining your friends in no time with this one.


So, there you go. Pleasure can indeed come in the form of painful songs. We hope you enjoy the poignancy of the music as it falls from your own fingers.

Do you think we've missed anything? Know a sad song that's as delightfully simple as these six? Let us know, in the comments below :).

Want to play something a bit more upbeat now? Here are 10 rockin' riffs for beginners:

Roz is a music teacher and our go-to person for anything music theory! When she’s not teaching or writing for Zing, Roz writes and plays in alternative/ psyche /art rock band The Roz Bruce Infusion.

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